Interview: NK Late Shows

Screen shot 2014-05-17 at 08.20.16Words an Interview by Billie Jenkins

The Late Shows is one of Newcastle’s biggest art events, with one off performances, late night exhibitions and open studios across the city. Musee Imaginaire is a group run by Newcastle University graduates who are invested in performance arts and short term exhibitions, who champion an attitude of museums without walls. Their Late Shows event, their biggest project to date, will showcase a range of artists, including performances by Phoebe Amis, Nicola Singh and Marie Toseland, and a film installation ’Women of the World Cup’ by Kirsty Alexander documenting women working in the sex industry during the sporting event. We chatted with Musee curator Finn McCullough and artist Calum Greaney as they put the final touches to the set they have designed for staging the works.

What’s the idea behind the set you’ve created for tomorrow’s performance?
Finn: Bringing together so many different artists it just wouldn’t appropriate to have a single, set space. Aside from the slightly different demands of medium, the idea of a sequence of acts following one another into the same context doesn’t create the correct type of experience. There’s something about the procession of acts, it conveys a feeling like you get at variety performances, each act presented in direct relation to the ones they have followed. That was something we all felt very strongly we needed to stay away from. We’ve got some really incredible artists and their performances needed to be viewed as works in their own right.

So with that in mind how did you go about designing the set?
Calum: It came from that need to be a fluid set, that need to allow for movement, and reestablishing how the space works. Fluidity was the main ambition, then things fell into place from there. We’re both minimalist artists, then through following that minimalist instinct we were able to come up with an idea that didn’t overpower the acts but also gave the space a structure, both visually and to break up the audience.

Finn: Audience played a really important role. Performance art often feels like a niche, it’s something that people are often afraid of or uncomfortable when viewing. So many peoples first instinct when they walk into a space is to hug the walls and pull as far away from they front they can. There’s the fear that people will be coming out to hug them or yell at them. I guess that’s a fair enough fear. But we wanted to fend against that and bring them in.
There is something very masculine about these big, strong metal structures. Really manly, cold shapes. We didn’t plan it that way necessarily, that’s an afterthought I guess. It’s been our style for years.

Calum: It needed to move people around the room. They’ll be a lot of people crowding more than one side. My main worry is moving the moving the structures through the crowds of people, we’ll just have to charge through.

So your expecting a big crowd then?
Finn: Last year the guy’s on floor below us got 1000 people through the doors. It’s our first year, as a group, and in the Northern Charter building. We reckon they’ll be 300 – 400 people. We’ll have to see. It’s a big event though, a lot of pressure.

How did you find the artists your showcasing, were there submissions?
Finn: We straight up approached people we thought were interesting. We choose artists whose work we really respected and luckily they were into the idea.

Calum, you’ve been brought in to design the set, how do you define your role in the process of an event like this?
Calum: I guess I see my work as very much working with and around other people. I’m often very involved in collaborative pieces, or taking on the creative aspect of a project. I’ll bring together ideas into one place, or respond to the demands of a specific problem. This one was a very hands on experience.





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