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An Independent Perspective on the Arts Autumn 2013 Issue 1 ÂŁ4.95

Venice Biennale: Bedwyr Williams Vadim Zakharov Tavares Strachan - The Winners: Helen Sear, Josephine Sowden & Laura Reeves - Artes Mundi: Karen MacKinnon & Melissa Hinkin - NoFit State Circus: Bianco - Dance: Jo Fong - Andrea Liggins & Sarah Tierney in India - Art & Tourism: Be Our Guest

ISSN 2053-6887

9 772053 688009

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ents ● dd ormance l Geliot icaEmma assEditor: Deputy Editor: Ric Bower hopRussell ookArtsDirector: Britton Web Development: Joel Hughes Sub Editor: Leslie Herman ● Chief Sub Editor: David Sinden ts Intern: Matthew Britton ven Thanks to all of the contributors, individuals and dy organisations who worked with CCQ for this issue by: Symposium Print Ltd. feyddPrinted 27g-27h Vale Business Park, Llandow CF71 7FP mance Join Usc al i On-Line ssmore news, features, reviews, previews, ClaFor comprehensive listings and lots, lots more join us ● at s events medy ngosfeydd e al performanc ● on ts s `s event Comedy dangosfeydd nce ental performa ol eon adrodd stra its n u e v i ● tre ● On The Cover: Josephine Sowden Film still (detail) The Lilies of The Field (2012).

CCQ Illustrator at Large: Laura Sorvala

Josephine Sowden, winner of the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod, Denbigh 2013.

Laura has been making visual things since she drew a comic featuring castles and multicoloured cats at the age of five. She works with visual language creating graphic maps, giant illustrated cubes and live documentary drawings. She enjoys being curious, cycling, cats, sci-fi, comics and a proper Finnish sauna when possible. Laura will be a regular contributor to CCQ.

Legals: As an arts magazine we take the intellectual property rights of our contributors very seriously. All copyright in this issue belongs to the authors or originators of the material and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the author. Unless otherwise stated, all material has been produced by or for CCQ Magazine.

We take great care to ensure that information within the magazine is accurate and fair, but opinions stated within this issue are those of the author and not necessarily of CCQ Magazine or the publishers, Culture Colony Quarterly Magazine Ltd. If you find something that is inaccurate or misleading please let us know, and we will attempt to remedy any errors on our part at the earliest opportunity, either in print or on-line. Culture Colony Quarterly (CCQ) Magazine is published by Culture Colony Quarterly Magazine Ltd, a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales. Company no: 08634632

Editor’s Letter Welcome to the first issue of Culture Colony Quarterly (CCQ) Magazine. It’s been a long time coming but, finally I can offer you a taste of the excitement and sheer energy of the arts in Wales in a new arts magazine that aims to capture the bigger picture and the interesting detail. The CCQ team has been trawling far and wide to find stories: From a remote mountainside to the frenzy of this year’s Venice Biennale of Art; from our own doorstep to India and China, our inquisitive tentacles have wriggled out from CCQ HQ to wind in features and stories that reflect the arts scene here in Wales and the wider context it occupies. With each stone we turn over we are taken aback by the sheer fizz of activity and initiative we encounter. (Mixed metapors? Who, me?). Our arts scene in Wales is hugely collaborative and so, for the first time in Wales, CCQ is bringing together artists and creative organisations across a spectrum of contemporary practice. Our Venice feature frames Bedwyr Williams’ The Starry Messenger’ show with the work of Vadim Zakharov (Russia) and Tavares Strachan (The Bahamas), while back in Wales, Ffotogallery’s international celebration of photography, the -Diffusion festival, is mirrored by Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney’s exhibition tour in India. Josephine Sowden, our cover girl, is a young film maker who is going places, while NoFit State Circus, currently touring Bianco:Turning Savage, has been knocking the socks off audiences for many years. We also discuss art in the public realm, approaches to curating, the independent art school movement, careers and campaigns, along with reviews, previews, new commissioned work, poetry and, of course, lots of pictures. Issue One is the beginning of a conversation that we want you to be a part of so please tell us what you think and join us online at Emma:

Image: Bedwyr Williams, portrait, Andrea Liggins

Address: 15th Floor, 2 Fitzalan Road, Cardiff, CF24 0EB t:+44(0)2920 329084

Distribution: CoMag Specialist Contacts: Editor:

Deputy Editor: Art Director: General Enquiries:



For more news join us at — 3

P lane t T h e We l s h I n t e r n a t i o n a l i s t

Planet is a quarterly cultural and poli�cal magazine that looks at Wales from an interna�onal perspec�ve, and at the world from the standpoint of Wales. See more online at: w w w.pla netmagaz ine. org. uk

Contents Autumn 2013



Fresh out of university, artist Josephine Sowden experienced a rush of attention. We talk to the winner of this year’s Gold medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod, about being your own subject matter and about mud.


34 – 35

68 – 78

The Venice Biennale: Bedwyr Williams, Vadim Zakharov and Tavares Strachan talk about their exhibitions for Venice and artist Freya Dooley gives us the invigilator’s view.

A snapshot of what’s going on across Wales this autumn.

5 – 15


80 – 81

Our selection of what’s been happening and what people are talking about.

What makes a good curator? Artes Mundi’s Karen MacKinnon & Melissa Hinkin give it some thought.

Poetry from a salon: Mab Jones and Johnny Giles. Poems to be performed.



16 – 31

A look back over the summer of 2013. The extraordinary international photography festival Diffusion; Fear and desire in Theatr Genedlaethol’s trilingual Rhwydo/Vangst; Volcano Theatre company’s powerful revival of L.O.V.E.; the spectacle of NoFit State Circus’ Bianco and the last night of the Welsh Proms.

48 – 51 Director, choreographer & performer Jo Fong talks about a new departure as her newest work Witness begins its tour.


82 Laura Sorvala: Responses To Art Overheard, Scientific and Whispered.

52 – 61 Uncertain Terrain – The Garden: Artists Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney visited India to show their work and Liggins talks about different cultural perspectives.

62 – 63 Art Across a City: Locws International’s latest projects are creating a strong identity for Swansea.

64 – 65 g39 co-founder Anthony Shapland on reviewing the past for the retrospective book It Was Never Going to be Straightforward.

66 John Gingell – the legacy of the man who helped shape performance art in Wales. 5


Helen Sear Selected for The Wakelin Award 2013 Artist Helen Sear’s video work Chameleon (2013) has been selected for this year’s Wakelin Award and will join the permanent collection of the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea.

Dr. Helen Sear is Reader in Photography and Fine Art Practice at the University of South Wales, Newport. She is a former winner of the Gold Medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod in 2011 and an Arts Council of Wales Creative Wales recipient. The Wakelin Award is administered and supported by the Friends of the Glynn Vivian and funded by donations.

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At a ceremony at the Swansea Grand Theatre Sear, who lives in Raglan, Monmouthshire, and whose solo exhibition Lure has been touring Wales this year said, “I am really delighted to have my work included in the Glyn Vivian collection, having worked for much of the last 25 years in Wales. It is wonderful that the Wakelin family continue to support the collection of contemporary art in Wales, and its legacy will be assured through the care and enthusiasm of the team and friends at Glynn Vivian. Being chosen to be part of a permanent national collection is the ultimate goal of most artists, as it is through the collection that their work is looked after and made available to the public in generations to come.” Chameleon (2013) is a high definition video projection of a sunflower, filmed by torchlight by the artist in her garden in the dead of night. The work reveals a fascination with looking and seeing, as the power of our gaze is suspended by the sunflower developing the ambiguous appearance of an eye looking back. The video joins one of the most important public collections of art in Wales, along with previous artists selected for the Wakelin Award: Robert Harding; David Tress; Pete Davis; Craig Wood; David Garner; Tim Davies, Dick Chappell; Brendan Stuart Burns; Anthony Shapland; Catrin Webster; Jonathan Anderson; Meri Wells and David Cushway. Nicholas Thornton, Head of Modern & Contemporary Art at the National Museum Wales selected Sear’s work for the award. Thorton

described his approach to making his choice and how it connects to an art historical tradition of artists using landscape and their relationship with it to articulate wider ideas: “In looking for ways to help us understand Helen Sear’s extraordinary film Chameleon we should probably steer clear of the obvious – Anthony Van Dyke’s dandyish Self Portrait with Sunflower or Van Gogh’s celebration of colour in Sunflowers. Instead let’s look at romanticism, and particularly the surrealist-tinged neo-romantic revival of the mid-twentieth century that presented a darker perspective on the British landscape. In the last year of his life Paul Nash – one of the founding members of the British Surrealist group – painted a number of other-worldly sunflowers set in landscapes redolent of an ancient, pagan past. In paintings such as Eclipse of the Sunflower or Solstice of the Sunflower, the influence of William Blake’s poem, ‘Ah Sunflower’ is strong, but their pagan associations also point to Nash’s discovery of James George Frazer’s book, The Golden Bough. This classic text explored the universal, cross-cultural significance of the darker regions of myth and religion such as fertility cults and human sacrifice. Sear’s sunflower, morphing (or anthropomorphising) from flower to head to eye, responds to these associations. If we take this one step further the creepy, gothic tone of Chameleon points to forms of popular culture: think the pagan cults in Stephen King’s short-story, Children of the Corn or the British horror film, The Wicker Man.” — CCQ

An Independent Perspective on the Arts

Laura Reeves - The Jane Phillips Award The Jane Phillips Award 2013 has been awarded to Cardiffbased artist Laura Reeves. This nine-month residency will include support and mentoring from professionals across the arts and a £1,000 bursary. Image: Widecombe, Dartmoor (2013) found photograph (ongoing series of work from Dadʼs Bicycle) Laura Reeves

The Jane Phillips Award was launched at Mission Gallery in August 2011, as a memorial to Jane Phillips (1957 – 2011) Mission Gallery’s first director. The award is a legacy to Jane’s passion for mentoring and nurturing talent, consistently supporting young, emerging artists across the Visual and Applied Arts. Laura Reeves grew up in the South West and moved to Cardiff to study Fine Art at Cardiff School of Art and Design. After graduating in 2012 she won the Eisteddfod Young Artist Scholarship. An avid collector of amateur found photographs, her practice is rooted in the archiving and selection of the images she gathers. In particular, there is a focus on the 35mm slide, but also a large collection of a range of formats of found images. Using these photographic archives, Laura begins a highly research based investigation into her

source material. Using the information she finds, she pieces together lost histories and stories. These investigations often lead to research trips influenced by the location of the original images. Artist Sean Edwards, who nominated Laura, says, “Laura Reeves is one of the most exciting young practitioners that I have found working in Wales today. She has a commitment not only to her own practice but also to the visual arts in Wales, actively contributing and engaging to debate. The quality, consistency and thoroughness of all that Laura does are unquestionable”. — CCQ

Laura Reeves’ work will be will be based at Elysium Gallery Studio Space in Mansel Street, Swansea from 1 October 2013 – 31 March 2014 with her work profiled at Mission Gallery in March/April 2014. For more news join us at — 7


Independent Art Schools As Universities grapple with rising expectations from students and major restructuring amidst increasing financial constraints, a groundswell of reaction and action has arisen amongst today’s generation of artists who are questioning the worth of a university degree. Chris Brown looks at some alternatives to a traditional art school education. There has been a bewildering overhaul in university structures as tertiary education moves closer to the private sector and, coupled with a higher demand from prospective students and rising tuition fees, university education is becoming increasingly problematic. Humanities, in particular, are feeling the pinch as subjects are prioritised according to notions of industry employability. If the current trend continues and university education ceases to be an option, how can future generations of artists receive training to prepare them for a career that continues the professional standards that currently exist in the UK? To the rescue comes today’s generation of artists – some of whom have received a university education and others who haven’t. Yet, what they all have in common is the desire to create a learning experience for artists that exists outside the university system. An aspiring artist seeking education needs to ask herself whether three years of knowledge and experience gained at university is worth the resulting £27,000 bill she’ll face afterwards. What can you reasonably expect to gain from those three years? And were you not to attend, would you be at a disadvantage compared to your graduating cohorts? In 2007, the founders of Islington Mill Art Academy posed these questions to art graduates and listened to their experiences of formal higher education. Many reported that they were struggling to pursue their art practice even three to four years after graduation, to the point that they had ambivalence about defining themselves as an artist. So, in answer to shared doubts about pursuing a university education, this group of foundation students side-stepped university by creating their own education – the Islington Mill Art Academy (IMAA). The IMAA is an independent art school 8 — Issue 01

based at the Islington Mill complex in Salford, a cotton spinning mill that has been re-visioned into a hub for visual artists. The school runs a selfdirected syllabus of critiques, tutorial sessions and practical workshops, so the activity is generated by the needs of those involved with a schedule that suits them. Those wishing to be spoon-fed an education wouldn’t last long in this environment. A common principle between the IMAA and other independent art schools is the emphasis on dialogue and exchange of ideas between peers. The distinction between tutors and students is blurred – both become collaborators and benefit equally from the environment. Free International University of Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research in Hull was also geared around models of student-centred education. It grew out of a protest led by Pippa Koszerek while studying at Hull School of Art. Pippa was frustrated by the ways in which her studies were constricted by the modular course structure. After looking at the Black Mountain College and the theories of John Dewey (an educational philosopher) and Joseph Beuys’ and Heinrich Böll’s International University for Creativity and interdisciplinary research, she desired a free, unstructured environment. Her investigations into pedagogical artists’ experiments raised many questions: What are the motives for setting up an art school? To set up a peer support network? To set up space and facilities? To address financial or knowledge barriers? To live more ethically? To teach or learn (something that there is a perceived lack of in formal education)? To opt out of the art world? society? How do people negotiate teaching structures? Should the school work with an existing ideology within society or manifest one’s own ideology? How much should an alternative model aim to integrate with society and affect change? Ultimately, Pippa saw the School as a branch of activism. She believes DIY education doesn’t have to be separate from institutional education; it can play a part alongside traditional academia. However, artist-led schools generally posit themselves as The Alternative. They often parody the institutionalised aspects of university study. The IMAA stages its own graduation ceremony

at the same time as the region’s academic award ceremonies. IMAA graduates don bin bags for gowns and 12-inch records for mortar boards and are called up in turn to receive awards. It’s a way of sending up the pomp and ceremony of the academic world, but also of recognising the genuine achievement of IMAA members. Similarly, the School of the Damned, in London, very deliberately refers to the education it offers as an MA, in a magpie-style identity theft. This bold appropriation often attracts comment – how can an artist-led school offer an MA? Raising this question and others was precisely the founders’ motive: could their MA hold the same or equivalent value as an academic MA? What reputation could a School of the Damned education have? Would it be recognised on an artist’s CV? The School is a new, student-run initiative, overseen by a board of academic advisors. Despite their rebellious stance, the School was established less as an activist gesture and more out of pragmatism: while the founders criticise the impossibility and frustration of raising funds to study (as with the IMAA), it also offers a viable alternative. The manifesto states that the School is not offering “an independent system of education based on values of entrepreneurism, philanthropy or libertarianism.” It’s run as a labour exchange programme – tutors are paid in skilled time rather than money, which is a contractual obligation of participants. The course is overseen by a board of academic advisers to link in with the current education system. Without the stability, structure and academic recognition of the university, the environments that artists create for learning can only be as sustainable and robust as the commitment that participants are collectively able to give. Publication of the Welsh Government’s Arts in Education Review is imminent, which will make recommendations for improving the way that the arts are taught in primary and secondary schools. These efforts must continue into tertiary education in order to deliver a value-for-money arts education and to enable artists to develop their practice and prepare themselves for future careers in the arts. — CCQ

An Independent Perspective on the Arts

A New Home for NoFit State Circus NoFit State Circus has always dreamed big. The Cardiff-based company is renowned across the UK for their avant-garde big top performances, and has just returned from a sell-out countrywide tour. Image: No Fit State in Rehearsal for Mundo Paralelo, 2011. Moyrah Gall

What many show-goers don’t know is that NoFit State also runs an extensive community programme, which teaches circus skills to young and old alike. As part of their expansion, a major project to redevelop a near derelict grade 2-listed church hall is well under way. The Four Elms building is situated in the heart of Adamsdown, and will provide a new improved space for professional and aspiring performers to hone their talents. “We’ve come a long way in 26 years,” explains Four Elms Project Officer Zoe Munn. “Our current John Street base was the first time we had offices and a training space in the same place. It made us realise this is what we needed. From then we started to dream of permanent home.” The topping out ceremony is under their belts, the stained glass has been renovated and the

scaffolding is coming down. The company is moving into the final stages of development and hope to open the building this autumn. But there’s still work to be done, and NoFit State is calling on donators to help them to raise the rig in the main training space. By sponsoring a nut, bolt, ladder strut or supporting beam, supporters will be playing a crucial role in the development of Four Elms. “This is an amazing regeneration project,” says Zoe. “We’re making something beautiful from a building that has been so neglected. It’s ambitious, but then circus is all about risk and adventure.” — CCQ Info: You can see NoFit State’s current production Bianco in pictures on page 30. For more news join us at — 9


The Woollen Line Since a fire ravaged the mountainside in the hot summer of 1976, there has been a vast, black scar that won’t heal on the side of Pen Trumau mountain. Four years ago, artist Pip Woolf decided to see if she could heal that scar with wool and tells Emma Geliot what happened.

Emma Geliot: What was it that triggered your interest in working with this particular landscape? Pip Woolf: Ignorance and curiosity at the start, when I knew nothing about the seriousness of exposed peat, but felt that landscape art could be playful as well as intensely serious. The Pen Trumau peat scar in the Black Mountains is visible from miles away down on the road, so effectively it provided a perfect canvas. On a clear day, the scar is visible from the road in Llyswen, Talgarth and Bronllys. EG: At what stage did you decide to collaborate with other artists and other people who could feed into the project? PW: In 2009, artist colleague Kirsty Claxton and I walked up onto the site and discussed my work. I found myself wondering where my response fits into contemporary arts practice, when Kirsty suggested that I might invite other artists to respond to the Pen Trumau site through their own, different practices. Despite being unwilling to contemplate further exhibitions at that particular moment, I decided to explore the possibility of commissioning five other artists to make and show work. I chose to work with artists whose practice I knew and respected. They included: Elizabeth Adeline, an artist from Bath who works through drawing and making and brings a particularly wry sensibility to her work; Lin Charlston, an artist book maker with a background in science and whose work is strongly conceptual; Kirsty Claxton whose work engages interpersonal relationships as it explores universal themes; Deborah Aguirre

10 — Issue 01

Jones, who has a profound drawing sensibility and who had a very personal relationship to the location; and Christopher Meredith, a writer who also has a deeply personal association with the area and whose writing I find engaging in a way that embraces the dance of life. EG: Has your approach changed as the project has progressed? PW: With so many people providing inputs in the form of their own creative thinking it would be hard not to be influenced. However, in terms of how I work, the challenges that have arisen have deepened my thinking. My drawing practice has become increasingly important and relevant, despite remaining hidden in the studio. EG: What have you learned along the way? PW: Endless practical things. Mainly, the importance of moving slowly with such a huge piece of work and also avoiding media coverage, which could all too easily have pulled the work apart. I have had to judge the moment when the work was sufficiently robust to be able to cope with media interpretation. In terms of collaboration, I have learnt that it takes many and different forms. With some people I work together, others alongside and others at some distance - where there is learning and sometimes reflection, but no exchange. Each form of collaboration offers possibility and has influenced how I develop the work. EG: What was the overall response to the project when you showed its progress this year?

