John Walter | Hilary Mantel Megamix
Sat 20 Nov 2021
Free Entry - Booking Required
5.30 - 6.15pm
A new performance, part improvisation, part narrative obstacle course, in which John Walter uses a jestered form of drag to take on a new alter ego, Melanie Catfish. Using costume, song, and projection Walter combines imagery and songs related to Walter’s Jezreel’s Tower and SOUTHCOTTIAN artworks, mashed up with other sources dredged from the bottom of his current memepool.
‘Jezreel’s Tower’ is a new 360° video that tells the story of James Jershom Jezreel, his apocalyptic Victorian cult, and the building of their extraordinary headquarters in Medway, Kent. The film is presented through specially adapted Oculus Go headsets alongside digital wallpapers, costumes from the film, replica publications and framed production drawings.
Walter uses the story of the cult to allegorise the spread of memes, demonstrating how viruses of the mind can get a free ride on the back of art, music, and architecture in order to gain a selective advantage in the war for our attention.
Jezreel’s Tower takes Walter’s ongoing interest in ‘shonky’ production values to a new level of complexity, experimenting with immersive video combining 360° live action with sets animated in VR drawing package Tilt Brush. It was conceived when Walter came across a reference to Joanna Southcott (a self-described religious prophet who lived in Exeter, Devon), which sent him down a rabbit hole of cults and prophecies that eventually lead him to the eponymous Jezreelite tower, which began construction in 1885.
Produced during the unexpected series of Covid lockdowns, Walter’s original intention to work with actors and crew was transformed, when the duty fell to him to take on all 31 roles himself, shooting alone on blue screen in his studio. Dressed in a series of extraordinary costumes, made using fabrics designed by the artist (and beautifully constructed by Vivien Eldred, Sian Fowler and Susan Williamson), Walter’s characters tell the story of how the bizarre tower, a sanctuary, temple and platform for escaping the end of the world, came into being.
Jezreel’s Tower is the companion piece to Walter’s 2019 VR game Southcottian, which narrates Southcott’s life as an allegory for Brexit, and is concurrently on view as a video presentation at the neighbouring RAMM museum, alongside items relating to Southcott in their collections.