North-east's AV Festival goes As Slow as Possible for 2012

By Ben Miller | 02 March 2012
A photo of two people in a recording booth inside a gallery
© Courtesy David Zwirner, New York
Festival: AV Festival: As Slow as Possible, various venues, until March 31 2012

Last month, this International Festival of Art, Technology, Music and Film issued an urgent call for 1,000 people to create “two epic works of art”.

Japanese artist On Kawara wanted 500 people to each read for 90 minutes, adding to his current show at BALTIC, One Million Years, which aims to create a 20-volume typewritten record of a million years into the past and future, created while the dates are read aloud in the gallery space.

And Hamish Fulton, the “walking artist” most recently seen igniting health and safety concerns by directing local residents around a swimming bath in Kent, was also after 500 people for a silent communal walk across an abandoned carpark on Newcastle’s Quayside, to be held on March 31.

Both ideas are distinctly apt for a programme taking its title this year from John Cage’s assertion that only patience and perseverance can improve the seemingly boring.

Time is of the essence here, but not in the usual whirlwind way – the festival has been expanded from ten days to 31, and a lengthy exhibition list spanning Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and Middlesbrough’s glut of great venues are consumed by the concept.

Launched with 24 hours of exhibition openings, live performances, film screenings and talks which aimed to make the entire festival absorbable in a day, visitors were left to choose which elements they want to stretch out and explore more of between now and the end of the month.

Stillness wrestles with restlessness, positioning Phill Niblock’s The Movement of People Working (at Gateshead’s Sage), for example, against Fulton’s aforementioned Slowalk, which is intended to be more somber and meditative.

Outdoor strolls provide some of the highlights, from the peat bogs of the Upper Teesdale Nature Reserve to Iain Sinclair’s Middlesbrough Talk and Tim Brennan’s chronicles of Sunderland coals, held at a Durham colliery.

The Teesside Sound Walk, at Seal Sands Nature Reserve, will also be led by Chris Watson, the Cabaret Voltaire founder who is perhaps the UK’s finest soundscape artist.

More pictures:

A photo of two books laid open on a table inside a gallery
On Kawara, One Million Years. Installation view at David Zwirner (2009).© Courtesy David Zwirner, New York
A photo of haulage trains on an outdoor industrial track
James Benning's One Way Boogie Woogie (2012) is at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland© James Benning
A photo of a projector in front of a screen on a long thin black table inside a gallery
Elizabeth McAlpine explores light and time in film at the University of Sunderland's Reg Vardy Gallery© Courtesy Laura Bartlett Gallery, London
A photo of work men installing wooden sculptures spelling out the time 12:08 on grassland
Standard Time, by Mark Formanek, is a new type of civic clock for Sunderland© Mark Formanek
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