Lok Virsa: Sonia Sabri Company

I entered the Royal Festival Hall Ball Room at exactly 6:03pm, before I even get a chance to worry about my 3 mins lateness am immediately swept away into another world where we communicate with art. There were two truly talented men sat across the floor on the stage legs crossed whilst they played on flutes to a large audience including myself and am not going to lie initially I though this isn’t my usual cup of tea but by the time they began performing the second pecie it became ckear that this type of music is simply sublime and timeless because from the momènt it begins you feel like your on a journey. You could walk in at anytime and feel the vibe. When the dancers came into the peice it seemed almost cinematic like part of a master peice coming together. Around the end we even had a chance to get up and dance in a line. It was such a good show I forgot to even take photographs or anything it made me forget all the work aspects and just enjoy the experience which for me is rare.

Alika Jeffs, Alchemist


Infused with good vibes

To see Southbank Centre transformed into a wonderful, colourful little bit of asia during Alchemy was absolutely amazing. I was walking through the Taste Of India food market skipping and singing (literrally) at one point from being infused with the happiness and pure good vibes that was in the air. One thing that stood out for me was the Luton Truck Art when I first saw it I was in awe and joked with my mates “if we had buses like that with Tfl London would be a much happier place”. The feeling was never forced or felt like a tourist resort repeated but each encounter I had was genuine interest and allowed me to bond with the people, for example when I was at Young Indian Design Entrepreneurs exhibition I was speaking to one unique gentleman who showed me the way to the JIYO Residency & Charity Shop DJ. By the end of that saturday my mind was bursting with creative energy 🙂

Alika Jeffs, Alchemist

Humble The Poet – A Visual Response by Sam Mahfouz

Hip Hop Never Stops © Sam Mahfouz

Hip Hop Never Stops © Sam Mahfouz

I must say that I went to see Humble The Poet not really knowing what to expect, as I’ve never listened to or watched any of his material before. After leaving his show I was extremely surprised that I hadn’t heard of him prior to the event, as he delivered such talent, confidence and a brilliant performance. Coming from Toronto, Canada his material is all relevant to our current affairs around the globe. He also adds his own personal views on certain topics which I never found biased or arrogant in any way.

It’s great to see that he has such a passion and understanding for hip hop and he encourages anybody and everybody to take part in the “universal sport” to keep its roots of real story telling alive, whether through MC-ing, DJ-ing, B-boying or Graffiti. I’d recommend anyone of any ethnicity or age group to listen to what he has to say and respect his powerful poetry.

Urban Vani Podcast

Hannah Ratcliffe interviews Shlomo and Gauri Sharma Tripathi about their collaboration Urban Vani. Whilst Artists in Residence at Southbank Centre, Gauri and Shlomo found synergy between their art forms – Kathak and Beat Box – and worked together to create something new with a company of young people. Last friday they impressed audiences at Alchemy with new performance of Urban Vani. Listen to the company rehearsing and interviews with Shlomo, Gauri and some of the peformers.

A Response To The Art of Listening

The Art of Listening

I was sat with my eyes closed when I found myself listening to the sounds of the world.

And all of a sudden I was at the zoo. It was made of the noises I was surrounded buy on the tube, resembling all sorts of animals and characters in my mind: the breaks of the train had so many tones! And each tunnel hosted a different community of creatures, who sang and complained and whispered one another imaginary thoughts.

It was the day after I attended a workshop with Ansuman Biswas, The Art of Listening. I realised how much information we have to ignore, every second of our lives, in order to avoid going crazy with all this talking of the world!

I recently heard that most accidents that involve cyclists happen because they are not visible. Well, of course they are visible! But for the driver they don’t stand out enough in the hierarchic scale of things to see in the street. If there is a situation where a truck is maneuvering, a pedestrian is crossing, a car is over-taking and the cyclist runs beside the driver, in order of importance the big fat truck will prevail and the bike will get squashed.

This is to say that the cyclist is the peripheral sound, which we unconsciously decide not to take into account! The cyclist is a sound? Erm, it is information which we perceive but do not pay attention to because it does not demand it. So how many cyclists do we kill each day by ignoring the sounds of the world? Food for thought.

I came out of the workshop thinking how small did I feel compared to the cultural heritage that belongs to some eastern countries and at the same time how great I felt being able to receive and being moved by what I had just attended. ‘I am lucky’ I thought, and I went to find a little corner to spend some time with myself and digest the flux of information circulating inside my body after the intense 90 minutes of listening.

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A Response To The Art of Seeing

I woke up with a problem to solve yesterday morning: how to understand performance (in the giving and the receiving of it) in a society which privileges connection to communication and commodity consumption to gift exchange.

This question came to my mind after listening to a talk on TED the night before.

