Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stairwell with a Lennon Touch

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stairwell with a Lennon Touch

Article excerpt

Byline: David Whetstone

ON the day that would have been John Lennon's 66th birthday, the finest imaginable tribute to the late Beatle burst noisily into raw and emotional song at Baltic.

The enormous stairwells at Gateshead's centre for contemporary art have been little used since the building opened in 2002.

But artist Candice Breitz took one look at them and chose them in favour of the more conventional gallery space she had been offered for her new work, Working Class Hero (A Portrait of John Lennon).

Yesterday we could see what an astute decision this was. I can't think of a more moving exhibition at Baltic and I certainly can't recall a more poignant expression of the effect of music on its fans.

Breitz recruited 25 passionate Lennon fans and recorded each of them, singly, singing along to a recording of his searing 1970 solo album, Plastic Ono Band.

The album was released after a period of intense therapy and gives vent to the full gamut of emotions, including Lennon's love for Yoko Ono and his complex feelings for the parents who abandoned him.

Having made her 25 recordings, filming each singer's emotion-packed performance, Breitz then removed Lennon's voice and all the backing music bar the portentous bells which signal the opening of the album.

What we hear in the Baltic stairwell is the voices of the 25 volunteers joined in chorus. What we see, on screens suspended from the railings as you ascend the tower, is 25 faces, in crystal clear close-up, singing with utter abandon.

It amounts to 25 private moments joined together and made public.

The noise is cacophonous but the effect is stunning. Some of the participants, you can see, were actually moved to tears during their performance. Some are almost motionless, some jig about' one takes refreshing sips from a bottle of water.

Occasionally, one voice wails independent of the others, indicating a moment of sheer abandon expressing itself as an ad lib.

Volunteers who saw the work yesterday were awestruck. It wasn't what any of them had been expecting but they were impressed.

Scotsman Gordon Bray, who travelled down from Burnt Island, near Fife, is a 56-year-old retired bingo caller. …

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