Cena#1: Richard Downing (United Kingdom)

The Water Banquet

A table of water, thirty feet long and six feet wide; a cyclical but constantly evolving banquet of image and object; of memory, meeting and departure… and some forks.

Originally created and presented between 2001/03, The Water Banquet is the generic title of a series of works from the borderlands between performance and installation, all stemming from the placement and animation of an extraordinary table of water. As before, this new manifestation of The Water Banquet, created specifically for Desenhos de Cena, is uniquely prepared in response to the particular architecture and character of the host location, and in collaboration with local artists and the wider community. The table provides both a focal point for social and artistic gathering and an impetus for new experiment from the exploration as a scenic element or as a stage itself. Whilst a constant presence, the table exists in shift, in image, function and opportunity, consequently to that, extent it mirrors all tables, everywhere.

The Water Banquet PERFORMANCE

The work is composed of 3 phases having as the main element: a water table, which becomes a stage for actions and interactions with the audience. In the first phase, the table is the artwork itself, forming a water mirror, which lies inert and intriguing, and at the same time quietly dialogues with the space and its surroundings. Around the table are arranged 18 to 20 chairs, waiting for what will be deliver on that ‘stage’. The second phase is characterized by the daily ‘animation ‘ of the table through a series of actions, objects and images – a sequence of compositions that are formed and dismantled, drawing constantly and impermanent scenes. The third phase is dedicated to the performance entitled ‘Acqua Impura’ – a banquet for 18 guests with about 90 minutes duration. During the Performance, each guest make their choices from a menu that presents actions/performances distributed among: Starter-Main course-Dessert. Accordingly with the choices of the audience, the combination of these activations will results in an inevitably unique Performance at each session.

Richard Downing was born in Wales, left school at fifteen, and worked for five years as a builder’s labourer whilst taking evening classes in Art. He later studied English, Philosophy and Drama, specialising in playwriting. After seven years as a freelance writer, director and carpenter, he founded his own company, U-Man Zoo (1994) to produce Motorcity – a wordless cartoon, performed upon cars suspended from trees. There followed by a series of distinctive performances and installations including Vision 20/20 (1996); Dome (1997); 32 Wardrobes (2000) and The Water Banquet (2003). In 2001, with artists Simon Banham and Mike Brookes, he established the degree scheme in Scenography at Aberystwyth University where he still teaches. Richard Downing has been concerned with active objects and the dialogue between art and the physical, social and environmental sciences. His most recent projects, including The Fractal Clock (2015). He is frequently invited to contribute internationally, most recently at the PQ 2015 (Prague) and PSi #21. (Rarotonga, Cook Islands).

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