Saturday 01 October 2016 – Sunday 01 October 2017
Image: 'Ruin Gazer' by Bridgette Ashton
I recently attended the b-side festival, which is an artist-led multimedia arts festival that takes place on Portland in Dorset. The Isle of Portland is a limestone tied island, 6 kilometers long by 2.7 kilometers wide in the English Channel, and its wild beauty, extraordinary landscape and complex geology has long enticed many artists, researchers and visitors. The festival commissions new work that responds to the island's unique character and strongly encourages work that allows conversations to flow between artists, residents and producers. The artworks and events that took place over the 9 day festival happened at diverse and unique locations, that allowed the audience to discover and explore the festival, but also the island and what it can offer in its own right.
Growing up on Portland but not having lived there for over 13 years, I was very much looking forward to returning and was intrigued at what I might find. ‘The Fortress Tour’ which was part-bus, part-walking tour, took a small group to some of the most iconic buildings and structures on the island to unearth some of the stories they tell. This 3-hour tour allowed me to learn more about my childhood home, to make new connections with the people who live there and to experience parts of it I never had before. During the tour I learnt about the military experimentation that used to happen on the island and how these stories and rumors inspired Lee Berwick to create his sound installation, ‘The Sonic Anomaly Slideshow’. Berwick’s aim was to create revealed narratives - some real and some mythical - to form a communication centre that would rival the military ones that are dotted around the island. Wandering through the tunnels that the sound occupied was a powerful and intense experience that was unlike anything else I had ever encountered. It was a haunting, but also strangely soothing experience that required focus to tune in, absorb and contemplate the strange and layered sounds that were being transmitted.
Another highlight of the festival was seeing Ray Lee’s ‘Chorus’. Chorus is an installation that is made up of giant, kinetic sculptures that move gently and emit hypnotic sounds that are soothing and otherworldly. As the sun set on Portland and the sky grew darker, a large audience gathered to see the sculptures light up and create beautiful orbits of red light that made swirling patterns in the sky. The sculptures were monumental in size and moving between them was a truly magical experience that was mesmerizing and uplifting and brought the audience and the artwork together as one.
Working towards a South West where talented artists thrive, and a resilient and connected visual arts ecology that inspires more engaged and diverse audiences to value and advocate for its work.
Part of the Contemporary Visual Arts Network