Books, words and per­for­mance at The Tet­ley

The lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion at The Tet­ley show­cases the work of Span­ish artist Dora Gar­cia and ex­plores books and per­for­mance. Yvette Hud­dle­ston re­ports.

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

Lan­guage – in all its po­ten­tial trans­parency and opaque­ness – is at the heart of the lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion at the Tet­ley in Leeds.

Barcelona-based artist Dora Gar­cia’s show These Books Were Alive, They Spoke to Me! is an ex­plo­ration of books, sto­ries and sto­ry­telling and even takes its ti­tle, obliquely, from a book – it is a quote from Fran­cois Truf­faut’s cult film Fahren­heit 451 based on Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel of the same name. Pub­lished in 1953, the book imag­ined a fu­ture Amer­i­can so­ci­ety where books are out­lawed and burned by spe­cially ap­pointed ‘fire­men’.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, which opened ear­lier this month, is fas­ci­nat­ing. Dense and thought­pro­vok­ing, it com­bines in­ter­ac­tive per­for­mance art with film in­stal­la­tion and printed ma­te­rial to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive that cen­tres on books about per­for­mance and per­for­mances about books.

It is al­most im­pos­si­ble to pi­geon­hole – and that is part of its ap­peal – but its uni­fy­ing theme per­haps is the im­por­tance of lan­guage in shap­ing our lives, the world around us and the way in which we in­habit that world, in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively. “We make things hap­pen and ex­ist through the mag­i­cal qual­ity of lan­guage,” says Gar­cia. “Or it can ex­ist by it­self just for the plea­sure of be­ing.” Pro­grammed to co­in­cide with the 20th an­nual Leeds In­ter­na­tional Con­tem­po­rary Artists’ Book Fair, which takes place at the Tet­ley next month, the show pro­vides a ret­ro­spec­tive look at Gar­cia’s ca­reer-long pro­duc­tion of artists’ books and her on­go­ing con­nec­tion, within her work, to lit­er­a­ture, the­atre and film.

“For the ex­hi­bi­tion we chose per­for­mance pieces that were re­lated to books, read­ing and writ­ing,” says Gar­cia. “There are some pieces which any­one is able to join in with if they want to.”

The Tet­ley lends it­self well to per­for­mance as there are sev­eral quiet, smaller rooms where in­ti­mate read­ings can take place, lead­ing off from the cen­tral atrium – which is rem­i­nis­cent of a wide-open am­phithe­atre. In some of these spa­ces visi­tors to the ex­hi­bi­tion will find vol­un­teer am­a­teur ac­tors, trained by

Gar­cia and her col­lab­o­ra­tor, ac­tor Michelan­gelo Mic­co­los, read­ing out loud from a book or per­form­ing from a script.

“There are copies avail­able for any­one who wants to join in,” says Gar­cia. “And ev­ery­one can in­ter­pret it in which­ever way they like.” This ques­tion of in­ter­pre­ta­tion comes through very strongly in Gar­cia’s 2013 film The Joycean So­ci­ety, screened in one of the rooms, which doc­u­ments the ac­tiv­i­ties of a group of am­a­teur read­ers and mem­bers of the Zurich James Joyce Foun­da­tion. They have been meet­ing ev­ery week since 1986 to read aloud, pore over and com­ment on Fin­negans Wake, Joyce’s no­to­ri­ously cryptic novel.

Writ­ten in an ex­per­i­men­tal, stream of con­scious­ness style it is con­sid­ered one of the most dif­fi­cult nov­els in the English lan­guage. The Leeds Fin­negans Wake Read­ing Group will pre­sent­ing col­lec­tive read­ings at the Tet­ley dur­ing the run of the ex­hi­bi­tion. “Read­ing to your­self with­out speak­ing the words is a rel­a­tively new pas­time,” says Gar­cia. “It de­vel­oped in par­al­lel to the de­vel­op­ment of the novel in the 18th cen­tury. Be­fore that sto­ries were read out loud, so it was a com­mu­nity ac­tiv­ity.”

At The Tet­ley un­til April 23. For de­tails of the pro­gramme of events and per­for­mance times visit www.thetet­ley.org

PIC­TURES: JULES LIS­TER.

STO­RY­TELLER: Dora Gar­cía, All The Sto­ries, 2004 -2017.

STO­RY­TIME: Dora Gar­cía, Ulysses (mul­ti­ple), 2013, left, Dora Gar­cía, The Joycean So­ci­ety, 2013, cen­tre, Dora Gar­cía, Re­hearsal Ret­ro­spec­tive, 2002 -2017.

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