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U.K. artists bring intimate perfomance to mime

U.K. performers Stoke Newington International Airport have arrived to perform their experimental Live Art Speed Date concept at the Chuncheon International Mime Festival this weekend.

Involving a series of four-minute one-on-one performances, or “dates,” the show that has been tried and tested from London to Tokyo will explore and celebrate the intimate exchange between artist and audience.

Highlighting a different issue each time, the hot topic at Chuncheon will be climate change. “Climate change is a huge issue, but at the center it’s about human behavior and our inability to think about the consequences of our actions. Also to me, it’s a result of capitalism, greed and the belief that humans and our societies can keep on growing forever,” said Greg McLaren, director and actor of the four-man STK collective.

The performing arts, he feels, are the most effective way of communicating to an audience because of the empathy invoked when people observe other humans performing right in front of them. 
A scene from a Live Art Speed Date performance by Stoke Newington International Airport. (STK)
A scene from a Live Art Speed Date performance by Stoke Newington International Airport. (STK)

It’s not only the theme that changes for each show. “Each LASD is different depending on the location, the space and the artists involved,” said McLaren, adding that they have tried to make the format more flexible to include more types of artists.

This weekend’s performance will include 13 Korean artists ranging from performers to sculptors. “We’re taking advice from them about the Korean audiences, and in my experience the Korean audience is keen to try new things and to understand them,” said McLaren.

If he is right, audiences should not be disappointed by the show’s story based in a shanty town. “The story is that a group of gifted kids survived a huge climate disaster and built a little town for themselves from the debris. They have tried to discover what went wrong, and how to prevent something like this from happening again.

“One performance is an atmosphere you can touch, but I can’t tell you how, and another is a crazy hospital style tent where the audience is convinced that their thinking can change the weather. It’s going to be a great experience,” explained McLaren.

Although LASD is, by implication, live and bound by the desires of their audience, STK is not fazed by the pressure. McLaren said that despite finding the experience a little nerve-wracking, that is “mostly overcome by a sense of chaotic excitement.”

“It’s quite a privilege to be able to look your audience in the eye and tell them exactly what you want them to do, or to give them an experience they’ve never had.

“It is going to be a long night, so we’re trying to be as prepared as possible in the work, and for the people, so we can enjoy it.”

STK, who formed in spring 2008 and set up camp in an old clothes factory, strive for an international element ― hence the name ― and have been working with Chuncheon Mime Festival in association with the British Council since last year.

Although they are used to traveling around, McLaren says Korea is their favorite country so far, “partly because working here with CIMF and the British Council has given us the chance to develop LASD into a residency-style project where we have more time to get to know the artists, partly because the people are so fantastically friendly and interesting, and partly because the food is the best on earth.”

This is McLaren’s third visit to the country and he hopes to be back as he considers Korea a “friend.” “I have to say that being a foreigner in Korea is a happy state,” he said, adding, “I am frustrated by my lack of Korean language, as I’d love to have a bit of a deeper chat with people, and understand the culture more through it’s literature and philosophy, but I’ll work on that.”

McLaren said the group is impressed with this year’s mime festival so far. “The opening event was completely crazy, a three hour water fight punctuated by mimes, a samba band, a huge flaming sphere of doom; it was great.

“There is a wide selection of work from around the world and I’m looking forward to seeing more Korean work. We have been treated with such warmth that it’s a pleasure to do the work.”

Catch Live Art Speed Date as part of Friday Night Madness at the Chuncheon International Mime Festival from 10 p.m. on May 27 until 5 a.m. on May 28. For more information visit www.mimefestival.com or www.stkinternational.co.uk for more on STK.

By Hannah Stuart-Leach  (hannahsl@heraldcorp.com)
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