I am blowing bubbles. Disappointed at not being able to meet with Bryony Kimmings in person, I felt I needed to do some extra prep for our phone interview, to transport myself to a suitable space. Hence the bubbles. It felt right, an appropriately flamboyant gesture.
Bryony Kimmings is to live art what Kylie is to pop music; she is sparkly, playful – and a consummate professional. Her work is often autobiographical and she has been accused of self indulgence (she has her fair share of detractors), but Kimmings is very serious about her work, and believes in the power of good old fashioned entertainment. “I get quite exhausted thinking about ways people will engage with [my work]. In order to win the crowd, as a performer I want the crowd to love me.” As a live artist, she can get that level of engagement, “in that space you can have an emotional connection.” It’s the reason she’s not a stand-up comedian. Engagement is a vital part of what she does.
This week Kimmings has been given the run of The Junction in Cambridge, the theatre where she is an Associate Artist. Visitors can expect a jamboree of performances, installations and workshops infused with Kimmings’ particular sense of fun. She has taken on a curatorial role for this project and has spent a lot of time “thinking about the user experience; I don’t want it to be ‘Ah is that it?’ I want it to be MAGNIFICENT.” For someone who makes such breezy work, Kimmings seems to put a lot of pressure on herself and has been working incredibly hard to bring this week together.
Anyone who saw Kimmings’ 7 Day Drunk (in which she explored making art during different states of intoxication) knows the lengths she is prepared to go for her work. In some ways the creative process is quite a dark one for her. “It is quite emotional and quite lonely and heavy, I go through that and then make quite a light piece.” Seeing video footage of a tired and wasted Kimmings being encouraged to keep drinking by a watchful team of scientists and doctors was disquieting. Behind all the glitter, there is an iron resolve, a need to push herself.
From soothing installation The Hall of Gratuitous Praise to the English premiere of 7 Day Drunk this week will provide an eclectic programme reflecting Kimmings’ own bold style. In Mega you can become a 9 year old Bryony donning a shell-suit in a site specific audio adventure. Thinking of the younger Kimmings makes me think about her influences. “I went through phases of having art crushes on people. In the beginning I was a Gobsquad girl, Ducky, Kiki and Herb, then I moved on to Taylor Mac…[surrealist photographer] David Lachapelle and stand up comedian Neil Hamburger, his use of overly stretching the audiences’ patience is amazing. But also theatrical music, a couple of theatre based bands? It’s always quite colourful, always quite loud.”