Impressions from an Invigilator’s Chair

By Tamsin Bracher

It is somewhat strange listening to a soundscape on repeat – especially when you consider that most people will only hear a fraction of it. And yet this strangeness quickly becomes vital. The ‘spirit of the conversations’ becomes far-reaching and multi-faceted; the individual narratives are brought together with a growing resonance. And ‘myriad masculinities’ (Ross Raisin) are shown to co-exist.

One woman, after spending thirty minutes looking at the exhibition, commented that the various forms of art on display felt ‘like different voices’. The interaction of these voices, and the voices within the works, is hugely important to the project. In its attempt to highlight the disparity between the real and the conceptual – between all kinds of ‘men’ and what it is to be a ‘man’ – Changing Relations C.I.C immerses itself in a ‘fragmented world full of contradictions’ (Rupert Philbrick).

The primitiveness of the music (one interviewee observes that man’s desire to dominate is a ‘primal thing’) is complicated by the range of human experience it gives sound to. The traditional association of textiles with femininity is complicated by the use of khaki print and ‘male’ colours. And the individual voice challenges the collective expectation.

Various people attended this exhibition – of different ages, occupations and, most importantly, of both genders. And in Empty Shop’s TESTT Space, the pressure on men to ‘Show fear with your fists / Stifle tears with stiff lips’ was countered by personal messages attendees wrote and planted in the soil under the banner, ‘Grow a Pair’.

“Run the good race”, “Share – thoughts, feelings, responsibilities …”, “Dare to be you – it’s ok”, “Asymmetry of expectation is toxic”, “Don’t shut yourself off when things go wrong”, “Showing vulnerability is actually one of the bravest things you can do”, “Caring doesn’t make you less of a man” …

It is somewhat strange that art doesn’t really exist until people are talking about it. However, Changing Relations has opened the conversation with a mixture of provocation and empathy, presenting art that is ‘both confronting and confessional’. And the longer I sat there, the more I realised the importance of the small detail: each fragment, each voice, is vital.

Image: Louise Taylor and Pollyanna Turner

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