REVIEW OF LIVE ART FEATURE
THE SACRED HOUSE ‘
n The Sacred House, Maya Chowdhry,
Asian, lesbian and Scottish, explores her
feelings about her identity and roots by means of the twelve houses of the astrology chart. She feels that the circular nature of the chart enables her to encompass the many diverse and complex issues she addresses in the piece. Although set in a mystic context, the subjects of the work are very concrete, from Chowdhry’s representation of herself to black women’s lack of access to resources.
Employing poetry, monologue and movement, video, slides and audio tape, the artist seeks to constantly broaden out from her own experiences, often with the direct inclusion of the experiences and views of others.
In dealing with the complex inter-relation- ship between her family upbringing and the many facets of her identity, Chowdhry has concluded that a refusal to relinquish any part of herself is of paramount importance. ‘lt’s about wanting to feel whole, to feel like you belong. What people see is an Indian person, they don’t see any other part of you. Unless people know you they don’t perceive that you’re Scottish,’ she says.
In articulating her sense of Scottishness she feels that she’s used ‘some really obvious metaphors, like tartan umbrellas . . . it’s just about keeping the racism off my skin.’ In the ‘house’ concerned with religion and mysteries, Chowdhry sits Hindu and Celtic mystic tales side by side, but not in such a way as to confuse her audience, ‘l’m not really into very elitist art that people can’t understand.’
‘I very much see myself as a performance
’m not particularly religious, but it makes you think about your cultural background when that sort of thing starts happening,’ Richard Wolfson, ofTowering Inferno film/music group, reflects on Europe’s Nazism and anti-Semitism.
Kaddish, created and performed by Wolfson and partner Andy Saunders, is an immense musical voyage through the Holocaust and continued Jewish cultural resistance. A breathtaking and intense piece which takes us from the haunting sound of the shofar (rams’ horn) to Hungarian folk and modern rock music, this work, constructed around the Jewish prayer for the dead, mixes its imagery in a way which is at least as arresting as its contrasting musical genres. ‘There’s a lot of quite bizarre juxtaposition,’ says Wolfson, ‘with Hitler’s speech being responded to by Jews in a synagogue praying.’
Kaddish is powerful and frightening, not so much a call to arms as a defiant declaration of the endurance of Jewish cultural identity and a contemplation ofthe loss of ‘the vibrant Yiddish cultures of Eastern Europe.’
Totally self-financed, Wolfson describes the project as ‘an empirical journey over four years.’ Work began on Kaddish well before Spielberg began work on Schindler’s List. ‘At that time we started working on it, the whole concept of the Holocaust and Jews was outrageously out of fashion, and everyone told us not to do it.’
For the composers, the piece was intended to reflect Jewish culture in ‘a very modernist,
poet.’ she says. “There’s a poem in the piece that says: “I came out as an Asian lesbian, l chatted up 50 straight women in Levi’s and Doc Marten shoes, before I found out those weren’t always the right clues.’ This coming to terms with elements of her identity. the piecing
exciting. funky way.’ That what Wolfson refers to as ‘a concept album about the Holocaust’ should make the top twenty in this year’s Mercury Music Award is testimony tojust how much Towering Inferno has achieved in this regard.
Performed live, and accompanied by many and varied visual images, the piece is receiving its British premiere at the National Review. lts terrifying and exhilarating imagery will then be translated on to film — a project they’re working on with Basilisk, the production company
‘ ‘ Maya Chowdhry: wanting to belong
together of the whole, is the crux of Maya Chowdhry’s The Sacred House. ‘I can’t separate myself anymore. I’ve been fragmented for far too long.’
The Sacred House at The Arches, Glasgow, Sat 22 ()ct, 1pm.
Towering Inferno: oxcltlng and funky
behind Derek Jarman’s Blue. As with Blue, there are plans for. a possible simultaneous television and radio broadcast of Kaddish.
So. with a major record deal apparently close at hand. does Wolfson think he and Saunders are on the way to shifting the ground from the ' current situation where ‘it’s not sexy and it’s not trendy’ to be Jewish? An extremely modest man, the idea seems a novel one to him, ‘Maybe we should set up a Kaddish youth organisation.‘ Kaddish is at The Arches, Glasgow, Wed 1 9 Oct, Fri 21 Oct, 9.30pm.
The List 7—20 October 199415