An Independent Perspective on the Arts

PW: The location of The Woollen Line exhibition in a cold dark barn in Crickhowell (more or less under the mountain itself) offered a chance for visitors to get as a near an experience to being on the mountain as possible without actually being there. It provoked questions and seemed to engender a huge range of emotions. EG: What has happened since the exhibition and what’s next for the project? PW: We have just installed a spiralling line. We also had an extraordinary seed ‘fiddling’ (sowing) event at 5am on midsummer morning. A farmer used a seed fiddle to sow seed accompanied by a musician improvising with a Crwth (ancient Welsh fiddle). We went up at that time to take advantage of the possibility that there would be less wind on the site. No such luck (we didn’t see the sun rise either –we could barely see each other in the low cloud!). Despite the weather, it was a particularly magical event which was both recorded in sound and visually, so hopefully work will emerge from that. The site, like any canvas, together with the materials, in this case people, determines the next mark. It may sound simple, but it remains unknown and full of intricacies and that always holds the potential to become something else. Hopefully, an intense amount of work in the studio will reveal what next. — CCQ You can follow the progress of Pip Woolf’s project here For more news join us at — 11


David Nash Sculpture Wooden Boulder Reappears After a 27 year journey down a mountain stream and into a river, artist David Nash’s Wooden Boulder was thought to have drifted out to sea in 2003, but this August it reappeared. Image: David Nash

Read more about this story at

12 — Issue 01

Nash’s images – photographs, drawings and films that chart Wooden Boulder’s progress down to the Irish Sea – have been exhibited around the world. The giant lump of wood was first cut from the base of a large oak in woodland in North Wales in 1976. Intending to take the wood back to his studio, Nash rolled it into a stream, to help get it to the road where he could load it onto a van, but the lump became wedged and stuck. Thinking it looked good where it was, Nash photographed it. After a storm the lump of wood freed itself and settled further downstream. It looked good there too and a part of its surrounding landscape. And so, after occasional large storms, the Wooden Boulder would move, making its long progress down the stream, sometimes remaining in the same place for up to nine years. But in 2003 Wooden Boulder reached the River Dwyryd and once it was in this body of water it became highly mobile, moving up to four miles

up and down stream on the strong tides. Nash followed it in a canoe documenting its movement. When it could no longer be found it was thought to be lost at sea. However, the boulder was seen just below the water in the river for a while in 2009. It had been trapped in some large branches and was halfburied in the silt at the river bottom. This was the last sighting of Wooden Boulder. Until this August, when it re-appeared after a four-year absence. Wooden Boulder now sits in the River Dwyryd completely visible at low tide. Visible from a public footpath, the sculpture has been photographed by lots of people and these images are being collected by on-line arts community Culture Colony As part of a wider archive of David Nash’s work that spans many years. Released by a high tide to reach this resting place, another high tide could soon send it on its way again. — CCQ

An Independent Perspective on the Arts

Newport Closed for Business What seemed like a nasty rumour that began circulating in January, turned out to be the shocking revelation that Newport Art Gallery’s Temporary Exhibition Programme (TEP) was, in fact, scheduled for closure. Artist Neil McNally sums up the struggle to maintain a platform for contemporary art in the city. Image: Emma Geliot

Having run for 45 years, the TEP has shown thousands of Welsh artists, many of them recent graduates from Newport and has given a lot of artists their first public exhibition. Staff at University of Wales, Newport were outraged that they hadn’t been consulted or informed about this decision. But perhaps this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. Ffion Lloyd, Head of Continuing Learning and Leisure, later admitted that Newport Council didn’t have a cultural strategy in place. Not to worry, though, as Lloyd said contemporary art would continue in the Riverfront. It’s a space ill-suited for art (a corridor space and a dirty basement) and it doesn’t pay artists or provide invigilators, has no curatorial staff and lacks a cohesive programme.

In response to this terrible news –and in recognition of the value of the programme and the work of the Visual Arts Officer, Shaun Featherstone –a petition was started to draw attention to the closure plans. Over 1,500 people signed the petition, with a large number of supporters from Newport and surrounding areas. Signatories included writers Prof Tony Curtis and Patrick Jones, with artists Shani Rhys James, Laura Ford and Bedwyr Williams and the majority of gallery directors in Wales. Even Newport-born actor Michael Sheen got involved, condemning the Council for their lack of openness and asking what it would mean to “a new generation of young people growing up starved of the inspiration and vision that exposure to art can bring”. A lack of quality arts coverage in Wales meant that the TEP’s closure and plans to save it were virtually obscured from a wider public view, save for the local support of The South Wales Argus. But the arts community were incensed and it was widely discussed on Pitch radio; on-line at Culture Colony and axisweb and in the pages of a-n; until it was picked up The Western Mail and BBC Wales. Critic Hugh Adams and artists Ivor Davies and David Garner joined students from BA Fine Art at Newport in vocal and active opposition to the closure. A number of demonstrations were held outside the Museum in Newport (causing such apoplexy to Bob Bright, Newport Council’s

leader, that he banned press photographers from the exhibition space). All to no avail. The Council voted for closure on 26th February. Disturbingly, Arts Council Wales were eerily silent on the matter. The closure came as a direct result of the Arts Council’s cessation of funding for the gallery in 2010, and if Chapter Arts Centre or the National Museum of Wales had faced a similar threat, there would have been an outcry. An anonymous statement was eventually received from the Arts Council, four days prior to the Council’s final decision to close it, stating that it “cannot ‘make good’ cuts in local authority funding”. Decisive intervention from the Arts Council could, of course, have brought these plans to a halt. The same inaction came from John Griffiths (AM for Newport East and Minister for Culture and Sport) who said that the Welsh Govt. couldn’t get involved in local authority’s decisions. This is not entirely true. When Cardiff Council withdrew funding for the Tafwyl Welsh language festival this year, the Welsh Government swooped to the rescue. It seems that some causes are deemed more worthy than others. The BA Fine Art course at Newport was shut down in June. Followed by Newport Art Gallery’s TEP on June 29, this is more than an unfortunate coincidence. It’s a strategic decision to situate all cultural activity in Cardiff, where Newport’s loss is Cardiff City Region’s gain. — CCQ For more news join us at — 13


Public Art – In Search of a New Definition In advance of two public art think tanks this autumn, Simon Fenoulhet, artist and commissioner, takes a snapshot of current activity and looks at what needs to happen if art is going to play in to the regeneration agenda in Wales.

In spite of the recession, art is still being commissioned for the public realm, it’s just harder to get the whole picture these days. I’ve talked to a number of public art curators, commissioners, and project managers throughout Wales and discovered that an impressive range of projects for artists is being generated and continuing the job of bringing art into our shared spaces, but there’s a lot going on that might not hit the headlines. Sarah Pace of Addo reports a healthy crop of current projects that have the artist’s process at their heart. The international artists’ group ‘Camp Little Hope’ have been appointed as artists in residence at Corwen, Denbighshire, to look at how the return of the railway will affect the town. And the Loudoun Square, Cardiff commissions by Anna Heinrich, Leon Palmer and Janet Hodgson, explore both architectural and narrative solutions that start from a process of dialogue with the local community. The recently advertised commissions for the Swansea Boulevard re-development also show us that there is still demand for more conventional urban realm projects, too. Celfwaith’s Mererid Velios has also been working in Swansea on the dockland re-development scheme, including an interactive lighting project with Peter Fink for Ice House Square and an extensive text-based work inscribed into the granite of the Tawe embankment by Craig Wood and Perry Roberts. Both these projects came out of an earlier arts strategy for the Prince of Wales dock, which provided a range of commission ideas and community interventions. Velios is also managing commissions for ten artists to create new images for the Discover the Valleys campaign. Emma Price describes her role as ‘brokering ideas’ rather than managing projects, putting the emphasis on her knowledge of artists and their practice. She is working with Admiral Insurance on a permanent commission for their new Cardiff headquarters as well as a programme of temporary 14 — Issue 01

projects for Simply Health and Arnolfini in Bristol. While much of her work is with the private sector, she has an eye to the planning process, and is keen to ensure that art is included in the list of priorities set by local authorities through the Community Infrastructure Levy. Cinzia Mutigli and her colleagues from Elbow Room want to move away from the idea of public art as a service industry that provides functional art for our streets and want to explore a curatorial process that starts with the artist rather than the perceived needs of planners. A series of artists’ commissions came out of their Intercourse project. Artists were invited to propose their own projects on participation and dialogue in an attempt to change the way we think about artists’ practice and how they might connect with the public. The closer you look, it seems that the world of public art is more diverse, more locally focused and more eclectic than before. And, as our definition of public art expands, we see a wide range of localised initiatives including New British Artists in Carmarthen; the Rhôd residencies in Ceredigion; site-specific projects from Locws International in Swansea; a varied programme from Powys Arts Forum and Wrexham’s THIS project; all of which proves that artists are as keen as ever to work in public. This is all good news because it doesn’t seem that long ago that public art in Wales was in crisis. When the Arts Council of Wales decided to withdraw its funding from Safle, the national organisation for public art in Wales, there was genuine concern about how the sector would survive. The Arts Council of Wales immediately stepped in to take responsibility for reshaping the future of public art policy and strategy, leaving us in no doubt that the old order had gone. From the outside, the process seemed to take a long time to get going but talking to Nathalie Camus, the Arts Council’s Portfolio Manager for Enterprise and Regeneration, it becomes apparent that a lot has been going on behind the scenes. Firstly, the funding for residencies has been secured for the visual arts and is currently being administered in-house as a way of carrying out project development with partners such as CADW, Welsh Water and the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, to name but three. And rather than looking at short term interventions, they are planning for the long term, developing partnerships over a minimum three-year period that will allow artists to engage with key areas of our lives such as heritage, culture and the environment. There have also been a number of regeneration

initiatives to engage with public policy where it might impact on public art. Most important amongst them is C.R.E.W., the Centre for Regeneration Excellence Wales, who administer the Welsh Government’s Vibrant/Viable Places fund. It is vital that this new funding mechanism is informed about good practice when it comes to working with artists so that we can avoid the mistakes of the past. ACW’s programme is laudable but it does lack transparency or clear guidelines that allow the rest of us any insight into what’s going on behind the scenes. If the residency fund is to be used for project development, it would be helpful to open up the process to others who might have equally valuable initiatives they wish to develop. Surely ACW should now start to publicise their programme so that the public art community can see what is in development and who they are working with. Things were simpler when we had a national organisation for public art — we knew where to go to find out what was happening. The situation now is much more fragmented and complicated than it was, with a wider variety of active groups, each with their own individual focus. But within that complexity is evidence of a more pro-active and confident generation of artists and curators who are prepared to go it alone. What we’ve lost though, is a centralised fund of expertise and policy development that acted as a champion for art in public. As a result, there are some gaps in this adhoc provision such as a lack of professional development for those involved in commissioning and a real concern about who will train the next generation of curators and commissioners. And while we know that the Arts Council is working with individual agencies, there is still a lack of a visible strategy for public art as it affects many areas of public policy, such as health, social inclusion and physical regeneration. We also have to contend with a wholly inappropriate tendering process being employed by an increasing number of local authorities to recruit artists, a trend that we can’t tackle individually as it needs intervention at the highest level to change procurement policy. In short, we need strong advocacy on behalf of the sector, to know that we aren’t working entirely alone and that our efforts are supported by Arts Council policy. The two public art think tanks in Wales, organised by Ixia in partnership with the Arts Council of Wales, will be held in Barry on 13 November & Bangor on 18 November.

An Independent Perspective on the Arts


Mellor Management: Pontymoile – Artist Alexia Mellor

EMP Projects.


Love Me or Leave Me Alone – Artists: Heather and Ivan Morison. Although close to the BBC Roath Lock studios and linked to other parts of Cardiff Bay and Butetown via footpaths and a bridge, Porth Teigr is separated from the rest of the city by a lock. The Outer Lock Crossing is a proposed new public space within Porth Teigr and artist duo Heather and Ivan Morisons have designed a sculptural kiosk where visitors can buy street food that reflects the diverse origins of Cardiff Docks community. Inventive and playful in its design, the kiosk will be an artistic landmark, a practical refreshment stop for the many people walking around Cardiff Bay and, perhaps most importantly, will provide local employment and a space for artist-led creative interventions.

Mellor Management was part of a six-month artist residency undertaken in Pontypool, developed and commissioned by Addo in collaboration with Arts Council of Wales and Torfaen County Borough Council with a view to exploring issues of physical, social, cultural and environmental connectivity across the town and longerterm strategies for engaging artists within the development of the region. The residency acted as a pilot project for the Arts Council of Wales Residency Programme and formed an integral part of a wider research project In-between: Cultural Regeneration in Market Towns, run by Intersections at Newcastle University.

What’s it like to be a bat?


As part of Chapter Art Centre’s Festival of Failure a weekend in June 2012 celebrating our failings as human beings. Artists and groups were invited to contribute to the event by designing activities that tested participants’ ability to fail. Elbow Room was intrigued by the question of whether it was possible


More info at: www.projectpontypool.wordpress. com and

Riverside Walkway project in Swansea within the SA1 development – Artists: Craig Wood and Perry Roberts The artworks, Designed by Craig Wood and Perry Roberts, include grit-blasted lettering the whole length of the walkway, etched boulders and ‘tattoo’ carpets, which make reference to the manufacture, export and import of goods from the docks, as well as ships’ names and historical and contemporary tattoos.

Commissioned by EMP Projects in partnership with Chapter for Porth Teigr, Cardiff Bay. Client igloo.

Elbow Room



to set out to fail. If you intend to fail and do, have you succeeded? So have you failed to fail? In which case, perhaps, you were successful after all… This circular enquiry led us to consider a host of life’s unanswerable questions and we decided that for the event we would invite members of the public to join us in failing to find the answers. Elbow Room asked philosopher, Phil Cole, to lead the discussions and lend his extensive knowledge and experience to the conversation. The table was set as would be an after-dinner scene, with a cheese board, bread, fruit, olives and port. Some of the questions we hoped to explore were printed onto large newsprint. The conversation flowed from question to question and between us and several participants throughout the afternoon. We think it was a success, which means we failed, which was what we wanted…


This page Love me or Leave me Alone, model by Heather and Ivan Morison.


Mellor Management: Pontymoile, Alexia Mellor


Publishing Fair, photo, Claire Kern


Tattoo Carpet, Craig Wood & Perry Roberts. Photograph: Mererid Velios, 2013


Documentation of the event, photograph: Elbow Room For more news join us at — 15


Exotic Crop Sartorially appropriate artist Neil McNally visited Goat Major Projects this August for Exotic Crop, the first exhibition curated by Melissa Hinkin. The Edge of Collapse No.192 (2012), Suzanne Mooney. Photograph: Helen Warburton

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Wearing my handmade apricot crush coloured biker’s jacket with fluorescent green tasselling and rivets I felt bang on trend visiting Exotic Crop at Goat Major Projects. Resembling a cannabis factory in someone’s back room (with gallery walls painted the same shade of orange as a pensioner’s bathroom, or double quilted toilet tissue) all that was missing from the exhibition was a crochet toilet roll holder and some thick pink furry carpet smelling of wee. It’s this image of growing illicit plants, and the tropical being transplanted to suburbia that is alluded to in the title of the show, with its suggestion of hothouse flowers, chillies or cacti. I’ve just read that sales of Heinz Ketchup are dropping because people want more exciting flavours, and in some ways ambitious shows like this add a much needed dollop of spice to the bland fare normally served up in Cardiff. It sounds likes the beginning of a joke – did you hear the one about the English, Irish and Scottish artists who were put in a show by a Cardiff curator? If that premise sounds a little like a survey show then you might be right, as it’s the first curated exhibition by Melissa Hinkin. Constrained slightly by the limitations of the (small) space and hampered by the egalitarianism of the display each artist is showing a similar amount of work - it’s a little too neat and tidy. What’s exciting is the sense of seeing something being worked out,

thought through, and ideas being tested. Bringing a 1980s hipster vibe, with neon colours, it displayed some of the garishness of the high streets of Bristol, Peckham and Hackney, where the three artists live: of shopping, fashion and alternative consumerism. The formalism and attention to detail of Suzanne Mooney’s Untitled, Proposition#3 and The Edge of Collapse No.192 provides a pleasing contrast with the frayed edges of Rebecca Gould’s work, Zeitgeist One and Zeitgeist Two, which showed two painted fabrics, hanging down like drapery: a gold dress and hand painted daffodils and one that looked like a bird daubed from excrement on a washing line. Luxury goods placed next to charity shop finds; a palm tree beside a potato. The highlight of the show was Persephone by Mary Vetisse. Updating the Greek myth, the short film showed the artist trapped in a disjointed digital world talking about her outdated mail order catalogue of tropical plants. Deadpan, arch, funny, sexy and sad, it’s as if the filmmaker John Smith was grafted onto Candice Marie from Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May. Vetisse also wrote a text which found echoes in the works of Mooney and Gould. I look forward to seeing what this exotic crop of up-and-coming curators like Hinkin will be doing next. This show was triffid, I mean terrific. Shame there aren’t more places like Goat Major Projects to grow them in. — CCQ

An Independent Perspective on the Arts

Last Night of the Welsh Proms Red Dragon flags, cowboy hats, Pimms and song. Emma Geliot goes to the Last Night of the Welsh Proms at St David’s Hall, Cardiff.


Oriel Davies Open p 2014 Exhibition 26 April - 18 June 2014

Tonight it’s the turn of the orchestra of the Welsh National Opera to take to the stage and it’s good to see them being the focal point instead of down in the pit, providing the engine for an operatic performance. The higher terraces are draped with flags (a St. Andrew ’s cross lands on the trombones early on in the proceedings) and the front of the stage bobs with folk ready to sing and wave their arms. Whatever I was expecting –Classic FM live perhaps – I hadn’t bargained for the festive atmosphere. Founder of the Welsh Proms, conductor Owain Arwel Hughes CBE was the ringmaster; the orchestra the skilled acrobats and, for most of the evening, we were the clowns – coaxed and cajoled into opening our lungs for the sing-along in the second half. It was the first half that took me by surprise, though. Most of the music was familiar, with a crowd-pleasing selection from Gershwin to Elgar (Land of Hope and Glory, of course, or rather Pomp and Circumstance – this is the Proms after all). But it was Johann Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz that caught me off guard. This is

a tune so familiar that even little children can lah-lah-lah it, yet here, in what is arguably the most acoustically perfect concert hall in the land, I finally got the sense of that river – big boats ploughing their way down the main channel; little eddies; flotsam and jetsam washing up on the shore. The word ‘lugubrious’ lapped around my head, although I was experiencing something more joyous. Loins girded with the help of some interval Pimms, I was ready to open my mouth and sing (or hum as directed) through the Welsh medley of the second half, and by the time Calon Lân came around, I was singing lustily (and tunelessly), watching the light catch a million flecks of glitter on the red dragon cowboy hats that dotted the audience. As an introduction to the classical repertoire, a night like this offers up an amuse- bouche of music, but rather than froths of parmesan foam or smears of jus, the muscular and expert playing of the WNO orchestra left me with the final word of the night. Meringue. Sweet, a bit fluffy but toothsome, and with just enough chew to provide satisfaction. — CCQ

1st Prize £1000 + solo show Deadline for entries 13 January 2014 1st Student Prize £500 Selectors The selectors are looking for the very best in a wide range of media and approaches across national and international contemporary art and craft practice today

Anthony Shapland Artist and Co-director of g39, Cardiff Deidre Figueiredo MBE Director of Craftspace, Birmingham Helen Legg Director of Spike Island, Bristol Alex Boyd Jones Curator, Oriel Davies Gallery

Entry forms can be dowloaded from Oriel Davies Gallery, The Park, Newtown, Powys, Wales, UK SY16 2NZ For more reviews join us at — 17


Rhwydo/Vangst Roos van Geffen collects anxieties and desires in her location-based production Vangst. Chris BirdJones catches her tri-lingual collaboration with Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru at the National Waterfront Museum, Swansea Rhwydo/Vangst, Theatr Genedlaethol, photograph: Jean Philipse

There is a box, a new and unfamiliar box placed in front of a familiar building in the landscape of my town. It looks friendly, but far too small to host the performance, which I’ve read makes use of three wholly different languages. A selection of vintage/ retro typewriters is placed along three sides of the bluey grey cube, with an inviting stack of papers just waiting to be typed up with sticky, mechanical ink. Typed by me, by us – the audience. It’s obvious that’s what we have to do so I decide to give it a go. The first paper I pick up is thick, of good quality and texture. It’s in Dutch – I can read a little, but not enough. I turn it over and see English, which is by far my most comfortable native language. I insert the paper hesitantly, and begin. What are 18 — Issue 01

my greatest fears? Before I’ve made the machine ‘ding’ the audience is called to attention in front of the blue box. The box is not, after all, a storage shed, as I’d first thought. We’re informed that the performance will begin soon and we can choose which language we’d like to watch it in. My daughter is confused for a moment; she speaks all three languages so needs to choose. Van Geffen, then offers the dutch-speakers headsets as the live performance will be in welsh. We are in Wales after all. Then we’re invited into the box. It holds the stage, and seating and it is most definitely not the storage shed. Beautifully designed, half of the space is filled with five or so rows of block seating, with an entrance door to each row and a rake that rises from very low at the front near the stage, to high at the back of the box. The set itself is simple, ordered: A desk and chair where the luscious and, by now, ink-covered papers, filled in by the audience beforehand are wrapped up by a woman. With delicate movements she organizes them according to some mysterious system, wrapping them in tracing paper and binding them with a fine golden thread and a double knot. As it progresses it becomes clear that the performance, the narrative – with its distinct

threads, themes and nuances – isn’t in the recorded languages at all, but in the actions and movements of the two performers. The recordings, identical in each language on the headsets and through the stage speakers in Welsh, are verbatim audio transcripts of responses to the papers I’d seen outside, from other performances. They came from a variety of places: The Netherlands, Belgium, France, England and Wales, and from people of all ages, backgrounds and professions. Van Geffen is a collector of fears and desires. As the performers interact on floor and table, it is their interaction that engages us; the man is impressively relaxed, so relaxed that for a moment I wondered if he’s really alive and not a model from Madame Tussauds; while the woman, who has almost superhuman strength, pulls and throws her partner about. Even from my detached viewpoint, I can sense their trust in each other. There are moments when it seems the result of her rough or clumsy handling of him must really hurt, yet he barely flinches. My daughter* and I go home to compare notes, to process what we’ve seen and to work out how I’ll frame a response to a performance that explores such fundamental and powerful feelings. — CCQ *Carys Seren Mol

