Exeter takes starring role in live performance by Blind Ditch

By Sarah Jackson | 11 September 2013

Exhibition preview: This City's Centre 3: Here, Now, St Stephen's House, Exeter, September 17-21 2013

Man wearing headphones, a blue shirt and green shorts dances next to an open window.
Performer/deviser Johnny Rowden© Benjamin J. Borley
Cities have long been the backdrops for the daily dramas of millions of us, but only occasionally have they been cast as participants themselves.

Founded at least 2,000 years ago, Exeter is a city that trades heavily on its past for identity and tourism. It’s an image that Devon-based art collective Blind Ditch hope to change with their triptych This City’s Centre.

Over five nights (September 17-21), local participants including five professional performers, six residents and four Exeter College students will work with ground-breaking digital technology to create a new vision of Exeter.

“The kind of performance we are making is more porous," says Paula Crutchlow, the Lead artist and director of the group.

"It allows for the city to be part of and interrupt what we are doing – as a set, a backdrop, a series of surprises that we have no control over.

“The city itself becomes a performer in the work.”

By “the city”, Blind Ditch really mean Exeter’s residents. Cameras installed in their homes and on mobile devices will be collected and mixed in real time using software developed by digital architect Stavros Didakis especially for the project.

This live mix will be projected across three screens in the performance space, with an accompanying soundscape composed by John Levack Drever and drawn from participant interviews, field recordings from the city centre and live music by Exeter band The Big V.

For those unable to visit the performance space or Exeter itself, parts of the live feed with be streamed on the project website.

Here, Now is the final piece of This City’s Centre. Part 1: Window is a sound and video installation inviting viewers to people’s homes to see and hear what they do when they look out their windows into the city.

Meanwhile, Part 2: Linger encourages users to move around the city with the aid of an interactive map, scanning embedded QR codes to hear people’s thoughts and experiences of different parts of Exeter. 

“Every aspect of the project relies on city centre residents to give it heart and meaning,” adds Crutchlow.

“It draws on people's feelings and opinions about the city centre, about what the city might want and need to thrive in these uncertain economic times.”

Here, Now is part of Unexpected 2013, Exeter’s brand new arts festival. Time will tell whether this historic city can reinvent itself as a thriving centre of contemporary art.

  • This City’s Centre 1: Window is in RAMM’s Central Courtyard until September 22. Admission free. This City’s Centre 2: Linger is available to buy for £2 at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter Phoenix and various other locations around the city (see thiscityscentre.net for details). This City’s Centre 3: Here, Now open September 17-21, 7pm. Tickets £10/£8. Advance booking essential.

More pictures:

A woman stands with a bicycle and a sign reading: "Join us to loiter and linger".
Performer/devisor Lizzy Humber© Benjamin J. Borley

A man lies in grass and another sits against a tree with a sign reading: "Queue here".
Performers/devisors Jane Mason & Phil Smith© Benjamin J. Borley

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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