Jupiter Rising – Curator’s Picks

Hello all. It’s Claire Feeley here, one fifth of the team putting together the line-up for this year’s Jupiter Rising. I’ve also just had a wee baby – and thanks to the wonders of maternity leave – I have the privilege of witnessing the final days of festival preparation unfold from afar. Sleep deprivation aside, this has afforded me the rare chance to take in the wonders of the 2021 programme from a critical distance and also stand in admiration of my collaborators (in alphabetical order Michael Kasparis, Johnny Lynch, Wezi Mhura, Sarra Wild and Nicky Wilson, plus Eleanor Edmondson and the mighty team at Jupiter Artland). Therefore, I wanted to put down some reflections on the artists coming together this weekend, and also our motivations for creating an independent, artist-driven festival. The joy of Jupiter is an encounter with the unexpected – explore the programme at your own pace, get lost, discover something personal to you and above all enjoy.

*A note to readers – what follows is as much as mind-dump as a festival programme guide, as I attempt to jot down context to programming choices and signpost where you can find out more about each of the artists involved. For a quick Schedule Overview, visit http://jupiterrising.art/assets/Map_Final.pdf

So, how should you plan your Jupiter Rising 2021 weekend?

Tip 1: Arrive early on Friday for the annual opening site-specific performance.

Don’t miss Lovey & Boy: A Carnival Odyssey by Project X, Jupiter Rising’s opening performance which starts promptly Friday 4.30pm in the exquisite Ballroom Garden.

One of the pleasures of a music festival staged in a world-class sculpture garden is the opportunity to invite artists to reimagine pieces in response to the landscape and the thematic threads in our exhibition programme. Lovey & Boy promises to do just that. Written and co-directed by Ashanti Harris, and produced by Rhea Lewis, Lovey & Boy is a hybrid performance – part promenade theatre, part contemporary dance, part film installation – charged by the anarchic energy of carnival. You will be introduced to protagonists Boy and Lovey, as they in turn encounter ancestors and spirits that together tell the tale of carnival, Caribbean identity and what it means to move through the world.

For those not yet familiar with Project X, I highly recommend following everything they do. Jupiter first worked with Project X for Romanti-Crash! in 2018, the precursor to Jupiter Rising. This year, you can see the work of Project X founding-director Mele Broomes on Sunday morning. She’ll be presenting her film masterpiece All Wrapped Up in This at Jupiter Rising’s cinema, a work that brought me to my knees when I first watched it online at its premiere earlier this year at Take Me Somewhere festival (who commissioned the piece). Following the screening, Mele will be leading a Body Remedy movement workshop. An important moment to give yourself time to absorb and consider. Ashanti and Rhea chose the Ballroom Garden for Lovey & Boy, drawing upon the symbolism of the garden as a utopian space. I recommend making your way to the Ballroom Garden a little before 4.30pm to make sure you don’t miss it. If your curious about previous festival opening performances, check out our archive and Carlos Maria Romero and Steven Warwick’s 2019 HQ (I feel so Mezzaniney) that transformed Joana Vasconcelos’s swimming pool into a Xanadu-like pleasure dome. Epic!

Tip 2: Friday is for DANCING!!

No need for complicated diary planning. On Friday night, just park yourself at the Main Festival Circle – it’ll all unfold in front of you.

Let’s face it. It’s been a tough year. When myself and Sarra (of OH141 fame) sat down to plot out the vibe for JR2021, we wanted (1) to book local, with unexpected international guests (2) to continue the Rising Residency, of which more anon; and (3) to get everyone dancing. And once Lost Map and Night School Records joined the programming party, the line-up for Friday night took shape.