L.O.V.E. After 25 years Volcano Theatre Company revives L.O.V.E. and Emma Geliot caught it in Swansea before it hit the Edinburgh Fringe. Image: Erin Rickard. “My Love is as a fever. My love is as a fever. My love is as a fever”. There are three voices, sometimes in unison, sometimes alone as the pace and fervour picks up. Suddenly the female character is crying. Not gentle sniffing but snot and mascara coursing down her face. “My love is as a

fever!” cried out in anguish. Mine are not the only damp eyes in the audience, and I’m thankful for tear-proof eye make-up. Volcano Theatre Company’s revival of their 1993 production of L.O.V.E. is not for the fainthearted, nor for those who take their emotions via the sweet spoon of Mills & Boon. The above scene, early on in the performance, sets the mood for an exploration of love and all its baggage – lust, jealousy, power-struggles, pragmatism, feverish passion, despair, longing, obsession – using the vehicle of Shakespeare’s sonnets and, um, Shirley Bassey. The trio of performers --Tibu Fortes, Mairi

Phillips, and Joseph Reay-Reid --are not fixed characters but segue from scene to scene in what is sometimes a love triangle, sometimes a ménagea-trois: She loves him but so does he (love him) and him, he loves her, until our heads spin. And of course this is Volcano, so no-one is standing around in tights and declaiming. Any tights (as well as any frocks, blinging jewels, and strutting heels) all fall away eventually. Suit jackets slide, or are tossed to the floor; shirts are shed and, in one section that has me twitching with anxiety, vests are cut off with what I hoped was a nice, safe theatrical rubber carving knife. The players use a sparse set: a four poster bed; two chairs; a pile of books; and some bottles of champagne to strut, pratfall tumble, tussle and swingfrom the bed canopy. The late Nigel Charnock’s original direction notes are faithfully followed and movement is equally consistent with the energy and passion of the original cast (Paul Davies, Fern Smith and Liam Steel). Just as we are breathless from a set piece with dizzying catches, falls, leaps and rolls, the pace slows to a Bassey ballad, but not for long. From the quiet movement at the beginning (there are no acts, no scenes, no interval), the momentum builds, with cunning devices to stop us overloading – some witty banter, (and a lascivious audience invasion). This is not so much a play as a dip into the Catalogue of Love: You want true love? Go to Sonnet 18 “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” or 116, “Let not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments”. Despair? Sonnet 147, “My love is as a fever...” Pragmatism? 130, “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun”. With Shirley Bassey’s Something in The Way He Moves, The Look of Love, Never, Never, Never and If You Go Away as bonus tracks which add falling in love, being in love, depending on love and losing love. Which may give the impression of a patchwork of performance, but it isn’t. The pacing is seamless, the tone just right and the length perfect (if my buttocks were numbed by the plastic chair I didn’t notice – always a good sign). There were a couple of clunks in Reay-Reid’s delivery of the texts but as a very late addition to the cast, I was glad he’d focussed his attention on the physical movements and the use of what turned out to be a very real carving knife in the short time he’d had to rehearse, and his comic asides were fabulous. By the time this is published the cast will have undergone the baptism of fire at the Edinburgh Fringe and any tiny residual rough edges will have been smoothed away .— CCQ Emma saw L.O.V.E. Volcano’s theatre space in Swansea on 26 July 2013. You can see a trailer of the production at For more reviews join us at — 19


Be our guest Across the summer Oriel Davies Gallery was converted into a rural B&B. Curator, Alex Boyd Jones, describes an exhibition that celebrated a very British holiday experience. Artists included: Absent but not Forgotten; Caroline Ali; Colin Andrews; Dave Ball & Oliver Walke;, Bird-Jones & Heald; Justine Cook; Marisa Culatto; Danielle Drainey; Anna Falcini; Janet Farahar; Craig Fisher; Tom Hackett; Joanne Henderson; Sian Hughes; JOAKES; Roger Lougher; Angela Lizon; Nigel Matthews; Andrew McPhail; Loraine Morley; Tiff Oben & Helene Roberts; Joanna Peace; Gaia Persico; Carol Quarini; Carole Romaya; Suzanne Smith; Jacki Storey; Fern Thomas from the Institute for Imagined Futures & Unknown Lands; Cally Trench; Rich White and Anita Wyatt

At the end of June we opened an alternative Bed & Breakfast to Oriel Davies’ visitors. Our guest house, Seaview, complete with reception area, breakfast room, lounge, bedroom, bathrooms and a couple of secret rooms, was faithfully recreated from façade and signage to a detailed reception area throughout the gallery space. At every turn, however, we tried to incorporate the hand of an artist. Tables were set in the breakfast room with bespoke crockery. A lamp, embroidered with texts lit the lounge, where our ‘guests’ could play artist-designed board games, watch a re-working of The Great Escape or read tourist information about a mythical lake creature. A phantom guest performed ablutions in an en-suite bathroom; an animated fly buzzed in a basin; a film ran against the shower screen; scatter cushions held embedded videos; a bedroom was made entirely of newspaper and health and safety signs and fire warnings were given a new twist. Behind a wall in the breakfast room, reached through a hole punched in it, lay a secret space. Turning the corner at the end of a short corridor, visitors encountered a room filled with wall to wall lumber, precariously stacked and lit by a single lightbulb. Clearly an art work, this reminded us that this was, in fact, still a gallery, disrupting the fantasy of the created space.



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Everywhere there were little artistic interventions, while the detailing of guest house paraphernalia (sourced from local charity shops and community furniture schemes) included crochet toilet roll covers, kitsch pictures, complimentary tea-making sets and furniture from another era. We were keen to create a summer show that built on the importance (and necessity) of tourism within Mid Wales, where Oriel Davies is situated, and to reflect on the Bed & Breakfast industry whilst trying to develop cultural tourism. Historically, monasteries could be considered one of the earliest form of B&B and pilgrims, the first tourists. Yet, the term ‘Bed & Breakfast’ was forged centuries later in the UK, after World War II, when the volume of visitors necessitated more places to stay and local people willingly opened their homes and started serving breakfast to overnight guests. However, B&Bs really entered our cultural psyche during the 1960s and 1970s, as travel and holidays became more viable. Then, as now, the B&B was a favoured stopover, an alternative to the more sanitised hotel experience. It offers an intriguing meeting point between guest and host and an interplay between them. It is a curious combination of the private and the public, the domestic and the commercial, and a questioning of reality and artifice – homely yet not home.

An Independent Perspective on the Arts



Opposite page Love Buggy, 2012, Angela Lizon


Of no Fixed Abode, 2013, Loraine Morley


Be Our Guest Reception (In/ Hospitable Heterotopias), 2013 Installation, Oben & Helene Roberts


This page A Concave Sin, 2013, Neon, Colin Andrews

Be Our Guest presented existing and new works by over 30 artists which explored the attributes and desires associated with the notion of the traditional B&B. We worked with six artists and nine local Bed & Breakfasts to further develop these concepts through a variety of new works, which included performances, workshops, afternoon tea and other live engagements, some hosted by local guest houses. The immersive nature of the show meant that individual art works, integrated into the house façade and amongst the rooms, created a sense of familiarity through their domestic scale and décor. As visitors made their way through the show, absorbing tiny details and bolder statements, the works they encountered in the show both disrupted and questioned the settings and artifice of the physical space. With glimpses through to the gallery reception and shop down the corridor, real fire exits and

exhibition guides, reality was only a head turn away. The exhibition was literally an invitation to visitors to enter and feel welcome, as we (both Oriel Davies and the artists) played host to their visit. Though the call, it was also an invite to artists to respond to the B&B concept and, in turn, to became guests themselves. And rural arts venues share similar issues to those in the tourism business. Simply put, we need to attract visitors, which is why the exhibition seemed such a good fit with the Glasu Resilient Powys programme, funded by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development. The show had fantastic feedback and many signed the visitors’ book as guest characters to comment on their experience, before going home to spread the word and bring many more visitors through the welcoming doors of Seaview. — CCQ For more reviews join us at — 21

Reviews -Diffusion Diffused

-Diffusion Diffused Throughout May, Cardiff played host to a new, biennial international festival of photography. Exhibitions and events were held across a wide number of venues and offered visitors the opportunity to revisit recent historical works, such as The Valleys Project, and to see contemporary photography and lens-based work in new contexts. Here’s a taste of -Diffusion with commentary from the organisers, curators and some of the featured artists, along with artist Laura Sorvala’s real-time, illustrated report of one of the lively Platform discussion events, The Artist is not Responsible to Anyone, led by artist/curator Shaun Featherstone.

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This page Kirsty Mckay’s pop up studio


Opposite page Platform Event, photo, Laura Nott


Publishing Fair, photo, Claire Kern


Workshops Spike Dennis Embroidered Portraits, photo, Christina Compton, Ffotogallery


Photo Marathon, photo, Fatme Abdallah


Photo, Kirill Smolyakov

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“I have been amazed by the deep well of photographic and lens-based talent that exists in Cardiff and Wales, and the receptiveness of Welsh audiences to international work. There is a real appetite in Wales for new cultural experiences, ones that transcend local and national boundaries and reflect the diversity and complexity of the world today. A couple of years ago, after visiting a number of photography festivals around the world, I decided it was time to make something happen in Cardiff which did justice to Ffotogallery’s 35-year legacy in Wales, and also a new festival that offered something different and particular to the context in which we work” David Drake. Director, Ffotogallery/Diffusion


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Reviews -Diffusion Diffused

“Festivals like -Diffusion are important because they mobilise one of art’s most pertinent abilities: to help us to question the way in which we locate ourselves in the world, by directly reaching out to and engaging with audiences. I, for one, am all for events that have a non London-centric approach. In this sense, I think -Diffusion has an important role to fulfil...

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...Wales is a country with a strong sense of history and identity and its academic institutions have long since hosted some of the leading photography courses in the UK, so it makes perfect sense for -Diffusion to have sprung up where it did. -Diffusion is only just finding its feet, but with such a successful first year and such a great team of individuals behind it, I am sure it will find its footing among the plethora of art and photography festivals out there”



This page Alto Rabagão power station - busbar shaft (view from the machine hall), 2012, Edgar Martins Previous page Pocinho power station equipment unloading dock (view from the machine hall), 2012, Edgar Martins

Edgar Martins. Photographer

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Reviews -Diffusion Diffused

26 — Issue 01

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This page Tumble.Untitled (Tynton), Huw Alden Davies


Previous page Tumble.Untitled (Heather & staff), Huw Alden Davies

“-Diffusion Festival might be one of the greatest achievements that the Welsh art scene has ever seen and it has been a fantastic opportunity, personally, to have been a part of The Valleys Re-Presented. Exhibiting my photographs amongst one of what I regard as the most important bodies of work in Welsh documentary photography” Huw Davies. Photographer Davies is showing at the Elysium Gallery, Swansea from November 15th 2013 with his series Seven Point Seven, a study of seven families over seven years.

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Reviews -Diffusion Diffused

The Artist is Not Responsible to Anyone -Diffusion festival hosted a number of discussion events, under the banner of Platform. Laura Sorvala’s live drawing report encapsulated the spirited ebb and flow of conversation as artist Shaun Featherstone guided the participants through the minefield known loosely as ‘artist’s ethics’. The Artist is Not Responsible to Anyone, Platform 2 with Shaun Featherstone. Laura Sorvala Sketchnotes.

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Bianco NoFit State’s contemporary take on Circus is back on the road with Bianco: Turning Savage Directed by Firenza Guidi, the immersive performance surrounds the audience, who are gently wrangled around the arena to follow the action as the giant white towers of the set spin, light up, bustle with climbing performers, or the action moves high above to the trapezes, wires, swings and the band drives the mood from frenzied to reflective. Hoola hoops and beaded cage swings; a giant dress and falling petals, the show is as much an emotional response as a narrative thread.

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Consider the Lilies – Josephine Sowden Winner of Eisteddfor Gold Medal for Fine Art She only graduated last year, but Josephine Sowden has already attracted a lot of attention for her video work and won the coveted Gold Medal for Fine Art at the National Eisteddfod in Denbigh this year. Here she tells Emma Geliot about the work that won her the medal. Images: Lilies of the Field (2013), screen shots, Josephine Sowden

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Emma Geliot: You only graduated from the Photographic Art course at the University of Wales, Newport last year, but have already attracted a lot of attention for your work. Did you feel prepared for this and have you had any support or advice? Josephine Sowden: I thought I was going to have to work very, very hard to get my work exposure in the ‘real’ world after university, but I was so lucky to have my work recognised from my graduate show and experiences were handed to me. I was not prepared because I never dared to dream it would happen, but my university tutors were a great support framework and helped me with any queries and with exhibition equipment, even after I had graduated.

to read more about spirituality. The relationship theme went out of the window and, since then, my work has taken on themes of the insanity of modern humanity and stresses the importance of an evolution of consciousness. The themes crystallised through the reading of several books and from personal experiences – I have been on two spiritual retreats for research purposes. One was a week in a Buddhist meditation retreat, where the concept of the mind as a destructive influence was really instilled in me. During this week, I was meditating for 50 minutes, three times a day, and spending long periods of time in complete silence. This really compelled me to stop and consider how powerful and influential the mind can be.

EG: You have some clear themes for your work. How did they develop and when did they begin to crystallise for you? JS: My ideas began to develop during my second year at university. I began research for a project on obsessive relationships and, while reading the book Eat, Pray, Love [by Kerrelyn Sparks] for research, something stirred in me and I wanted

EG: How did you approach making the work Lilies of the Field (2012)? JS: The idea for Lilies of the Field came to me days before a deadline where I had to show my tutors a well rounded (but not yet finished) piece of work. I was panicking, but after reading a single line from a book the idea came to me in a flash. Although my mum tried to say it was

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a bad idea (covering myself from head to toe in mud found on the beach during December did not thrill her), my mind was fixed and I was determined. Over four days in the Christmas holidays, I came up with the idea, wrote the script, learnt it and performed. This very first shoot is the majority of the video (the close ups of the face) and, even though I re-shot several times, this footage worked best. I think maybe the panic and pressure of my deadline influenced the desperation and urgency of my performance. So, I approached the work with very little preparation and with absolutely no idea whether it would work or not. This project was one of the first editing projects I had done, but I thoroughly enjoyed it – it is perhaps my favourite part of the process – getting all the raw footage and meshing it together into a finished product. EG: You are the only protagonist in your videos. Is it important to you that your artistic voice is represented by your physical body? JS: I find it very difficult to answer this question… I do find it important that I am the main protagonist,

but cannot really explain why. In terms of the idea, it is not important – as I am representing the every-man/woman – so the identity of the actress is not important to the message. But every idea I come up with for future projects, I am in the work. So, it is obviously something important to my work; I have just yet to tap in to why. EG: Would you work with others to represent your ideas in future? JS: I think, at some point down the line, I would be interested in working with others to represent my ideas… currently, I feel there are still things I am needing to explore on my own, but it is definitely something I would be interested in doing in the future. EG: How easy or difficult is it to place yourself at the centre of the action in terms of getting a sense of how the piece will work visually? JS: Really quite tricky. I get frustrated sometimes that I cannot be behind the camera and more in control of what’s happening – I often wish I could split myself into two for this purpose. The majority of the footage for the Lilies of the Field

was filmed by my mum who had no knowledge of how to use my camera. I was left with little choice, as it was the Christmas holidays and I had no-one around who could help. Saying this, I often have my mum come on my shoots with me> She has been all over the place, no matter what the time or the weather – she is a huge support to me. However, her lack of camera knowledge meant I pretty much had to guess what the shot was going to look like and hope for the best! EG: The BBC ran a news item that focused on the fact that you won the Gold Medal at the Eisteddfod with a film that was entirely in English (although the majority of those interviewed didn’t have a problem with this). Did you anticipate this response and do you want to comment on it? JS: When I found out I had won the Eisteddfod I was a bit concerned about it causing some offence, although I did not anticipate such a heated and widespread response. However, I do completely understand the issue some people have with me having won. I am sorry to have caused any upset to people. I am about to start Welsh lessons, which may have been influenced by the reaction. — CCQ For more features join us at — 33

Features 55th Venice Biennale The Starry Messenger


The Starry Messenger – Bedwyr Williams in Venice Wales is at the Venice Biennale again this year with Bedwyr Williams’ exhibition, The Starry Messenger, which explores the relationships between stargazing and the individual, the cosmos, and the role of the amateur in a professional world. Nia Roberts talks to him about the pleasures and pressure of representing a nation:

Nia Roberts: Six months is a long time for an exhibition to be running, especially when it’s so far away and there’s not much contact with the exhibition once it’s opened. Does this feel strange after such an intense period of preparation? Bedwyr Williams: It is a long time and I can’t stop thinking of the invigilators having to be with it for long periods, maybe getting fed up with it. It reminds me of this German boy who moved into our street when I was a kid in Old Colwyn. If we paid him he would crap in a nearby building site called Meadowbank The ‘build-up’ was huge, cutting the bargain and then everyone walking to the spot to watch the deed. We wouldn’t go back there for weeks and by then it would have crisped in the sun.

Portrait: Andrea Liggins Bedwyr Williams is the Welsh artist participating at the Wales in Venice/ Cymru yn Fenis Collateral Event of the 55th International Art Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia, in a project jointly curated by MOSTYN and Oriel Davies and supported by the Arts Council of Wales. artsinwales/venice 34 — Issue 01

NR: Did you feel extra pressure because the exhibition is on such a big stage as the Biennale in Venice and that you were ‘representing’ Wales, or did you go about it like any other exhibition? BW: There was pressure but I put the ‘Biennale’ thing to the back of my mind and tried to enjoy the experience. There aren’t huge expectations placed on Wales and if we weren’t there the art-world wouldn’t be overly worried, but this is a good thing as it takes the pressure off. >>

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Features 55th Venice Biennale The Starry Messenger

NR: The scale of your installation in Venice is impressive. We had a taste of this recently in My Bad (at the Ikon in Birmingham and Glynn Vivian off-site at the Mission Gallery, Swansea). Did you enjoy working on such a large installation where the theme continues throughout several rooms and spaces as in Ludoteca Santa Maria Ausiliatrice? BW: Yes, I like making something that makes me feel small alongside it, or as if I am somehow a figure in a huge model. In a way, the latest works are kind of 1:1 dioramas. NR: How did you approach considering the content of the exhibition? Did you tailor ideas specifically for the Ludoteca? BW: I made a model on the computer which enabled me to walk through this ghostly space and try and imagine what I would want to see there if I was a visitor to the exhibition. NR: You’ve been very thorough – the exhibition is quite an experience for the senses. Did you enjoy working on this aspect and is this something you think may develop in your work? BW: Yes, I like to be able to control the whole environment. I used to be a Railway modeller after all. NR: You have a fantastic film that has enabled you to become part of the exhibition, get your voice heard. How was the experience of working with Casey Raymond and Ewan Jones Morris? BW: I had admired their work for a while and Venice was the perfect opportunity for me to work with them. It was quite a strange process because suddenly I lost control on some aspects of the film, even though they were following my script. I didn’t want the film to look like an ‘artist’ film and Casey and Ewan were perfect for that as they were completely open minded. NR: Can we have more films please? Are there others in the pipeline? BW: Yes, I have a few ideas for more films. It’s odd because I hate artist films in general. The artist’s ‘voice’ in films is usually so ‘twatty’ NR: Ha! … Agree … but in this, it’s your voice as the character that’s memorable, a bit like the characters we experience in your performance based work. As a city Venice is unlike anywhere else in the world. It has a special magic but the reality of working there is quite different – what was the most difficult thing about installing the work there? 36 — Issue 01


BW: Everything was quite easy except buying things we needed. I nearly head butted some guy in a HIFI shop near Rialto and we had a terrible day on a retail estate on the mainland when we went looking for bits and bobs. To make matters worse an old man fainted on the bus because of the heat. NR: You were also in Venice for an extended period of time in 2005, on a residency for the Wales exhibition that year when you produced the publication BASTA about the experience. Do you think the experiences you had there this time will feed into your work in the future? BW: No, I think this time I was in a different state of mind, although I did enjoy passing the hospital each day, which was an eye-opener. There was also a parrot that squawked at us every day I’m sure he’ll be appearing somewhere soon and the cactus that was growing downwards out of the flat next door. NR: Exhibiting as part of the Biennale is a huge commitment of time and labour. Do you think there should be an extended period of support for the Venice artist following the Biennale? BW: It’s quite hard, possibly some kind of landing ramp as well as the one for takeoff. Sorry, I’m making comparisons with Evel Knievel.

