Akio Suzuki, <em>oto-date</em>, Berlin, 1996. Courtesy the artist
26.02.2014

Introducing Extraction - A Festival preview by Zara Worth


AV Festival 14 extracts and exposes raw materials, considering them during deceptive states of infancy through their excavation. Extraction serves a poetic reminder that these materials do not start their lives at the point of human interaction, as they are pulled from the ground, but have their own lengthy geological biographies.

The eleven exhibitions, 36 film screenings, ten concerts and eleven new commissions astutely concern themselves with the materials whose juvenescence began in prehistoric times, and the people whose lives are intertwined with them; despite such human interactions being less than a nanosecond within the lifespan of earth, stone and mineral. Throughout March the North East will abound with exciting artworks and films responding to the overarching theme. At first glance the sheer volume and strength of the programme may appear a little overwhelming and hard to choose from. However here is a selection of events and exhibitions, which have already graduated from pencil to pen in my diary and are absolute must-sees. Thankfully all the exhibitions will be running from 1 – 31 March; decreasing pressure on your days off.

For the first time AV Festival has curated two group shows, including Stone, at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art (NGCA). As asserted by its title, the exhibition’s mix of contemporary and historic works focus on how stone has been shaped by culture and the human hand. Salvatore Arancio’s Cathedral; a single screen film and sound work also showing at NGCA, is neatly offset by the human omnipresence in Stone. Arancio’s film records arcane noises omitted from Fingal’s cave, on the desolate and uninhabited Scottish island, Staffa. The peculiar sounds resulting from the waves pounding against the cave’s interior have led to the cave’s association with myths and legends.

Nature dictates the appearance of Jessica Warboy’s sea paintings at The Laing, part of her solo exhibition encompassing film, object and canvas. Submerged in the sea, the repetition of the waves is made visible by pigments dragged across the canvas by tidal currents. Also on display at the Laing, the hidden topography of geological formations beneath our feet is expressed through a sonic landscape in Susan Stenger’s Sound Strata of Coastal Northumberland. The layered instrumental score is based on cross-sectional diagrams of coastal formations from the River Tyne to the Scottish borders from the 1830s.

Aptly located at The Mining Institute, Anna Molska’s film The Weavers, reappraises the 1844 rebellion of the Silesian weavers. Through clever interplay between past and present, Molska appropriates Gerhart Johann Hauptmann’s documentary-drama, and connects it to the current instability of the mining industry in the region. AV Festival hosts the regional premier of all the Festival’s films, including seven UK premieres, of which Wang Bing’s arresting filmic triptych, West of the Tracks is a highlight; each three hours long, Wang’s epic documentary series: Part I: Rust, Part II: Remnants and Part III: Rails, reflect upon the politics and economics of extraction. For the time-strapped, Wang’s Coal Money offers a shorter documentary, part of the ‘new documentary’ movement within Chinese cinema, it follows a coal convoy on it’s journey between the Shanxi mines and the port of Tianjin and features as a double bill with Man with No Name.

Filming a little closer to home, sound recordist Pat Collins returns to Ireland to record landscapes free from man-made sounds; part of the Digging for Sound weekend, Silence will also be accompanied by a Q&A with Collins and one of the film’s sound recordists Chris Watson. Many of the events and exhibitions have opportunities to hear the film-makers and artists speak about their work, so it is worth checking the AV Festival website for further information.

The Postcolonial Cinema Weekend hosts a selection of profound and moving films. Mathieu Kleybe Abbonenc and Will Rose respond to Africa Addio, the 1966 film banned for many years and surrounded by controversy due to its explicit violence. On a lighter note, Akio Suzuki presents oto-date Newcastle, a city-wide audio exploration of the urban landscape, Suzuki invites us to discover with him ‘echo points’ in nature. Spots indicated by ear symbols mark places for scrutinising sound. This playful piece can either be accessed through the guided tour from Suzuki and fellow artist Akio Onda on Saturday 1 March, or through free guides available from Globe Gallery.

Zara Worth.