As Gazelle Twin and Carla Mackinnon brought their Out Of Body experience to FACT, Getintothis’ Phil Morris dissects a teeth-chattering and emotionally scarred symbiosis of music and film.
On entering the performance space, unusually held in Screen 2 of FACT’s Picturehouse, we were presented with programme notes detailing the context and brief of the night’s events. The eye was immediately drawn to a stark disclaimer at the bottom of the page:
***THIS FILM CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGERY OF ANIMAL TISSUE, BLOOD AND ORGANS***.
The format of the evening proved to be an innovative refrain from the tedium of support acts; as the night started with a series of short films by exclusively female directors. Some portrayed the essences of a specifically female experience, while others evoked more universal themes.
The Nest, by Em Cooper, was a swirling animation about the transmission of trauma from the perspective of a daughter. Whereas, 3 Ways To Go, by Sarah Cox, explored existentialism through a scouse-sounding narration and a variety of drawing techniques. The most memorable short film was Mound by Allison Schulnik; a fantastically dissonant marriage of macabre clay-animation and sentimental pop that must have taken many months of painstaking adjustments to complete.
Gazelle Twin took her position in front of the screen, hunched on her knees with her back to the audience. Two innocuous looking desk lamps discreetly lit her vocal processor. There was a vibe of necromancy about her disposition, exorcism was unfolding.
Dressed in her hooded blue tracksuit, a costume born from the uniform imposed on her in physical education, the outfit is designed to be highly symbolic of the album’s themes. Elizabeth Bernholz, the artist behind the Gazelle Twin persona, openly detailed the physical anxieties and formative trauma of “stripping off in front of other kids” in the Q&A that followed the performance.
This Is My Hand began a vivid regression through the artist’s psyche, as Carla Mackinnon’s kaleidoscope of nightmares brought a new dimension of un-comfort to the UNFLESH experience.
A morbid fascination with anatomy and decay cinematically explored the psychology of teenage fragility. Between this and FACT’s current commission ‘Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age’, we count ourselves fortunate our own passages to adulthood were relatively torment free. Anti Body is a challenging homage and is emphasised by largely improvised vocals.
The almost Grindhouse-style horror elapsed with distressing edits of chicken skin, stitched and teased to eerie effect. Gnashing teeth, time-altered images of hair growth and the unnatural re-animation of vital organs anguished the audience, as the ‘live soundtrack experiment’ peaked with Phobia, Gazelle Twin’s stalking lament.
Texturally, Bernholz reminds us of Geogaddi-era Boards of Canada, but the frenzy of augmented live vocal embelishments puts us in mind of Holly Herndon. The audience were small in number but those diligent enough to take advantage of the free entry were treated to a comprehensive analysis of the performance by both collaborators.
Pictures by Getintothis’ Martin Saleh.