Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and artists with "mythical potential" await Supersonic Festival

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 09 October 2012

An image of an illustration of a thin circular golden moon against a black starlit sky
© Supersonic Festival
The organisers of Birmingham’s most ear-opening annual enterprise rarely do things in halves. With a musical line-up encompassing free-jazz, doom metal, dubstep, krautrock and – in a series of recordings responding to Digbeth and the creatures of the River Rea – electro-acoustic sounds, Supersonic is perhaps the British festival of choice for your discerning underground listener, and their art programme is equally distinctive for 2012.

They’ve just announced myths and rituals as a key theme in their tenth year, with the Rea taking centre stage at a specially-created shrine. Known as the House of Beorn, the building aims to recreate the Pagan and religious ritualism of the ancient Festival of the Rea, inviting artists with “mythical potential” to create “offerings” inside a “ramshackle, weathered and sacred cabin”.

An image of a dark blue and dark red illustration of a cartoon figure holding up a stick
The Festival of the Rea aims to honour the city's historic river© Supersonic Festival
An accompanying walking tour of Birmingham city centre explores the hidden history of spirits and beasts still evident in age-old architecture, culminating in a channelled mass of energy and sound aimed at awakening the natural powers of the river, the lost spirits of the city and the magic of the festival itself on the closing night.

Things get spookier in Sian Macfarlane’s exploration of the Victorian séance and its deathly roots, harking back to the heyday of spiritualism through family snaps, slides, super 8 footage and found sounds. And super 8 will also be the medium of participants in Imperfect Cinema, a free workshop exploring DIY modes of filming and cinema in which visitors become part of a performance by contributing their own footage.

Their inspiration might come from Jason Forrest, a curator from Network Awesome. Forrest has gathered a load of film, documentaries and video collections from broadcast history in a salute to those who “did it themselves, made something up or just did it like no-one else.” Six new shows a day aim to create a social archive to be rummaged through. Musicians, photographers and costume designers combine for Moonn, a performance honouring the elements, and Stephen Fowler uses a semi-tame Wild Man as the model for a series of life-drawing classes summoning the inner illustration beast within.

There’s more we could mention, not least Kim Gordon’s Reverse Karaoke, in which the Sonic Youth star has collaborated on a painted Yurt-style tent housing a guitar, microphone, bass and drums which visitors can use to add their own tune to her vocals on a CD they can take home. Regardless of the dubious resulting records, audio installations are rarely as exciting as this.


More pictures:

A black and white image of a figure in a white dress in a ruined building with long hair
Belgian artist Shazzula Nebula explores all things dark, mystic, occult, religious and apocalyptic in lo-fi experimental film Black Mass Rising© Supersonic Festival
An image of a monochrome print of a forest scene with mountains, rivers and rocks
Visual arts collective The Outcrowd are behind The Festival of the Rea© Supersonic Festival
A photo of a large hairy figure silhouetted against a white brightly lit curtain
Stephen Fowler, who teaches at the V&A and the Whitechapel Gallery, presents Wild Man drawing workshops© Supersonic Festival