Gareth Cutter was one of three DM Artists in Residence (AiRs) for 2020/21. During a 10 month period the artists are embedded in Drake Music. They are part of the team, sharing and developing their practice, inputting into DM strategy and activities and creating a new piece of work for their final project.
Scroll down to watch Gareth’s extraordinary digital performance, The Anxious Mansion.
Artist in Residence final project
Gareth’s final project was a live performance, developed for and delivered over Zoom, bringing into play music, narration, audio description, shadow puppets and multi-camera filming.
Gareth explains: “It’s a 35 minute experiment in ‘digital gig theatre’ about someone alone in their room, with just their electronic devices for company, seeing the world – and being seen – through a screen.
Set entirely in my bedroom and held over ZOOM, it combined live performance (singing, keyboard, movement, shadow puppetry) with pre-arranged material in Ableton. It was an artistic response to the weight of spending winter largely confined indoors, cut-off from other people.”
Gareth created the performance live online in winter 2020 at DM On The AiR , a micro-festival to celebrate the DM Artists in Residence with a feast of new music and R&D performances.
Via Zoom, we were taken to Gareth’s home, an inmate setting for a performance which aimed to bring together the digital and remote, with the handmade and personal.
You can watch the whole performance below.
About Gareth Cutter
Gareth Cutter is an artist working primarily in sound, music and performance. He is based in London, and has been making work professionally since 2012.
Cutter translates the textures and sensations of the queer body and voice through sound, approaching it casually and conversationally.
He’s worked across music, cabaret, contemporary theatre, live art and dance, and has been supported by many different organisations including Pacitti Company, Metal, Unlimited, British Council and Arts Council England. He collaborates with artist, Gemma Nash as part of industrial sound art duo, CUTTER // NASH.
Recently he has been commissioned by artists to create new sound design and compositions, including Sebastian Hau-Walker, Rhiannon Armstrong, and Paul Hughes & Rohanne Udall (Chatting Tanum).
“My work is sensuous, erotic and casual. I like to imagine it functioning as a kind of ‘poppers’ (a slang term given broadly to alkyl nitrites that are inhaled in the gay / clubbing communities); stimulating blood flow, relaxing muscles, easing difficult ideas into constricted spaces.
As an artist living with HIV, a chronic and stigmatised illness, I’m concerned with challenging the aversions mainstream society has around our bodies, and the way it imposes certain ‘acceptable’ norms on bodies that don’t conform to the status quo.”
About ‘The Anxious Mansion‘
The Anxious Mansion is a new type of performance, influenced at every stage by the experience of living and working through the Covid-19 pandemic. The performance you see below was recorded at DM On The AiR in November 2020.
It begins in darkness, with sustained organ notes settling us in to a different way of experiencing a Zoom room. Early on it becomes clear that this will be a playful experience and will confound expectations.
We are introduced to two unseen narrators, AI observers Hugh and Hu2, who ask in the darkness:
“Is this a waiting room?”
“I think he’s put tape over the camera.”
In The Anxious Mansion Cutter has created an ambitious, immersive and sensuous experience for audiences jaded by too much Zoom and not enough IRL activity. He redraws the boundaries of digital performance, beginning slowly and drawing us in bit by bit to a rich, intimate and multi-layered world.
Audio description blends seamlessly with narration, the voices creating a push and pull as they deepen our experience of the piece, while giving distance as they comment and commentate on the action.
As he performs Gareth’s movements are purposeful and deliberate, choreographed alongside the other elements of found audio, live singing, shadow puppetry, lighting, PPE, audio description and more.
The music is delicate, “broken chords light-hearted like a daydream”, with poetic and personal lyrics. At one point we are given a wry and helpful hint by one of our watching narrators: “Similar artists you may be interested in: Thom Yorke, Anhoni. Nick Cave. Aldous Harding.”
This one-man performance is a true feat of ingenuity, creativity and accessibility which did the almost-impossible – it reconnected audiences with the joy and humanity of live performance during the dark winter days of Covid-19.
This project, along with the other AiR productions, is a work-in-progress which the artist is looking to develop further with an appropriate organisation.
If you would like to partner on developing this project further, please contact Drake Music or get in touch with the artist directly.
- Writer and Performer – Gareth Cutter
- BSL Performer – Rachel Jones
- Live captions – Eluned Charnley
With special thanks to: Sonia Allori, Rhiannon Armstrong, Daryl Beeton, Becky Morris Knight, Gemma Nash, Anjali Prashar-Savoie, Elinor Rowlands and Tim Spooner.
The DM Artist in Residence programme is supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation.