The architecture of the imagination
How to be ambitious and bold without being gimmicky?
How to capture the chaotic ‘happening’ spirit of Adrian Henri while saying something coherent?
How to spark off the Mersey poets’ work without writing something hackneyed?
These are the exciting maddening challenges I’ve been exploring so far in the development of Liverpool I love your horny handed tons of soil, a collaborative performance bringing together spoken word, live music and digital art forms. The title is taken from a fragment poem by Adrian Henri and captures the passion, energy and sense of longing that I want to put on stage when we perform 15 mins from the piece at the Liverpool Philharmonic Music Rooms on March 18th. The piece will look at what’s been lost and found in the re-sculpting of the Liverpool landscape in the past fifty years, exploring the layering of past present and imagination when we look at the buildings around us. I came across this quotation from Adrian Henri last week and it reassured me that we’re on the right track with our thematic ideas:
‘The architecture which springs most directly from the imagination, and which appeals most directly to it, belongs in one way or another to naïve or primitive consciousness. It is not conceived as a finished work, but grows; it works by extension, addition, subtraction.’
And maybe that’s the way we’re going to put our piece together too: bringing together seemingly disparate parts, allowing something to grow uninhibited, following our instincts. While I’m working with long time musical collaborators Vidar Norheim and Martin Heslop, I’m also being pushed way out of my comfort zone through conversations with digital makers at DOES Liverpool led by Adrian McEwen, a man capable of connecting almost anything to the internet (see his ‘internet of things’ project). If there’s a way to connect poetry to digital robotics then I promise we’ll find it.
I’ve also been talking psycho-geography with Jonathan Sharma of K2 architects who showed me architectural images, describing the way they’re built up through layering (what was there, what will be there, photographs, pencil drawings etc): a pleasingly tidy metaphor for our layering of feeling and perspective in relation to the streets we live in.
Just to make the mix of ideas richer, on March 5rd Vidar and I will join visual artists Louise Flooks and Holly Langley for a session with Unity Theatre’s Splatterdays kids group, uncovering how the city looks through a child’s eyes and how it might be re-imagined through play. They’ll be building 3-D models of landscapes and houses, drawing their ideal Liverpool. I want to know how free they feel in the Liverpool, whether they have enough space, whether they believe they can have adventures and where those adventures could take them.
So with just three weeks to solve this brilliant muddle, I’m channelling the anarchic spirit of Adrian Henri and trusting that out of this collision of the primitive and the high-tech, of poetry and code, of old and new Liverpool, something whole and beautiful will spring.