As Britain leaves Europe for now at least on the back of the Brexit referendum, the artistic response has been one of muted mourning and quiet defiance. Both notions are embodied in Europe Endless: A performance for handbells, a video work by Gair Dunlop and Lucy Smith, which films a performance of Smith’s handbell arrangement of the opening track of Kraftwerk’s 1977 album, Trans-Europe Express.
Played by a cross-generational team of ten volunteers from various European nations, Smith’s arrangement takes Ralf Hutter’s romantic electronic meditation on Europe and transforms it into a piece of participatory art in which communication and co-operation are crucial to its execution.
Where Hutter’s lyrics speak of ‘Parks, hotels and palaces, ‘Promenades and avenues’ and ‘Elegance and decadence’ as observed through a fast-moving train window, Dunlop and Smith use the grounds of the ruined Balmerino Abbey in Fife as a backdrop for a wordless and elegiac rendition of an already ennui-laden song.
“Bell ringing is all about performance and communication within a landscape,” says Dunlop, “marking a human settlement through sound and the rhythm of the church, culture and seasonal year.”
Dunlop and Smith’s performance of Endless Europe took place in March 2019, when Britain had originally been mooted to leave Europe. With a sound edit by Zoe Irvine, this original ‘green world’ version sits alongside a studio rendition. A third performance took place in the foyer of DJCAD on October 31st 2019, a date which again had been originally scheduled as ‘Brexit Day’. Now that day has finally arrived, in a spirit of free movement and global access, Endless Europe can be viewed for free online.
Green world mix (Balmerino Abbey) - https://vimeo.com/323424620
Studio mix - https://vimeo.com/326761619
The List, January 31st 2020