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Robert Pacitti talks to Run Riot about SPILL Festival 2012

In 2007 a fresh and exciting festival was born - presenting events by some of the world's leading experimental theatre and performance makers. Welcome to SPILL Festival of performance, now in it's 4th incarnation, taking place from Weds 31 Oct - Sun 4 Nov. In the past the festival has worked in partnerships with the Barbican, Southbank, National Theatre Studio, Soho Theatre and many others. This year sees an altogether fresh twist.

At the Festival’s core are 64 uncompromising live works and events, all of which will offer you the very best experimental contemporary culture there is out there; Forced Entertainment, Empress Stah (read her interview with Run Riot here) and Subject to_change to name but a few. And at the heart of this festival is the SPILL National Platform – a programme of 46 works by emerging artists selected from a UK and Ireland wide open call-out. Here we get an insight to the man behind the it all - artist and festival director Robert Pacitti. We hear it all - from his early days as a political activist, to the moment of creating SPILL, plus nine gem-like anecdotes telling us the stories behind his greatest artistic influences.

For this collective Q&A we invited six key people from the performance art scene to pitch in with a short question each. Those six are: @manick62 (artist producer), @ambermb (artist PR), @BryonyKimmings (performer), @andytfield (artist and curator), @ForcedEnts (performance company), and @nahummantra (musician and curator). They're identified properly below.

The twist? Now - what does SPILL, Robert Pacitti, Monty Python, Tim Minchin, and Jarvis Cocker all have in common?* Here's the clue: for you to experience SPILL you're required to go on a journey. Not just out of the box, but out of London - and possibly into space (for the latter we recommend  the performance by Empress Stah). From Liverpool Street station, jump on the train heading north east into Suffolk. In just over an hour you'll be there - the town of Ipswich, bustling on the waterfront of the River Orwell. For five days the place will be throbbing with amazing experimental theatre, live art, performance, parties and more! See you there. Read on to capture a teasing taste of its essence.

Question from @run_riot: 'Having initially trained in fine art - what was it that drew you to experimental theatre in the late 80s?'
Robert Pacitti:
I trained as a painter and so spent a lot of time thinking about how ideas, spaces or shapes became framed. At the same time I was involved with various political groups that were using direct action as the way to force change and reach their objectives. Eventually I realised that my path lay somewhere between the two – using my own body to make uncompromising live work that was meaningfully pushing for change, but also creating that work as something to be crafted and cared for. I use ‘experimental theatre’ as just a shorthand name for that really, but it can easily be swapped for ‘performance’, ‘live art’, ‘action’, ‘ritual’ - call it what you like.

Question from @run_riot: 'Can you tell us about your most significant moment - for whatever reason - that has arisen from your work as Pacitti Company?'
I think when I decided to create SPILL Festival something irreversible happened. It consolidated everything I wanted to address around taking control of my own practice, through being in service to others. It changed everything about how Pacitti Company worked, who that work was for, and what it was to become in the future.

Question from @manick62: 'Who are your greatest artistic influences?'
This is a really tough question to answer, partly because my artistic influences are indivisible from so much other stuff that is meaningful to me: politics, activism, sexuality, punk, ritual, body modification, philosophy… I am also influenced by individual artworks as much as I am by any artist’s entire life output. So with this in mind here’s a list of 9 important influences, not meant in any way to be ‘the best’, but those feeling particularly pertinent right now:

‘The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’ by Richard Dadd
As a kid I only ever visited a gallery once, and that was aged about 6 when my dad took me to the National Gallery to see the Richard Dadd painting ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’ (1855-64). Today Dadd would be considered schizophrenic – he believed he was descended from Osiris and put on earth to fight Satan. Dadd murdered his own father in 1843 (believing he was the Devil incarnate) and subsequently painted ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’ whilst locked up in Broadmoor. This strange painting depicts a fairy decapitation. But when you move back and see the painting from a distance the canvas reveals a secret: a large twisted maniacal face staring out at you, made up of twisted branches and fairy features you don’t see when looking up close.

