Wednesday, 17 August 2011
PREM SAHIB SCREENS 'BIJOU' IN A ROOFTOP IN LONDON AND DJS ALL OVER IT
Prem Sahib in conjunction with Anthea Hamilton and IBID Projects is pleased to present a screening of Wakefield Poole’s 1972 classic ‘Bijou’, accompanied by a 77min live DJ set. Please note that this event has been prepared for a limited, adult audience for their information, education and entertainment and is strictly RSVP only.
Thanks for the invitation to the screening of 'Bijou' last Saturday.
I really enjoyed it. It's a pity though that everyone left as soon as the screening finished, or that none of the public engaged in their desires, quoting Guy Hocquenghem in the Screwball Asses, 1973 (published in English by Semiotext(e) 2010): "I suddenly turn fascist and want to chase the queers from their tearoom with a whip. I want to throw them out of this cell where they can only revel in darkness. Strange paradox: they can desire almost any body with a dick and an ass (I wish I could), on the condition that it all happens in the shadows, that they fuck without knowing each other, that only machinic organs be involved. Put the same people in a lit room, as we have just seen, or in a tranquil prairie (not to mention a public park), and they start talking to escape desire, or they look askance at one another, eyeing the only body with which they would like to be alone. The desiring machine produces crepuscular orgies or couples that close in under the light, and then shut off the electricity." (p.9) or: "'It seems to me that we cannot speak about this book (in this case this film) without first addressing the homosexual desire that exists between us and knowing how it circulates, or does not circulate in this room.' The most stupefying atmosphere of repression of speech and self-censorship immediately settles in. During the next three hours it becomes just as impossible to speak as it would be to have an erection: a situation of prohibited desire, in the midst of what we might call militants of desire, none of whom, may I add, have a body that is corrupted by nature or by age." (p.8)
Do you mind if I ask you some quick questions?
Thanks again for coming on Saturday and also for taking the time to ask me some questions.
I hope you find the below useful.
Why did you choose to screen Wakefield Poole’s 'Bijou'?
I was invited by Anthea Hamilton to host an event on a Saturday night. She had been referencing the film Saturday Night Fever and I thought 'Bijou' could be a nice contrast to a period that we are both interested in- the 1970's.
I found Wakefield Poole's treatment of sex and space visually intriguing; I like how it was originally shot in 16mm yet escapes being in any way 'worthy'. I had never come across a piece of work where the experience of the dark room manifests so explicitly as a surreal display of bodies and objects converging. I think Eileen Myles says it best when she explains that "sex is a such a rabbit hole in this film".
How does the screening relate to your work as an artist?
I sometimes have a tendency to navigate certain references as though I was a tourist in my own culture; so my interest in queer paraphernalia is nothing new. I remember reading a story about how disco music first emerged from the bath houses of New York where it was originally performed live. I loved how Edmund White explained his annoyance about having sexual acts interrupted by a warbling Bette Midler, for whom everyone stopped sucking cock to go and watch perform. The thought of this music becoming the soundtrack to the experiences being had was something I wanted to play with in my own set up. It made sense for me to use Bijou as a visual component so that I could experiment with sound through a live DJ set- effectively imposing my own distraction, but also changing the way in which the film was experienced.
I thought it was interesting that you mentioned the Screwball Asses as I had been thinking a lot about the possibility of passivity as an assertive technology with my studio work. From what I understand, Hocquenghem expresses distaste towards the type of desire involved in cruising because he sees it as part of a 'misguided revolution' where gay men are basically directing their desire towards a site of danger, repression and antagonism. Although I can agree with some of this, I nonetheless find darkness and anonymity an interesting condition for how subjectivity is, or has been formed. In fact, I'll be doing a performance with Eddie Peake in a few months time that will take place in the dark. Both these things are explored in the film, and choosing to screen it the way I did became an opportunity to test some of these ideas beyond my regular sculptural practice.
How does the screening relate to Anthea's host project?
Anthea's invitation came about through a mutual interest in disco which we realized when she participated in a show I curated last year entitled Boyfriend Material. Screening the film was an opportunity to share something I thought would interest her, but also to test how presenting material in this way could become part of my own practice. When we first spoke about the project I was offered the dark space towards the back of the gallery. I don't know if you noticed, but I installed a chain curtain and abandoned this space for the roof top. My posters reflected this with one side presenting the film and the other a wall of chain. Screening the film on the roof top was an important decision for me- you could say that I was trying to remove my audience from the "cell where they can only revel in darkness", to make my 'backroom' the unashamed outdoors. My intervening with the seating was also an attempt to encourage a more 'relaxed' horizontal viewing (something I knew interested her also). I liked how my audience became implicated into a plinth-like scenario on the mats.
What soundtrack does 'Bijou' normally have?
Bijou's soundtrack is mostly Orchestral. Once again, its funny you mentioned Hocquenghem because when I first came across Bijou when it was being screened at the Tate Modern. I think the Hocquenghem quote you cited was probably apt in this situation as we sat upright in chairs with the original score only intensifying an atmosphere where "it becomes just as impossible to speak as it would be to have an erection: a situation of prohibited desire, in the midst of what we might call militants of desire, none of whom, may I add, have a body that is corrupted by nature or by age."
Why did you decide to only intervene in the sound (or why didn't you intervene in the image or in any other way)?
I've been interested in the Disco movement for some time now as I like the way that its politics are quite simply its pleasure principle. As i mentioned previously, I did intervene with the seating but ultimately I wanted to play with the idea of introducing some sort of distraction, and I felt I could do this best by creating a new soundtrack for the film.
What songs did you play?
I was careful with how I matched the songs to the visuals because I was weary of introducing a totally new narrative- I chose of mixture of instrumental's and disco tracks from around 78' to the early 80's. Artists like Barbara Mason worked for me because she sings with a frankness about her own sexuality. There were also one or two Horse Meat tracks in there as this is where I first experienced disco in London. Other tracks were just favorites of mine, such as loose joints 'Is it all over my face' and Cheryl Lynn's 'Keep it hot'. In short, I tried to keep the momentum going with beats that had a sexual energy about them. When Diana Ross whispers 'I want muscle', it just worked.
Prem Sahib was born in London in 1982.
You can see more of his work here.