NR: You had fantastic response in the press - how do you feel when reading about yourself? BW: I read the good comments and they make me feel happy, but when I read the negative things I become obsessed with the people who’ve written them. NR: I think you have more reason to be happy than obsessed after Venice then. You are considered as someone who succeeds to live and work as an artist in a rural area and you’ve been associated with Grizedale Arts in Cumbria, a successful contemporary art organisation based in a rural area, since the early days of your career. Do you think people make too much fuss over where you live, because you are creating contemporary art out ‘in the sticks’? Is there pressure to move to somewhere like London? BW: These days, in the end, it’s down to money and it doesn’t matter where you live. Money = time = art. NR: It’s too early to gauge your long-term success from Venice, but what six words would encapsulate the experience for you? BW: Telescope. Crying. Prosecco. Mosquito. Hot. Spritz NR: Thanks Bedwyr. We look forward to seeing the exhibition closer to home in the future. — CCQ

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04 01

Previous spread The Starry Messenger, installation image, Bedwyr Williams, 2013


This spread The Starry Messenger, installation image, Bedwyr Williams, 2013, photo, Ric Bower


Wales at Venice party 2013, Bedwyr Williams performing, photo, Ric Bower


The Starry Messenger, installation image, Bedwyr Williams, 2013, photo, Ric Bower


The Starry Messenger, film still, Bedwyr Williams, 2013

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Features 55th Venice Biennale The Starry Messenger



A General View, A Typical Scene The Venice Biennale is the biggest exposition of contemporary art in the world. What is it like to invigilate an exhibition there - particularly, when the art and media packs have moved off? Artist Freya Dooley invigilated Bedwyr Williams’ The Starry Messenger for seven weeks and gives us a behind the scenes taste

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Having never been to Venice before, I was surprised at how small it was. It’s a strange and surreal place and the pace is different: there are no cars and it’s nearly impossible to rush anywhere for the jostling crowds of tourists. The Biennale is often described as the Disneyland of the art world: sun melting the abundance of gelato and around every corner is an exhibition – sometimes good, sometimes anything but. The experience was a good chance to flex my linguistic muscles. On the last night at our regular haunt on Via Garibaldi, I bridged all sorts of dialectal gaps. After several shots of an unforgiving combination of sambuca, tequila and tabasco, my pick-and-mix of European vernacular sounded pretty fantastic to me and (surely) to anyone who couldn’t speak French, Spanish or Italian. I quickly realised that I had overestimated my vocabulary and that it doesn’t cover the universe, Galileo or how to talk about a film featuring a man with a mosaicked face getting the top of his head buffed. The opening of the Biennale was busy and demanding and, this year, the Arts Council of Wales, Mostyn, Oriel Davies and Ceri Hand Gallery ensured an eventful start. The Preview party, curated by Bedwyr Williams, included the latest instalment of his Mole performances and music

from Cate le Bon, Gruff Rhys and Boom Bip. The night continued to Ireland’s party and ended with a hazy expedition across Rialto in search of those late, late night drinks (not so easy to come by in a city that goes to bed early and wakes early). Each team of invigilators consisted of three Wales-based practitioners. Aled Simons, Sarah Williams and I lived together, shared many late night bottles of Prosecco and worked for the vernissage period alongside four Venetian invigilators. The Starry Messenger is an experience and a loop: as you journey through the rooms, in the dark and following the stars, you will eventually end up back where you began, if a little disorientated. This was not unlike my experience of Venice itself – spending time figuring out where I was and adjusting to my surroundings; ending up flummoxed, having repeated the same circular journey and the same wrong turns. As someone who often gets lost venturing more than a few miles away from home, this was a familiar feeling. It wasn’t just the exhibitions that inspired my experience of Venice, though I certainly saw some great stuff: Ragnar Kjartansson’s SS Hangover; Ireland’s Richard Mosse and Cyprus’ impressive use of space to name just a few. Thanks to The

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Wales in Venice ‘Invigilator Plus’ programme, I was able to develop a personal project. This project became more of an exploration for me: gathering ideas and writing; noticing and collecting. Venice is a good place for collecting. I collected Yellow: yellow signs; yellow vaporetti; a discarded yellow napkin; a vendor’s yellow Puma t-shirt; a yellow wall housing a Catholic shrine. I generated dozens of photographs of the local dogs, one recognised by previous Wales in Venice invigilators as ‘Frog Dog’on account of its snorting and generally insalubrious demeanour. I built a collection of generic postcards, repeated images and, as a result of lengthy discussions with the owners of Aqua Alta (‘The most beautiful bookshop in all of the world!’), I was taught the difference between one image and the next; one print and the next; how the postcards were written and how that has changed. Many of these postcards are located merely with the phrase ‘General view’ or ‘Typical Scene’. Venice is full of ‘typical scenes’; they just aren’t typical anywhere else. It’s easy to feel romantic about Venice. The buildings are tall and the land is flat, so getting lost is easy. Our regular journeys became punctuated with Communist bars, restaurants where we discovered there actually is such a thing as a bad pizza and the graffiti penis


adorning a wall that reassured us we were almost at our shared apartment. Walking between one area and the next, one square and the next, the atmosphere suddenly changed. The sounds changed, the people were different, their languages were different. Yet, however different it feels, it all looks the same. And even though I had never visited Venice before, it somehow felt familiar. The plethora of iconography - books, films, photographs, stories of Venice – contributes to a sense of déjà vu. It’s hard to photograph Venice without it looking like a stock image; perhaps, there’s no need? Despite the crowds, the colour and the stopstart of the streets surrounding St Mark’s Square - a place where more people are looking at their cameras than are admiring the beautiful surrounding architecture - there’s a melancholy in Venice. I enjoyed that melancholy because I only noticed it in stolen moments of peace and quiet, which was difficult to find amongst the throngs and was worth savouring. Staying in Venice for seven weeks allowed me to see a different side to the city, though it would take years to fully understand it, to find my way around or to feel like a real part of it. As one of our Venetian invigilators pointed out, “You are on Venice, we are in it.” — CCQ


Previous page Insert credit here


Katya, wet collodian on glass plate, Dorsoduro 417 (Fondamenta delle Zattere), Bart Dorsa, Collateral event for Museum of Modern art Moscow


Sculptural Installation, Spanish Pavilion, Giardini, Lara Almarcegui



This page Venezia, Venezia, 2013 (detail) Pavilion of Chile, 55th International Art Exhibition - la Biennale di Venezia Installation View Metal pool, 1:60 resin model of Giardini, Alfredo Jaar. Vice Versa, performance detail, Italian Pavilion-- 2013, Marcello Maloberti All image credits Ric Bower unless otherwise stated

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Features 55th Venice Biennale Vadim Zakharov

Time Has Come to Confess Vadim Zakharov’s multi-layered exhibition at the Russian Pavilion offers an experiment around human nature as it follows the ancient narrative of the Greek myth Danaë to an extended conclusion. Ric Bower caught him in the whirl of the preview days at the 55th Venice Biennale of Art for a portrait sitting and an illuminating interview.

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I have no doubt that being charged to ‘do something challenging’ in one of the anachronistic architectural carbuncles that are sprinkled throughout Venice’s Giardini, must have caused many a battle-hardened artist’s heart to quail. The challenge certainly did not seem to faze Russian artist Vadim Zakharov however. His work Danaë, named after the Greek myth, (the one where Danaë, locked in a bronze prison by her father, is impregnated by the god Zeus manifesting as a shower of gold coins), rises enthusiastically to the occasion. It helps that Zakharov is willing to take total command of the space with carefully choreographed, multi-level action spaces and viewing areas. He even broke out his jackhammer to engage in some impromptu remodelling of Shuschev’s 99-year-old Russian Pavilion. The complex performance, (curated by Udo Kittelman and under the supervision of Commissioner Stella Kesaeva), involved the casting of 200,000 gold coins, which circulate steadily through the performance space, helped along by willing female viewers/participants. The coins are placed in a tin bucket and hoisted onto the first level, through a hole in the ceiling. They then travel up into the rafters, via an elevator device, from where they are showered onto female participants. The women, who by now have been offered see-through umbrellas to protect their skulls and coiffures, are asked to scoop up a handful of coins so the whole process can start again. The male visitors have their own special areas in which they are invited to contemplate their crimes. Their failings are stencilled on the wall - “Gentlemen, time has come to confess

our Rudeness, Lust, Narcissism, Demagoguery, Falsehood, Banality...’ and so the list goes on. To aid our woeful cogitations a male performer is seated on a saddle in the eaves eating peanuts; instead of dropping gold coins he deposits peanut detritus, the by-product of his gorging. I settled in the rickety PR booth outside the Russian pavilion, waiting for the artist to meet me. When Zakharov arrived he was self-assured and delightfully gracious. We sat down and I began by asking him how he squared his use of ancient myth with his complicated and often fraught relationship with the past. Vadim Zakharov: Ah, that is easy to answer; I often work with archives. I have been building an extensive archive since the 80s for the Moscow Conceptual School and I draw on it now for both exhibition and publication. Danaë, of course, is a Greek myth and I have known the story since I was a child. I find it strange that many people nowadays are not in any way familiar with it. Ric Bower: What do you feel Danaë has to tell us about gender? VZ: Gender is not something I have addressed in my work before, but the myth of Danaë demands engagement with the issue. I only do so by following the narrative through: Danaë’s cave was closed to men, so I make the central area of my work an area where men are not permitted. Because of this decision I have received much criticism. All I can say to people who are offended is ‘sorry, I am just following the narrative!’ I was not expecting the range and breadth of >>

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Features 55th Venice Biennale Vadim Zakharov

reactions the work has had. A few days ago a man threw down ten Euros from the balcony, which a woman then picked up; I thought this was an extraordinary interaction. Both women and men are stealing the coins at a fantastic rate; ironically, since on the coins is cast the word trust. Corruption, morality and gender are not unusual themes to address and perhaps I have nothing particularly new to say on the subjects; I just pull the elements together and hold them up like a mirror. What people draw from the work is up to them. As an artist, I try to maintain a certain distance. RB: You have playfully exhibited your inventory, a near encyclopaedic list of the raw materials you utilise in the making of the work. Its overt inclusion seems to blur the boundaries between that which is the work and that which is not. Is there a line in your mind where the work ceases to exist or have influence? VZ: If women cease to place coins in the bucket, or the man on the beam does not drop his peanut husks, the whole process will stop; the break between the world and the work is not a conceptual one, it is physical.


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RB: So your hold, your authorial investment in the work is relatively fluid. VZ: Yes and no. On the one hand I construct the work with care but on the other I do not know how it will turn out, for instance I do not know how many coins will be stolen. We have worked out statistically that so far the women have stolen fewer than the men. We started with 200,000 coins; time will tell how many we are left with. With that we said our goodbyes and the artist returned to his gruelling schedule of interviews and engagements whilst I was left to arrange my parting thoughts. Zakharov does not appear to be a man who is afraid of being misunderstood. I began to wonder if it was a little too easy to take the symbolism he offers us at face value. I wondered if we are perhaps being anesthetised, like laboratory rats, so we do not notice that it was we who are about to become the subject of the artist’s experiments. Like Anthony Gormley’s work One and Other, which famously featured dancing dads and self promotional performances on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, with Zakarov’s Danaë the viewer does not just become inseparable from the work but would appear to become the very basis and subject of the work itself. — CCQ



Previous spread Vadim Zakharov outside the Russian Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale 2013, portrait; Ric Bower This spread ONE DANAE, coin, 2013, Vadim Zakharov,

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55th Venice Biennale Tavares Strachan

Serendipity and the Beast The Bahamas is at the Venice Biennale for the first time this year bagging a prize location in the Arsenale for their ambitious show, Polar Eclipse. The Bahamian born New Yorker, Tavares Strachan, was chosen to represent the island nation and went to herculean lengths to offer a hyper-connected tour-de-force. Interview: Ric Bower

Thinking back I wonder how I ever came across the Bahamian Pavilion. It was, on careful recollection, through Sky, an American rocker who was part of the installation team; he had invited me to take shelter from the rain in the crepuscular void where the Tavares Strachan extravaganza was taking shape. Sky subsequently introduced me to Christophe Thompson (the Director of Installation). I helped him tie his Trinity knot, (with a little on-line help). Christophe is part of Tavares’ famed inner circle. This is the serendipitous wonder of the Biennale, for a brief time everything is not just possible but entirely probable. In 2006 Strachan found international acclaim by FedEx-ing a 4.5 tonne block of river ice from Alaska to the Bahamas to be exhibited in a solar powered freezer. His practice is by no means limited to the impact of environmental change on close-to-sea-level habitats such as the Bahamas (or Venice) however. In this encyclopaedic show he contributes to at least two further postmodern conversations, the cultural implications of relativism and the unreliability of historical narratives. These concepts are filtered through his personal journey of geographical displacement, from the Nassau to the States, before materialising again through the life of the early 20th century black explorer Matthew Henson. Henson’s role in the ‘discovery’ of the North Pole in a 1909 expedition and his complicated relationship with his white partner Robert Peary, (who got all the credit for the expedition), has generated a narrative, in itself, as unstable, and treacherous as the environment they were exploring together. It was not until political winds in the US finally shifted, long after Henson’s death in 1955, that (on April 6, 1988) he was re-interred in Arlington National Cemetery; a belated sign of national recognition for his contribution to science and exploration.

Strachan explores the metaphysical and historical invisibility of the man Henson and what he has come to represent through a variety of material means; including a full size Pyrex representation of Henson’s circulatory system suspended in mineral oil and encased in acrylic (How I Became Invisible, acrylic tank, mineral oil, Pyrex glass). The refractive indices of the materials are so well matched that the ethereal, web-like representation of the physical Henson all but disappears into silvery gloom. I met Tavares after he had completed a marathon meet and greet at the exhibition’s opening. I had watched him work the semidark space filled with supporters, politicians and gallerists all hungry to feed off the restless energy these events generate. We escaped into a corner of almost perfect darkness and I began by asking him how much of himself he sees in the person of Matthew Henson Tavares Strachen: My connection to Henson or, indeed to anybody else who has done something amazing but been overlooked when the time has come for the recognition to be handed out, is very personal. Ric Bower: What about your physical engagement with Henson’s life, you went to the North Pole yourself this year, a journey which is evidenced in this show. That must have been pretty tough; it demonstrates not inconsiderable commitment. TS: It is very important. There is that colonial or puritanical mind-set that deems nothing to be of any value unless you work hard for it. Sadly hard work alone does not guarantee a project is going to be interesting though. RB: You have mentioned in the past the difficulty of placing appropriate value on objects. TS: There is a delicate tension here, I am >> For more features join us at — 43

Features 55th Venice Biennale Tavares Strachan

fascinated by objects. The philosopher Alan Watts used to say that people in the west believe that they are materialists but they actually hate material. Someone who loves material shows a certain level of appreciation for every minute detail of that substance. After all we are made of stuff ourselves and it is when we misuse stuff that I get frustrated. RB: Some artists are conceptually sharp and others aesthetically tuned in, few seem to be able to move convincingly in both arenas. How have you managed to bridge that divide. TS: It’s just form and idea, a question of how they can co-exist. It is not that complicated, it is not new. RB: I love the idea that the North Pole is constantly moving, that the moment it is ‘discovered’ and a flag placed on the supposed spot then the ice sheet moves on the ocean’s surface rendering the whole process idealistically pointless. In your mind, is there anything that is fixed in life, is there anything that never moves? TS: Everything is shifting, and that is terrifying, but also liberating once you get past the terror. I think this kind of thinking engenders cognitive locomotion, whether it be the birth of flight or the invention of the light bulb. It forces a genesis, you know what I mean? Within the instability, lies some other kind of truth. RB: You have built a close knit community of colleagues and collaborators around you. What effect does this have on how you approach to the


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issue of authorship? Do you do much fighting? TS: I work with friends and a lot of people who are close to me. We do fight, but not about authorship, we fight about whether things should be done this way or that way. Healthy fights, not ego driven. R.B: I come from a Wales that is a small nation with a powerful sense of identity. You come from a small nation too. What advice would you give artists from Wales? TS: A nation is only as strong as its ability to extend itself into other nations and to diversify.

I am still mulling over Tavares’ parting shot at 4am. My 17 stone Russian roommate, Sasha, has by now found full song. His nocturnal sound art is almost beautiful. He staggers in at two-ish each night and settles on his front like a baby, arse high, head to side before commencing to snore. It sounds something like an elephant making love to a cat and reaches its hellish climax in the predawn hours. He then wakes at 7 on the nail, farts, puts on his clothes and leaves. I discovered on my final day that he was a sculptor working as part of Bart Dorsa’s excellent show Katya put on by the Moscow Museum of Modern Art at Dorsoduro, Fondamenta delle Zattere. I have come to the conclusion that it is best to accept that the beast that is the Biennale can never be beaten, I have learned not to struggle against it but instead to relax into its grasp, to let serendipity take its course and to allow room for the conversation to begin. — CCQ



This spread Tavares Strachen, photographed through How I Became Invisible, (acrylic tank, mineral oil, Pyrex glass, Tavares Strachen) in the Bahamas Pavilion, 55th Venice Biennale, portrait: Ric Bower Opposite spread (Untitled) Mathew, 2012, Collage and drawing mounted on Plexiglas behind a Plexiglas box, Tavares Strachan

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Giving Artists Their Own Space As the Artes Mundi Prize selectors get ready to reveal the shortlist for 2014, Director Karen MacKinnon and Assistant Curator Melissa Hinkin talk to Emma Geliot about their approaches to curating. Portraits: Ric Bower

I meet Karen MacKinnon and Melissa Hinkin at the Artes Mundi offices. We sit in a room that is undergoing some kind of transformation – chairs are piled high and odd bits of board lean against the wall – but there’s a table and coffee, some of which has migrated to Karen Mackinnon’s green chiffon top so we won’t be photographing today. MacKinnon has only been Artes Mundi’s Director for a couple of months and is still making the transition from her curatorial role at Swansea’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery. Melissa Hinkin, Assistant Curator, is more seasoned, but joined half way through the two year cycle of this international art Exhibition and Prize which has been taking place biennially for the past decade. They are both entering an exciting phase – the next decade, with the rest of the Artes Mundi team. Today’s conversation isn’t going to focus on the art prize (which was, for a while, the largest in the world at £40,000), but on how they have become curators and their approaches to curating; a term that has become rather elastic in recent years. Curating: from the traditional protect/ conserve/display role of the museum curator to the act of hanging pictures on a wall. In between is a collaborative and creative practice that can transform a collection of objects in a studio, or concepts in an artist’s head, into a coherent exhibition that is more than the sum of its parts. But how do you become a curator? MacKinnon left school in Swansea at 16 with few qualifications and itchy feet. She had various jobs – 46 — Issue 01

in an old people’s home; in a women’s centre .But when she went travelling in a van with her future husband, visiting galleries and museums and fell in love with art: ancient, modernist and contemporary; all over Europe and North Africa. “I found myself drawn to art wherever we travelled”, she says, “I felt that artists could speak outside ideologies; in a more fluid and less constricted way and I was also drawn to its beauty and ability to transform the way we see the world”. She decided to study Art History, Film Studies, English Literature, Philosophy and the social history of art at Swansea University. Mackinnon says, “I was fascinated by the way the artists and the art they produce engage with and reflect a particular culture, period in history or situation.” She went on to study an MA in Feminism in the Visual Arts in Leeds. Arriving at Chapter Arts Centre as Visual Arts Programmer with very little practical experience, Mackinnon says, “I remember thinking, ‘what on earth am I supposed to do?’ I was 30”. She was at Chapter for six years and then went on to the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea, where she is currently making the transition to Artes Mundi but also curating a final exhibition for Glynn Vivian Let’s see what happens... a multi-venue project that brings artists from China to the city to work alongside those from Wales. After 11 years at the Glynn Vivian, with a year off to curate the 2005 Wales at the Venice Biennale show Somewhere Else, and much curatorial work that takes in many international projects, the time seems

right for her to make the move to Artes Mundi an International initiative that works with the world’s leading artists here in Wales. “I didn’t go down a curatorial route so didn’t learn how to be a curator; I think, maybe I still think about things in a non-formulaic way. But I think that’s how some of the most interesting curators work? I’ve been finding my way ever since!”, MacKinnon reflects, “What’s important for me is understanding the context from which you work, and it always has been important to me, whether at Chapter, Glynn Vivian, Venice or Artes Mundi – understanding how an organisation fits into a landscape and growing organically”. With each role she has had to consider the specific contexts, “Different audiences, different parameters. For example, Chapter has always been a production house for cutting edge arts; The Glynn Vivian has a painting and ceramics collection; whilst Artes Mundi and the Venice Biennale’s are focused on international.” Melissa Hinkin, a young curator who has just had her first exhibition, Exotic Crop, at Goat Major Projects in Cardiff, has been considering the conversation to this point, but chimes in as we talk about contexts and parameters Hinkin joined Artes Mundi after the shortlist had been announced in 2012, when decisions were being made about which works would be produced by the selected artists. Hinkin’s curatorial pathway was quite organic. “I didn’t go through the normal route: Art History degree, MA in curatorial practice”.

