Becoming the street artist Lissitch: how I opened my eyes and saw the magic!

Becoming Lissitch
Becoming #lissitch2019

Having spent some years living in China before adopting the mantle of street artist, I returned to the UK in the summer of 2014 with a bit of a fresh perspective. At least that is how feels looking back on it now. I remember quite clearly starting to notice artists paste-ups around the city, mostly on those green PO boxes you see around any urban area. I was really taken by them, I hadn’t really seen anything like this before and though I was familiar with street art, graffiti, spray art, stencils, tagging and so on, this was something a bit more to my taste. I loved the work of a couple of artists in particular (see images below by #mister.samo #thisismidge) and thought the idea of pre-making art that you could then paste-up later really appealed. I think this was the first step along the way for me towards embracing street art as a practice.

I started reading more about it, watching little videos, I even did a mini-project with a group of students for a module I was teaching at the time. I don’t think they really embraced it wholeheartedly but for me, clearly, I was soaking up the culture and trying to figure it out. At the time, a new gallery, Play Dead had just opened in Portsmouth and I started going to their openings. There I discovered that Portsmouth already had a thriving street art scene and I started to meet a few of the key players around town. Having soaked up of this interest in paste-up art I guess it was just a matter of time before it emerged as some form of creative activity.

Playdead Gallery, Portsmouth.

The genesis for this creative urge occurred when I found myself trying to problem solve a story idea for a project I had started to develop in Spring 2018. I had wanted for a long time to do something about urban magic and had an idea about people in the 1970/80’s leaving cassette tape around cities with incantations recorded on them.  I needed to set the story in a contemporary time frame and obviously cassette tape wouldn’t work. The eureka moment came when I made the leap to street art and paste ups as a potential vehicle for urban magic (there is a longer post about this aspect of the story here ).

For the project, which was an adaptation of The Snow Witch novel by Portsmouth writer Matt Wingett, I had borrowed one of the characters from the novel with the aim of bringing him to life for an immersive story experience. The conceit was that Lisstich as a shapeshifting trickster had assumed the role of a street artist and had been pasting-up coded occult messages around the city. Early 2019 I created an Instagram account for the character (what self-regarding street artists doesn’t have an Insta account) and started to populate it with content. At this stage, I was playing the role of “catcher” (there is an extremely interesting relationship between artists and catchers which is explored in great detail in the book Instafame by Lachlan MacDowall ). I started hanging out in areas of cities where there was a lot of street art, going on street art tours, getting inspiration. The plan was that we would commission a ‘real’ artist to do the actual paste-up design for the project.

That never happened and, in the end, I became the artists who created all of the street art for the Cursed City – Dark Tide project which saw me out and about with a bucket of paste slapping up A4 prints around the city.  I even took a rubber Fox mask with me so I could get videos and photos to share on the Instagram account, to try and set up an air of mystery about this strange character roaming the city at night. It was great fun and I think I started to realise that part of the enjoyment is being out in the city, liberating walls and disused spaces to create street art. One thing I have noticed myself is that when after people come out with you, they talk about seeing the city differently. That they start to notice the street art on the walls around them in a way they didn’t before. This chimes with the strapline I have used for Lissitch “open your eyes and see the magic” and I think, if you do open your eyes you will be surprised at quite how much creativity there is on the walls around you.

Having created, or borrowed and adapted is closer to the truth, the character of Lisstich the street artist. Come to the end of the Cursed City – Dark Tide project, I didn’t want to let him go. I liked the persona and enjoyed going out at night paste bucket in one hand, Fox mask in the other. So, I started to create some new work just before the 2020 lockdown in the UK. Then I got a little sidetracked after I put up a call to other paste-up artists to send me their work and thus was born the concept of #pasteuppomepy (there is a video on this blog post here). It seems this is one of the ways that people get their work up on walls around the globe. In fact, I had already had my own work post in Melbourne, London and a few other cities. I had also been putting up work by a London artist #daddystreetfox around Portsmouth. Some 26 artists sent me their work and I had a few months of fun putting it up on empty shop fronts, disused billboards and other sites around the city.

