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Walden at Hidden Door

We are delighted to be reviving our acclaimed production of Walden for this year’s Hidden Door festival.
Mon 30 May – Wed 1 June 2016, 18.30 & 20.30

“My purpose in going to Walden was not to live cheaply or dearly, but to live deliberately.”

On 4th July 1845, Henry David Thoreau walked into the woods near his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts and decided to stay. He found a spot next to a lake called Walden Pond and built a hut. For the next two years he tried to live entirely by his own resources.

Walden, Thoreau’s account of his ‘experiment in simple living’, is one of the most extraordinary and unclassifiable books ever written, with huge contemporary resonance. It is a meditation on self-sufficiency, the individual’s relationship with the environment and the desire to ‘live deliberately’.

First produced in 2009, Magnetic North’s adaptation was hugely popular with audiences and received a string of 4 and 5 star reviews.

Nicholas Bone, Magnetic North’s Artistic Director, and Walden’s director and adaptor said: “Magnetic North is delighted to have the opportunity to revive Walden for Hidden Door’s invited programme. As an Edinburgh-based company, we’re hugely supportive of the opportunities Hidden Door gives for artists and audiences to share work in otherwise disused spaces in the city. We’re looking forward to being part of the event for the first time this year.”

The production is performed in an intimate, in-the-round setting: 12 beautifully crafted benches made from American cedar join together to create an arena for the audience and actor, with just 40 audience members able to attend each performance.

Listings Information
Hidden Door Festival, Old Lighting Depot, King’s Stables Road, Edinburgh
Monday 30 May – Wed 1 June
18.30 & 20.30
http://hiddendoorblog.org/

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Writer in Residence

We are delighted to be hosting New Zealand playwright Arthur Meek as writer in residence with Magnetic North next summer.
Arthur joins us thanks to a joint initiative run by Playmarket New Zealand and Playwrights’ Studio Scotland: the development agencies for playwrights for their respective countries.

We will host Arthur for a 3 month residency from July-Sept 2016. He will participate in Rough Mix, spend a week at Cove Park, have the opportunity to see work and make contacts during the Edinburgh festivals in August as well as being commissioned to write a new play, Erewhon.

Based on Samuel Butler’s satirical utopian novel, Erewhon will be a solo show, performed by Arthur and taking the form of an illustrated theatrical lecture in which Arthur will attempt to amuse an audience of Erewhonians by contrasting his own society with their own. The experience of distance from New Zealand, and the mix of familiarity and difference that is a New Zealander’s experience of living in Scotland, will inform the writing and development of the piece.

Arthur will be supported throughout by our artistic director Nicholas Bone. There will be a work in progress sharing of Erewhon at the end of the residency.

Arthur Meek is an award-winning New Zealand writer for stage and screen. His two published plays, The Trees beneath the Lake and On the Upside Down of the World were both commissioned by the Auckland Theatre Company. His work has been shown in New Zealand, Australia, the UK and the US.

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Pointing and thinking - what I learnt from Giacometti

GiacomettiFigure

A few weeks ago, Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti's sculpture Pointing Man was sold for a world record $141 million [Guardian story]. I first saw this sculpture in real life, rather than in reproduction, at the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art about 15 years ago as part of a Giacometti retrospective.

I thought I knew his work quite well from work I'd seen in other galleries and from reproductions, but being confronted by a collection of the work in one place was quite a different experience. I was very moved by what I saw, by the cumulative effect of seeing so much of his work together, and the sense it gave of what he was trying to do. I had probably thought till then that he made a lot of work that was quite similar, but I was missing the point. He was working to refine an idea, not to repeat himself. Particularly striking was the variation in scale. This piece is large - life size, you might say - but other sculptures were tiny, just a few centimetres high. Giacometti said that he didn't set out to make them so small, but that was how they kept ending up. 