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But while she was still on her Foundation course at Wrexham she responded to an open call from Oriel Davies, [in Newtown], for their new Young Curators programme. “I thought it sounded interesting but didn’t really know what a curator was. It was fantastic being with my own peers, other 18 and 19 year olds.” Hinkin went on to study Fine Art Sculpture at Wimbledon College of Art, London and gained experience with Grizedale Arts and worked for Folkestone Triennial, two of the UK’s leading arts organisations. At Oriel Davies the group of young curators developed an exhibition for the gallery. “Spoilt Rotten was based on our interests; looking at our own development, becoming young adults. It was a great initiative”, Hinkin adds. The project also involved dialogue with Emma Williams (the Oriel Davies curator at the time) and other gallery staff; visiting the Arts Council [England] collection with its curator Ann Jones and a visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park to see the sculpture collections. The group were then asked to develop themes, titles, the installation, condition checks and education programmes. “It was an invaluable crash course in curating. A great start before doing my [Fine Art] degree”, Hinkin reflects. Hinkin then asks Mackinnon: “What do you think of the proliferation of curatorial degrees? The course content and expensive fees? I looked in to these courses and the possibility of studying at the RCA and Goldsmiths, but I’ve gone through curatorial routes from a very practical level. KM: At Leeds I studied with Grizelda Pollock. Her idea was that theorists would make art and artists would theorise. By this point both curators are really fired up and my pencil struggles to keep up as I push my recorder closer to them while they talk about people’s perceptions of curating. KM: There is a fear that we are creating a consumerist production line. I suppose I consider myself a mediator between the artist and the institutions. There are some schools of curatorial practice that are much more about imposing your ideas on a group of artists, using art to illustrate the curators’ ideas, rather than letting the art breathe. MH: Yes, there are many different ways of working, so many different relationships to manage and different processes. KM: And it could be you’re just selecting existing work, or working with an artist over a period of years

to develop the work which is much more intense, in these situations the curator is part of the process, closer to the creative practice. When I started at Chapter I didn’t know what I was doing but I soon got the hang of it, but really found my own way. It always begins by having conversations with the artists, discussing exciting ideas but it’s also the curator’s role to be fully aware of the parameters: funding, timescale, the organisations you are working with. Some forms of curating are a bit like shopping from and Argos catalogue. “I’ll have that one and that one” – international art shopping. I think it’s great to take the risks, to get a balance between existing and commissioned works. MH: That’s what happened last year for Artes Mundi – half the artists wanted to develop new work. Two of the artists’ practice means that they have to respond to a situation. Darius [Mikšys] was collaborating with the Museum; reflections of himself with the collection of the museum. It was very process-led, that’s the magic. No matter what the objects were, it was all about the process. Apolonija [Šušteršič]’s work was very site-specific, related to Cardiff and Tania [Bruguera] didn’t want a space at all KM: What’s great about Artes Mundi is that we have a selection process: The selectors select; the curator makes the show and ensures a conversation between the artists. MH: It’s more about selecting the best artists who fit Artes Mundi’s theme, even though they’re quite disparate there are always overlaps. KM: Like a global viewpoint, but not organised into a neat package. Giving artists their own space. MH: Artes Mundi is good in that it creates those little disturbances, creating a bit of a stir, a burst of activity, looking at the current position, serious. It’s the only voice in Cardiff where that can be experienced. KM: We have an important partnership with National Museum Wales but have extended partnerships with Chapter and Mostyn. Essentially we’re a nonvenue based organisation, so in some ways can be a bit freer, not constrained by space. So we can be led by artists. That makes it really exciting. — CCQ The Artes Mundi shortlist for 2014 will be announced in October Let’s See What Happens runs across six venues in Swansea to 02 November. For more features join us at — 47

Features Jo Fong Silent Witness

Silent Witness How did somebody who didn’t talk as a child become so fascinated by words that are rarely heard? As Jo Fong’s new documentary Witness – Portraits of Women Who Dance, begins to tour she tells Emma Geliot about her career and talks about not talking. Portrait: Ric Bower

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Dancer, choreographer and arch-collaborator Jo Fong didn’t really speak as a child: “I had other people to speak for me”, she says of her early years in Doncaster. But she discovered dance as an alternative way of communicating. Her references at the time were more likely to be Madonna, Michael Jackson and the fictional Fame Academy than the classical dance repertoire, but she went to ballet classes nonetheless. “I really enjoyed it and was lucky to have brilliant people around me.” When she went off to the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London at 16, she still wasn’t really speaking: “I was pretty innocent, I didn’t speak for years. I was really young and it was very easy with dancing to not grow up. I didn’t have to understand the words as I was able to tune in really well to physical language. When Mark Bruce asked me to be in a piece, I just laughed and ran into the changing room”, Fong chuckles. She chuckles, giggles and laughs a lot as she describes a career that has taken her to many different countries and led her to collaborate with a fascinating array of people and companies, both large and small, over the years. “I’ve had very good opportunities”, says Fong, adding, “I just had to find where I fit. I didn’t know there could be a career in this – to pay your living – I’ve worked really hard.” I begin to realise that her self-deprecating laughter masks a core of certainty, and of purpose and focus. After three years with the Rambert School she joined the Belgian company Rosas.. She liked their strong work ethic -- it gave her a sense of being a professional dancer. But the language, or rather languages, in this international company, further affected her communication skills, and left her feeling cut off: “I forgot how to talk altogether, or [I spoke] with a really strange language.” Fong says at that time she could talk about what goes

on in a studio but had no idea about the rest of the world. Feeling homesick, Fong came back to London and did a number of large and small-scale jobs, from working with Ballet Rambert to doing independent projects. “I was working with really interesting artists. DV8 was a big one for me.” But Fong didn’t start to make her own work until she was 29, saying it was a massive shift for her to decide what she wanted to say. Snag Project was Fong’s collaboration with two choreographers – Sarah Wassop and Cath James -- working at the Royal Opera House, creating alternative dance events. They made new work every year for a while, which was she considers, with hindsight, ‘luxurious’. “I enjoyed learning and still do”, Fong says. But a difficult period with a company, “it was me not them”, she stresses, made her re-evaluate what she wanted to do: “I wanted more risk-taking... I had to go and put my thoughts out there.” Fong still had a verbal communication problem: “I had people who would talk for me so I didn’t have to. I was happy with that, it was safe.” To address this, she took a Ways Into Text course at London’s City Lit. “I’d go there once a week and make a complete tit of myself”, Fong laughs at the memory. Then she went to work with various theatre companies, choosing those that wanted to mix it up and to create more visual things. “It’s expressive isn’t it? Doing The Bacchae, being ‘Ecstatic Woman’ – it’s great fun, it’s a release. And I got better: devising work; teaching; it’s all performance, isn’t it?” Coming to Wales was a split decision: “I was looking west because London was doing my head in, and then the bombs went off (7/11). My partner lived in Gloucestershire and I wanted to nab him. Then the job came up with National Dance Wales (NDW), and I wanted to help them change things [as they made the shift from Diversions to NDW].

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Features Jo Fong Silent Witness

I totally fell in love with them all – when you see performers coming on and they make these leaps you get terribly proud.” And she seems settled now: “I love Wales – as soon as I got here I felt it too – rugby, fighting for the little country – they have made me very welcome. The work I’m making now is about making connections – it’s not effortful.” Fong left NDW three years ago but still teaches there. And since then she has had time to get to grips with what she wants to do, processing past experiences and building a collaborative approach. “I guess one of the tipping points was working with Quarantine Theatre in Manchester – they were great, the ethos, working with real life stories. I guess what I do is the same but different – playing with the idea of in-between performance and reality. Quarantine shows are really different, I had a few affirmations.” When she met artist Heloise Godfrey who was working on Moving Narratives, “She said ‘my work’s about people’ and I thought, ‘that’s what I do’.”I ask her how Witness – Portraits of Women Who Dance came about and she pauses, considers: “It’s to do with the dancer’s voice not always being said – put out in the world. A dancer’s relationship with the body, no-one seems to understand it. There were some dancers I was really interested in. I thought, ‘I really want to know you, what makes you tick’. Really interesting dancers. I saw a bit of myself in each of them: Ino [Riga], her work ethic, wanting to be right; Eeva [Eava-Maria Mutka], so attuned and grounded, rootsy. So there’s a piece about how she’s a complete opposite. Her relationship with dance is part of her life, who she is. Annabeth [Berkeley] has all the doubt, she says ‘I want to be good’. “I’d like to think that the piece has [even] more

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layers. I spent six days with each dancer to get to know them, get them talking, get a camera in front of their faces all the time, so they got used to it. I wanted to be on the knife edge of real performance, wanted to make a dance portrait of them in this moment in time.” The filmed portraits reflect on the idea of theatre as a rehearsed life, about what is dancing, about pretending and the idea of performing. “I did fall in love with each one of them”, Fong smiles. “They were so generous but they wanted to be asked. They wanted to be honest – how can you be honest in front of the camera?” The filming process was complex, timeconsuming. A ten-minute dance solo could take forty minutes to get from start to finish as the dancers investigates the creative process and how to make it work, finding an honesty and capturing the texture of performance. “I was really moved by what they revealed”, Fong says. Having completed the filming, she was overwhelmed by the responsibility of what she had done: “I left it on the shelf for ages. Then early one morning I said, ‘I need a notepad!’ With every edit you can mistranslate. The word ‘dignity’ came up. I wanted to show them ordinary and extraordinary – really delicate [expressions of doubt]. It was playing with people’s lives.” Winding up, I ask Fong why it was important for her to make and show these film portraits – this portrait at this moment in time? “It’s important because it accesses the idea that ‘I will change the moment I leave’ and to have something fixed – the layers behind that.” — CCQ Witness – Portraits of Women Who Dance opened at The Sherman Theatre, Cardiff on 26 Sept and is touring around Wales and the UK.

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Features Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney Uncertain Terrain – The Garden

Uncertain Terrain –The Garden As part of an exhibition tour in India, Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney of University of Wales Trinity St Davids, exhibited in Jawahar Kala Kendra, Jaipur Art Centre. Professor Liggins talked to us about the liberating power of photography, sharing an aesthetic and the challenges of long distance framing. Interview & portrait: Ric Bower Uncertain Terrain – The Garden was an exhibition of large-scale photographic prints by Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney, shown at The Jaipur Arts Centre and The Gallery, British Council Delhi in the summer of 2013. It continues to tour. A selection of images are shown on the following pages

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My prints were 21” squares with a considerable white surround so, to save on shipping costs we sent the prints on ahead of us to be framed locally. When we arrived in Jaipur Art Centre I noticed that I was ten images down. I eventually found the missing work leaning on the wall on the opposite side of the gallery. They’d been heavily cropped to fit some oblong frames that had been sourced for the exhibition and I had walked right by them without even recognising them. There was no way of reprinting them over there in the time, so we took a gamble and instructed the framer to crop the brutalised prints further, bringing them back to square. Strangely the images didn’t seem to suffer from their involuntary slimming regime, once they had been returned to their natural format. It seemed that the images required the rigidity of the square to remain legible, to prevent them from being too chaotic. In a strange way the experience was an affirmation of the unconventional approach I had been pursuing. My work is not aspiring towards representation, in the traditional sense, where the frame assumes the role of a ‘window onto another world’, instead my image frame acts as a robust box to contain a smorgasbord of visual clues and impressions, that have as much to do with what is outside the literal field of view, as they have to do with that which is actually caught up within it. I am not, of course, the first artist to be thinking in this way. From early 20th century impressionism, through to the allimmersive experience of first person shooter video games, this approach boasts a rich heritage. It’s a heritage within landscape photography that has been browbeaten, however, by a 300 year old hegemony of Cartesian perspectival thinking and all of the fixed viewpoint, Enlightenment baggage that brings with it. I realised that there is simply no such thing as a true objective viewpoint. My work is deliberately further contained within the boundaries of the domestic garden rather than the broader landscape as a whole. I could never separate myself from the environment in which I

work. So I try to create landscapes to look out from, rather than a landscape to look out at. Sarah and I conducted workshops in India, whilst the exhibition was on, in the art centre’s lovely gardens. We started with 20 students and by the last day, rather wonderfully, the number had risen to 80. We challenged the students to take pictures as though they were a bee, a snake, or a dog, or even a small child. Many of them, although the approach was new to them, with just a small amount of encouragement, really took to it. At the time we didn’t realise that most of the students were from privileged backgrounds. Unfortunately we would have been unlikely to have had people from the bottom of the social hierarchy on a course such as this, held as it was, in an art gallery. There was a young man who attended, who had decided to take a year out to work with ‘economically challenged’ individuals, (within the context of the caste system, being underprivileged is not a coherent concept). He intended to take what he had learned with us to use in the photography workshops he was running. It was very exciting to me that, through him, the aesthetic we were exploring and inviting others to explore would be reaching a little deeper into the rich complexity of Indian culture through one of our participants. I have been involved in photography for a long time now and what continually draws me back to it is its naturally democratic character. Perhaps because it is all pervasive, it is everything to everyone it contains within it the capacity to give a voice to those who have been silenced. I love how photography empowers people both to examine the world and to examine themselves. I talked to the Indian students about photography not needing to be like writing a dry, descriptive report but it could instead be a process of poetic questioning. I am very interested in how 18th century picturesque aesthetics, which we have, for the most part, accepted as the ‘correct’ way in which to appreciate and represent landscape and how that, in turn, it has dictated how we bestow value

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on our contemporary environment. Aesthetic values become very real when we are considering where to place our next wind farm for instance. I guess this has made me interested in working with areas that do not obviously adhere to the picturesque stereotypes – lowland peat bogs, or the hedge at the bottom of my road for example. I wondered how photography could be used to challenge this aesthetic hierarchy. Gender plays its part in this thinking as the traditional viewpoint is generally considered that of the male hunter. I would argue that women have always been amidst and intimately connected with their landscape. One of my earlier exhibitions was entitled On the Beaten Track; I didn’t travel far from the lane or path to take my photographs. I’m a pragmatic idealist I guess. I’m pragmatic in that I want the aesthetics in the work to operate effectively and usefully in the context of the environmental and ontological concerns that I try to address. I’m also pragmatic as to how the physicality of the camera, the film and the print can give voice to the metaphysical concerns of being and the value we, as human beings, place on landscape and our environment. We have lost enough hedgerows, in the last 50 years, to go round the world seven times. We’ve also lost 95% of our lowland peat bogs, this is on-going and I feel that my visual aesthetic should aspire to engage with some of these issues. The environmental organisation Common Ground’s manifesto says: Attempts should not be made to reduce local distinctiveness to an essence. It is a compound thing and a messy one, as well as being dynamic, hence its elusiveness. It cannot be summarised. It may be variegated from within, but have unity and integrity in the mingling of its parts. I am fascinated by the possibility of recording this compound messiness in the midst of other people’s domesticity in the future, whether it is in Jaipur or in Bangor, it is all interesting to me... — CCQ

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Features Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney Uncertain Terrain – The Garden

Untitled, Andrea Liggins

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Untitled, Andrea Liggins

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Features Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney Uncertain Terrain – The Garden

Untitled, Andrea Liggins

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Untitled, Andrea Liggins

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Features Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney Uncertain Terrain – The Garden

Untitled, Andrea Liggins

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Untitled, Andrea Liggins

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Features Andrea Liggins and Sarah Tierney Uncertain Terrain – The Garden

Untitled, Sarah Tierney

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Untitled, Sarah Tierney

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Art Across A City Swansea-based Locws International has been bringing art to the City in a wide variety of settings and contexts since 2000. As they present another clutch of projects Gordon Dalton, Locws project manager, reflects in what they have done. Image: The Two Billionth, One Hundred and Forty-Seven Millionth, Four Hundred and Eighty-Three Thousandth, Six Hundred and Forty-Seventh, Singleton Park, Swansea, 2013, Juneau Projects, Commissioned by Locws International for Art Across The City.

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Over the past 13 years, the people of Swansea have seen all manner of things come and go in the name of public art: a giant pencil made from a tree; inflatable cacti on the beach; a plane ride over Swansea; a giant stiletto-shaped boat; and the Sail Bridge being part of an all singing, all dancing performance. The city has played host to cartoon versions of Bonnie Tyler; a video game featuring the Swansea Devil; singing dogs; and a sculpture of a child dressed as a bird. The people of Swansea have witnessed Pete Fowler’s nine-metre high portrait of Dylan Thomas, flanked by horned horses, cosmic owls, UFOs, swans and a couple of very pink octopuses. Further down Swansea High Street, all eyes are drawn towards two giant gold palm trees by artist Sinta Tantra, arching across the façade above Volcano Theatre. With over 100 temporary and permanent commissions to date, the Swansea public has seen a wide and diverse range of artworks commissioned by Locws International under the Art Across The City banner. Moreover, in recent years, the public themselves have become integral to the success of the works by participating in the design, creation and successful delivery of artworks. Art Across the City does exactly what it says on the tin, with art being situated in highly visible locations across the city, where people live, work and socialise. In 2013 the participation in artworks across Swansea has been more prevalent than ever. Jacob Dahlgren’s oversized placards in the Amphitheatre are the culmination of a series of community workshops. Dahlgren led participants on an artistic procession through a sunny Swansea, creating a curious spectacle that involved the wider public. The work acts as an optimistic, artistic protest; and the Amphitheatre provides a peaceful place for contemplation. Laura Sorvala’s Swansea:

A Viewing, is her largest work to date, an 8ft x 8ft cube capturing the many different voices and stories of Swansea. Sorvala asked various groups, communities and individuals for their thoughts about the city, which she then used as inspiration for the drawings. A live drawing event in the city centre, with the participants and general public completing the work, brought it full circle. Juneau Projects are artists Philip Duckworth and Ben Sadler. Their idiosyncratic take on nature, technology, music and art comes to Swansea in the shape of five plywood sculptures attached to a copse of trees in Singleton Park. The Juneaus, well known for their public events and competitions, held a family picnic in the park, which was the background for a strange hybrid of fancy dress, jousting and bird spotting. The people of Swansea, well-accustomed to the work of Locws, took all this in their stride and made the work, and its location, a site for future events. Matthew Houlding’s sculpture has perhaps the least public participation, but has certainly captured the public’s imagination with its mixture of modernist sculpture and futuristic monument. If all that wasn’t enough, there is more to come. 2014 will see Art Across The City on an even grander scale, with over 25 temporary and permanent works on display as part of the Locws International’s Biennale for Wales. Public Art is important, allowing us to see the city in many different ways and from various and diverse viewpoints. We have built up a trust with the public, one that hopefully allows us to take risks, and to make people curious about their city. Art Across The City harnesses that trust and public art’s importance, making it impossible to ignore. — CCQ Art Across The City 2013 runs from 6th Sept – 6th Oct.

