We caught up with Bristol artist, Megan Broadmeadow as she prepares for her sci-fi-leaning installation at this year’s Green Man Festival. She explains the ideas behind the project, the process of bringing her art to the festival and how ‘Episode 2 – THE FOURTH KIND’ continues where she left off.
“The idea was prompted by my research into sci-fi religions; religions and religious leaders who communicate with aliens and planets.”
What are the key ideas behind ‘Seek-Pray-Advance’?
In a nutshell, it’s a sci-fi themed episodic artwork. However there is a lot beyond that. Each episode is in a new venue and reveals a new strand of the narrative. But not all the strands are art exhibitions; there have been live performances, a fashion shoot and an EP is due next year too!
The content is also not simply a sci-fi romp. The idea was prompted by my research into sci-fi religions; religions and religious leaders who communicate with aliens and planets. The work is trying to communicate that journey, the one that those real people take – from taxi driver to interplanetary representative. It’s not an episode of Star Trek, it’s real life to those people. I find it fascinating that the line between fantasy and reality is something that can be broken in religious experiences. So the story is one with a serious exploration behind it. That which questions consciousness, belief, psychosis and belonging in the lives of those who become prophets.
Is a music festival a new setting for you in terms of displaying your work?
I’ve been working on festival stages for a few years but to bring my own work there is something quite different!
A festival brings a very different scenario to displaying art; robustness and preparation are key in my mind. The work is out in the wild in some ways. People may not realise they can’t climb it etc! You have to prepare for lots of scenarios whilst also managing the concepts and quality of the ideas. Compromises are for sure, but out of limitations come new ways of working so that’s fun to explore.
I’ve been using materials that are found at festivals for quite a while – truss, stage lights, smoke machines are some of my face art materials – but me using them in a festival scenario is going to be new. I’m excited and nervous as to can’t work out if they will hold their own or become lost. Also, there will be professionals there who will scrutinise how the lights are fixed and programmed etc. You can’t get away from professional criticism even at a festival!
“Like a soap opera, I want then to ask each other, ‘did you see what happened today?'”
Have you approached things differently in a format sense, too?
This work is taking the whole length of the festival into consideration. In an art gallery context, people will come once to experience the full show, but then not return. At Green Man, they will be passing it and engaging with it several times a day, so my main aim is that it changes over the weekend. The videos will change, the sculpture will change appearance over four days. I’m hoping this will bring people back, and keep them excited about it. Like a soap opera, I want then to ask each other, “did you see what happened today?” Thats what I’m hoping!
There’s a definite cinematic or perhaps even B-movie vibe going on, is this something you were influenced by, or more a result of the mediums you chose to work with?
Yes its a bit of both. For SEEK-PRAY-ADVANCE [Broadmeadow’s previous ‘episode’], a full section of my research was watching old sci-fi movies. The plots (as it turned out in the majority) weren’t really quite right, but the props, costumes and scenery were all really inspiring to me. They’re an incredibly rich resource to delve into. I love thinking about all the effort that went into the making of them; the unseen prop makers and everyone who worked behind the scenes. My making process is become more like that of a film production. I’ve started working with prop-makers and really enjoy the collaborative process. We have great fun making things, trying to make gross things, channeling our inner alien – it’s great.
People may be wondering if you believe in aliens…?
Yes! I doubt we’ll ever meet them though. I’m also pretty certain that the ‘Aliens’ we all know – the ones with big eyes, pointy chins – they come from our subconscious, so in a sense aliens live within us all the time.
“We’ll hear some of its story, interspersed with texts about real-life historical messages from outer space.”
How does ‘Episode 2 – THE FOURTH KIND’ pick up where SEEK-PRAY-ADVANCE left off?
Episode 1 concentrated on the moment of contact with something otherwordly. At times this was unknown to the lead character, ‘The Ordinary Person’ (who is played by a man and a woman). Their stories ran in parallel, a parallel universe of contact. They fell into the underworld, lost in a labyrinths of caves which were symbolic of their own consciousness.
The last moment of Episode 1 saw The Ordinary Person find them selves in a magical space, and meet with a mother figure, who gave them a gift: a box with a hole in it.
In Episode 2, The Box has crash landed onto the Green Man Festival Site, becoming a storytelling device. We’ll hear some of its story, interspersed with texts about real-life historical messages from outer space. The audience will also hear from The Ordinary Person – their inner dialogues will become public, and the quandary of what to do with the gift, and what the gift wants from then starts to unravel…