Art and pop collide in incongruous surroundings
I: A Happening
Those who visit the Jupiter Rising festival — only in its second year — would do better to come early. Held in Jupiter Artland sculpture park near the tiny village of Wilkieston just west of Edinburgh, the 1000-acre site hosts enormous structures. Never mind the breathtaking scenic surroundings, clear in the unseasonably warm Scottish late afternoon; there’s also Anthony Gormley’s giant mesh humanoid Firmament, Laura Ford’s terrifying Weeping Girls, Cornelia Parker’s towering Landscape with Gun and Tree. Then there’s environmental doorman which greets every visitor: landscape artist Charles Jencks’ conical mounds and pools — in which a large inflatable planet Jupiter floats. Jupiter Rising is exaggerated in the press materials as “a Happening”, but the intention is telling — Happenings can be impromptu artistic intrusions on the everyday, and the pastoralism of the landscape is nothing if not disturbed by these alien structures, and indeed, it isn’t exactly the place you’d expect to find a music festival either.
Seconds into the inaugural acts’ sets, the incongruity is easily overlooked. Glasgow queer hardcore foursome OVERWHELMED and London industrial improvisor Alpha Maid heat up the festival’s already scorching, minuscule main music stage — the rainbow-striped Roundtop — meanwhile Benjamin Owen and Jer Reid gear up the poetry and arts contingent in the Departure Lounge area. But it’s clear that Jupiter Rising isn’t interested in compartmentalising a line up into ‘pop music’ and ‘art’ by cordoning them off to separate areas. It’s the festival’s fluidity that puts Canadian almost-acapella project Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business on the Roundtop alongside a group with as much prestige as Glaswegian indie pop heroes The Vaselines. Nowhere is the festival’s art-meets-pop philosophy better utilised than in sound and visual artist Mary Hurrell’s performance, which finds the performer easing into an amniotic sphere of noise (the word ‘atmospheric’ is bandied about very freely among guests over the weekend) and, just as the digitised dirges drift into the air and out of earshot, stoically bathing in the aforementioned Charles Jencks’ pools.
Curiously, it’s a billing ethos that works exceedingly well given the festival’s scant runtime of, really, about a day and a half. What’s more, the festival’s minute scale comparable to its southern analogue, Oxfordshire’s Supernormal (two small stages, a performance area next to the only bar, a dance area in the woods), renders ping-ponging from one stage to the next almost as easy as an about-face.