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It Was Never Going To Be Straightforward Artist-led space g39 was set up in Cardiff’s city centre in 1998 to give emerging artists a platform for their work. Ten years later they planned a book to celebrate their first decade, but this was no easy proposition. In 2013, after moving across the city to vast, new premises in Roath, the resulting book is much more than just an historic record. Artist, curator and g39 founder Anthony Shapland explains why it was never going to be straightforward. Untitled, 2012, Llŷr Williams, commissioned by g39 for It Was Never Going To Be Straightforward

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The paper trail is running out. Images of everything that has ever happened have multiplied online and all it takes for the pixels of a thousand documents to disappear is a crash. I like to think they join other pixels waiting to be used to form another document, to be shaped again into other words. Back-up, restore, software update, incompatible documents. Update your java settings. Parse error, buffering. Error 404 page not found. Before it all existed online – rootless, but in a tree of folders or a cloud – there were paper versions, prints, handwritten lists and proposals. It’s hard to believe that back in 1997 we were still waiting for Google; Facebook appeared in 2004 and until 2006 tweets were for the birds. g39 had nothing but a typewriter and press releases had as much Tippex on them as they had ink. The artist-run scene was flexible, fleeting and adaptable. Then, fliers were photocopied, shows documented on slide and a filing cabinet housed it all. Physical invitations changed hands and proposals were printed. Now, it seems, globally these artist-run spaces are archiving like mad, trawling scraps of paper and preview photographs and making connections between things. With hindsight, we can identify a movement or direction

that somehow we might not have seen before. Laying out and analysing our history – being in charge of our own myth – has allowed us to move into a new phase. It Was Never Going To Be Straightforward is a compendium of the first thirteen years of the g39 project. It’s part archive, part commission and it attempts to lay out how and why the project came into existence. It is not a straightforward read; our history wasn’t always neat or ordered. It is a physical document that has the whiff of printing ink and a whole load of stuff that may give a picture of what we did and hint at how that affects what we do. The whole project happened because an accumulation of artists, volunteers, creatives and audiences enabled it to happen. There are things we would never do again, things we are proud of and things we wished we had done more of. — CCQ You can buy a copy of It Was Never Going To Be Straightforward at Anthony Shapland’s solo exhibition The Unremark will be at Goat Major Projects throughout October.

An Independent Perspective on the Arts

For more features join us at — 65


John Gingell: A Life on the Cusp The late John Gingell had a lasting impact on the development of performance art in Wales, but is probably best known for his striking public art project on an electricity sub station. Richard Huw Morgan found out more at a talk for the inaugural exhibition and award in his name at g39. Image: Green Rocks under Saint Petersburg, John Gingell

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At the North East corner of the old Cardiff Bay Development Corporation fiefdom sits one of the most physically striking of Cardiff’s public art works. On the cusp between architecture and art; an amalgam of form and function, and wonderfully titled Blue Flash, Power Box and Mesh Chips is the work of the late John Gingell, artist and educator. Unlike many of Cardiff’s public artworks which are in various states of decay, this has been recently, partially refurbished, and stands as a permanent legacy to Gingell’s adopted city. I’d known little of the artist himself, or of his other work, before the Exhibition Talk: John Gingell - A Legacy by Professor Heike Roms. Hosted by g39 in their impressive Oxford Lane gallery in Roath, the talk was part of the exhibition programme for the inaugural John Gingell Award, this year featuring Toby Huddlestone and Alan Goulbourne. Rom’s What’s Welsh for Performance? research initiative at Aberystwyth University has revealed Gingell as one of the most important figures in the development of Performance Art in Wales. Gingell arrived in Cardiff as part of Tom Hudson’s new regime at Cardiff College of Art in the late 1960’s; a regime that was to see Cardiff become a major centre for progressive arts education, not least in the then newly emerging area of Performance Art. Hudson had been part of a new form of teaching, latterly known as “basic design”. Basic design was a move away from previous art school practices that had focused on craft ideals and, instead, pioneered the notion of teaching a common visual literacy to all students, no matter what their previous backgrounds or future intended specialisms. This was a conscious effort by the college to gain academic credence for arts practices. They focused on the fundamentals of visual language; point; line; and colour; combined with other disciplines such as art history, psychology and sociology. What they also got, in Gingell, was a young

educator and artist imbued with the revolutionary spirit of the age. Not much older than many of his students, yet employed by an Institution, he turned to collaborative performance, involving both students and other staff members, under the title Myself and Others, which allowed them to engage in dialogue, to fluidly investigate the roles of teacher and student. The introduction of these time-based performance elements -- the inclusion of action, gesture, communication and language in the organisation of basic design elements led to the establishment of Cardiff College of Art’s Third Area in the early 70’s. This established Cardiff’s international reputation at the forefront of Performance Art in the UK, and indeed worldwide, a reputation enhanced in later years through the Space Workshop and Time-based department both employing and producing many internationally-respected artists. Gingell’s performance work was not limited to the confines of the Art College. Most notably the 1970 performance Remember Sharpeville, made in both Cardiff and Trafalgar Square, took the form of a spontaneous public demonstration, but the extensive choreography that survives in note form would probably have today’s forces of law and order reaching for the Terrorism Act! Heike Rom’s research is providing many fascinating insights into the most transitory of art forms. Through digitizing existing materials, interviewing those actively involved in creating Performance, and by making it available through the project’s website, the influence of the work continues. In some ways it is the digital equivalent of the refurbishment of Blue Flash – a re-presentation of art-work for contemporary audiences, though in the case of performance, a history of work that was never fixed or certain, but, like Gingell is profound in its impact. — CCQ


Drama, gigs, dawns, panto a mwy, ewch i Drama, gigs, dance, panto and more, visit

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Experimentica 2013: Born Under A Bad Sign Chapter Arts Centre 6 - 10 November Tim Bromage, 2013, photograph:, Kusa

This November, Experimentica, the key festival for presenting new performance, installation, film, video, sonic art, dance, theatre and interdisciplinary arts, celebrates its thirteenth birthday. In true Experimentica style, it revels in a traditionally unlucky number.

“If it wasn’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all” Albert King, Born Under A Bad Sign During the five days of Experimentica, over thirty artists will be embracing and celebrating failure, risk, chance, the experimental, good and bad luck - from guided tours of the birthplaces of experimental performance to Elvis impersonators; abject storytelling to mythical folk law and on to inverted silent cinema; projections; music; comedy; pathos; lost ideas; burnt artwork and quite possibly a piano smashing. Artists include: Kathryn Ashill, Nigel Barrett & Louise Mari, Richard Bowers, Tim Bromage, Roy Brown, Holly Davey, Cian Donnelly, Ben EwartDean, Matthew de Kersaint Giraudeau, good cop bad cop, S Mark Gubb, Samuel Hasler, Mamoru Iriguchi, Richard James & Anthony Shapland, Jerusalem In My Heart, Pil & Galia Kollectiv, Almut Linde, Nicholas McArthur & Robert Molly Vaughan, Mike Pearson & Heike Roms and more. — CCQ

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Ticketing £25 Festival Pass £10 per day £5 per individual event Tickets and passes are available online and at the Chapter box office +44 (0)29 2030 4400 /

For more previews join us at — 69


Let’s See What Happens A Glynn Vivian Offsite project. Various venues, Swansea 28 September – 3 November 2013 Let’s see what happens… is a Glynn Vivian Art Gallery Offsite exhibition, curated by Karen MacKinnon and featuring the work of seven artists, four from Wales and three from China. Held across six venues in Swansea city centre, it will demonstrate a variety of working methods, including painting, performance, video installation and socially engaged practice. Each space is distinct from the other, but every artist’s work is connected by their shared experience of spending time together in Swansea, Xiamen and Shanghai. The exhibition revolves around the conversations they shared about their work, their lives, the places they live in, their diverse artistic methods and their exchange of ideas. Artists: Tim Davies, Yingmei Duan, Paul Emmanuel, Owen Griffiths, Maleonn, Fern Thomas, Zeng Huanguang


A Glynn Vivian Offsite exhibition in partnership with Coastal Housing, Elysium Gallery, Mission Gallery, Ragged School, Swansea Market and YMCA Swansea. 03

All events are free. Please see for details of venues and opening times


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This page: Marketplace, Owen Griffiths


Happy Yingmei, Haywood Gallery, Yingmei Duan


Chase (Xiamen), Tim Davies


Bellinhand, The sound of a temple from six thousand miles away, Fern Thomas

An Independent Perspective on the Arts

The Rivalry of Flowers – Shani Rhys James Aberystwyth Arts Centre 12 November 2013 – 11 January 2014 Blue Top, 2013, oil on canvas, 183cm x244 cm, Shani Rhys James

To say that Shani Rhys James’ paintings are simply of flowers or self portraits would be like declaring that Van Gogh painted cornfields and Munch’s The Scream is about someone having a big shout. There are dark undercurrents and multiple layers in the work of this artist who, having celebrated her sixtieth birthday this year, is as prolific and powerful as ever. She returns to Aberystwyth Arts Centre with a new body of work– paintings and the automata that echo the themes and concerns that recur in her canvasses: childhood memories that are definitely not of the Enid Blyton variety; the claustrophobia of domesticity and the complexity of human relationships.

The Rivalry of Flowers Shani Rhys James: a monograph published by Seren accompanies this exhibition Aberystwyth University, Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth SY23 3DE

Opening times: Mon - Wed 10am - 5pm Thu - Sat 10am - 8pm Sun 1pm - 5pm Free Admission

For more previews join us at — 71


Tonypandemonium National Theatre of Wales Parc & Dare Theatre, Treorchy 10 – 19 October 2013. 7.30pm Raucous, raunchy, hilarious and heartbreaking , the first play by Dylan Thomas Prize author Rachel Trezise, tells the story of a daughter’s fraught, decade-spanning relationship with her beautiful, fun-loving alcoholic mother. ‘You just know it’s going to be one of those nights. She’s on the change. I’m on my period. Hormonal teenager and neurotic mother under one terraced roof? My father’s got a word for it: Tonypandemonium.’ Part of National Theatre Wales’ Made in Treorchy Residency at The Park & Dare. Station Road, Treorchy, Mid Glamorgan, CF42 6NL Box office t: 08000 147111

Portal 2013 Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre 14 September – 09 November The exhibition features the pick of this year’s UK graduates in the applied arts, focussing on those who are pushing the boundaries of applied art whilst maintaining and developing the traditions of their craft. Artists: Penny Allen, Luisa Cacciotti, Rachel Cartledge, Debbie Claxton, Danielle Davies, Chloe Emma, Jessica Frost, Katie Gamble, Sally Garner, Danielle Guess, Harriet King, Rhona McCallum, Kelly Munro, Corin Nesbit, Katie Owen, Helen Edith Pritchard, Will Schofield, Liv Thrane and Penny Wheeler St David’s Rd, Cwmbrân, Torfaen NP44 1PD

Open Monday – Friday 9.30 - 5pm.


Alice in Wonderland Volcano Theatre Company Lewis Carroll’s exquisitely deranged tale of childhood, misunderstanding and adventure.

“It’s all about as curious as it can be.” Plummet into an upside-down world where familiar things are made strange, with enchanting, hilarious and horrifying results. Alice in Wonderland is about the behaviour of one generation seen through the eyes of another. It is about the everyday monstrousness of the world around us. Volcano’s “brave, stupid and beautiful” brand of theatre is an explosive and colourful match for Lewis Carroll’s exquisitely deranged tale of childhood, misunderstanding and adventure. Volcano brings you an all-woman cast and an older-than-usual Alice, and the strangeness of the world she encounters is rooted in the insanities of our own. Approach the world with a child’s sense of wonder and plunge down the rabbit-hole into a 21st-century asylum, full of ambition, distraction, uglification and derision.

Alice in Wonderland will be touring the UK from 30 September 2013. For the full schedule of venues and dates

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An Independent Perspective on the Arts

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This Page Ashleigh Packham, photograph: Sophie Harris Taylor Previous Page The Beach Woman, Audrey Walker


Rendezvous Goldsmiths Ruthin Craft Centre 21 September – 1 December 2013 This major exhibition, curated by June Hill, celebrates the work of Goldsmiths College Textile Department during the period 1975-88 when Audrey Walker was Head of Textiles. Rendezvous Goldsmiths marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of her retirement after thirteen years in post – and her subsequent move to live and work in west Wales. The exhibition is a celebration of the impact her period of tenure had on staff and students alike and of its continuing influence on UK textile practice. Some 25 years later, it is clear that this was a very special time which involved an exceptional group of people as both staff and students. It features a mix of new works and classic pieces from over 30 seminal makers. Artists include Jeanette Appleton, Heather Belcher, Michael Brennand-Wood, Dawn Dupree, Matthew Harris, Rozanne Hawksley, James Hunting, Alice Kettle, Mary Restieaux, Lynn Setterington, Eirian and Dennis Short, with new work from Audrey Walker. Ruthin Craft Centre, The Centre for Applied Art, Park Road, Ruthin. Denbighshire LL15 1BB

Gallery open daily 10 - 5.30. Free admission. For more previews join us at — 73


Hearth and Home Oriel Myrddin, Carmarthen 9 November– 30 December 2013 Oriel Myrddin is well known for its support of high quality applied art and design. In the run-up to Christmas, the gallery will invite visitors to shake the snow off their boots and join them for a winter exhibition of selected works, featuring textiles, ceramics, wood and metal by artists and makers from across Wales and beyond with a focus on the cosy, warm and beautifully crafted. Artists and makers include: Peter Bodenham, Blodwen, Silvia Kamodyova, Cassandra Lishman, Sian O’Doherty, Diana Heeks, Anne Catrin Evans, Tamsin Abbott, Llynfi Textiles, Cornelius van Dop and Katie Victoria Davies Church Lane, Carmarthen SA31 1LH. t: +44 (0) 1267 222 775

Gallery open 10am-5pm. Mon-Sat (closed bank holidays). Free admission.

Pridd Theatr Genedlaethol Touring across Wales 06 – 29 November 2013 Alwyn Tomos - or Handy Al to all the local children – returns home one afternoon to find his whole world is topsy turvy and nothing is as it seems. The phone is ringing, there are strangers at the door, but everything around him has turned to earth. “Excuse me! You haven’t by any chance seen something that makes sense around the place have you? It’s called ‘me’. No! Thank you very much. Sorry to have troubled you.” Directed by Sara Lloyd, Pridd is a new Welsh-language play for one actor by Aled Jones Williams, with Owen Arwyn as Handy Al. Access packages will be available for welsh learners, as well as English synopsis. These will be available at the performance venues and on the Theatr Genedlaethol web site.


Chelsea Hotel Earthfall Various Venues 01 October – 05 December Throughout the last century, the Chelsea Hotel in New York was home to some of the American arts scene’s most colourful characters: Andy Warhol, Dylan Thomas, Bob Dylan, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jane Fonda, Patti Smith, Jack Kerouac and Arthur Miller, to name just a few. Earthfall’s voyeuristic discovery of the inhabitants of the infamous hotel their loves and longings – is touring again across England and Wales. Through radical dance, music and film with four dancers and three musicians, Earthfall’s Chelsea Hotel captures the essence of this rebel artists’ Mecca and the spirit of those characters that lived their complicated and chaotic lives in the hotel. Every room has a story to tell.

For tour details go to

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An Independent Perspective on the Arts


Dylan Thomas 100 In 2014 there will be a year-long festival of events to mark the centenary of Dylan Thomas’ birth and CCQ will be following the programme that will be delivered by over 20 partners across a wide range of venues.

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Opposite Page Photograph: Julian Castaldi This page Portrait of the Artist as a Young Octopus, 2013, Pete Fowler. Commissioned for 58 High St, Swansea by Locws International for Art Across The City 2013

Overleaf is a preview of the first project at the Amgueddfa Cymru/National Museum Cardiff.

For more previews join us at — 75


Llaregubb: Peter Blake illustrates Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood Amgueddfa Cymru/National Museum Cardiff 23 November 2013 - 16 March 2014 As part of the year-long Dylan Thomas 100 festival to mark the centenary of Thomas’ birth, the National Museum Cardiff will show new, unseen works by Sir Peter Blake. It will feature over 200 watercolours, collages and drawings of the characters that inhabit sleepy Llareggub, the fictional town in Dylan Thomas’ play Under Milk Wood. The exhibition will be a celebration of Thomas’ most enduring work and is the culmination of a 25 year project by Blake. It will be accompanied by a programme of events, including a special evening lecture and conversation with Blake, readings, a performance and a programme of learning activities for educational groups. Cathays Park, Cardiff CF10 3NP Open 10am–5pm Tuesday – Sunday Admission Free

For a full schedule of events visit

Image: Mother is Making Welsh Cakes in the Snow, Sir Peter Blake

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An Independent Perspective on the Arts

The Wonderful World of Rodney Peppé Mission Gallery, Swansea 16 November - 05 January 2014 This Ruthin Craft Centre Exhibition curated by Barley Roscoe is opening a window on the world one of Britain’s most charming and talented artists. Rodney Peppé’s Wonderful World is a million miles away from the technology driven hubbub of our modern lives. It will charm and delight adults and children alike. The humorous and quintessentially British exhibits represent Peppé’s creative life; from his early days as a graphic designer in London’s 1960’s advertising world, through to a wealth of charming children’s books which he wrote and illustrated. Running concurrently throughout his visual and written work is his amazing collection of hand crafted models, toys and automata. This exhibition will focus on the Mice Series. A 72 page Ruthin Craft Centre Publication, The Wonderful World of Rodney Peppé, accompanies this exhibition. Gloucester Place, Maritime Quarter, Swansea SA1 1TY T: +44(01792 652016


This page Kettleship, 1982,Model for The Kettleship, Pirates, Viking Kestrel (1983), Rodney Peppé

For more previews join us at — 77


Black History Month Wales – Unity Through Music Various venues throughout Wales. Showcase event at the Wales Millennium Centre 19 October from 10am Black History Month Wales Grand Finale 2012, photograph; Inga K

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This year sees Black History Month (BHM) Wales coincide with the World Music Expo (WOMEX) coming to Cardiff and the organisers have focused a whole host of activities around the theme of music from the African Diaspora. With WOMEX drawing attention to the diversity of cultures and traditions that makes the global music scene as vibrant as it is today, ‘Unity through Music’ promises to be a timely celebration of the great contribution music from Wales’ African Diaspora makes towards this overall scene. Based on previous year’s figure, over 10,000 people are anticipated to attend a lively

programme of over 100 events across Wales throughout October, linked together through the title ‘Unity through Music: the Rhythm of the Diaspora’ for the sixth pan-Wales BHM. With special commissions, workshops and a photographic exhibition at St David’s Hall by Inga K, there’ll be a live music showcase at the Wales Millennium Centre (WMC) on October 19th, which will mark five years of partnership between BHM and the WMC. For full listings please see Join CCQ On-line for more original features, news, reviews, previews, listings and lots more. Subscribe, advertise and add your listings & comments.


Awakening (a poem about having Asperger’s Syndrome) Many a penny too many for countin’, piled up into the flooded fountain, Crafting up a mini-mountain of wishes for stitches upon my soul. My condition was akin to conscription, my mind was caught in the crossfire: Hunger, addiction, to rid my affliction was but my only desire. Truth be told I fell into that fountain, I was sinking, sleeping, dreaming, Drowning in white noise, the hieroglyph, foreign script that emits beyond just lips, Tone unknown, an illegible drone, distorting and contorting all meaning; Masking initial odours of feeling, I was kneeling - for wrong words meant execution. So I bowed my head at night, praying to dispel social slaying, praying For a rebirth, for a mere glance at a second chance, for a new me, to be free… Father said I was just a naughty boy, it wouldn’t last, oh how that forked tongue lashed, I mean - the words he spoke of my diagnosis were infectious, like a foul hypnosis, They tunnelled in like worms under skin, funnelled those faecal thoughts within; Resistance to assistance, put in a prison where the warden never listens Introvert in an ivory tower. And yet Eccentricity became electricity, an energy fuelling me; Intoxicated by idiosyncrasy I gulped it down and I found A crown, a new decree rising from the fertile soil beneath my skull and With this new sense of self-affection, I smash the mirror of past perception, The fragments were figments of a past hindrance, a new man made in an instant. I was a cuckoo in a cocoon, my heart the chrysalis crystallised Walls broke, out blew my resurrection, my light, igniting the sparks of new life These were the lessons of my adolescence, look at me now, in tune with my essence. Johnny Giles

In a room full of hastily stacked and not-quite-teetering books and papers, which loom behind bedspreads, a salon has been created. Young and notso-young, with their Babel of accents and folders and notebooks and scraps of paper, balance on the just-moved-in sofas and gathered-in chairs. Or they sit on the floor, topping up glasses of all-night garage wine and beer brewed with oysters. Smoke rises. Cup cakes begin to sweat. We wait for our hostess, the birthday girl, who has gathered together this unlikely group. No-one wants to go first, so we talk about paranormal activity and wonder if oysters brewed in beer have a happier end, or have souls or cosmic vibrations. We didn’t know how to dress for a salon in a cheap suburb. Queen Mab, in lace and pearls, finally chivvies a reading, then another. Doesn’t want to go first and must be cajoled to read at all. Shy and benevolent at the same time. More smoke rises with applause to the ceiling. Confidence soars as we wander from Dickensian London to the waitress who hates her customer and on. A condition that is not a definition, as Johnny spins around to explain; the impossibility of super-ness, round and round as glasses are drained and no-one wants to make the final trip to the garage for more booze. At last the cakes are demolished and we leave a fuggy room, strewn with crumbs and the beginnings of new allegiances, to go off into the Cardiff night. – EG

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An Independent Perspective on the Arts

Imperial (inspired by Welsh Wildflower Day at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, and the royal birth) I am trying to find the beauty in you, buttercup. I am looking only at your golden heads. I am attempting to forget what the expert said: That your species is invasive. That your style is ‘creeping’. That your taste is acrid. That your sap can cause blistering. You carry your poison so prettily, You are lovely to behold, intermingled With the daisies, as if you were one of them. As if you could ever be ‘common’. You will live for a thousand years And gradually those daisies will be crowded out. You will block the light from them, put them in the shade, Steal the soil’s potassium from beneath their roots, Secrete toxic chemicals from your own that They will drink, unknowingly. Thinking that you are a friend. They will feed it to their children and their children Will become weak. You will smile as their heads grow limp, As each generation is born smaller, feebler. One day, there won’t be any births at all. And still the passersby will look at you And marvel at your pretty golden heads, So many of them, like cups, reflecting the sunlight From above, so beautiful, full only of themselves. The soil beneath now richer than it ever was. Mab Jones

For more commissions join us at — 81


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9 772053 688009

ISSN 2053-6887

Shani Rhys James Two exhibitions in Aberystwyth celebrating 30 years of the work of...


