' I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.'


CULTURE: Rogues’ Galleries ~ Storyville

Rogues’ Galleries Storyville: Exploring the art in life’s artefacts
Whilst wandering along Chester’s high street and historic Rows, one passes an alarming and ever-growing number of vacant premises, despite its long-time renown as a ‘shopping city.’ In its on-going efforts to revive the areas failing cultural aspects, local arts producers Chester Performs recently commissioned The Rogues’ Galleries, a whole host of art installations, workshops and projects to breathe life into said empty sites and turn the notion of shopping on its head.

                Two such creative rogues, collaborative performance artists Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie, have decided to set up their living room on the upper floor of a venue on Watergate Row in a piece they have named Storyville. Visitors are encouraged to come and peruse the motley collection of a lifetime’s bric-a-brac: ribbons and buttons, an ironing board, love letters, paintings, theatre props, boots, books, keys, clothes… And amid it all lays a couch, on which the duo invite you to sit for a cup of tea and a natter. They are so warm and charming that their infectious chattiness and contemplative air soon have you sharing, and reflecting on, snapshots of your own life’s history.
During my time there, I found myself discussing the surprising violence of water polo one moment and examining the ghostly images from a brain scan the next. Other visitors came and went, and I found it such a refreshing and novel experience to be able to chat with perfect strangers as they shared their own stories or showed off the spoils of a day’s shopping.
Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie sit amid their relocated belongings at
 Storyville, their most recent artistic endeavour.

             What makes the whole thing even more fascinating is that every item in the room is for sale. The fact that that the performers are sacrificing their personal belongings and keepsakes highlights the whole purpose of the installation: to have us, and indeed themselves, question how and why we apply value to things; not merely monetarily, but emotionally. The significance we apply to an object, the moment in time it encapsulates, how the look or touch of something makes us feel, how we value the lives and experiences of others and ourselves. Kat and Alistair were also particularly keen to find out what the future has in store for each once cherished item: who is it for? How will it be used? What will it mean to the individual?
           For my own part, I was drawn to the intriguing miniature of a woman made of wire and painted plaster that I discovered whilst rummaging through Kat’s sewing box. She seemed delighted that I had found it and carried on digging around until she had produced several other such figures. She revealed to me how she had once designed and made the costumes/set for a dance piece in London and that these had been the 1:50 ratio scale models she had used in the process. The naïve charm and stylised form of each little figure along with the memories and pride that each contained won my heart and I bought them on the spot.
           And what will their future hold? They’ve got pride of place on my bookshelf to bring a smile to my face and remind me of an enjoyable and unexpected hour I once spent in the company of two delightful people whose humble art piece made such a powerful and lasting impression on me.

Far Left/tight: The dancers of theatrical dance piece Daffodils (2005, stood in Radeva's costume creations.
Centre: The tiny figurines used in the design process for the same performance
 Katherina Radeva and Alister Lownie of Two Destination Language create performance works which focus on identity and community. Their work includes theatre shows, interactive installations, one-on-one works and fun participatory projects. Their work has been presented in venues across the UK and internationally. http://www.twodestinationlanguage.com/
For more information on the Rogues' Galleries, visit http://www.roguesgalleries.co.uk/

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