In 2003 Liz Aggiss’ practice developed beyond the single dance screen initiative into screen dance installation: co-directing, co-choreographing and producing Men in the Wall with Billy Cowie (Preview - I.C.A. London 21/2-25/2/2004). Men in the Wall reflects the Arts Council and Capture priority commitment to actively seek work that broadens the concept of screen-based dance through the use of new formats for its creation, presentation and dissemination. Screen dance installation practice is at the forefront of the dance screen genre, the first Arts Council and Capture commissions emerging in 2002.
Men in the Wall was produced with an Arts Council England Capture 3 Award and an FRSF Award. Men in the Wall is a four-screen 3-dimensional stereoscopic screen dance installation, a world of four men whose shared framed lives reveal a public quartet of private difference.
Selected from 60 applications, from which just four £20K awards were made, Men in the Wall is a complex 25-minute loop across four screens with a linear narrative and choreographic structure, giving a potential virgin viewing experience as one hour and 40 minutes, unusual for the fleeting attention often given to gallery based visual installation work. Breaking into the visual art domain that denotes gallery as ‘home’, Men in the Wall raised the debate concerning curatorial practice and contemporary art practice and is considered by the Arts Council and Capture to be the first of its kind.
This pioneering work researched: choreographic disorientation practices: methods for constructing linear choreographic narratives across four screens: systems for multi-screen synchronisation playback: channel splitting software creating 3D, and broadens the concept associated with screen dance work by re-locating the ‘live presence’ within screen practice. The performers embody theatrical conventions, they speak, dance, sing and communicate within real time, juxtaposed within a theatricality and three dimensionality that suspends belief and challenges the space between audience and screen. The curatorial placement of this work enables the audience to experience the space as ‘active’; the private and public domains of both audience and screen performers augment the real.
Men in the Wall has been exhibited both independently and as part of the Capture Group Exhibition touring nationally and internationally including in 2004/5 to; The New Art Gallery Walsall, Leamington Pump Rooms, Worcester City Art Gallery, Corn Exchange Newbury.
This work has also been installed at the National Review of Live Art Glasgow 17/3/04-21/3/04, University of Brighton South Gallery 1/5/04-8/5/04, Trinity Square Gallery Toronto 4/11/04 – 2/12/04, IMZ International Screen Dance Festival Brighton 17/6/05-22/6/05, Shoot! Festival ModernaDansTeatern Stockholm Sweden 30/8/06 – 10/9/06, Pro Arte, KinoDance Festival, St Petersburg Russia 11/11/06-17/11/06, Wimbledon School of Art 30/11/06-11/12/06, 18th Street Arts Centre, Dance Camera West Los Angeles 20/6/07-30/6/07, I Like to Watch Too Festival, Cinedans 2007 Amsterdam, Empac (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre) Troy New York State USA 14-20/4/08, Southampton City Art Gallery from 7/7-7/9/08. Men in the Wall will be installed at Empac (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Centre) New York State 14-20 April 2008 and Southampton City Art Gallery from 7th July until 7th September 2008.
Men in the Wall’s excellence emerges from a sustained development and research into screen dance, and devising a considerable back catalogue of award winning single screen dance films. Liz has stamped her authority on this genre giving case study presentations; ICA 22/2/04, West Midlands Screen Dance Retreat 24-25/9/04, Trinity Square Toronto 6/11/04, was invited to be Artist in Residence New Territories Glasgow 2004, and has championed Brighton as a centre of screen dance excellence on the worldwide stage. She is screen dance consultant for South East Dance Agency and Chair of their Screen Dance Forum, and Jury member for IMZ Hague 2007.
The following publications and journal feature a visual and textural record and discourse on Men in the Wall and collaborative practice; Anarchic Dance edited by Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie with Ian Bramley Pub. Routledge ISBN 0-415-36517-1 and A Thumbnail Sketch of a collaborative practice Dance UK Issue 57 (14) 2005 Summer written by Liz Aggiss.
Men in the Wall was the Winner of the Dance Camera West Festival Award 2007 for innovation in the field of dance media.
'But credentials don't explain results. "Men In The Wall" enormously expands video's horizon. As each guy occupies his own space — now dancing, now playing the guitar while singing lieder — each acts as human semaphore, sending human-shaped signals. It's as tightly constructed as a classic American sitcom, and funnier than most.' Toronto Star. November 18, 2004 by Peter Goddard
This touring collection of screen-based installations, more conventional single-screen films and new media works has been commissioned and funded, for the third year, by Arts Council England. The two installations at the London premiere were delightful. 3-D glasses enhance Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie's four-screen, stereoscopic Men in the Wall. Situated against various backdrops (day, night, urban, coastal, etc), each male - a mixed batch of builds, temperaments and nationalities - dwells in his own walled square. They talk, sing, play music and move in a fashion stamped with the Aggiss/Cowie signature of quirky-humoured poetry and askew beauty.' Dance Europe April 2004 by Donald Hutera
'Liz Aggiss and Billy Cowie’s life size installation Men in the Wall is perhaps the most radical, with 3-D figures that appear to detach themselves from the screen and inhabit the same space as the viewer.' Capture Installations on Tour 11-17th December 2004, Guardian Guide by Judith Mackrell
'This strange and beguiling work exudes the irreverent whimsicality expected from Aggiss/Cowie but in a different tone. Aggiss and Cowie’s impression on the dance film excellence and innovation cannot be overestimated.' Lizzy Le Quesne - Das Jahrbuch von Ballettanz - Tanzfilm Autumn 2005