14th February – 23rd May 2015 National Library of Wales Penglais, Aberystwyth SY23 3BU 01970 632 818


17th January – 14th March 2015 Ceredigion Museum Coliseum Ffordd y Môr, Aberystwyth SY23 2AQ 01970 633086


published by H’mm Foundation on 14th February 2015 with texts by Dai Smith, Iwan Bala, Francesca Rhydderch, Emma Geliot and Peter Lord


Carlos Bunga Inga Burrows Alison Crocetta Sean Edwards James Richards Clare Woods

A Flourish of Festivals Bristol . Cardiff . Helsinki . Manchester . Seoul . St Petersburg

Issue 5

ARTIST ROOMS Francesca Woodman 15 November / Tachwedd 2014 25 February / Chwefror 2015 Oriel Davies Gallery, The Park | Y Parc, Newtown | Y Drenewydd, Powys, SY16 2NZ T: +44(0)1686 625041 E: Mon- Sat 10am - 5pm | Llun - Sadwrn 10yb - 5yh Admission free | Mynediad am Ddim Francesca Woodman, Untitled, 1975-80, Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 109 x 109mm. Š Courtesy of George and Betty Woodman ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Acquired jointly through The d'Offay Donation with assistance from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Art Fund 2008

—The Editor— Editor: Emma Geliot Deputy Editor: Ric Bower Art Director: Jonathan Morris Sales & Assistant Editor: Rhiannon Lowe Web Development: Jo Jet Distribution Manager: Lauren Jury Chief Sub Editor: David Sinden

—Cover Images—

CCQ Magazine Chapter Market House Market Road Cardiff CF5 1QE 029 20398510 @CCQmag Distribution CoMag Specialist, 01895 433600 Central Books, 0845 4589911 Editor Deputy Editor General Enquiries Advertising

Common Parts, Clare Woods, 150 x 100, oil on aluminium, 2014

Distribution Subscriptions Printed by: Zenith Media

Untitled, Paul Avis, commissioned by CCQ for Cardiff Contemporary 2014

The year is turning, whichever part of the world you’re in and whatever the weather. Wherever you are, we hope you’re excited by the clean slate 2015 offers. At CCQ we are always excited about something or other, and in this issue it’s artists and curators who are pushing at the boundaries of their practice. We’ve got Turner Prize nominee, James Richards; National Eisteddfod gold medallist sculptor Sean Edwards; sculptor-turned-painter, Clare Woods; sculptor-turned-performance-artistturned filmmaker, Alison Crocetta; painter-turnedsculptor; Artes Mundi 6 shortlisted artist, Carlos Bunga and filmmaker Inga Burrows turned… well you decide how to define her latest project. In our series of interviews, we try to get to the root of how artists think, those synaptic leaps across the creative brain that trigger art-making. We also meet the man who plans to transform the creative programme of one of Wales’ architectural icons into something ambitious, collaborative and ultimately far reaching – Graeme Farrow, new (ish) artistic director of the Wales Millennium Centre sets out his ambitious vision. Pretty much everything in our lives is the result of some kind of design input. Curator Ceri Jones takes a look at the state of design in Wales and we give you part two of Carolyn Black’s overview of The Promise and PARADISE – approaches to art in the public realm. Then our response section goes festival-mad, lifting the lid on some incredibly diverse events that loosely fit that description from Helsinki, to Russia, to Seoul and back home to Cardiff via Manchester and Bristol in time for tea. Join us on a vicarious trip around the globe from the comfort of your sofa. Though CCQ comes out of Wales, we embrace (some might say ‘actively stalk’) our creative diaspora and we’re always interested in artists, of all disciplines, who have something to share with us or are collaborating, visiting or somehow making those connections that keep the wheels turning. So please let us know if you’d like us to look at something you’re doing or you’ve seen that you think is really interesting. And do join us online to see reviews, news, previews and a whole lot more. Happy 2015 from all of us at CCQ!

Legals: As an arts magazine we take the intellectual property rights of our contributors very seriously. All copyright in this issue belongs to the authors or originators of the material and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the author. Unless otherwise stated, all material has been produced by or for CCQ Magazine. We take great care to ensure that information within the magazine is accurate and fair, but opinions stated within this issue are those of the author and not necessarily of CCQ Magazine or the publishers, Culture Colony Quarterly Magazine Ltd. If you find something that is inaccurate or misleading please let us know, and we will attempt to remedy any errors on our part at the earliest opportunity, either in print or on-line. Culture Colony Quarterly (CCQ) Magazine is published by Culture Colony Quarterly Magazine Ltd, a company limited by guarantee in England and Wales. Company no: 08634632


Corrections: When correcting Tara McInerney’s name in Issue 4, after having got it incorrect in the corrections in Issue 3, we once again got it wrong. Tara still loves us though, we think.

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DATAMOSH Paul R Jones & Guy Mayman 31. 01.2015 – 14. 03.2015 Oriel Wrecsam

Ffordd Rhosddu, Wrecsam // Rhosddu Road, Wrexham Llu/Mon-Gwe/Fri 09.30-17.30 & Sad/Sat 09.30-15.45 Chwilio am Oriel Wrecsam ar Facebook a Twitter am fwy o wybodaeth. For more information see Oriel Wrecsam on Facebook and Twitter F: /OrielWrecsam T: @OrielWrecsam W:


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— Contributors— Carolyn Black Carolyn Black has extensive experience of the arts sector – initially as an artist, then as a writer, educator, mentor, project manager and curator. For the last fourteen years she has been producing contemporary visual arts projects in unusual locations – beaches, woodlands, canal-sides and redundant buildings. Carolyn reports back once more for CCQ on The Promise and PARADISE, the joint projects between Arnofini and Trust New Art Bristol (p56). Phil Owen Phil is a musician and writer based in Bristol, where he also works as Research Assistant for Arnolfini. Together with Megan Wakefield, he co-founded Tertulia, a cross-disciplinary literary salon. Phil reviews Bristol Biennial for CCQ (p59). Ceri Jones As half of the partnership that is Fieldwork, Ceri works independently and with project teams on different arts initiatives. She is currently researching and curating practice for visual and applied arts exhibitions and engagement, with critical and

resource writing being part of that equation. At the moment, Fieldwork is managing the Family Arts Campaign in Wales and developing new partnership initiatives such as Cardiff Dance Festival. Ceri explores contemporary design for CCQ looking at the recent show she curated for Ruthin Craft Centre (p52). Sam Hasler Samuel Hasler lives and works in Cardiff. His approach to making artwork is varied, including writing, performance, printmaking and installations. He has recently presented work with Book Works (London), Hayward Gallery (London), Chapter (Cardiff), and Spike Island (Bristol). He interviews Sean Edwards for us (p38) James Tyson James Tyson is a theatre director, performer and writer. Recent works include International Performance Festival Cardiff (2014) He writes about Seoul Marginal Theatre Festival for us (p68)

Donna Lynas Donna Lynas has been director of Wysing Arts Centre since 2005 and has developed Wysing’s identity as a research centre for the visual arts, introducing experimental artists’ residencies and retreats, and commissioning and curating ambitious projects including the annual festival of art and music. Previously, Donna was curator at South London Gallery and Curator (1997-99) and touring exhibitions organiser (1995-1997) at Modern Art Oxford. She interviewed James Richards while he was in residence at Wysing (p10). Veronica Feeling Veronica Feeling is an artist, adventurer and liminal persona motivated by empty time, parallel lines, the works of Road Runner and the sound of creaking leather. After becoming the first person to ride a street bike across the Gobi Desert she is currently in Berlin learning her besser from her wurst. Veronica gives us her inimitable take on Manifesta (p76)

Art Central Oriel


yn rhaglennu nawr at/ now programming for 2016/17 Dydd Llun i ddydd Sadwrn/Monday to Saturday10:00 - 16:00 Neuadd y Dref, Sgwâr y Brenin Y Barri, CF63 4RW

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Town Hall, King Square, Barry Vale of Glamorgan, CF63 4RW


Thin Place Thin Place

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Exploring interconnections Exploringart, interconnections between literature, science between art, science and theology.literature, Curated by Ciara and theology. Curated by Ciara Healy and featuring Jonathan Healy and featuring Jonathan Anderson, Adam Buick, Ailbhe Anderson, Adam Buick, Ailbhe Ní Bhriain, Christine Mackey Ní Bhriain, Christine Mackey and Flora Parrott. and Flora Parrott.

Mediating a Thin Place: Mediating a bodolaeth Thin Place: agweddau at natur gydgysylltiedig agweddau natur gydgysylltiedig bodolaeth Dydd Sadwrnat28 Chwefror 2015 Dydd Sadwrn 28 Chwefrorgwyddonol, 2015 Meddylwyr ac ymarferwyr ysbrydol gwyddonol, ysbrydol aMeddylwyr chreadigol ac yn ymarferwyr trafod ein perthynas â lle a’r byd a chreadigol yngan trafod ein perthynas â lle a’r byd an-ddynol. £40 gynnwys cinio a chatalog. an-ddynol. £40 gan cinio a chatalog. Hyn a hyn o lefydd ar gynnwys gael. Cysylltwch â’r oriel i Hyn a hyn o lefydd arargael. Cysylltwch â’r oriel lawn i archebu. Edrychwch y wefan i weld rhaglen archebu. Edrychwch ar y wefan Symposiwm a digwyddiadau Thini weld Placerhaglen eraill. lawn Symposiwm a digwyddiadau Thin Place eraill.

approaches to the inter-connected existence Saturday 28 February 2015nature of existencespiritual, Saturdayand 28 February 2015 Scientific, creative thinkers and Scientific, spiritual, and creative thinkers and practitioners discuss our relationship with place practitioners discussworld. our relationship withlunch place and the non-human £40 including andcatalogue. the non-human world. £40 please including lunch the and Limited spaces, contact and catalogue. spaces, contact the gallery to book. Limited See website for please full symposium gallery to book. website forevents. full symposium programme andSee all Thin Place programme and all Thin Place events.

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Angharad Angharad Pearce Pearce Jones YYPram Pramyn ynyyCyntedd Cyntedd The The Pram in the Hall 77Mawrth MawrthMarch March –– 25 25 Ebrill Ebrill April 2015

Lôn y Llan / Church Lane, Caerfyrddin Lôn y Llan / Church Lane, Caerfyrddin/ Carmarthen / CarmarthenSA31 SA311LH 1LH

Oriel Oriel Myrddin Myrddin 01267 222775 • 01267 222775 • Gallery Gallery

Dydd Llun Dydd Sadwrn10—5 10—5• Monday • Monday– –Saturday Saturday10—5 10—5• Mynediad • Mynediadam amddim ddim• •Admission Admissionisisfree free Dydd Llun —— Dydd Sadwrn



Beauty & Dissonance – James Richards on source material and international sonic exchange




Southern Lines and Northern Lights – Ceri Jones design directions


Semi-detached – Clare Woods painting like a sculptor on the borderlands

A Promise of Paradise – Carolyn Black goes back to Bristol


Two Across the Severn – Two biennials, fifty miles apart in Bristol and Cardiff


A Temporal Architecture – Carlos Bunga transforming the museum (with cardboard and tape)


An Intellectual Ball of Twine – Alison Crocetta talks poppies, performance and film



On the Margin – James Tyson visits Seoul Marginal Theatre Festival


The Moment of Making – Sean Edwards maximum minimalism


Nothing Happens Under Heaven – Denise Kwan meets the curator of Harmonious Society



An Elephant in the Room – Inga Burrows goes inside the soap bubble

Ms Manifesta – Veronica Feeling heads east to St Petersburg


Going with the Flow – Laura Sorvala at Helsinki’s Flow festival

Now Breathe – Graeme Farrow has big plans for the Wales Millennium Centre


36 109

Beauty and Dissonance It’s been a busy year for James Richards, who took the opportunity to step out of the limelight for a residency at Wysing Arts Centre this summer. Here he talks to Wysing’s Director, Donna Lynas, about collaborations, sources and censorship.

Donna Lynas: James, it’d be good to talk to you in terms of your time at Wysing Arts Centre, of course, where you currently have a residency; but, I’d also like to focus on the role of music in your work, the sampling of images too and the sources, and how you mix them. But, let’s start with your experience of growing up in Cardiff in the late 80s and 90s. James Richards: Well, my interest has always been in contemporary electronic music, sound and, then, some singer-songwriting from the 70s. I used to buy Wire magazine from Chapter Arts Centre, which was near where I grew up, and that’s where I also saw lots of contemporary dance, which my mum is involved in. I saw a lot of installation art at Chapter; There was a nice energy there — I remember a Mona Hatoum show particularly; seeing art like hers for the first time, or videos installed in the gallery rather than on TV or at the cinema — and then the dance programme and cross-media presentations. Another influence was spending a lot of time at the Central Library in Cardiff, where they had a new age music section, and CDs of Gong, Vangelis soundtracks, Stockhausen, John Cage, dawn chorus recordings and meditation music. That was where I started my method of making a bank of material, an archive of my own, taped from what they had there. DL: So, early on, you started to record and copy from other material and saw that as a way of making work? JR: Well, for example, jumping immediately to the present, I’m using copied visual material at the moment here at Wysing, spending 3-4 hours a day sampling and manipulating. The material I am using is drawn from a catalogue of ideas which I have amassed by gathering and looking, ripping from discs, converting

files from Blu-ray, from films I’ve watched, borrowed and bought, for pleasure, really, to bring together to make a stock, a bank. DL: Is the research continual? JR: Yes, but some of the stuff I use is my own footage; for example, for Rosebud [currently showing as part of the Turner Prize exhibition at Tate Britain and as part of the exhibition Cut To Swipe, at MOMA, New York] that’s from film I shot myself. For the new piece Raking Light I am making here at Wysing, the imagery is from narrative films; mainstream almost, certainly not cult film, but 50s/60s 35mm film, very high quality HD transferred from 35mm film. I look for off-moments from the films and appropriate them for my own use. It’s not that different for the viewer necessarily; whether it’s appropriated or shot myself, it’s still the result of a kind of gleaning, and then composing together with other elements into a work. DL: But you set out to create a bank stock of these images? JR: At different times I’ll work with a different technology to gather a bank of clips. So for a year I bought a lot of VHS videos from charity shops and combed through those. Some years later I would have a camera on me much of the time, opening up the opportunity for the odd striking image to be captured directly from the world. It’s quite an inwardlooking practice. I record diaristically. The process is most important though, the process of generating images for my archive, that comes before any other decisions about whether they are going to be used or not. DL: So you’re always alert to a moment?


JR: Yes, and carrying small equipment where I can — things that can gather sound or image. DL: Was Rosebud made using this way of working? You came across the images in that film when you were on a residency in Japan, is that right? JR: Yes. I found photographs with scratchedout sections in a library: censored sexual images, some from a Mapplethorpe catalogue, very famous photos. I hadn’t known about this beforehand, this active censorship. And so I filmed the images and photographed them too, not really knowing what I would do with them. I then kept the images I’d shot for about a year, and returned to them again and again, both as film and stills, mulling them over; that happens in my work often, coming back to ideas, source material from years before. There’s a passage of music in Rosebud, for example, that was something I copied from when I was sixteen . DL: Then you were in America after Japan? JR: I spent a week at the Experimental TV Centre. It’s closed now, but it was a repository of old equipment – a lot of North American universities were closing and selling off their analogue video gear, and the centre bought it up. I went and worked there with Steve Reinke, who I’ve collaborated with a bit. We experimented with a wobbulator, a video synthesiser invented by the Fluxus artist and video art pioneer Nam June Paik. DL: Is it important to you to have a dialogue with others? JR: It’s been important for my work, not because of the dialogue necessarily though. Steve, I’m a big fan of his; we didn’t

Summer 2014


speak much during the collaboration, just exchanged material. I enjoy that, the looking and thinking in conjunction with another, perhaps all the more pure without language, with the material itself and its modifications becoming the dialogue. We were invited by Thomas Beard who, along with Ed Halter, runs an independent cinema in New York called Light Industry, to make a work for a day of screenings. Steve’s 20 years older than me, a different generation. We exchanged short emails and swapped material. I appreciate him as a fan of his work, but in working with him, I wanted to show off to him to be honest, not my technical finesse, but show him a sensibility and atmosphere, a shared way of engaging with found material... DL: Demonstrating your understanding of his work? JR: Yes. So, I’d send him things, he’d return them manipulated in strange, perverse ways. We posted data DVDs, weird to think now, but we didn’t use the Internet. It was slower, but ideal, making us think more, with a sense of expectation because of the interest in one another’s work. It was casual too, but it had energy, as it wasn’t necessarily for public show. Part of the process was the combination of engagement with methods of communication and the technology we used. Built into it was the anticipation of waiting for new material to arrive, and then working separately on these clumps of stuff. The whole process hung together on the ease and slipperiness of sampling from different formats, and shows the ease with which you can force and cut things together, with fluidity, slickness. It’s crude too — but in a good way. DL: What material were you using for this exchange? JR: Older material. Things I’d tried to put in my own work but not found a place for. It was a chance almost to clear the decks. By giving it to Steve to interpret, that process resuscitated it. DL: Can you tell us a bit about how you’re working here at Wysing. JR: I am in my studio day in, day out. It’s great to have the conditions for making work to match the level of exhibition; for instance, editing on a large screen, with great speakers. I haven’t had the location for this before now. Also, it’s good to have some un-fragmented time, with no teaching, away from the city, no juggling of the day. Here, it’s very open; one does less physically, so more is able to happen in the studio. DL: It’ll be interesting to see how that might affect the work. JR: Yes, it’s too early to know exactly the rhythm of what I’m making here at the moment. It’s a commission for a video art biennial in Geneva, and I’ll be showing it at Cabinet Gallery, London. Visually, it feels quite luscious though, photographic. The imagery is a mixture of my own footage and some material from the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin — radiographic, x-ray imaging of oil paintings. Rosebud, was very unmusical, rasping and in a vacuum. The work I’m doing for this film’s soundtrack, though, is all about harmony and emotion, in that there’s little diaretic sound. I’m composing and then using samples of composed sections; it’s harmonically set so that I can then intercut the separate pieces. The pieces all cohere musically and they are harmonious rather than dissonant.


