Submerge Festival: Artistic Director, Mike pony
Inter:Mission met up with Mike Pony, the Artistic Director of Submerge Festival. Submerge debuts this year, cross-curating audiovisual art, physical performance, and electronic music in one weekend. Eight events will signify a space in a journey to the depths of ocean and back, in states of consciousness, below consciousness, and oblivion. Submerge will be taking over various venues from Friday to Sunday, each one involving an aspect of audiovisual art, performance art, and live music. While artists from seven different countries, across four continents, are featured on the line-up.
"I wanted to demystify this barrier about other forms of art. I want to put art in places where people wouldn’t normally see or experience it"
What made you want to put on a Festival in the first place? What was the inspiration behind it?
‘I think that art is a language. A language that can communicate things which cannot be told any other way. Some things can only be experienced through art and not in text. I am interested in sensory experiences. All of the work that goes into the Festival is curated in relation to that idea. By putting on club nights, shows, performance art, the Festival creates experiences which can be beautiful and overwhelming.’
Can you tell me a little bit about the audience journey throughout Submerge Festival?
‘The Festival takes you on a journey to the depths of the ocean and back. It begins with ‘Dive’ where during a multimedia performance, an artist will touch the surface of water to make sound. Then you have, ‘Into The Deep’, which includes artists working with their bodies, ice with a Barbie trapped inside and hairdryers. There will be an installation set up called ‘Room Dynamics’ in the underground tunnels of Temple Meads, that will be free to visit for the rest of the weekend. On Saturday, ‘Ghosts’ will symbolise the bottom of the ocean, featuring experimental music, and performances with clay and blood. These performances take place in a beautiful 18th Century Church, symbolising a funeral and a death. ‘The Lost City’ , ‘The Ascent’ and ‘Exist’, will take place in a morgue. Each event symbolises a further step in a journey, and the spaces used embody this. So while the Church represents a funeral, the last three events in a morgue follow on from this. The last step in the Journey ‘Exist’ is an existential horror film, which will be playing on loop for at the Coroner’s Court on Sunday. This final event is free for audiences’
Why was the combination of audiovisual art, physical performance, and electronic music important when curating Submerge?
‘It’s about a diversification of audience. I am passionate about people experiencing art that they wouldn’t necessarily go to. Music is quite accessible. If you say to a friend, ‘do you want to see this band?’, the response is normally ‘yeah, why not?’. I wanted to demystify this barrier about other forms of art. I want to put art in places where people wouldn’t normally see or experience it.
Can you tell me more about the cross-curation of the festival, and what i might see?
‘Sure. For example, with ‘Ghosts’ on the Saturday, you are going to see a Techno producer from Detroit playing an acoustic piece on a gong in an 18th Century Church, performing as her trans alter ego ‘Rrose’. You will also see a piece of performance art, where Olivier De Sagazan performs with clay and paint. If you are familiar with a musician and came to see them perform, you’ll also experience performance art, or the other way round! We want people to try something new! If they don’t like it, that’s fine, they don’t like it. It’s all about new experiences and sensations.
The Saturday concert ‘Ghosts’ looks quite intense and lasts three hours. Will audiences have to sit for three shows in Church pews?
Audiences will moved from the Church to the Fleece for the second show, so that they can get a drink! We want the festival to feel fun and be accessible. We are not forcing people to watch three hours of performance without moving. It will be three short pieces, and you can have a pee and a beer in between them! Some of the performance might be too intense, or not to your taste. That’s ok too, nobody is going to force you to watch it’
So it’s a festival about choice?
‘It is important that people have a choice with what they want to see. At ‘The Ascent’ there will be techno, performance art, dance pieces, but we don’t want you to dance to techno if you don’t want too. You can go watch a performance instead! In the audiovisual experience ‘The Well’ (which takes place when the Festival sets off on Friday at ‘Dive’,) the audience will experience something entirely immersive with lasers, mirrors and music. When I saw it, it was intense. I welled up! It’s a feeling of reverberation in your chest that you cannot put into words. The idea that art is a language which communicates things you can’t in words is an important part of Submerge.’
I saw that you invited a final artist to become part of the Festival through an open call, called ‘The Final Fathom’. How did you select this surprise work and when will we hear about it?
‘Yes! The Fathom is yet to be revealed. We had a huge number of applications. A team of people from across Theatre Bristol, MayFest and Simple Things, sat in this room and helped me pick the artist. The artist will be revealed this week, we’re really excited about it.’
So you will be very busy this weekend. Will you be at every event?
‘Yes I will be going from event to event. I have a fantastic team including a production manager, incredible tech team, marketing officer who will be working hard behind the scenes to make it all happen. We also have a lot of volunteers involved with the project! It’s a great way for people to get access to events. There is always need for help if people are still keen to volunteer!’
Are there still tickets?
'Tickets for Submerge Festival are sold either as a Weekend Pass or for individual events if your pockets can’t stretch that far! If you are on a budget, free events include Adam Basanta’s ‘Room Dynamics’ at the Loco Klub on Saturday and Sunday, as well as the film ‘Exist’ on Sunday at The Coroners Court. Meanwhile, tickets prices range from £6 to £16.50. You can buy tickets and check out prices at Crack Magazine or check out our Facebook Page for all of our Facebook Events. The full programme is available on our website.
Thanks for talking to me!
'It was a pleasure. See you at the festival!
Elena Angelides, Theatre Editor