York’s contemporary gallery According to McGee launched Interfuse to celebrate a wide range of visual arts in late 2015. Initially intended as a clarion call for independent artists to submit their work for display and performance in a gallery space for a November weekend, director Greg McGee widened the brief to allow a continuous platform for the deluge of interested artists.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without the funding from Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts,” says Greg, “Interfuse is built on a mash up of contemporary practices. The idea that a performance can happen alongside an installation of neon lit slogans, that hang next a wall full of letterpress prints, all in a small gallery space really fired us up. The only difficulty was limiting the exhibition space to a set timescale. The funding really helped us celebrate the huge potpourri artists over a long period of time, all the while flying the flag for independent art.”
The opening event was a performance from Claire Hind and Gary Winters: Five Dead Acts Five Dead Cats explored the concept of mortality in a performance of action based tasks. ”A dead king meets a dead gorilla, meets a presumed dead adventurer meets a dead singer meets a dead wonder of the world meets a dead writer meets a dead career, meets a dead psychoanalyst meets a dead cat.”
“What more do you need to know?” laughs Greg, “it played to a packed house. I’ve never seen The Lord Mayor of York so spooked! It was a great performance, especially reimagined for Interfuse after a stint at the Defibrillator Gallery in Chicago.” The event was overseen by Claire and Gary’s neon slogans Crying and If Only, two phrases met time and time again by the two artists in their exploration of the subconscious. Dream Prints also festooned the walls, taking as the subject matter the dreams and nightmares of the public who dropped in and wrote down their dreams, which were then chronicled as illustrations by Hind and Winters.
Since then a steady snowball of happenings have held court at According to McGee. Light installation artist Nick Walters returned from a triumphant installation at Glastonbury to colonise the gallery’s front window, overlooking York’s second most famous landmark Clifford’s Tower.
Nick took hashtags coined by young people with disabilities and designed a projection where each slogan was pulsed through a semi-transparent screen into the street outside. Each hashtag had been written on cutting edge innovation, a bespoke interface on Ideum’s multi-touch coffee table Platform 46, and was geared towards the users’ independence – #BeYourBestSelf, #ThanksAMillionandOne, #JustKeepWalking, #MyAbilityisStrongerThanMyDisability.
In May 2016, Brian Lewis, Pontefract’s 79 year old Renaissance Man and no stranger to the northern art scene, set up a mattress in the gallery and drew non-stop for 24 hours seventy nine characters from Shakespeare’s canon, taking a break for 2 hours sleep on a put-up bed. “It was very literary, very punk,” says Greg, “and the drawings were great. Brian is a real showman and has more energy than performance artists half his age.” Says Brian, “Interfuse is an important event for me. I love drawing. It really kicked in for me six days before my 76th birthday when I read Hokusai’s comment, when he said that everything he’d done up to that point was inferior to what he was about to do. I loved that. And so, in honour of Hokusai, I set myself a challenge to draw 1000 drawings a year. It was hard work, but I did it, and I’m proud of it. Tonight’s Interfuse fits nicely with that. It’s as much about drawing as it is about a performance, which i love, and has really focused me. This isn’t just about creativity. You have to stay up late, and though I’ll be in bed at midnight, I’ll be up two hours later drawing again, adding to the collection. All of this in an art gallery opposite Clifford’s Tower, with a bed on the floor. I’m loving it.”
The show’s literary vibe was augmented in June 2016 by a visit from Teesside author Richard Milward and Hull author Russ Litten. Reading excerpts of short stories flanked by two of Milward’s new paintings, the two authors took to the task with relish. Milward’s work is a constant feature on BBC’s Culture Show (he is a favourite of Lauren Laverne), and his work has been translated into 9 languages. Litten’s novels Scream If You Want To Go Faster, Swear Down, and Kingdom are thrilling psychodramas, consolidating Hull’s position on the cultural map. Says Milward, “We’d been threatening to do something together at According to McGee for a long time. It’s been a treat to finally pull it off, showing the paintings and reading alongside the mighty Russ Litten in an independent gallery with massive ambitions in the north and beyond. A particularly special setting given we were performing in the shadow of Clifford’s Tower, where the original Luddites were imprisoned 200 years ago, my paintings being a modern surrealistic take on their plight” says Litten, “it felt great to read in a room full of art. Richard’s paintings are glorious, and Interfuse has an immediate warmth and intimacy that lends itself gladly to spoken word performance. I hope to come back in the future and tell some more tales.”
Interfuse closes its riff of happenings with a performance from multi-disciplinary performer and artist Lydia Cottrell this summer. “Independent art has always been in the cultural bloodstream,” says York based gallerist Greg McGee, “independent art avoids this strange obsession with pigeon holes such as Cubism, Supremacism, Vorticism, what have you. At its best, it’s “anti-elite”, in that it’s not there for an intellectual elite to wield to prove a point that bamboozles most viewers. Contemporary art doesn’t always have to about the “big idea”, it should be accessible to everyone, and the easier one genre interfuses with another genre, the greater the impact of a group exhibition.”
Interfuse ends its run in August after 10 months.
For more information: www.accordingtomcgee.com
1. View from Interfuse, Neon installation from Claire Hind and Gary Winters. Courtesy of According to McGee.