Continuing on the theme of carnival, we are thrilled to present Fimber Bravo (Friday, 20.45, Blessed Lady Big Top). I’ve been listening to Fimber all summer – and tomorrow (Friday) is the launch of his latest album Lunar Tredd via the awesome Moshi Moshi records. He first came to prominence in Trinidad in the 1960’s, with a sound blending protest music, afro-futurism and carnival, powered by his mastering of contemporary steel pan drumbeats. His lyrics testify to the intrinsic links between music, community and politics: “They ban our street voice and they choke we, we still shout ‘you can’t control we’” something timely to revisit now as the independent music resets itself around a more progressive agenda post-pandemic. Internationally renowned, Bravo has also loaned his talents to an astonishing array of artists, from Winifred Atwell to Morcheeba and Blur right through to Sun Ra Arkestra, Mikey Moonlight and Hot Chip. His five-piece band will grace Jupiter Rising’s main stage Friday night at 8.45pm.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. After the opening performance at the Ballroom Garden, you’ll be led to the main festival circle with live music on the main stage including Romeo Taylor, Sacred Paws, Lady Neptune, Callum Easter, the aforementioned Fimber Bravo, Container and Optimo (Espacio). En route, you can soak up the atmosphere of Jupiter Artland looking out to the Pentland Hills and Arthur’s Seat. As you walk, perhaps now is a good moment for some history: Jupiter Artland was founded by artist Nicky Wilson and her husband & art collector Robert Wilson in 2009 and has since grown to be one of Scotland’s most important centres for contemporary visual art and learning. Alongside commissioning world-leading artists to create their first major outdoor work at Jupiter, the programme has always championed underrepresented artists and voices yet to be centre-stage in the national-consciousness. This is an approach that prioritises experimentation, risk-taking and artists collaborating across art forms, which organically brought us to the idea of festival as a format where a multitude of creative and hard-to-pigeon-hole practices could be profiled and shared with the widest possible audiences in a friendly, welcoming environment. Artist Alexa Hare curated an all-night performance marathon in 2016, which was followed by artist-duo Pester & Rossi curating Lunar Nova Campout in 2017 and Sian Dorrer & Matilda Strang staging the mighty Romanti-Crash! Campout in 2018 – the year myself and Sarra Wild joined the team. Curiously, the core programming team, along with Nicky Wilson at the helm and most recently Wezi Mhura, has been women and non-binary people, which is refreshingly different when it comes to outdoor music festival programming. (Thankfully, diversity in the management team is finally being recognised as being as important as proper representation within artistic line-ups, and there are tonnes of collectives doing really amazing music, art and experimental performance programming. Sarra and me did an interview with It’s Nice That here, if you want to read more.)

Back to the programme! I have to say it. I am in love with Lady Neptune (Friday, 18.30, Blessed Lady Big Top). One of my best gigs ever was watching Lady Neptune support Beverly Glenn Copeland at CCA in Glasgow pre-pandemic. Can you imagine? We’re screening Keyboard Fantasies: The Beverley Glenn Copeland story on Saturday as part of Matilda Strang’s outdoor cinema programme. To get a sense of how ahead of their time they were, Beverley Glenn Copeland used to compose for Sesame Street, which we can agree is one of the greatest cultural achievements on the 20th Century. Keyboard Fantasies, revisited in this biopic, is their 1986 album; a synthasizer exploration combining minimalism, early techno and the warmth of traditional signwriting.

As I write this, the unofficial king of Scotland Romeo Taylor may kick-off the main stage on Friday (Friday 17.30pm, Blessed Lady Big Top), he may beam himself in electronically, or he may swap his set with the Sacred Paws. I’m not sure. I’m writing this on Thursday 26 August, a full 24 hours before the festival begins – so much can still change. But does it matter? Sacred Paws and/or Romeo Taylor? I mean – that’s just really really exciting. I hear you can also go boat riding on Friday, there is a kids map and if you’re into your food, there is a woodland dining experience that sounds seriously good.

The beautiful soul that is Johnny Lynch of Pictish Trail and Lost Map Records is our co-conspirator this year. Lost Map Records have an awesome roster of artists and, this year, the record we are all waiting for is Callum Easter’s System, which you can preorder now. Callum plays Friday 19.30 at the Big Top. Glasgow’s Night School Records likewise are co-programmers. To up the levels of dancing, Container play Friday at 10pm, also on the main stage.

Before Optimo (Espacio) take-over Blessed Lady for a Friday-night boogie-athon (Friday 23.00), don’t miss what’s on offer over in the Last Judgement Bar. We got DJ sets by Katie Shannon, Plantainchipps and Jupiter’s very own inaugural ‘thinker-in-residence’ Gemma Cairney. Can you sing? Can you shake your bottom? Then Sgàiraoke! - acclaimed performer Sgàire Woods inspired Karaoke Bar - is the place for you (Friday, 21.00, Last Judgement Bar). This is the kind of Karaoke that people travel from far and wide to attend – submit your song requests early! Then head back over to the main tent for JD Twitch and JG Wilkes, AKA Optimo (Espacio), two of the nicest humans who making clubs just generally BETTER for goodness knows how long. They even have a whole room (well, most of one) dedicated to them at the Dundee V&A right now. Optimo T-shirts are literally museum items!

Tip 3: SATURDAY IS FOR EXPLORING

Saturdays’ programme spreads out over 3 live-music stages; 2 exhibition spaces; 2 swimming spots; 1 outdoor cinema; 1 talks tent; an insanely inventive all-ages site-specific performance programme, artist-commissions, workshops, community choirs and more. The live-music offering is awesome, but make some time to explore Jupiter Artland and its hidden gems.

