A new audio-visual installation, combining sound-art with a club experience is premiering at Brighton contemporary digital art charity Lighthouse this month (22 May) as part of the 2021 Brighton Festival.
Co-commissioned by Lighthouse and Brighton Festival, The Informals II has been created in a collaboration between artists Polina Medvedeva and Andreas Kühne and young Brighton musicians; evolving from a residency in which the artists set out to explore and document the city’s youth music cultures.
“The young people we met during our residency in Brighton feel alienated by neoliberalist politics and misunderstood by the older generation,” Polina says. “They feel trapped between the representation of Brighton as a well-off city by the sea and the negative stereotype of young people involved in drug trafficking and knife crime projected on them by the media. And they feel judged by their appearance and the lyrical content and type of music they’re making. We wanted to reframe that representation on their terms.”
The Informals II performance features a collaboration with, and documentary footage of, four visionary Brighton musicians:
Phonetic, an artist synonymous with the city’s thriving hip hop scene known for her mic skills and unwavering creative drive.
Marshall Mandiangu (aka M Kudo), a singer-songwriter, dancer, music producer and energetic live performer
Bobbie Johnson, a rapper/producer whose work featuring conscious thought and social commentary has gained her a reputation as the new age voice of hip hop
Ollie Hutch, a 19-year-old visionary piano player and rapper active as solo artist and featuring on many tracks by Brighton artists.
A playlist featuring all the contributing artists’ work will be accessible via a QR code at the installation.
Comprising an immersive multi-channel audio-visual installation and a live one-off improvised performance, The Informals II challenges the stigmas surrounding youth culture, instead portraying a vibrant community of eloquent, driven, talented and opinionated young people. “The installation is a space where the lived experience of the young musicians we met can come to light”, explains Andreas. “The narrative speaks to the power music holds for them and the ways in which it can be interpreted.”
On entering the installation, participants stand face-to-face with a diptych of the young musicians. A continuous stream of images portrays the neon-lit public spaces of the nocturnal city that they gravitate towards. Close-up, flickering slow motion imagery invites us to tune into music composed using specially built electronic instruments made from interview recordings as well as samples from across the city, for a moment of close listening.
Polina Medvedeva is a Russian-Dutch artist and filmmaker whose works often deal with questions of representation, focusing on informal economic models and non-conformist communal structures. In her work, Medvedeva combines anthropology and documentary with improvisational techniques, installation and performance. Previous projects have involved subjects including young political rappers in a checkpoint-surrounded, ungoverned area between Israel and Palestine; illegal taxi drivers in provincial Russia; Ukrainian, Greek and Turkish merchants scanning the junkyards of Rotterdam; and non-conformist digital natives of Russia and The Netherlands.
Andreas Kühne is a composer, sound artist and drummer based in Amsterdam, creating collaborative audiovisual performances and interactive installations. His art practice involves producing field improvisations – recordings of site-specific performances revealing the musical qualities of on-site inert objects using a variety of tools and live electronics.
Informals II follows on from Informals/Неформалы, a partly autobiographical improvised documentary created when Polina and Andreas travelled to the former military zone of the Murmansk region of Northern Russia, where Polina was born. To create the piece, they researched the digital natives of the area, who – in order to escape the norms and social constructs of the place – gravitate to deserted spaces, where they collectively improvise with it to reclaim its use and add a new layer to its genealogy.
Back in Brighton, the live performance of The Informals II will take place on 15 July, in Brighton’s Jubilee Square, intentionally platforming the young people featured in the work in the centre of the city.
Using documentary footage and sound to create a sort of audiovisual instrument, Andreas and Polina will present a live scored improvised documentary featuring the four young artists who have collaborated on developing music especially for their appearance.
Andreas continues: “Because the work is made up of film and sound that is cut up and prepared for live triggering during the performance, no two performances will ever be the same. This concept of a non-linear, live edited documentary allows us to constantly develop and re-present the work in different contexts such as in museums, clubs or online and to include other artists in the performance. In this way the subjects are never represented in a fixed way.”
Lighthouse is a Brighton-based contemporary digital arts organisation which specialises in connecting new developments in art, technology, science and society. For over 30 years, their programme has revealed new ways of presenting artists and the creative industries, how artistic work and practice can cross boundaries and disciplines, and be used as a way of enhancing digital technology and its place within society.
The Informals II by Polina Medvedeva and Andreas Kühne, comes to Lighthouse, 28 Kensington Street, Brighton BN1 4AJ, on Sat 22 May – Sun 13 June, 2021 (Free entry, but booking essential)
A free live performance, featuring Phonetic, Bobbie Johnson, Ollie Hutch and Marshall Mandiangu, comes to Brighton’s Jubilee Square on Thurs 15 July 2021