Simon Bowes - Kings of England
This is a family affair and we are welcomed into the fold. Simon, his mum and his dad are dressed smartly for the occasion. This work attempts to explore time, gaps – the time between what dad was like then and what he is like now. There is, of course already a time gap apparent (it’s always present) and which is illustrated in Simon’s take on a suit and his father’s rather more immaculate or ‘stylish’ presentation, which evokes a past era.
Simon is clearly proud of his dad. He vocalises this in front of him and with us by way of various images from the past, projected using an overhead projector and operated by his father’s wife, he shares snapshots, a family album. And there’s this one that predominates – his father jumping off a cliff – black and white, suspended in mid-air, suspended in time. It is an image full of potential and in the context of this performance it asks: what might happen in a life?
Simon narrates this life from behind a stand and the lecture is broken up by short ‘scenes’ from the past, recreated for us in the present. The gap between then and now is emphasised by the impossibility of going back, of how you just can’t know then. At times this is light hearted, funny and celebratory, at others - particularly moments of trauma - I am brought into contact with thoughts about my own family, about life, love and death. There are moments where Simon chooses to imagine the past, placing his own view of the world back in time, confusing it, almost an attempt at changing what happened and there is an optimism in all of this.
This is a family that works together, although as a work it is undeniably presented to us as Simon’s view of things. There is a certain passivity of his father and more so of his mother. At one poignant moment she dances with her husband – and Simon proudly watches, drinking wine - but for this most part his mother appears to remain in the sidelines, in the shadows and I wonder how the particular politics of patriarchy and traditional family, to which this work points, might have been given more attention in this performance? Age, generation and tradition are central concerns of this work and were also brought into perspective in a wider sense, since it was the 9th performance in a day dominated by young artists’ work. There is, therefore, something hopeful about bringing older people, parents, into this forum, about the possibilities of age and about the future.
Alex Eisenberg is an artist making performance. He is helping to coordinate SPILL: Overspill over the course of the festival.