Pulse Festival Blog 10: Saturday 4 June

4 Jun 2016 Pulse

When Ursula Martinez first starting slopping her cement around last night, the guy next to me said “oooh, that’s a good mix”.

Ursula Martinez. Photo Meg Lavender

Which was reassuring for me, as watching ill-executed manual tasks is one of the worst possible ways to spend one’s time. I’ve seen some terrible theatrical mopping in my time, let me tell you. The stress of witnessing bad bricklaying could only be worse.

To be fair to Martinez, shoddier walls have probably been built. This one looked sturdy enough, and obviously my neighbour had already vouched for the consistency of the cement. But after all that dear reader, I’m afraid to say that the rows were just too wonky, and the trowelling too inconsistent, for me to award a rosette.

Honestly though? I couldn’t give a fuck about how neat the wall was; I was just happy to see someone make some art with a half-decent design idea. Earlier in the day we’d seen another wishy-washy folksy thing about space and the internet, complete with loop pedals and Carl Sagan quote and some fucking piffle about connecting with one another, and then a perfectly well-intentioned piece about the EU referendum that was just one mediocre conversation after another. I’ve been quite upbeat about the work in Pulse this year – I know that when you set out to see every single thing in the festival, you’ll have to take the rough with the smooth – but by about half nine last night I was just so desperate for somebody to have an idea. Just one idea. Any idea! Didn’t matter that Ursula Martinez built a wonky wall; what mattered was that she provided something to think about, and something to look at.

Its simplicity is deceptive. Free Admission is essentially just a woman bricking herself up behind a wall as she talks about the things that piss her off, but the magnitude of those things is hugely varied. Irritations about social media and the minutiae of her relationships are thrown together, apparently flippantly, with instances of misogynistic abuse, racism, and widespread global injustices. Her nonchalant, eyebrow-raised delivery gives us permission to laugh, until we realise what we’re laughing at. No line here is unrehearsed or throwaway; as a structure, it’s carefully positioned.

And like the man said: “a good mix”.