#pasteuppompey Elm Grove, Portsmouth.
#pasteuppompey Elm Grove, Portsmouth.

Nowadays, when I go abroad on holiday or visit another city, I always take some of my paste ups and take the opportunity to add some content to the walls around wherever I am visiting. I have a new piece ready to go, it’s all printed up and will be going out on the night of the 31st Jan 2020. Timed to be seen on the day the UK leaves the EU it’s a little more political than other material I have created. I have also stolen parts of the image, purposefully trying to create a sense of that the image is a call to rise up (in an ironic way of course). It has been in interesting journey, from someone who started out just appreciating the work of a few local artists, to someone who is actively creating work that has been slapped up across the globe. I am just small fry in the global pond of paste-up artists, but I do feel like I am at least swimming in the pond and enjoying the experience.

#lisstich2019 on Instagram

“Open your eyes and see the magic”!

The Evolution of Story: how story shapes our world

THE EVOLUTION OF STORY was a one-day symposium at Solent University on Wednesday, February 19th 2020. The symposium exploreed how from its origins to its contemporary forms – story shapes our world.

The symposium was organised by the team behind Cursed City Dark Tide, includes a panel with Matt Wingett, author of Thye Snow Witch. It asked questions about the nature of storytelling in the current age and offered a case study that examines the Cursed City project.

The Evolution of Story Panel 3: Cursed City – Dark Tide Case Study

From its origins in oral storytelling, cave drawings, dance and ritual, through the earliest forms of writing, then printing and now the various ubiquitous forms of modern communication, storytelling has always been a primary form of communicating ideas, expressing our intrinsic nature and for shaping our world.

Technology empowers storytellers to explore new mediums, methods and approaches. To step into the void and explore new ways of narrating stories. Increasingly storytelling is becoming more immersive and experiential.

Theatre, dance and other performative arts have embraced the immersive experience as a means of engaging with audiences. Technology offers possibilities for fully immersive and mixed reality experiences that push at the boundaries of conventional narrative forms. Transmedia ties together story experiences across multiple platforms and channels. While interactive media, games and television drama place audience choice at their heart.

This one-day symposium aimed to explore the ways in which story has evolved beyond the linear, the stage and the boundaries of the screen. It aimed to take the lid off new forms of storytelling and offer a snapshot of current practices.

The symposium asked:

  • Is story still king/queen?
  • Do we need new paradigms for thinking about story?
  • When does storytelling cross over to co-creation/story listening?
  • Is the traditional 3-act structure still relevant?
  • Does the Hero’s Journey still work if we no longer depend on one ‘hero’ and focus on a collective?

You can all the info you need here!

Meet the writers behind Cursed City – Dark Tide

As we draw towards the end of our story we would like to introduce you to the writers behind the story and the creators of our tale.

Their journey began some months ago with a series of writing workshops at Portsmouth University. At that time there were some 20 or so people involved but as the months progressed and the writing started this slowly dwindled to just a handful of committed creators.

They have been working almost constantly over the last few weeks to bring to life the story that was started all those months ago. We think it is rather special and those of you who have been following it will agree I am sure, that this is an unusual and possibly unique approach to storytelling. It’s not like a play where the lines are given to actors, nor is it a novel where the lines are committed to print. This is something else, it is evolving, spontaneous and captivating.

So please say a big thank you to this dedicated team of creators:

EILEEN PHYALL SQ EILEEN PHYAL

Eileen Phyall: lives in Southsea, she enjoys writing and performing short stories and poetry. She is a member of Portsmouth Writer’s Hub and Front Room Word and a committee member of T’Articulation, where she helps to organise and take part in spoken word events. Eileen has written for projects across the city such as the 200th celebration of Dickens and the Gallipoli Centenary. Currently her poem the Dockyard Gate can be found in a short film on the new DarkSide PortSide trail. TeaTray Creatives was formed by Eileen, this year it meets weekly for fellow writers to read, give and receive feedback on their work.

