This new commission from artists People Like Us and Ergo Phizmiz opens the Festival with a bang. The Keystone Cut Ups is a live performance exploring the relationships between early silent comedy and early avant-garde cinema through video collage and an original musical score. Specifically created for the Festival, this show mixes slapstick humour with the art of surrealism.
Don’t miss this unique event, followed by a drinks reception in the Maltings’ Stage Door Bar.
Using the influence of slapstick comedy on the Surrealists as a starting point, the piece takes us on a madcap journey, combining the techniques and popular imagery of the two genres.
The Surrealists took to cinema easily, using it as a device to show their disdain for established artistic tradition. In their quest to liberate the imagination, they believed that the process of juxtaposing unrelated elements would create images of great emotional and poetic power. Thomas Pynchon wrote, “One could combine inside the same frame, elements not normally found together to produce illogical and startling effects.”
In early silent films the actors often came from the Vaudeville tradition. They used flamboyant body language and facial expressions, a style suited to melodramatic comedy, which was popular at the time for its escape value. The earliest films were influenced by the presentation methods of theatre and the stage sets and inclusion of orchestras and dancers were motifs of entertainment that stuck throughout cinema’s evolution.
The Keystone Cut Ups employs a surrealist approach, presenting images side by side on the screen at the same time. It includes the everyday objects, such as top hats or umbrellas that were utilized as props by both slapstick comedians and the Surrealists, as well as reflecting the concerns of the day like mass industrial automation, and the stories made popular through film at the time, which included clunky monsters and the fantasy of trips to the moon.
The work reflects simultaneously on the histories of these two distinct schools of cinema and how they inform one another, whilst producing a work whose structure and format is informed by both silent comedy and early experimental and avant-garde cinema.
Over the past five years, the collaboration of People Like Us & Ergo Phizmiz has produced two full length albums, a podcast series, a live soundtrack to Christian Marclay's Screenplay, a 7" single on Touch, and a 10" EP. Their work has been disseminated internationally to widespread critical acclaim, straddling the absurd with the accessible, filtering experimental and avant-garde techniques through the looking-glass of humorous pop music. They have come to resemble something akin to the Morecambe & Wise of the avant-garde.
Individually both artists have produced a vast body of work spanning hundreds of hours, across film, theatre, albums, radio and live performance. Most recently People Like Us released the album Music For The Fire in collaboration with Wobbly on the Illegal Art label (with a new solo record due later this year). Ergo's most recent productions are the new album Things to Do and Make on Care in the Community Recordings, and the contemporary opera about radio, magic and death, The Mourning Show.
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