'Darkness Can't Exist In The Light' by Jo Muir at The Anatomy Rooms!

If you've been in town recently then you'll certainly have seen the banners and posters proclaiming "Art is the new Oil" although I think its less a proclamation as it is a question. The poster is part of a campaign by Citymoves Dance Agency to promote their 3 week festival of dance which finished a few weeks back. Now partner organisation with The Anatomy Rooms (Citymoves have taken on the large open plan dissection rooms) they aim to bring contemporary dance to the forefront of Aberdeens cultural offering. I'm sad to say I couldn't make it the various events but did get a look at Jo Muir's exhibition, organised to coincide with the festival.

Jo is one of the numerous artists based in the Anatomy Rooms studios and has spent the last 12 months hiding from day light and working out her ideas. She was finally ready to present a new body of work which seemed like a perfect fit with Dance Live and so over the course of 3 weekends the show was open to the public. Made up from a series of film loops and decorative head dresses and costumes, the show was quite beautiful. Perhaps not in the normal sense of the word but beautiful in its openess. Certainly with any performance, artistic or otherwise it takes a certain amount of courage, putting yourself out there takes guts. Having know Jo for quite some time I can remember an earlier performance piece carried out as a semi protest to a private viewing at Aberdeen Art Gallery (see the video here) and the opening to 'Darkness...' also featured a performative element but with a deeper undertone, looking inward and trying to make sense of what she see's. 

"An expression of moments in time. 
    A feeling of pain and happiness. 
      A sense of being overwhelmed. 
         The idea that everything is not what it seems." 

Through personal loss and heartbreak, Jo has found a way to channel her experiences into her work. After a year of rigorous experimentation she's come across something which works by combining sculpture, performance and video. Its only after watching the films, seeing the tears well up in Jo's eyes, the covering of her own body in paint as she tries to disappear and the act of wearing the larger centre piece, watching as people move around her exemplifies what these pieces are, body armour! Encapsulating the aura and grandeur of the 1930's flapper dress, the use of sequins gives the work an elegance which faces off against the harsh lines of the card head dresses, softened again by baubels and loose threads. The materials are simple but hold their shape, its incredible what you can do with cardboard really. The video bear an honesty, a show of what we perceive as weakness when in fact it takes real strength to show yourself in this way and all the while the soft shaped cardboard stands rigid, ready to be worn to the next battle.

As always there's far more happening than I could ever hope to keep up with but its worth checking out these events and openings if you can. Through the past year I've been thinking a lot about what makes Aberdeen special and for me its the fact that against the odds we still have a bustling creative scene that goes from small scale DIY gigs and events right up to huge scale festivals like Spectra and Look Again. I've seen comments online from people belittling the 'Art is the new oil' slogan, instantly failing in the opportunity to explore something new and to step out of their comfort zones. And of course everyone is entitled to their opinions but if you feel like Aberdeen has stagnated or somehow been left behind while other cities flourish then maybe you need to step out and try something new. Certainly for me being involved in events, writing for this blog and trying to support artists where I can has been hugely beneficial, in both understanding why they do what they do but also in challenging my own ideas about what art can be. So next time someone says "Aberdeen is shit, nothing ever happens here" strap on your cardboard armour and charge into battle! 


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