Start your Saturday by exploring Jupiter Artland’s summer exhibitions – a solo show by the multi-award-winning Scottish artist Alberta Whittle (Ballroom Gallery, all-day) and a group show of her collaborators both presented under the title RESET (Steadings Gallery, all-day). Jupiter Rising isn’t a parachute-in festival - it’s an essential part of Jupiter Artland’s artistic programme and the August festival programme represents the culmination of our year-round artistic efforts, conversations, residencies, public programmes, commissions and exhibitions. You’ll notice that many of the artists participating in the exhibition programme are also staging works and interventions for the festival. There is a beautiful synergy that evolves when working with artists in this way. Saturday is the day to explore these connections and post-festival, there is the chance to explore more of the artist’s work in-depth (Sekai Machache has a unmissable solo show at Stills Gallery in Edinburgh and Matthew Arthur Williams is showing at the Palm House, both as part of Edinburgh Art Festival).

In 2020, at the height of lockdown, Alberta Whittle approached Jupiter to undertake filming for what would eventually become RESET, a poetic audio-visual tapestry and one of the most poignant artworks to be created within the shadow of the pandemic. The film skilfully connects what the pandemic has amplified – moral panic, fear of contagion, and in-turn, xenophonia – a nascent fear of the ‘other’ always lurking under the surface of so-called civilised society. But RESET (co-commissioned by Frieze and Forma) isn’t a passive reflection on societal ills – it asks us questions, it calls us to action, it challenges us to face and heal injustices. One of the most powerful things Alberta has done is to viscerally connect the UK’s home office policy of literally ‘creating a hostile environment’ with a broader movement around social justice and the climate crisis. Think about these interlinked hostile environments: the space of danger facing NHS workers where those of Caribbean heritage were disproportionately at risk during the pandemic linked the types of care work assigned; the selective deportation of those of the windrush generation; the terrorifying environment created by extreme weather events battering communities across the Caribbean archipelago; a global movement started by three mothers to resist the danger their children had to navigate on a daily basis due to police practices of racial profiling – it all comes together in Alberta’s call for us to ‘reset’ and start cultivating a politics based on hope and healing. Alberta has also created an audio work - a tribute to Barbadian poet Kamau Brathwaite, whose words fill a shrine-like space within the Dovecot Gallery.

Over in the Steadings Gallery, you will be able to see the work of individual artists who ether participate in RESET as performers (Sekai Machache, Mele Broomes, Christian Noelle Charles); as writer (Ama Josephine Budge); as composer (Yves B Golden); as costume designer (Sabrina Henry); as animator (Anushka Naanyakkara) and as film and sound production (Matthew Arthur Williams, Richy Carey and Bash Khan). Make sure you don’t miss CC’s work, which is in the woodshed, and Ama’s, which is upstairs in the Tin Roof Gallery. You can listen to an interview with Alberta Whittle here and an amazing EAF Art Late featuring Mele Broomes and Alberta Whittle and hosted by Gemma Cairney here.

If you are curious about the artistic ecologies linking Scotland and the Caribbean, do also check out the artists involved in the ‘Healing the Hostile Environment’ residency programme, which Jupiter programmed inspired by Alberta’s work and that links up recent art graduates across Scotland and the Caribbean facilitated by Barbados-based Annalee Davis and Scotland-based ‘Sad Grad’ founder Jody Mulvey. You can read more here and I’ll hope to update the page soon with more info and resources for folk interested in getting involved in artistic collaboration across the Atlantic.

TIP 4: Take a chance on Scotland’s next generation of artists.

The Rising Residency, Jupiter Rising’s residency programme for Scotland-based artists of any age at an early stage of their career, is now in its second year and you can see the artists’ work throughout the weekend.

Sarra Wild and OH141 have curated the late-night stage since the festival’s inception in 2018 and Sarra’s programming for Jupiter Rising tends to be a highly accurate predictor of artists who go onto win major awards in future years. Furmaan Ahmed designs the OH141 stage, starting in 2018 with a theme inspired by black and white chequered floor of the Art School, Glasgow’s much loved and much missed music venue, and evolving in 2019 into expanded sci-fi forest centred around a cube of pulsing light. Given the arrival of my wee baby, I have no idea what Furmaan has dreamt up this year, but I can’t wait to find out. Sarra is also the creative mind behind the Rising Residency, recognising a space for a funded residency for practioners that move between the worlds of music, art and performance. I’ll continue this blog tomorrow, sharing info on the outcomes of this year’s Rising Residency by artists Saoirse Amira Anis, Kyalo Searle-Mbullu, Cindy Islam and Aqsa Arif.