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 Chris Glynn. Courtesy of the artists. Walk On The Edge Of Providence, Chris Glynn and R M Parry, 2015. Mural. Image: Chris Glynn. Courtesy of the artists.

Chris Glynn and R M Parry sWalk on the Edge of Providence blurs the boundaries between performance and illustration, leaving Bethan Stevens questioning her preconceptions and trailing in the artists' delightful wake of anti-illustration

Chris Glynn and R M Parry s Walk on the Edge of Providence is the most exuberant work of art I ve seen for a long time. It s infectious in the best possible way; it s not an illness exactly, but it will enter your blood and stay there. I say Isaw it, but that s all wrong. That would suggest I found myself outside of it. And to say Iexperienced it would be too cold, and too normal. Maybe it s a work that Iblundered into

I do know that Chris Glynn and R M Parry took me on a Walk on the Edge of Providence. It was scheduled to last for one hour in November 2015, but I m not quite sure when or whether that work stopped.

I came across this piece at the conferenceThe Illustrator as Public Intellectual at RISD (the Rhode Island School of Design) in the USA, but versions have taken place at the French Embassy in London, in Tredegar, Penarth, and most recently in Cardiff at the National Museum of Wales.

 Chris Glynn. Courtesy of the artists. Walk On The Edge Of Providence, Chris Glynn and R M Parry, 2015. Conference Papers. Image: Chris Glynn. Courtesy of the artists.

It's hard to pin down its medium, but in Rhode Island the piece began as a performance, in which Glynn and Parry challenged the boundaries between performer and audience. They said they wanted the spirit of a rehearsal, because a rehearsal was always better than the finished thing, and they turned us all into collaborators. At first I felt the normal terror of an audience member who anticipates too much attention, but soon I found myself listening to Parry. He was wearing a puffa jacket and woollen cap, standing on a velvet chair a few metres from me in RISD s auditorium, and singing Schubert sAn Sylvia in the most heavenly voice, and it just made me feel full of delight.

Walk on the Edge of Providence is a beautiful melange of comedy, philosophy, music, movement and Glynn s illustrations. These beautiful ink drawings have an air of swift, intimate provisionality and yet are tiny and precise: landscapes and figures both fantastical and very everyday. The spectators were all delegates at a conference about illustration, and as well as using visual illustrations in the performance, Glynn and Parry challenged what we understood illustration to be. When one was delivering a serious academic thesis on the idea of the margin, for instance, or the state of the university the other would add an illustration to this by playing a comical song on the piano. It functioned as a kind of anti-illustration that poked fun at the gravity of the academic argument while making a powerful point about how performance can function as illustration something I would have previously been sceptical about.

The music was fresh and exciting throughout, and the piece includedAn Antemasque Manifesto that introduced and revived the early modern form of the antemasque as a grotesque interlude. The theoretical discussion of boundaries was fascinating, especially once I realised that I genuinely had no idea where this work ended.

 Chris Glynn. Courtesy of the artists. Walk On The Edge Of Providence, Chris Glynn and R M Parry, 2015. Up The Hill. Photo: Chris Glynn. Courtesy of the artists.

The next day I found myself on an improvised walk through the city of Providence with Glynn and Parry. It seemed rude to ask whether we were still inside their artwork, but I think we were. I ve never come across such a dense array of marvels in my life. Walking, Glynn and Parry conjured up an empty house with the numberzero on the front door, and an abandoned interior with walled up staircases and an odd, toppled wheelchair a perfect set for a horror film. We saw police cars withdefenders of the arts painted over them, and entered a tunnel that truly seemed to be Plato s original cave.

The walk reminded me of Derrida s insight in The Truth in Painting: that frames are generally essential to our conception of a work of art because they enable usto determine the intrinsic what is framed and know what one is excluding as frame and outside-the-frame. When it comes to the frame, Glynn and Parry are some of my favourite iconoclasts, and their artwork is deliciously pervasive and lingering. I know that Glynn is now making drawings of the event. I m afraid I might be walking on the edge of Providence to this day.

Chris Glynn and R M Parry will lead art walks during theColeridge in Wales festival which runs from May August 2016

Bethan Stevens is a Lecturer in English and Creative & Critical Writing, University of Sussex

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