Take Me Somewhere is an exquisite, and unique festival to Scotland’s art scene. An international, biennial festival and year-round sector support organisation that exists to position Scotland as the place to create and see radical performance, 2023’s edition felt epic, covering three weekends, and most of the month of October.
Building on the legacy of The Arches arts venue, following its controversial closure in 2015, the festival showcases some of the world’s most cutting-edge contemporary performance makers. Take Me Somewhere feels community driven, more of a collective perhaps, and has a habit of taking you into contemporary art space and allowing you to meditate but also throw you out of your comfort zone. Having attended events on two out of the three Saturdays, I was able to get a feel for the programme, the performers, the global community and the events.
Firstly, for the full run of the festival, was the art installation in the accessible and central Princes Arcade. Located next to the Everyman Cinema was Goldendean: Soft Vxnus, which saw South African artist Goldendean bring their inflatable sculptures to Glasgow. As a ‘Fat Queer White Transbody’, in the context of South Africa, Goldendean questions who or what is entitled to take up space with this sculpture and invites visitors to touch and embrace, allowing us a moment to appreciate the voluptuous curves, the soft versatility, and the invitation. Big, bold and gold, it’s impossible to miss and penetrates the shopping space, which will inevitably stop shoppers in the early Christmas efforts.
Silke Huysmans + Hannes Dereere: Out of the Blue was a show conjured up by Silke and Hannes from their small apartment in Brussels, as they connect with three ships through satellite to find out more about the implications of deep sea mining. Each ship represents one pillar of the public debate: industry, science, and activism. Using a series of interviews and conversations, the pair depict an intimate portrait of deep-sea mining. The two investigate the use of journalistic and documentary elements within theatre to create an informative piece of activist theatre that demonstrates their green, and conservation activism.
Theatrical durational project from FK Alexander: The Problem with Music was next on the agenda, which thankfully came with earplugs. This show saw continuous heavy punk/metal/rock bands that brought their own fan base, creating a mosh pit in Glasgow’s QMU Union venue. FK Alexander and two Scottish heavy bands duked it out in a heavy metal technology demolition sound-clash death-match for over 3 hours. Needless resentment, pink smoke and the faces of your favourite rock stars ’n’ rapists fill the space, to simmer in the raucous squee of the bands. Alexander’s work is disorientating as we witness these images whilst the bands sonically battle and she herself takes to the stage to guillotine CDs and hack away at VHS tapes, the majority of which were from her own archive. It’s a show that leaves a pronounced effect on the audience, as we engage with many mediums across the room, but keeps us hooked in a destructive trance.
However, I found most joy in a show that transports you around different floors and sections of Glasgow’s Mitchell Library. Adam Kinner and Christopher Willes: MANUAL gave the opportunity to get behind the scenes experience of the library that focused on the sounds that it makes from various different areas, also focusing on where our eyes land within the library, inviting us to think about the mundane and playful elements in different ways. This was a show that breathed new life into books from the mere use of mostly a notebook, pencil, recorder and headphones.
Ashanti Harris: Walking with the Ancestors In Joy & Healing is inspired by Caribbean diasporic carnivals: interactive, a reparative reading guides the audience on an imagined procession which is reflective, meditative but also encouraging of movement. Collaged narratives centred in Black histories, descriptions of real and imagined spaces, movement provocations and guided body awareness exercises all add to this show, which involves the audience getting comfortable and safe within a salt circle, to consider the many layers of narratives which intersect and overlap with their own experiences and to move with them, inviting joyful possibilities for collective healing. Focusing on ancestry and previous experience, it’s work entirely dependent on the audience members in the circles and their willingness to engage. Intense, it’s intended to guide audiences to reflect on history and current events and imagine alternate realities and new possibilities for the future, opening the doors for healing.
The final show for Take Me Somewhere, and my last performance across the two weekends was Sonya Lindfors: ONE DROP, a new performance by Lindfors and her working group, which has a variety of elements – a speculative summoning and decolonial daze that includes contemporary dance as well as an autopsy of the Western stage, and an operetta. Award winning Cameroonian-Finnish choreographer and artistic director Sonya Lindfors explores Black body politics, power, and colonisation with a piece that speaks to the audience and includes audience interaction. Humorous, experimental and rhythmic, this piece is exceptional in its length (in comparison to many of the other shows) and also the practices combined.
The title of the work refers to two separate concepts, the ‘One drop’ rhythm which is a reggae style drum beat as well as to the One-drop rule of the Race Separation Act, created in the United States in the early 1900s, according to which a single drop of ‘Black blood’ made a person ‘Black’ irrespective of their appearance. The operetta section of One Drop, as they morph into vampire-like beings, hints at this. Combining humour and absurdity with the shifting dance shapes, Lindfors leaves an impact with this final show.
Take Me Somewhere, founded in 2017 by Jackie Wylie, now Artistic Director of the National Theatre of Scotland, is a showcase of some of the most innovative interactive, promenade, and art performance theatre being created today, enabling audiences to engage with significant themes in visceral ways. It, thankfully, continues to leave a lasting imprint in the world of Scottish theatre.
More information on the festival can be found here.
Main image Desire Marea. Photo Credit: Izzie Austin.