John Bowers at The Albion Mills
When I was 15 I used to sneak into a pub in Ipswich that had a small airless cellar where punks, goths and ‘others’ all older than me would gather and gig. One night I saw a man named John Bowers stand in front of his noisy synthesizer, draw blood from his arm and squirt it across black and white grainy slides of stuff I can’t now remember. I was floored – it was my very first experience of anything performance related and I have carried the memory of that liberating permission-to-act with me for over three decades now. John and I finally met a couple of years ago and are now buddies. But he will always be my teenage hero and the person who, without even knowing it, provided my first model of performance.

Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth
Formed in the early 1980’s, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth (or TOPY) was an international network of people engaged in the collective activities of arts and magic. I was never directly involved with the Temple but was around people who were. We shared common interests in William Burroughs, Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, and the Process Church of the Final Judgement, as well as exploring S&M and other ways to channel sexual energy. The sound work of Throbbing Gristle and latterly Psychic TV was significant, and Genesis P’Orridge’s thinking and writing was very important to me. So even though I pursued other paths and interests, the Temple was culturally very influential, even at a distance.

‘Santa Sangre’ by Alejandro Jodorowsky
When this 1989 film came out it blew me away and I’ve probably seen it more than any other movie (although it’s a close call with Robin Hardy’s 1973 masterpiece ‘The Wicker Man’). The artist Marisa Carnesky and I used to put pyjamas on and go to watch ‘Santa Sangre’ at all-nighter screenings at the Duke of York cinema in Brighton. It’s a magical film: visually rich, musically exciting, darkly humorous and filled with symbolism. Whilst disciples of ‘Holy Mountain’ will be up in arms here, for me it is ‘Santa Sangre’ that is by far and away the maestro’s most influential work.

‘Angry Women’ Re/Search Publication
Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s Re/Search published a series of books that pretty much constituted my counter-cultural education of that time: ‘The Industrial Culture Handbook’, ‘Bob Flanagan: Supermasochist’, ‘Modern Primitives’, ‘Freaks: We Who Are Not As Others’, and of course Angry Women. Pro-sex, pro-porn, and pro-choice it was in this uncompromising book where I first read interviews with Diamanda Galas (read her interview with Run Riot here), Annie Sprinkle, Bell Hooks, Karen Finley, Linda Montano, Lydia Lunch, Carolee Schneeman… need I say more?

The film work of Derek Jarman
I don’t really know if it’s possible to have a ‘favourite’ artist with so many amazing people engaged in image making across the centuries. But if I was really pushed I think I’d have to say Derek Jarman. His poignant film works framed much of the 80’s and early 90’s for many of us, and as such they remain vital acts of courageous resistance. ‘Caravaggio’, ‘The Garden’, ‘The Last of England’ and ‘Blue’ all still floor me in their depth and beauty.

The fierceness of Leigh Bowery
I remember being at The Fridge in Brixton and seeing Leigh Bowery in the flesh for the first time. He was covered in thick black latex and looked like a huge shiny insect with an elongated head and one fat leg. I was off my face on acid that night but it didn’t really matter, Leigh always dressed like the rest of us were tripping. His rendition of a cold Russian mistress onstage in ‘The Homosexual’ (at what was then Bagley’s Warehouse in Kings Cross) remains one of my all time favourite London theatre nights out. I was sat in the front row and he spat on me – surely that’s got to be the stuff of legend!

The visual art of Doris Salcedo
The work of this Columbian born sculptor always stays with me for a long time after experiencing it live. This is perhaps deliberate formally as Salcedo deals with issues of memory and forgetting. Similarly to Lebanese artist Mona Hatoum (whose work I also ‘feel’ deeply) Salcedo’s works raises issues of exile or displacement, often in ways that are surprising in their formal simplicity – a beautiful wardrobe filled with set concrete for example. Through this shifting of mass and raising of ‘missing people’ I read her works as almost totemic. Astounding stuff.

