Ahead of an immersive screening in Cardiff’s Cultvr venue in early November (Artivism At Sea), Hari Berrow speaks to experimental art duo Grey Filastine and Nova Ruth – based in Barcelona, but from the US and Indonesia respectively – about their longterm project onboard a ship, the Arka Kinari.
Three years ago, the Arka Kinari – a solar powered sailing ship and performance space, the brainchild of Grey Filastine and Nova Ruth – set sail. Through a pandemic, international crises and the world on the brink of destruction, Filastine and Ruth travelled with a group of artists around the world, performing and exploring solutions to the ongoing climate crisis.
Wed 2 Nov will find them in “immersive research lab” Cultvr, teaming with Cardiff-based 4Pi to create an immersive, multimedia performance about the ship’s journey across the world – Artivism At Sea – using 360° film projected onto a large surrounding dome, and live music and narration.
“This is a live version of a documentary film,” Filastine tells me. “The dome is one of the only things that can do the project dignity. A ship is a big thing, it’s long and it’s tall and it occupies a lot of space; it’s hard to put in a frame, actually. And the sea is even bigger – the horizon, the mountain ranges we pass, the weather… all of that is really hard to shrink down to a 16:9 square on your phone.”
The show explores the team’s approach to tackling the environmental crisis through music, as well as the ups and downs of living and working on board the remarkable ship.
“Think of Arka Kinari as a way to speak about this ecological crisis without words, necessarily – to speak about it through music and visuals. If we were to tour around in a car and then give a lecture, no one would show up,” Filastine smiles. “Instead, we show up a giant charismatic ship with a bunch of artists from all around the world and we share performances from the deck of the ship. Through the arts, you can reach people who might be disinterested, or who might not have given this a lot of thought.”
This docu-performance is an extension of the work Filastine and Nova are tackling onboard. “We work with a lot of different people, spread really wide. But as artists, we share art with them, and art always has to be a little bit ambiguous or it sounds like propaganda.
“With the documentary, we don’t have to worry so much about that – not that we’re making propaganda, but we can tell a story about what we’re doing, which means we can talk about why we’re doing it. It allows us to be really clear. It allows us to talk about our goals without preaching at people, because we can say ‘we’re doing this – this is how and why’.”
When I asked if the pair perceived this as a return to traditional performance spaces, Filastine was keen to set me straight.
“To me, the domes are still a very non-traditional space. Perhaps by having 4Pi based in Cardiff, you might get the feeling that every mid-sized city might have some team like that, but it’s a pretty rare media company!
“If they make a piece, it’s going into a world that’s hungry for those things, because there’s domes here and there, but there’s not a lot of media makers for these spaces. I guess what I’m saying is I don’t feel like the performance and the documentary are retreats from a really radical and unusual space like the ship to the dome. I still think the dome is a really radical and innovative method.”
Over and above, Filastine hopes Artivism At Sea will offer hope on top of entertainment.
“What I would like people to leave with is the idea that there are people doing many difficult things about the ecological crisis, and they are not easy; they involved abandoning their lives as they knew them.
“They may not show up on the radar and they may be far, far, far away from the centres of information in the Anglo-American media, but there are people out there working and I want people to be inspired by that. I’m inspired by what people do in the UK, and I hope people can be inspired by what we do as well.’
Filastine & Nova + 4Pi: Artivism At Sea, Cultvr, Cardiff, Wed 2 Nov. Tickets: £9-£15. Info: here
words HARI BERROW