A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep
Tate Britain, 7 July 2017
Online from 17 August – 17 October
This film documents the recent performance of A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep, Neil Bartlett's one-man homage to the defiant life and work of pre-Raphaelite painter Simeon Solomon, which was acclaimed as one of the defining queer performances of the decade when Bartlett originally created it at the height of the first wave of the British AIDS epidemic in 1987.
To celebrate the inclusion of Simeon Solomon in Queer British Art 1861-1967 exhibition, Bartlett revived the piece for one night only in a collaboration between Tate Britain and the Live Art Development Agency.
The performance was followed by a discussion about the shifting histories of queer art, performance and culture between Bartlett and Dominic Johnson, a writer about Live Art histories, and a Reader in Performance and Visual Culture at Queen Mary University of London. A video of the post show discussion is also available to view on the LADA Screens channel.
For this LADA Screens we are also including a full length interview with Bartlett, made for Performance Magazine Online, where he reflects on making queer performance art and theatre in the 1980s and the changing face of East London within the context of Performance Magazine which he guest edited in 1987.
Simeon Solomon was born to a ‘respectable’ London Jewish family in 1840, and achieved considerable early success as a professional painter and illustrator. He was exhibited at The Royal Academy, and lionised by the pre-Raphaelites for his flamboyant attitudes towards both life and art. In 1871 he wrote and published a daring 25-page long prose poem entitled A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep, a text in which the recurrent homoerotic images of his early visual work are reconfigured as a mystical journey towards enlightenment and liberation. In 1873 he was arrested while having sex with a sixty-year-old stableman in a public toilet just north of Oxford Street. His friends and exhibitors dropped him. He kept working. He moved into the St Giles Workhouse, reputedly one of the worst in London, and died, entirely unrepentant, in 1905.
In 2017 seven of his works were hung in pride of place in the opening room of Tate Britain's current show Queer British Art 1861-1967, and his work is now also kept on permanent display in the gallery in which the performance took place, alongside the work of his contemporaries.
This solo version of A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep was originally commissioned by Battersea Arts Centre, and was first performed there in 1987. It moved to a derelict warehouse at Butler's Wharf, London, where it was presented by the ICA, and then went on a British and European tour in 1988. In 1989-90 the solo show was expanded to include four other performers and played at The Drill Hall, London.
Each version of the show was performed within an original site-specific decor created by artist Robin Whitmore. The Butler's Wharf version of the show featured sound by DJ Jeffrey Hinton (which was used in the Tate Britain performance). The Drill Hall version of the show was performed to a live piano soundtrack created and performed by Nicolas Bloomfield. The 1989 performances also featured Bette Bourne, H.I.H. Regina Fong and Ivan Cartwright. In 1990, Ivan's role was taken by Robin Whitmore.
A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep was produced in all of its incarnations by Simon Mellor, initially at BAC and then as part of his work for GLORIA, where he was assisted by Mavis Seaman. The show was also notably aided and abetted along the way by Michael Morris and team at the ICA and by Julie Parker and all the staff at the Drill Hall.
The text of the solo version of A Vision of Love Revealed in Sleep is published by Oberon Books as part of Neil Bartlett's anthology of his performance pieces, Solo Voices, and is available to buy on Unbound.
Neil Bartlett is an author, theatre director and performer. In the past thirty-five years he has made radical new performance work in many strange and beautiful places, including Southwark Cathedral, several derelict warehouses, a working hospital lecture-theatre, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – and the Lyric Hammersmith, where he was artistic director from 1994 to 2005.
Cultural producers with whom he has collaborated include the Manchester and Edinburgh International Festivals, the Holland, Aldeburgh and Brighton Festivals, Duckie, Artangel, the National Theatre, 1418NOW and LIFT. In 2016 he gave an uninterrupted six-hour reading of Oscar Wilde's De Profundis in the chapel of Reading Gaol, a performance which has since been watched online in fifty-eight countries around the world. His first novel, Ready To Catch Him Should He Fall, first published in 1990, has just been reissued by Profile Books. You can find out more about Neil's work, and contact him here.
LADA Screens is a series of free, online screenings of seminal performance documentation, works to camera, short films/video and archival footage. It is part of Live Online, LADA’s dedicated space where you can watch short videos and films drawn from LADA’s Study Room or generated through our programmes and initiatives.
Each screening will be available to view for a limited time only, and most are launched with a live event at the White Building in Hackney Wick, London. Online art magazine, thisistomorrow will also feature the films on their website for the duration of the screenings.
LADA Screens is curated by the Live Art Development Agency (LADA). LADA is a 'Centre for Live Art': a knowledge centre, a production centre for programmes and publications, a research centre setting artists and ideas in motion, and an online centre for digital experimentation, representation and dissemination.
For more information about LADA Screens please contact Alex Eisenberg.
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