So, there are two things that fascinate me in particular about this work: first is the removal of all unnecessary flourish. this is about as far as you could get from baroque style. I remember staring at this sculpture in the gallery and thinking it looked like a figure seen from a distance in a heat haze: the form told you it was human because it contained the essence of the human form, even though there appeared to be no detail. What is interesting about this is that in the mid-1920s – about 20 years before this particular work – Giacometti made a conscious decision to change the way he worked. He had become frustrated by his approach, which was based on the traditional method of working from a model. So in late 1925, at the age of 24, he decided he would work only from memory – he separated out the task of observation from the task of interpretation and his work was transformed.  If you look at his work from before this time, it’s good, but lacking in the  character that makes his later work so distinctly his.

The second thing was about the humanity of the act of pointing. It was only later that I began to see this. Pointing is a human act: no other species understands it as we do. If you try to direct an animal by pointing, the animal will look at the end of your finger, not to where you are pointing. Humans have developed an ability to abstract a pointing finger: we understand that it refers us to something we aren't looking at, or maybe even something we can't see because it's over the next hill. It's such a simple act, but it summarises the sophistication of the human brain. If I point to my cat's bowl, she stares at my finger; if I point to my son's bowl, he looks at the bowl. So here is this beautifully refined - in the sense of anything extraneous being removed - sculpture that perfectly captures what it is to be human, and perhaps what it is to be an artist. The act of pointing is a wonderful thing in itself, but think of how we have refined that act still further. When I went to vote in the Scottish referendum last year, I saw this sign.

electionsign

It's nicely old fashioned in style - the finger is still there, recognisable, though someone has interpreted it.  We see this on signposts sometimes:

Fingerpost sign in Carmunnock 2b Coppermine 7322

but even then it can be abstracted further to an absolute minimum of form that tells us exactly what we need to know. 

roadsign

So is that the job of an artist? To tell people exactly what they need to know? But then how do you know what it is they need to know? Or is it more complex than that? Are artists there to point to the right question? Or to point to a number of possibilities? To leave space for the listener or observer to fill in the gaps?

What would happen if you thought you had found the answer?  Could you carry on?  What’s interesting about the answer Giacometti found when he changed his method of working was that, although it answered one question, it enabled him to ask many more.

This blog is based on part of a talk I gave at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in October 2014.

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A Requiem for Edward Snowden

Magnetic North at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015

A Requiem for Edward Snowden

by Matthew Collings and Jules Rawlinson

A ‘digital opera’ about loss of faith, hacking and privacy in an online world will be part of the Made in Scotland 2015 showcase

A Requiem for Edward Snowden is a new audio-visual performance work created by composer Matthew Collings and video artist Jules Rawlinson. Performed live by Collings and Rawlinson with a violinist, cellist and clarinettist, A Requiem for Edward Snowden plays against a background of video projections incorporating images from live cameras, stock footage and hacked documents. It will be performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August as part of the prestigious Made in Scotland programme, which showcases the best Scottish work to audiences and promoters from around the world.  

Described by its creators as a ‘digital opera’, it is based around the actions and decisions of whistleblower Edward Snowden. It focuses on themes which are extremely relevant to how we live in the 21st century: loss of faith and security, the hacking of digital media, invasion of privacy and personal sacrifice. Snowden’s revelations have shown that we live in a world where we are totally reliant not just on electronic communication, but on daily routines in which our privacy is routinely compromised. The phones that we carry with us in our pockets not only keep us connected to the world, but also allow others to delve into our most personal data. A Requiem for Edward Snowden explores the consequences of this through a combination of electronic sound, acoustic instrumentation and live visuals in a 50 minute-long performance.

Matthew Collings’s interest in mixing digital media with traditional instrumentation is reflected in the style of performance.  The piece’s musical structure combines with an intricate and expressive visual language to create a unique performance that has already proved popular with audiences.