MARK EYLES SQ MARK EYLES

Mark Eyles: at 1981 company Quicksilva Mark Eyles was prominent in the UK games industry, working at incorporating storytelling in games. He was then a freelancer, entrepreneur and joined Rebellion as Head of Design. He wrote series for ‘2000 AD’ and ‘Sonic the Comic’ and was published in Fear magazine. 2003 – 2019 he established and ran games courses at the University of Portsmouth, founding Women in Games in 2004. He is an advisor to games trade association TIGA and was awarded TIGA Person of the Year in 2017. He now splits his time between the games industry and writing.

CHRISTINE LAWRENCE SQ CHRISTINE LAWRENCE

Christine Lawrence: a member of Titchfield Festival Theatre, Christine has acted, directed, organised the wardrobe and worked behind the bar.  She has published two novels: Caught in the Web and Payback and a collection short stories, Moments of Darkness, many of which she has performed at events in Portsmouth.  She is published in Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grownups, Day of the Dead, Star and Crescent’s Pompey Writes, 2012 – Writers to Watch.  One of the founder members of Portsmouth’s spoken word group – T’Articulation, she has organised several spoken word events in the past two years.

KIM BALOUCH SQ KIM BALOUCH

Kim Balouch: I make abstract visual interpretations of sounds, feelings, dreams and thoughts. Writing creatively is also something I’d like to do more of but I struggle to keep a reign on my thoughts long enough to put them together in some sort of semblance. When a series of workshops on collaborative writing, gamification of stories and transmedia storytelling popped into my Facebook newsfeed, I was intrigued. I signed up and I’m now a part of the Cursed City production team and learning so much in the process. In between working full-time and following my creative pursuits, I run a record label with my partner. I manage the social media pages and also make promotional videos for all the releases.

ELENA SOMMERS SQ ELENA SOMMERS

Elena Sommers: is a visually impaired children’s story author, who wrights the most captivating fairy-tales for kids, (age between 3 and 12). Her stories are about: Kings, Queens, princesses, forces of nature, fairies, gnomes, goblins and elves. Each story has enchanted objects for instance: magic stones, flying broomsticks, invisibility elixirs, teleportation taxis or a wishing fish. They encourage the young readers to dive into magical worlds of fairy tale and experience for themselves the enchantments of reading.

MATT WINGETT SQ MATT WINGETT

Matt Wingett: is a writer, publisher and public speaker. A former scriptwriter on ITV’s police show The Bill, he has written short stories, local history and novels. He is the author of Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light, 1887-1920, Portsmouth A Literary and Pictorial Tour, The Snow Witch, and Mysteries of Portsmouth. He republishes classic local history books, and has produced an acclaimed facsimile of the scarce first edition of Conan Doyle’s A Study In Scarlet. His collaborations with other writers include Day of the Dead, Portsmouth Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups, Dark City and Pompey Writes.

Check out the Facebook page for more information and updates when Cursed City – Dark Tide launches this October.

Cursed City – Dark Tide is funded by Arts Council England to produce a transmedia story experience that will be delivered this autumn as part of Darkfest 2019.

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The Snow Witch Art Exhibition Opening and Preview

Not your average evening at Cascades shopping centre.

As I walked from my taxi to the entrance of Cascades on a dark autumnal evening it became clear this was not going to be your usual exhibition opening. A mysterious black-clad woman is playing the violin outside in the deserted shopping precinct, a few hardy souls are watching rapt. Where have they come from?

On reaching the entrance I’m offered my drink of choice, a cold white wine, by a charmingly dressed smiling young man. There’s music playing, dozens of people are smiling and chatting, there are cameras, lights, action! A strange man is offering Tarot readings, a beautiful woman is singing and playing the guitar and spooky tales are being told.

