Screening: Beatrice Gibson 'if the route': the great learning of london [a taxi opera]

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Screening: Beatrice Gibson 'if the route': the great learning of london [a taxi opera]

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Part of Hot with Excess: A Season of Contemporary Artists’ Opera, a special season of live events exploring the collision of contemporary art and opera, featuring Sam Belinfante, Beatrice Gibson, Trulee Hall, Richard Kennedy, Benjamin Orlow, Marijke de Roover and Alexandre Singh.

A collaboration between artist Beatrice Gibson and composer/musician Jamie McCarthy, ‘if the route’: the great learning of london [a taxi opera] was originally a live performance and radio work in seven parts, based on the tradition of ‘calling over’ in The Knowledge (the infamous London black cab navigation system and mnemonic device).

A complex and fascinating mathematics of the everyday, The Knowledge involves learning 320 routes or ‘runs’ mapped within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. ‘Calling over’ refers to students reciting aloud the day’s runs. Partners call over runs to one another, using recital and repetition in preparation for ‘appearances’ [tests] at the Public Carriage Office. Entering Knowledge Point on Caledonian Road (one of several taxi universities) is to be surrounded by the city fragmented into sets of sentences and street names, as pairs of (mostly) men recite sets of directions to one another. A veritable symphony, the city is performed as text. Using calling over as the principle sound source for the piece, and working collaboratively with taxi drivers, the great learning celebrates and elaborates this formidable everyday system, poetically re-contextualising it within in the gallery space.

The great learning
plays on the title of the influential score of the same name by the radical 1960’s composer and musician Cornelius Cardew. Cardew’s work was rooted in a belief in the democratic potential of music as a social platform. His version of The Great Learning was a score in seven paragraphs, rooted in, and acoustically generated by, the Confucian text of the same name. In keeping with and paying homage to the spirit of Cardew’s original score and the political gesture of experimental composition, Gibson and McCarthy use both aural and non-aural elements of research into The Knowledge in their composition. The score for the piece has been developed for musicians and non-musicians alike.

This screening is a document of the live performance event held at Studio Voltaire on the 9 March 2007, and will be introduced by Beatrice Gibson.


Doors will open at 14:00. Bar provided by Mezcal Union, serving drinks until 18:00.

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