In association with artSOUTH : collaborations, the John Hansard Gallery presents a solo exhibition of recent work by artist Mel Brimfield. Brimfield’s work takes a skewed and humorous look at the history of performance art. Through a series of films and installations, the artist invents characters and histories that playfully associate performance art with significant cultural developments over the last 100 years.
The exhibition is scattered with influences, from classic British comedy – one film casts Miss Jones from 70s sitcom Rising Damp in a lopsided adaptation of the original role – to the work of legendary dramatists Alan Bennett and Samuel Beckett. Brimfield offers a world filled with humour, pathos and, at times, painfully accurate observations of the routines of the everyday world. Second-hand anecdotes, monologues and mythologies surrounding performers and their performances are expanded, distorted and completely supplanted by new fictions, with archival photographs and footage being appropriated and re-contextualised, or entirely invented at will.
Famous names facing re-invention include artist Jackson Pollock and Hollywood-dweller Ed Harris, with Brimfield’s cohort – including Dickie Beau, David Cann, Esther Coles and Joanna Neary – presenting a composite portrait of ‘great artists’ revealed through a variety of clichés. Extending the drag tradition of lip-synching, Beau’s complex performances address the construction of gender identity and celebrity personalities. (See also Mel Brimfield‘s live performances ‘An Audience with Willy Little’)
Mel Brimfield is a London-based artist and curator with a particular interest in performance art, creating playful alternative histories inspired by real artists, artworks and pop culture influences. Recognising that performance art is difficult to document and represent accurately, Brimfield toys with the truth and produces fabricated information, objects and ephemera to support her often comical parallel realities.