The Brilliant and The Dark
Women and Archive, Collaboration and Reenactment, Captial and Copyleft
A project by Eileen Simpson & Ben White

OPENING: August 30, 19h
August 31 – October 3, 2012
Opening times: Fridays (September 07, 14, 21, 28) 5-7pm, Saturdays (September 08, 15, 22, 29) 4-7pm
Tuesday (October 02) and Wednesday (October 03) 5-7pm
The Brilliant and the Dark (2010) interrogates proprietary rights that reside within archive material and tests the portability of open source methodologies to wider creative contexts – imagining the archive as source material and reenacting and remixing this source through the collective female voice. At its centre is the idea of the freeing the artist/author from the conditions of the market by using the viral logic of copyleft to allow open collaboration with others and embracing this process to generate unknown, unpredictable outcomes and potentials.
The Brilliant and the Dark takes as a starting point a cantata for women’s voices, of the same name, composed by Malcolm Williamson and Ursula Vaughan Williams, and first performed by 1,000 women volunteers at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969.
Through negotiation with copyright owners, music publishers Josef Weinberger, artists Eileen Simpson and Ben White secured permissions for the elements of the original 1969 score to be used as a basis for a new work. An invitation to 22 piece women’s choir Gaggle to participate in the new copyleft work that explored remix and reenactment through pre-recorded and live performance, resulted in the composition of a new work for women’s voices – taking lyrics, melodic phrases and rhythms from the original and paralleling the operatic format.
The artists also created a new film, which mimics the methodology of the music video as a site of pre-recorded playback and live lip synch, and appropriates the tactics of the promotional music video. The video re-animates the 1969 performance through re-staging situations – from the backstage preparations, to choreographed moments in the live event – which are documented in photographs held in the Library’s collection. The performers are seen in new costumes referencing the originals and amidst remade props. The archive reenactment takes place in The Women’s Library, the space which functions to protect the material that informed the resulting work and provides the location for the video shoot.
The work is re-configured at VBKÖ, with archive elements offered for takeaway, alongside the artists’ film and a video of a live performance of the full-length work by women’s choir Gaggle at ICA London. Display boards offer a storyboard assembled from archive images of the 1969 performance and have been painted in colours to mirror elements of Open Hearing by artist Marysia Lewandowska, a project activating the legal battles of women at Greenham Common ( and alongside which The Brilliant and the Dark originally appeared at the Women’s Library in 2010.

creative commons attribution share-alike 3.0

Screening Struggle in Jerash (2009, 63. min, English)

September 1, 7:30pm

TOP KINO, Rahlgasse 1, 1060 Wien

Q&A with Eileen Simpson & Ben White and Dietmar Schwärzler (independent curator, staff member at sixpackfilm)

The film offers access to the process of self-understanding through the careful compilation of new commentary voiceover by contemporary Jordanian thinkers on the first feature film shot in Jordan (D: Wassif Sheik Yassin, 1957). Simpson & White gained access to the last surviving VHS copy of Struggle in Jerash during an Artist-in-Residence in 2008.

Reverse Engineering: The making of Struggle in Jerash is a transcript edited from a series of conversations between film critic and historian Adnan Madanat and artists Eileen Simpson & Ben White in Amman Jordan, May 2008. (Translation by Abdullah Khasawneh)

creative commons attribution share-alike 3.0

Artists Eileen Simpson & Ben White have worked collaboratively since 2005. Their work continues to develop and test methodologies designed to release and replenish public domain materials for future use. They work at the intersection of art, music and information networks, and seek to challenge conventional mechanisms for the authorship, ownership and distribution of culture.

In 2005 they established Open Music Archive to identify, digitise and distribute out-of-copyright recordings. Their work re-animates archive material and tests the use of open source models for the production and distribution of work through events, performances and recordings, in collaboration with a range of practitioners. The projects have a common thread developing an approach to practice that aims to exist beyond the logic of the market and to scrutinise the notion of openness across fields of cultural production.

Recent projects include: Song Division at Camden Arts Centre (2011), The Brilliant and the Dark at The Women’s Library London (2010), Struggle in Jerash at Gasworks London / Makan Amman (2010), Parallel Anthology at the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010), Free-to-air at ICA London (2008) and Cornerhouse Manchester (2007).


In cooperation with the TOP KINO.

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