Last night’s Dream Within a Dream event at Birmingham’s Ikon Eastside was fun. As well as being a Halloween-themed night, it was also the venue’s Closing Party for the season. The current incarnation of Ikon Eastside is a disused factory in Digbeth, winter is upon us and disused factories in Digbeth get bloody cold in winter. It all makes sense to me.
The main event was organised by 7-Inch Cinema, Birmingham-based
The other highlight of the evening was a performance by the band Broadcast, who provided an improvised accompaniment to a pair of early Peter Greenaway shorts. Short films, that is, not boxer shorts. I don’t think I’d want to see an accompaniment to Peter Greenaway’s boxers, improvised or otherwised.
I was a bit of a Peter Greenaway nut in my teens. For a certain type of subversive but sensitive teenager in the 80s, Peter Greenaway films were a staple of the late-night Channel 4 schedules. They were arthouse films that featured an abundance of nudity, so I suppose you could say they provided a valid, intellectually legitimate excuse to watch dodgy softcore smut while your parents were out. Apparently. For some teenagers in the 80s, but not me of course. Of course.
In any case, these short films by Greenaway featured precious little that would, as Raymond Chandler once memorably said, make a Bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window. 1978’s Vertical Features Remake featured a rotating sequence of images of, um, vertical things. You know, benign stuff like trees and goalposts and fences and roadsigns. If there was anything vertical and fruity I must have blinked and missed it.
But, for fear of sounding a bit wanky, the choice and the pacing of the images – and their juxtaposition with the music – was sublime. More good shit, then.
The other thing that caught my eye was an installation in a separate part of the building by filmmker/photographerScott Johnston [filmficciones]. Concealed behind an enticing velvet curtain, it was called The Divine Edgar. As in ‘Edgar Allan Poe’, but not as in ‘Edgar Wright’, ‘Edgar Rice Burroughs’ or ‘Edgar Bones from Harry Sodding Potter’. According to the flyer, it featured ‘audio enhancement from Pram.’ I’ve written about Pram before; I hope they haven’t read it. I’ve never been on the receiving end of a avant-garde cinematically ambient kicking. I don’t think I’d enjoy it.
The flyer itself caught my eye and captured my imagination. To wit:
The imagination of America’s greatest writer of the
macabre was tormented by many fears – most
predominantly his horror at the prospect of
being buried alive.
He visited this unthinkable premature death upon
a number of his protagonists, perhaps in some way
attempting to give others a glimpse into his most
And yet is it really possible for us to understand his
palpable fear of this most harrowing fate?
Perhaps only if we were to live it for him…….
At the bottom of the flyer was an rather ominous disclaimer that read:
physical and mental being, both during and after
The Divine Edgar.SIGNED____________ PRINT NAME____________
Would I really be prepared to risk life, limb and mental stability for the sake of regional art? Of course I bloody well would: that’s how hard I am. As a 12 year-old I eagerly signed a similar disclaimer to get on a Bucking Bronco ride at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, and that one featured even more ominous phrases such as ‘high risk’, ‘broken bones’ and ‘potential hospitalisation’. I haven’t really changed that much since then.
I carried out a self-administered body-search for my notoriously elusive pen, but to no avail. Then I looked at the queue. It was massive. Much bigger than the one for the Bucking Bronco. The Divine Edgar would take five minutes, and only one person could venture into it at any one time. In life, some things have to be faced alone; I guess that applies to claustrophobic spooky-themed regional art installations, too.
Anyway, I carried out a quick head-count guesstimate and multiplied it by five. By that calculation, I’d still be in the queue now.
I went out for a cigarette instead.