DOUBLE 6 | R.I.P. GERMAIN & ASHLEY HOLMES
During an August night, a former courtroom in Leeds Town Hall became the stage for Double 6 (2019), an audio-visual performance by R.I.P. Germain and Ashley Holmes. R.I.P. Germain is a university lecturer and conceptual artist whose research primarily focuses on deepening the inner and outer dynamics of Black British male. Ashley Holmes is an artist with an interdisciplinary practice – images, installations, performances, musical projects, radio broadcasts – who explores the traditions and visual languages in Black communities, and how they are carried across generations.
The two artists collaborate for the first time, combining their respective backgrounds and thus creating Double 6: a performance that interprets and tells about racism, about how the Black British are considered by the public opinion from a social and political point of view, as well as the value of their own lives.
The scene is set in a room with a high ceiling, light walls and a floor covered with red carpet. In the middle there is a large semicircle of dark wood steps. Along the wall behind the steps there are grandstands reserved for the performance viewers. A few green spotlights illuminate the room and contrasting with the floor’s red color, releasing a tense atmosphere into the space.
During the performance, Germain and Holmes move around the room, sitting in different places they assume sometimes the role of judge, sometimes that of the accused one, they shout, sing and recall gestures of protest and self-affirmation, like that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Olympic games.
The narration is rich in elements and characterized by a wide variety of installation supports. Hanging on the walls of the room there are painted flags that look like graffiti done by street artists, certainly out of place in an institutional context like that of the Town Hall. Some have the surface covered with words, writings such as “Trial by Jury”, “Alive with pleasure”, “Opinion” and “Give a cry out for liberty” inevitably provide food for thought. Two big and threatening eyes are drawn in black paint on a white flag which was hanged in the center of the wall, directly facing the audience. The court becomes a fitting metaphor for the judgment of public opinion.
The loud background music that accompanies the performance throughout its all duration (3 hours) is a playlist made up of different songs, selected by Germain and Holmes within the beat and hip-hop scene. Sometimes the songs are mixed with strident sounds, sometimes altered in their tone, then transmitted in a loop. The result is a music with a pressing and hypnotic rhythm, being able to carry the viewer into a dreamlike, almost spiritual dimension. The English flag is hung rotated by ninety degrees and becomes both an iconographic reference to the Christian cross but also a gesture of revenge for the injustices suffered in that same place.
“Imagine that” the two artists repeat several times during the performance, following the text of a song played. Imagine what happened here, as in other places. Imagine what these people felt. Enter their lives and experience their sensations. Imagine now, as Germain himself says, to be “[…] in an environment many others like us won’t have had or will get the chance to hold dominion over”.
With this work the two artists reclaim their own space in this reality and assert their rights.
R.I.P. Germain & Ashley Holmes
Double 6, 2019
Performance at former courtroom at Leeds Town Hall, Leeds, UK
Commissioned by Poor Image Projects as part of Index Festival 2019
© Courtesy the artists