The performance work of Ron Athey
Quite simply I think Ron is one of the most important living contemporary performance makers in the world. The first time I saw him in action I had a sort of breakdown and couldn’t quite catch my breath or stop crying for hours afterwards. No one else’s work has ever impacted on me to that extent before or since. Visceral, spiritual, emotional, harsh, energetic, bloody yet also sometimes quite camp, his practice crystalises more for me about the potential of radical queer bodies than anyone else’s I’ve encountered. I remain in total awe of him.

Question from @ambermb: 'How has relocating the festival [SPILL Festival] from London to Ipswich impacted the programme?'
It’s allowed us to side-step the cultural congestion and hullabaloo of London for a while and look at ways of supporting work differently in a smaller place, where SPILL is the major cultural focus for a while. As a result we are launching a totally overhauled model of the SPILL National Platform, where we are able to present 46 younger artists in one big go. It’s going to be mega!

Question from @BryonyKimmings: [Part 1] 'What makes your festival so special... out of all the things to see in London.' [Part 2]  'I would just like to hear why it's so cool. I think it is, but I want it on paper/screen.'
I honestly don’t think it’s my place to call SPILL special, but I love it that you do!

Question from @andytfield: 'How can we make better homes for performance?'
By killing off the power of the art world’s equivalent of estate agents and forming our own ethical alternative ways of living together!

Question from @ForcedEnts: 'What are you most looking forward to seeing at the Festival? And it doesn't have to be #thecomingstorm'
I refuse to have favourites!

Question from @nahummantra: 'Latex or leather? Why?'
I like all types of glove.

Question from @run_riot: 'What is the future for SPILL Festival?'
Continuing to do the best we can and hoping it works for you!

For more information and tickets, please visit the official site below
SPILL Festival
31 Oct - 4 Nov 2012
Taking place at various locations in Ipswich

Answers by:
@Robert_Pacitti | Robert Pacitti
Artist + director of the SPILL Festival of Performance. Ipswich / London. spillfestival.com

Robert Pacitti is also the Artistic Director of Pacitti Company

Who asked the questions for the @run_riot #CollectiveInterview:
@run_riot | Run-Riot.com
Run-Riot is a cultural events listings with highlighted events & free tix in our weekly e-bulletin – arts & culture, parties & wild cards! London. run-riot.com

@manick62 | Manick Govinda
Libertarian, Artists Producer-Advisor-Curator-Writer, and free movement campaigner with @manifestoclub. My views are strictly personal! London. manifestoclub.com

@ambermb | Amber Massie-Blomfie[ld]
Deriviste. And PR with Borkowski. My surname has two extra letters that Twitter is denying me. London. ducksonandpinker.tumblr.com

@BryonyKimmings | Bryony Kimmings
I make performance, stupid music and audio art. I do cabaret if I can be bothered to stay up late. London and Cambridge. bryonykimmings.com

@andytfield | Andy Field
Giddy overenthusiast. Maker of unusual things. London. forestfringe.co.uk

@ForcedEnts | Forced Entertainment
We are a group of 6 artists. We've been making performance for 25 years - questioning, pushing and breaking theatre to see what can be built from the wreckage. Sheffield. forcedentertainment.com

@nahummantra | Nahum Mantra
Artist and musician. Member of Orchestra Elastique. Working at Shunt, Arts Catalyst and ITACCUS. Obsessed with science and magic. London. nahummantra.org



Question: What does SPILL, Robert Pacitti, Monty Python, Tim Minchin, and Jarvis Cocker all have in common?
*Answer: Ipswich
SPILL - the 2012 Festival takes place in Ipswich
Robert Pacitti - Robert Pacitti is originally from Ipswich
Monty Python - In the original version of the famous Dead Parrot sketch from Monty Python's Flying Circus, the shopkeeper played by Michael Palin claims that Ipswich is the palindrome of Bolton.
Tim Minchin - In the Tim Minchin song "Some People Have It Worse Than I", there is the line 'I could be an Ipswich prostitute', referring to the 2006 Ipswich serial murders.
Jarvis Cocker - In 2006, The Jarvis Cocker Record contained the track "From Auschwitz to Ipswich" written and performed by Jarvis.