I was suggested an answer by Ansuman Biswas, performance artist who together with Sanjoy Roy, art critic, presented a workshop entitled “The Art of Seeing” which I attended as an blogger for the Alchemy Festival.

I turned on when I heard this quotation: “Performance is currency in the deep world’s gift economy.” During the workshop, which aimed to put the audience at the heart of the experience, Ansuman quoted Gary Snyder from the article Writers and the War Against Nature. This quote was part of an answer what do animals get back from our good use of them. They “like our music and are fascinated by our languages” we “speak words to them, say grace. We do ceremonies and rituals.” In my head I made this connection: animals do not use money as a currency and therefore what is this deep world of gift economy today? Is it something that belongs only to the animal world who senses and responds with awareness to circumstances?

During the talk great value was given to the engagement with one’s own self.

Personally, when I “think” work (that’s before I “make” work) I believe that it might have three functions when it is out there:

  • To help some question/ problematic/ issue to be available for consideration, to be talked about, and as Sanjoy said, to “encourage becoming aware of one’s own embodiment” (it being with the body or with the mind):
  • To help myself to understand people I am surrounded by and our relationship:
  • To suggest my way of looking at the world (my own personal Art of Seeing) hoping to find a meeting point with that of others.

But in order to have a “conversation” with others, I require their engagement: – I need you to come with me and give too. Giving seems to be something we fear.

We are afraid of investing energy into making our own sense of what we are seeing.

During the workshop it has been said that there is a barrier between the “self” and the “other”, the other being the Artist. This barrier is the obstacle to a freer “understanding” of performance. Perhaps the problem lays in the word “understanding”, which immediately implies there is a right and a wrong way of understanding what we are seeing.

The fact that performances do not necessarily have a reading key, a code by which to build the sense of one, a right interpretation is sometimes somewhat scary for a viewer.

Audiences need to be reassured that they are “doing it right”.

Instead, the “risky bit” is taking responsibility for one’s own experience with the work. And this should be relaxing! Freedom!

But no. Still, we look for reassurance in some “expert”, as said by Ansuman, who knows better that us.

Hey! who, better than us, can be in touch with our own self and understand our experience? Has it become so difficult to listen (to ourselves, to others, to circumstances) because we are all the time in control of our connections? We can choose (through social networks and such) what and when to be where, and to “go offline” avoiding external factors to affect us. Have we untrained ourselves to react?

Maybe this is the reason for yesterday’s workshop to have happened: we need to re-learn to see, embody, elaborate and process information which is being delivered in front of our eyes.

When we fill ourselves with sensation, as Sanjoy expressed in the first half of the talk, this transforms into voice, or movement. We are moved by emotion (which is also the name of a dance work by Morten Spangberg!) and that is our response to the experience, our spontaneous reaction. Can we be aware of that? can we “be” the performance in that moment?

During the workshop he argued that there are three approaches to looking at performance: we look at form, at intention, or for representation. Funny. Immediately in my mind I thought of a subject I had at University called Ways of Seeing, by the name of the book by Berger and I though to myself: -it is definitely a practice we CAN learn, but should we not naturally know how WE want to look? If there is no right or wrong, why can we not allow ourselves to live it and raise our own questions for ourselves, and create opportunities for being different from the person standing beside us?

I myself lived the workshop as a performance which successfully made me part of it even without conventionally interacting with anything. This is how I engaged with it. I am responding to it now, after a good night’s sleep, writing my thoughts down.

If one wants to call it critic, well it is hoped to encourage readers to have a critical approach..

My hope is that by allowing space and by taking time to receive and appreciate what one is experiencing, in that very moment it is happening, (by using one’s own tools of perception) can lead to a more active engagement with the work of the Artist, who is not always that venerable and unreachable being of some higher lever of knowledge (?)

Things can be discovered together!

I am now questioning: -What’s the audience’s chance to respond? perhaps by giving back (as we give to our animals) in a currency which is not money but communication of impressions.

by Irina Baldini, Alchemists

Mrs Patel Visits the Charity Shop DJ

Gathering in a group, playing and listening to music is universal. Cultures and communities around the world surround themselves with sounds and stories on every important occassion, be it christenings, weddings, deaths, or birthdays.

More often that not, the songs listened to are those that wouldn’t get anywhere near today’s pop chart, but are loved by many. On the two weekends of Alchemy 2012, the historical and music pioneers Charity Shop DJ are inviting you to come and play with them.

In a replica record store on Level 2 of the Royal Festival Hall, members of the you are invited to choose from original vintage Indian records, explore their memorabilia of Indian film posters and create your own party.

Last Sunday, Mrs Patel came to play some records that had travelled with her from India to Kenya and London, where she has lived with her husband for 40 years.

Here’s a clip of her talking about her records and memories.

by The Alchemists