Networking in the Arts

After battling the weather I arrived at The Globe Gallery, completely drenched, late, and inconspicuous as usual in my bright yellow raincoat, beelining straight for the bar.

A last minute invitation and my naïve nodding led me here – but I still wasn’t entirely sure what it was, or even what it was now.

From a hurried glance at the website, I gathered it was a networking event, for artists, curators and writers, with a performance art piece by Marita Isobel Solberg from Tromso. I could not help feel apprehensive about it being described as a ‘speed dating’ networking event.

We were directed to take a seat on one of the two rows of chairs face to face, my numb fingers clutched a glass of red wine, hoping it was a massive metaphor and I wasn’t actually going speed dating. (Spoiler: it wasn’t speed dating! Or maybe it was and I was just extremely unsuccessful.)

we were directed to take a seat on one of the two rows of chairs face to face

We had 1 minute 30 seconds to discuss the question they projected on the wall with the stranger opposite. The questions were probing, blunt, confrontational and very much current; largely around our personal, public and cultural identity, migration and borders. After downing the wine through sheer awkwardness, I was on fire. I talked to a man with a moustache from Scarborough who felt a connection to seaside junk; a beautiful older artist who I told I wanted to be when I grew up; a woman from Milan applying for a dual passport. There were some great discussions, but I felt I was agreeing more than disagreeing – its nice to find common ground, but I was so ready to have a really good debate. After shuffling down the row of chairs for about an hour, we broke away, had some refills and plodded around until we were asked the move forwards.

she continued circling and i continued to be a little drunk and paranoid

The lights were turned off apart from a spotlight, and dry ice was blasted. Leaning against the walls in the dark, whispering to each other trying to work out what was happening, I noticed Marita Solberg – dressed in layers of black tights, black top and an enormous black headpiece. She crept forward, and I realised her costume was bulging with lumps on her elbows, shoulders, knees, crotch, chest. She moved around in a circle, passing each person, and started a deep, beautiful operatic voice. But then I noticed that she was holding a HUGE silver knife. I was f***ing terrified. I caught her eye and thought: I’m going to be the sacrifice – this is audience participation on a whole new level. She continued circling, and I continued to be a little drunk and paranoid.

Solberg had absolute stamina and commitment

Solberg started hacking away at her costume with the knife – piercing the fabric and the squeezing out dough dyed red and blue. Kneeling, she started kneading the dough, shaping and arranging it across the floor. I was now sat on the floor – it was a long performance, Solberg has absolute stamina and commitment. Eventually she let out long, harsh screams, then bowed. I chatted with her afterwards, she is lovely – yet absolutely against the suggestion that it was theatrical; declaring that she is completely herself when performing.

It sounds like a dream. The networking worked, we all bonded over discussing how strange we felt afterwards and went to the pub.

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