What is going on here?

An empty unit in a city centre shopping mall has been transformed into a magical wonderland by a dedicated team of writers, artists, musicians and performers from Portsmouth and beyond and this is all in response to a shout out by local blacksmith artist Lucille Scott for artists to create a piece of work inspired by the Portsmouth based novel The Snow Witch by writer and historian Matt Wingett. Over 40 artists have taken part and the venue is filled with amazing, beautifully displayed and lit, original work from across the spectrum, fine art, sculpture, glasswork, gilding, poetry, film but that isn’t all…

Suddenly a row erupts, the mysterious violinist from outside is yelling at the strange man with the tarot cards, the room goes silent… she is furious…why is this?All I can tell you is that it is the launch and part of the annual extravaganza of all things dark and the underworld, PORTSMOUTH DARKFEST, in association with transmedia storytelling project CURSED CITY-DARK TIDE. The exhibition will be open for three weeks and runs alongside dozens of events and happenings on the streets of Portsmouth.

To find out more, and become part of the story, just follow those links!

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Cursed City – Dark Tide: be part of the story!

  • Join the group…
  • Solve the puzzle…
  • Save the city from a crazed and vengeful spirit!

Cursed City – Dark Tide invites you to be part of the story. Meet the characters who will guide you on your journey as you try and save the city from a lost soul, trapped between life and death. Until this soul is released the city of Portsmouth is in grave danger. Only you can save it!

Join the Cursed City Against the Tide Facebook group and meet the team. They have been collecting stories about this dangerous and confused spirit for many months and they have lots to tell you.

Read the Dark Tide Dossier that has already been collated and get up to speed on what has been happening in the city these past months. The stories in the FREE downloadable booklet are not for the faint-hearted, they will tell tales that you will have your hair standing on end.

Meet the men and women who are working to save the city from an impending doom:

Carys Llangibby

Carys Llangibby SQSingle, Welsh ex-detective with a tragic past. You’ll find Carys talking conspiracy theories with anyone who’ll listen down at her local pub. She’s on a mission to find out why people keep going missing in the town.

Amie Pannet

Amie Pannet SQFun-loving, loves music, often seen at Astoria dancing and drinking Snakebite. Will read Tarot for anyone who asks but her interest in the mystical and spiritual world may have drawn her into the darker side of these crafts.

Glenda Blake

Glenda Blake SQBarmaid, crystal healer and Mother figure, runs the King Street Tavern almost single headedly (she thinks). Searching for her roots which may be in Southsea or Poland.

Conor Reynolds

Conor Reynolds SQWould like to be a full-time magician and be accepted into the Magic Circle. He is kind but sceptical. He loves solving puzzles and believes there is a rational, logical answer for everything.

Andre Nikolaev

Andrei Nikoleav SQThoughtful cabbie Andy (Andrei) is overflowing with mysteries and conspiracies. Has spent his life trying to find out what happened to his mother, who vanished in the mid-80s while working for the Ukrainian nuclear programme.

Catherine Bastet

Cat Bastet SQMystic, tarot reading cat whisperer, a wannabe Ancient Goddess often to be seen talking to her cats. Her thoughts can often appear cryptic to those who don’t know here but those who do, say she is worth taking a moment to listen to.

Donitza Kravitch

Donitza Kravitch SQA traveller with a magic touch Donitza can often be seen busking around town, brightening up the city with her fiery Balkan music. Schooled in the ancient arts by her mother, her life was torn from her at an early age.

Lissitch

lissitch SQWannabe street artist, shapeshifter, old god, a trickster who enjoys a bit of mayhem from time to time. Has a message for the people of Portsmouth if they can only just decode his cryptic clues in time.

Check out the Facebook page for more information and updates when Cursed City – Dark Tide launches this October.

Cursed City – Dark Tide is funded by Arts Council England to produce a transmedia story experience that will be delivered this autumn as part of Darkfest 2019.

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