Mel Brimfield's diverse interdisciplinary collaborative practice is rooted in scripted performance, incorporating live work, moving image, staged audio, installation, photography and drawing.
Mel Brimfield received a BA from Bath Spa University and an MA from Chelsea College of Arts, UAL. The formulation of innovative co-production partnerships amongst multiple institutions, agencies and community groups representing a broad spread of disciplines is central to her approach, as are a series of rolling collaborative relationships with a diverse range of performance practitioners.
School, Centre or Area
The Palace That Joan Built is a multi-part installation and series of performances exploring and unpicking the legacy of “the Mother of Modern theatre,” Joan Littlewood.
Beginning as an evaluative research practice bent on challenging the dominant themes of body, gender and identity politics within curatorial and museological versions of performance art ontology and history, Brimfield’s work is predicated on developing active modes of meaningful interdisciplinary dialogue that embrace narrative, theatricality and virtuosic performance skill. A range of wildly inappropriate absurdist narrative forms are used to articulate the findings of rigorous academic research processes, including elaborately choreographed musical theatre numbers, gymnastic routines, stand-up monologues and queer cabaret turns. Operating at the intersection of theatre, live art and film, the work aims to combine audiences for the arts and erode outmoded distinctions between creative fields.
Brimfield’s current work is based on a research residency at the Department of Psychosis Studies at Kings College Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience and the National Psychosis Unit at Bethlem Hospital, resulting in an episodic touring exhibition. A large-scale sculptural audio installation is central to the project, built collaboratively with composer Gwyneth Herbert and UK Men's Sheds and Men's Sheds Cymru groups nationwide. A series of binaural audio monologues will also be staged as part of fragmented theatrical sets, alongside various configurations of moving image work and drawings. The cognitive and linguistic malfunction associated with neurological malfunction is the starting point for experimental scriptwriting, but the research has necessitated a more directly activist turn, incorporating production methodologies that seek to directly unite and mobilise networks of community groups offering vital support at a time of crisis in the provision of effective mental health services. The exhibition marks the culmination of two years’ work, taking in extensive collection of first hand personal testament via interviews and workshops, alongside close observation of therapeutic intervention and experimental research. It is produced in collaboration with Kings College Cultural Community, Arts & Heritage with Kelham Island Museum, the Tetley, Chapter Arts Centre, Attenborough Arts Centre, HMP Parc, Bethlem Gallery and More Than Just a Choir.
Current and recent projects
Recent projects include TBCTV, a large scale performance series and exhibition staged during Frieze week in 2018 at Somerset House in partnership with filmmaker Ewan Jones Morris and Royal Court Associate designer Chloe Lamford. Live and moving image work was produced in association with playwrights and artists in response to a theatrical set doubling as an exhibition context in the form of a TV studio. Between 2014–16, she produced an Art on The Underground film, album, performance and publication commission in partnership with Theatre Royal Stratford East to mark the centenary of radical socialist theatre director Joan Littlewood, co-authored with composer Gwyneth Herbert. In 2014–15, in partnership with the Kinsale Arts Festival, the ACI funded a series of retrospective solo exhibitions, screenings and talks at the Luan Gallery, Athlone, Wexford Arts Centre, Galway Art Centre and The LAB, Dublin with accompanying publication. In 2014, she received a Contemporary Art Society/Art Fund award in partnership with the Ceri Hand Gallery, Harris Museum, Preston and Lancaster Institute for the Contemporary Arts as part of the Testing Media scheme, designed to support museums in the acquisition of significant contemporary performance works presenting particular challenges around display and conservation. In 2012, she was awarded the sole new commission for the Government Art Collection’s first public series of five exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, touring to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Ulster Museum, The Olympic Museum Lausanne, Switzerland and on current display as part of the permanent collection at the Department for Culture Media and Sport, London. Other significant solo shows, performances and commissions include Yorkshire Sculpture Park, John Hansard Gallery, Film 4, Collective Gallery with Edinburgh Film, Art, Fringe and Book Festivals, VOID, Jerwood Visual Arts, Wilton’s Music Hall, Tate Liverpool, Henry Moore Institute, G39, Site Gallery, Mead Gallery, Ceri Hand Gallery and Performance Matters (Goldsmiths, Roehampton University and the Live Art Development Agency).