Saturday. 9:30pm. I’m sitting cross-legged on the grass of Chapelfield Gardens, and all around me the Garden Party is still going strong. The Adnams Spiegeltent is a roar of chatter and noise, and beside it a large mechanical dragon — rather charmingly named Elsie — turns the air orange with the glow from her flamethrower-covered body. I’m not here for either of those events, great though they were. I’m here for Pedal-Powered Car Chase, a fifteen-minute performance involving inventive live music, a handful of plucky volunteers, and some exercise in the name of making us think.
A crush of smells. A roar of voices. Low, sultry light — the kind of light that encourages deep talking and kisses in corners. The Murderers is one of the city’s best pubs, and for good reason. But after just one drink I was out the door and off into the chilly dark with one thing on my mind. Just a few streets over a man was about to do some very odd things in the name of art, and I was dead set on being there. The event was Flat, and it marked the beginning of the annual Norfolk & Norwich Festival.
Not even the cold or one rude whistler could spoil the mood. The first half of Flat was spellbinding, watched in silence by an enthralled crowd. The second half was less about mesmerising leaps and more about thinking, asking its viewers questions about their perceptions of time, space, and gravity. That’s how it always is with art. You think you’re just here to watch a man jump around in a harness? Surprise! Have some deep thoughts instead. It’s a constant no matter the medium, and while it may weird out some it’s also the most important thing that art does. Art makes us think. It makes us talk. Art without conversation is meaningless.