Preview: Guerrilla Zoo – Modern Panic III

The third annual Modern Panic event at Guerrilla Zoo kicks off on 23rd November and promises more than its fair share of thrills and spills, with over 50 ‘surreal, controversial & provocative’ artists and live arts events. Modern Panic has gained a bit of a reputation for introducing new and edgy art to East London, so we were dying to hear what they had in store for us this year. I caught up with Artistic Director and Curator James Elphick to find out more.

Can you start off by telling us a bit about how Guerrilla Zoo came about?

Guerrilla Zoo was created as a response for the lack of events that catered for an art hungry cash strapped crowd way back in 2005. Our early events blended and showcased live art, performance, music, art shows, theatre, etc, under one roof and created unique experiences for each patron, like an indoor festival. There was so much going on; everyone had their own story of the nights to tell. Over the years we have spawned many different events, exhibitions, theatre productions and parties (such as the Goblin King’s Masquerade Ball)

Modern Panic is now in its third year; how did you come up with that idea and how has it evolved?

Modern Panic started as ‘Panic’, an art exhibition which was part of a season we created on the works of cult film maker and artist Alejandro Jodorowsky. We showcased the work of the founding fathers of the 60s Parisian art movement called ‘Panic Movement’ formed by Alejandro Jodorowsky, Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor, alongside modern artists whose work also echoed a similar ethos – The Panic Movement concentrated on chaotic happenings containing performance art and surreal imagery, designed to be shocking, as a response to surrealism becoming petite bourgeoisie and to release destructive energies in search of peace and beauty.

The exhibition evolved from the season and the series now showcases modern artists whose work is a little different from the regular art world. Modern Panic last year coincided with the riots in London. I think Jodorowsky puts it well – ‘“Panic” is a spirit closely related to times of transition: “Panic always appears as the announcement of spiritual birth”

What are some favourite memories or particular highlights from previous and the current Modern Panic?

Some of my favourite pieces of previous years : Lee Adam’s performance opening the very first Panic Exhibition is an experience I’ll never forget. Iris Schieferstein’s fantastic taxidermy work ‘Life Can Be So Nice’, EnjoyKaos’ optically jarring visuals, surreal moments from the many brilliant live art practitioners, such as Jon John’s blood roses – who incidentally is performing again this year in collaboration with Nicola Canavan at the opening on 23rd Nov.

There are many great connections to iconic past exhibits such as the Dream Machine; was this something you were intentionally aiming for or did it come about naturally in the curating process?

We always try to showcase the work of new artists alongside established artists, for each it helps them connect to their roots or to give the new comers a push up to an equal platform. It’s quite a humbling experience bringing all these talented artists together. It’s something I’ve proactively done in all the previous Guerrilla Zoo projects.

The live performance pieces also seem like they will be very challenging for the audience; is this intentional and specific to this show or do you believe it is a natural part of the genre of performance art?

The live performance pieces have been around for a long time and have always strived to be powerful symbolic acts.
The Panic Movement did a a four-hour performance known as Sacramental Melodrama, staged in May 1965 at the Paris Festival of Free Expression. It starred Jodorowsky dressed in motorcyclist leather and featured him slitting the throats of two geese while his costume was cut off by topless women covered in honey, taping two snakes to his chest and having himself stripped and whipped. Other scenes included, using a wooden cross (with a crucified chicken nailed to it) as a giant phallus, the symbolic castration of a rabbi, and a huge plastic vagina spewing live turtles and other objects into the audience which gave birth to Jodorowsky – all to the constant sound of a live rock band.

Now, although some of this would be impossible to do now, it would still cause the same amount of controversy it did then, such is the nature of live art!
We will be hosting a special series of riotous live art performances as part of Modern Panic III from the likes of Nicola Canavan, Jon John, Lydia Darling, Hellen Burroughs, Nina Davies and many others – www.guerrillazoo.com/panic-sermons

Have you personally experimented with the Dreamachine or any of the other art pieces?

I have experimented with the Dreamachine; in fact I have built many and even exhibited them at venues such as the Barbican and Conwy Hall. So I’m very honoured to be hosting the UK launch of the first bespoke Dreamchines! I highly recommend you come and try them if you have never tried them before. The Dreamachine is a stroboscopic flicker device you view with your eyes closed that produces visual stimuli and hallucinations. Gysin believed that by offering the world a drugless high the invention could revolutionize human consciousness. “The Dreamachine is an aid to visionary experience” – Aldous Huxley

What are your hopes for future Modern Panic events? What direction would you like to see the event take?

I curate the Modern Panic series as I think it’s an important exhibition to hold in these uncertain times. I’m not sure which direction it will progress – such is the nature of ‘Panic!’
I will be holding another open call for art in the not too distant future, please sign up to our mailing list or facebook page if you are interested in taking part.

At Spindle we’re all about promoting emerging talent; do you have any ‘ones to watch’ on your radar in the arts scene?

Newcastle-based Nicola Canavan: a young brilliant live artist who’s developing to be a very promising talent to keep an eye out for; American Photographer Kyle Thompson is a surreal and shy self shooting artist whose work has become quite notorious on the internet; London based graphic artist Iain Macarthur’s visually jaw dropping illustrations. We will also be premiering Simulacrum’s exciting new 3D live video mapping performance at the opening of Modern Panic III.

Modern Panic III opens on Friday 23rd Nov and runs until 2nd December at Apiary Studios, 458 Hackney Road, London E29EG.

Opening times 11am – 7pm. Tickets and info www.guerrillazoo.com/