A Requiem for Edward Snowden was developed with a Creative Scotland Artist’s Bursary and in collaboration with New Media Scotland and Edinburgh College of Art. It was premiered in October 2014 to a sell-out audience at Edinburgh's Reid Concert Hall, and was subsequently performed at the CCA in Glasgow in March 2015. Matthew Collings and Jules Rawlinson both live and work in Edinburgh, and Collings took part in Magnetic North's artist development programme Rough Mix in 2014.

You can find out more and listen to excerpts on the Requiem webpage

Listings information

Venue: Stockbridge Parish Church, venue 317      Box office: 0131 226 0122

Tickets: £10/£7 conc/£6 students

Dates: 20-22 August                                           Time: 8.00pm

Twitter: @magnorththeatre @mlscollings #requiemsnowden

Web: www.magneticnorth.org.uk/requiemsnowden

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Magnetic North's plans for 2015-16

We've got a full programme of artist and project development projects between now and March 2016, following a successful funding bid to Creative Scotland. Among the highlights are Our Fathers - a new project about faith, to be created in collaboration with playwright Rob Drummond and based on Edmund Gosse’s book Father and Son; Rough Mix - a multi-art form artist development residency at Summerhall in Edinburgh and Space/Time - a creative retreat for experienced artists at Cove Park, Argyll and Bute. As part of its commitment to developing and widening opportunities for all artists, we will ensure that at least one of the residency places is taken by a Deaf or disabled artist.

We are really pleased to be announcing this exciting programme of new work – it is great that Creative Scotland has recognised the quality and strength of the work we have been doing with artists across art forms over the last few years. Since we ran our first Artist Development residency Rough Mix at Dance Base in late 2006, we’ve worked with over 50 established and emerging artists, supporting them to explore new ideas and giving them time to reflect on their work. I’m particularly excited to be working with Rob Drummond on a project that is very close to both our hearts and which we have discussed for some time.

Our Fathers is the working title for a project based on Father and Son, the poet Edmund Gosse’s memoir of his upbringing in a strict, evangelical Plymouth Brethren family. Tightly bound to his father by the early death of his mother and his father’s burning sense of Edmund’s destiny as a great preacher, Gosse came to a gradual realisation of his own sense of self, culminating in his rejection of religion. Rob and I were both brought up in religious households and had fathers who were clergymen, so we have a very personal take on this story. We'll be working at the Tron in September to develop ideas for the production, which we plan to tour in Autumn 2016.

Rough Mix is a two week, practical, multi-art form residency for 6 experienced artists and 2 emerging artists. Previous residencies have taken place at Dance Base and Summerhall in Edinburgh, and Tramway in Glasgow; this year’s residency will again be at Summerhall. Previous participants have included playwrights, composers, visual artists, choreographers and film-makers. The residency will take place from 14th-25th September and we'll be announcing deatils of how to apply at the end of May. You can read more here.

Space/Time is a week-long retreat for established artists. It combines facilitated dialogue - built around self-generated questions and a series of provocations and tasks - with individual time for reflection.  This year’s retreat will be at Cove Park Artists’ Centre in Argyll and Bute from 19th-26th October. Previous retreats have been held at Lyth Arts Centre in Caithness and Cromarty Arts Trust. Details of how to apply will be available at the end of May.

We will also continue to support participating artists after the residencies by offering tailored support in the form of individual mentoring advice on further development opportunities for their work, and introductions to other artists or producers who may be of help to them. The company is now using its producing expertise to work with Rough Mix alumni to help them put on their work: it is currently working with composer Matthew Collings (who took part in Rough Mix in 2014) to produce his A Requiem for Edward Snowden, a collaboration with sound and visual artist Jules Rawlinson, which will be performed at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe as part of the Made in Scotland programme. 

We'll be announcing more work soon.

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J. Sharp Taking A Walk
07 September 2014
Very much enjoyed your show at the Brunton Theatre last night and the silent walk to start was an excellent addition, creating the perfect atmosphere....