Summer 2014

p11 James Richards at Wysing, Ric Bower, 2014 p13 Rosebud, James Richards, 2013, HD Video, 12 minutes, 57 seconds, courtesy the artist; Cabinet, London and Rodeo, Istanbul p14 & 15 Images used in The Screens, James Richards, 2013, 35mm slide projection, four sets of eighty DIA slides (320 slides in total) courtesy the artist; Cabinet, London and Rodeo, Istanbul


DL: You mentioned dissonance in your earlier work. Cerith Wyn Evans used the term ‘spot-off-ness’, and it’s something I’m interested in in your work — the gaps, doubt, fragility. JR: It’s the pleasure to be found in something being wrong. Not in a punk way, not subversive, self-conscious — rather, not quite fitting, not coming together. I like things that sit just at the right edge, between feeling precise and arbitrary… DL: ...that make you rethink your assumptions, a moment of doubt. JR: Yes, and it’s important for me to build into a composition those moments of beauty interspersed with dissonance. And also a shifting between highly-processed or enriched material and matter that feels, well, more matter-of-fact. So, some imagery and sound is manipulated, some tempered, making a piece that nudges in different ways. DL: You curate as well, don’t you. Is that approached in a similar way to making work? JR: For me it’s all coming from the same pot. I’ve curated various group shows, screenings and kind of compilation mix-tapes of found and curated material. Last year I put together the exhibition If Not Always Permanently, Memorably at Spike Island, Bristol and this year I convened the exhibition Alms For The Birds at Cabinet Gallery, London. I’m excited by a new opportunity at Whitechapel I’m doing next year, working with the VAC, a Russian public collection. It’s a finite resource, but I have complete freedom as to how to curate a show with the collection, how to present and frame it. So, there’s a discipline to it. I’m able to use my own work, in addition, so perhaps working with audio and light, the setting; perhaps, I might stage a grand anti-climax. I don’t know yet. DL: You’ve not mentioned the Turner Prize yet. JR: I was nominated for Rosebud and that hasn’t been shown before in the UK, so that’s there. It’s a great opportunity to show work to a broad audience, and show it very precisely. I’m also showing The Screens, a recent 35mm slide installation which features projected images from a theatrical make-up manual, and Untitled Merchandise (Lovers and Dealers), snapshots of lovers and art dealers of artist Keith Haring transposed on to souvenir blankets that usually depict members of the US military. ­—CCQ James Richards was shortlisted for the Turner Prize 2014. He was also a recipient of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award 2014 as well as the ars viva Prize 2014/15. In 2015 exhibitions of his work will be staged in Munich, Germany and Bergen Kunsthalle, Norway. As a curator he is currently working on exhibitions at the Whitechapel Gallery, London and Isabella Bortolozzi Galerie, Berlin. More information about his work can be found via Rodeo gallery and Cabinet Gallery For more information about the residency programme at Wysing Arts Centre visit


Issue 5


Semi-detached On the fuzzy border between England and Wales, Clare Woods talks technical detachment, emotional engagement and crossing over from sculpture to painting with Emma Geliot.

The sun is as high as it’s going to get on a perishing cold November morning. As I twist through the Brecon Beacons, heading for the borderlands, it picks out the scabs of bracken on the hilltops, dried to a blood red like recent wounds. My mind is probably more attuned to metaphors for mortality as I’m heading to Kington, on the English side of the border with Wales, to see an artist who is best known for her gloss paint renditions of landscape on a grand scale, full of dark and complex reference points. Clare Woods’ studio is no romantic artist’s garret – it’s an industrial unit on one of those little estates that are only visited by those who need something very particular; a spare part for a car, plumbing supplies, school t-shirts. If anything, it’s colder inside than out and we huddle around a little heater to talk, keeping our coats on. Let’s face it, making art is not glamorous. Woods is just back from working with Edition Copenhagen, producing two litho prints for the Arken Museum and mentally preparing to make some enormous panels for a Danish commission. These will be a return to gloss paint, after her recent shift to oils, purely for practical purposes. Behind us, in the vast, un-heatable space, smallish (by Woods’ standards) paintings are on the wall and an aluminium panel lies across two trestles, primed and masked up in intricate sections, ready for paint. Woods will work on its flat, horizontal surface until it’s finished. Working in this way changes ideas of perspective — until they’re finished Woods won’t see it straight on. Then, she’ll put it up on the wall and look at it and “hope it’s not a reject” at that moment of revealing it to herself. She’ll often have several works on the go at the same time so that she can move from one to another and not get too bogged down if one of them isn’t quite working for her. This very particular approach to painting stems from her artistic training as a sculptor in Bath and, although she makes paintings, Woods says, “I’ve always looked at the images I use to paint from as objects, never flat line. I’m interested in the way that images are created in the physical world and their weight and presence within a space.” Postgraduation Woods got a bursary from the Hampshire Sculpture Trust but, when she started to make sculpture outside of the art school support system, had an early moment of realisation that it was going to be tough. “I loved sculpture but felt I could never make the stuff that I loved. In college, you’ve got freedom, you’ve got workshops. Outside, I thought, ‘I’m going to spend fifty quid on something that’s going to go in a skip’.” While still an undergraduate she had begun painting sculptures with gloss paint and, until recently, has used this medium for her paintings because it doesn’t leave a trace of her hand or gesture. This, it seems, has its roots in some complex thinking. Firstly,


Issue 5



Issue 5


there’s a sense of physical detachment from the process, which frees her up for more emotional, intuitive investment in building the image. Yet, there’s also another factor – a kind of residual guilt at not making sculpture. Gloss is more associated with domestic DIY, not a proper painter’s material. Similarly, the MDF panels, now replaced with aluminium, are utterly neutral and don’t have the connection with ‘proper painting’ that canvas does. So she began to make paintings as objects, bringing sculptural concerns — weight, tension, a kind of building and excising process — to the temporary table of panel and trestle. The paint would go around the edge of the panel, giving it a threedimensional presence rather than the illusory flatness of the picture plane. Gloss paint, ‘enamel’ if you want to sound posh, is used as material rather than medium; a subtle but important difference. These painted objects were very successful. Woods had lots of shows and sold well. She went back to art school to do an MA, at Goldsmiths, and also started making prints, liking the idea of being a step removed from the image making. That detachment again. Her work in the early part of the 2000s was often huge, filling vast wall spaces, and referencing nature, built up after taking photographs in the landscape, sometimes under the camera’s burst of flash at night to distort colour. Back in the studio, she drew out the key elements, putting them all together on the panel and cutting and masking out before applying the paint in carefully contained pools. The masked areas could easily stand in for Woods’ stated desire for boundaries to work to: “Each element of the painting process is broken down and controlled, so when I come to the point of putting the paint on the surface, I am thinking purely formally; it’s just issues about colour and mark.” The process is very controlled but the pictures/ objects are extremely powerful and, in those landscape works, there is far more than a simple desire to represent the visual beauty of nature. With her sculptor’s eye, Woods sees the multiple dimensions of landscape, their physical structure, substance and the layers of meaning. She lives and works in the Welsh Borders, a territory that has been fought over and on which blood has been shed. Woods explains, “We moved to this area because of the border and the poles that surround it.

The extremes that meet there have always been totally fascinating to me – not only with regard to the landscape, but the history and the people that are caught in this.” Back then, her palette was restricted by the same mixture of intellectual rigour and emotional response that is so characteristic in her work. Colours were earthy, rather than muddy, with no reds or pinks. They weren’t direct pigment references to natural colours, rather colours that signified a natural context. This reminds me of the viridian used by Graham Sutherland, a green not seen in nature but that references a response to it. As her practice has evolved and Woods settles into the persona of, if not ‘painter’, then ‘artist who uses paint’, she has allowed herself an engagement with the process, finally using oils, although perhaps still with the sculptor’s approach to texture and material manipulation. She has also produced a body of very large watercolours – a medium that takes no prisoners in terms of revealing gesture. A suite of these has just been added to the Glyn Vivian Gallery’s collection in Swansea as the result of this year’s Wakelin family award. The colours in her current work, which I can only feebly describe as ‘grown up colours’, have been influenced by access to a pathology laboratory. Woods says she was taken aback at the colours of the human interior – not just red, as most of us would imagine if we think about our inner workings at all. Interestingly, as Woods increasingly uses black and white photographs as source material, her paint colour range has extended, liberated by a shift in subject matter that has more human references. Now she can use red and pink. The source material is eclectic. Woods gathers images, reconfigures them on another big table, and finds connections. There’s a picture of an early Phyllida Barlow head – textural and bound, using a variety of those neutral materials that don’t announce themselves as specific, but have their own qualities. Next to it an image from the London bombings – a man with his head freshly bandaged, face inhuman with shock. And there’s a Paolozzi head. These sources, along with many others, go into works like The King of Finland, in her current touring Oriel Davies show, A Tree A Rock A Cloud. In that exhibition she showed work alongside three selected works from the National Museum Wales collection: a Paul Nash pond, a Manet


hare and Philip Jones-Griffiths’ seminal war image, Civilian Victim, Vietnam. Wood’s choice of historical works to offer a context to her own is revealing. Here, there is void/portal, weight and human fragility respectively. Along with her reference photographs, Woods collects potential titles. They wait in her subconscious and present themselves as the work progresses. There’s no overt relationship between title and image, except in the mind of the artist, but she thinks it’s important to have a title as a way into the work. Titles come from overheard conversations, signs, place names and newspaper stories; they are noted down, recorded and filed away. Towards the end of our meeting Wood’s goes off for a moment and comes back with a small sheaf of watercolour studies. My gob is completely smacked. Not just because they are beautiful, but because I realise that they are studies of Wood’s own viscera. Last year she had yards of intestine removed and kept a six-foot section, pickled in formaldehyde, to make drawings from. She had been shown own her guts in a bucket, faced her mortality and processed it into the rich mix of ideas that keep the pictures coming. I weave my way back across the borderland. This time, I’m looking for evocative road signs. —CCQ A Tree A Rock A Cloud, curated by Aled Boyd Jones and Mandy Fowler at Oriel Davies, will tour to Plas Glyn Y Weddw, Llanbedrog September November 2015 and Oriel y Parc December 2015 - March 2016. New work by Clare Woods will be added in response to the National Museum Wales collection.

Summer 2014


p16 & 17 Splendours & Miseries, Clare Woods, 2014, 150 x 200cm, oil on aluminium

p18 Big Wheel, Clare Woods, 2014, 70 x 70cm, oil on aluminium

p19 Old Routines, Clare Woods, 2014, 70 x 55cm, oil on aluminium

p21 Sad Lamp, Clare Woods, 2014, 150 x 100cm, oil on aluminium

p23 Naked Nude, Clare Woods, 2014, 100 x 150cm, oil on aluminium


Summer 2014


A Temporal Architecture Carlos Bunga’s installation transforms an entire gallery space at National Museum Cardiff for his contribution to Artes Mundi 6. He tells Ric Bower about his shift from painter to sculptor and his fascination with demolition and decay, construction and destruction.

The Portuguese artist Carlos Bunga began his career as a painter, but his practice evolved into the building of constructions which, although they are often towering and complex, consist of only three materials: cardboard, packing tape and emulsion paint. His confidence in this limited palette of materials engenders an awareness both of the subtle relationships that develop between the materials themselves, and of the relationships that come about between the constructions as a whole and the built environments in which they are housed. In recent years he has been invited to build in a myriad of high profile venues as far flung as New York, São Paulo and Bogota. Many artists, faced with the task of installing an exhibition, have little more to deal with than the opening of a few packing crates and the hooking up of a couple of hard drives. Not so for Bunga. I met him after a solid day’s labour at National Museum Cardiff, exploring the very limits of what can be achieved using cardboard as a material of construction, for what is, in essence, a fully-fledged, civil engineering project. Exodus is a Doric temple structure, dominating a significant proportion of one of National Museum Cardiff’s galleries, and it forms the major part of Bunga’s contribution to Artes Mundi 6. Away from the cardboard, Bunga’s delightfully affable demeanour and inherited Catalan passion (he has settled in Barcelona) bubbled energetically in the answers he gave me. Over a well-deserved beer, I began by asking about his artistic journey. Carlos Bunga: I started with painting, but, little by little, my work began to change. I think it is a problem with most art schools

that you need to choose between painting and sculpture. Ric Bower: So you started with traditional representation. Was this useful? CB: In the beginning, yes. We worked with a life-model for much of the first year, but in the final two years we could make what we wanted. There was an opportunity to study whilst on placement too, which opened up new possibilities. This came at a time when I was very frustrated with my painting, in spite of trying desperately to push the medium by working on different supports. I was always left with a sense of dissatisfaction. The process of asking questions became increasingly important to me. I became particularly interested in urban space. I was fascinated by empty lots, torndown houses and the marks they left behind on adjacent buildings; the remnants of demolitions; the residue of the city. I started looking for spaces that specifically resembled my paintings and I hung the works on the walls there so they would be exposed to the weather. I wanted to see how they would decay with the passing of time. I wondered how I could explore the sensibilities embodied within these structures. In my studio I constructed small cardboard ‘houses’ to explore notions of spatiality and I began to work with video too. I was still frustrated, but this time it was specifically with scale. Architectural maquettes began to interest me. I started asking myself ‘What would it be like to experience a maquette, but on a different scale? What would happen if we could walk around inside it?’ I built a largescale maquette in one of the corridors at my


school. It was a hard task to build, for the first time, a cardboard structure of those dimensions using just adhesive tape, but I was finally able to realise the ideas carried within the architectural maquettes, the video work and the demolished buildings across town. RB: I guess there is no such thing as a readymade artist. CB: I didn’t go to university to be an artist, really. I went because I loved painting and didn’t think much beyond that. I certainly had no idea about galleries and commerce — that all came much later. My school was a relatively new one in a small Portuguese municipality called Caldas da Rainha. Unlike other schools of higher status, located in large cities like Lisbon or Porto, from where most leading Portuguese artists come, this one was considered parochial. Paradoxically, what made it interesting was the absence of any symbolic responsibility, or the weight of expectation that I might have felt if I had gone to a more well-known school. RB: I loved the piece you did in the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Your work already engaged with its own ephemerality, but there you were responding to a mausoleum, a space that invites us all to consider our own mortality. Physically, your structure mirrored the mausoleum space. Was this an entirely intuitive response? How then did you respond to National Museum Cardiff with its own particular history? CB: In a pre-existing architectural space I am interested in the temporal and emotional


process, as well as in the possibility that the imposing character of architecture may somehow exist as experimentation. In the process of conceiving the installations there is no prior plan, which is why becoming familiar with and directly confronting a physical and mental time period is so important for the process of construction. The context is always important. I am very aware of the narrative of a space, of its identity, as I make work in it. I think all museums, in the classic conception, are mausoleums. They are guardians of a nation’s patrimonic legacy, and we have a need for this. Today, museums are a reflection of the complexity of our times and the need to find new strategies for cultural survival. The process of making the work is very important to me; I have to remain open-minded so I can learn through the process of working. I travel to the places I am hoping to work, before starting a project, to pick up the story of the building, the city and even the country. The Pinacoteca São Paulo and National Museum Cardiff have a lot in common: they are traditional structures, national state museums, which have incorporated new spaces specifically for contemporary work.

energy of these sacrosanct spaces by bringing in the complexity of the contemporary world from outside. We have a tendency to see museums as separate, on a pedestal and to do with the past, which is not helpful. The museum’s concern is to conserve, at all costs; but my work is about fragility and an ephemerality that does not end in death, but, instead, represents an ongoing process, an ecosystem. To build and to destroy are inherent actions in relation to a material that can be defined by its transitory nature. RB: Can we talk about the legacy of the work for a moment and the place of documentation? Thomas Demand evidences what he does through a large format photograph, for instance, which ensures the legacy of a particular piece. CB: It is interesting you mention Thomas Demand; for me the photograph separates us from the ephemerality of the work – it’s just too comfortable. Documentation is a very important part of legacy though, of course; it represents a shift of the focus from reality and the immediacy of experience. In our developed society, we are afraid of death. It is normal but we still panic about it. A photograph becomes commodified; we can buy the very thing we are afraid of, we can tame it and then take it home.

RB: You’re working in spaces where different worlds meet then? CB: I’m not sure it is the contrast between those different worlds I am interested in, as such. Instead, I feel it’s important to revitalise the



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RB: Is this specifically a phenomenon of Western culture?

many ways, after I have finished working it; it is never truly finished. There is no finalised form in the structure of these objects. The drawings that I make always happen after the site-specific projects. The usual work process is inverted, and the drawings correspond more to an investigation of thought rather than a process of observation. The ones here on show in the museum are interpretations of the constructions.

CB: We become conscious of this natural fragility, not just when we witness a natural catastrophe, but just by looking in the mirror and seeing a white hair, or when something we care about breaks, our perspective on life changes. We feel quite comfortable, here in this bar now, in spite of the fact that there is no suggestion that this feeling will last. When a work is overtly ephemeral, it is like a mirror; that is why we feel so uncomfortable with it. But the fact is that it’s the ephemerality itself that is permanent. Impermanence is an abstract concept, which brings with it certain disquietude; it challenges many of our preestablished behaviours. But impermanence is constantly with us, it is constituted within our genetic inheritance.

RB: So the drawings become your legacy? CB: In some ways, yes. I have worked with photographers to document the constructions but… It is a possible option, among others… RB: ...but they bring their own ideas!

RB: You use a very limited palette of materials. For me, this introduces a subtlety and a complexity to your constructions. How did you come to decide that paint, cardboard and packing tape were enough?

CB: Yes, but more to the point, the experience derived from the documentation of the work will always be separate and distinct from experiencing the work in the flesh. The actual work is like a mirror; the feelings it will engender in us are as varied as we are. The space and the work are the experience. The pristine white walls of the gallery are unreal. I want to celebrate the cracks in the paint as I apply it to the cardboard. Documentation of artwork is often manipulated, just as is documentation in the political or economic realm. Thomas

CB: I am often asked about how I come to these kinds of decisions, but the truth is it’s entirely intuitive. It is like asking a painter whether he starts on the right or on the left of a canvas. My process is architectural, but it has much in common with painting. I don’t work from models. The basis of the work is the concept and the work continues to develop, in



Spring 2015


Demand is interesting because the result of the work is a single picture that survives after he has destroyed the physical work it is representing. What is the difference then between the picture that survives and the work he destroys? RB: He is fixing the relationship between the work and the audience. I guess writing too can become a barrier to experiencing the work? CB: In life we try to make concrete answers that provide us with security. It’s natural that, when approaching art, we want it to be definite. We give it a title. We attach it to a genre. We are rational. We want to understand everything. The abstract is regarded with suspicion and we need standards to base things on so that they can be categorised and then accepted. This is our natural response. When we are confronted by something that we do not understand it encourages us to ask questions. The complexity of the contemporary art world is fantastically rich, but that complexity, to some people, is also a little scary. Living in that scary in-between space is maybe what it means to be an artist. RB: As an artist, you are both creator and destroyer, are you not? CB: That is both true and untrue. We cannot talk about the destruction of work without discussing temporality. There have been occasions where I have spent a month constructing in a gallery space then, on the evening of the opening, I have collapsed the whole thing as a performance. It is selective destruction, in that, I am aware as to what is going to collapse and what is going to remain standing. Often there are colours inside the structure that do not become apparent until it collapses; so it is not so much about destruction as it is about metamorphosis. Nothing that I have done over the years, in a great variety of spaces, still exists anyway; all I am doing is accelerating the natural temporality of the object. The only difference between my cardboard constructions and the museums in which they are housed is that the destruction, or transformation, of my structures is immediately imminent. There is a certain relationship between what I am doing and an architect’s model and, in a

sense, the site specific installations return the buildings the work is installed in to a previous condition, an architect’s model, a preview almost, or an idea. The artwork as shown represents just one possibility of what the structure could be, or could have been. In some ways, the actual building is the past; we inhabit and experience the artwork in the present, and the installations (my construction) represents a possibility for the future. I make a reflection or a glimpse of what the building might have been or could be; and, then, when I destroy the work, of what it might eventually become.

CB: It’s exciting to be part of Artes Mundi, I like the energy. I don’t think the prize is the most important part of the event, though. The process of choosing the artists for the show, or the choice of the winner, is a process over which we have no control. I think the most important thing is to focus on the work and to continue working in that laboratory. —CCQ

Carlos Bunga’s work can be seen at National Museum, Cardiff as part of Artes Mundi 6 until 22 February 2015,

RB: Your use of materials is redolent, in some way, of a favela, which, in turn, alludes to social justice issues. Is this an assessment of the work that you would welcome? CB: I do not think the work speaks of a particular reality. I use materials such as cardboard and packing tape to emphasise ideas of impermanence. I see the whole city as a sort of manipulated and mouldable model; I am interested in the constant urban transformation that turns cities into places undergoing a continual process of reinvention. We do not live entirely in the city, yet we are a fundamental part of its structure. I believe we are very vulnerable. The city functions as a second skin; our bodies are an integral part of the urban landscape. RB: What is the role of the contemporary practitioner, then, within society? Do you feel you carry a responsibility to communicate a particular message? CB: We live in a complex society full of contradictions. By assuming and accepting these contradictions, art unfolds within a constant process of experimentation and questioning. In the studio, or laboratory (which can be a mental space), there exists the possibility to transform; we can add to, subtract from, multiply, mend, restore and accelerate that process of transformation. That laboratory is the space-in-between, existing continually between past and future. RB: You won some big prizes in 2013, the Michigan Art Prize, and at Frieze New York too. And now, in 2014, you are in the running for the Artes Mundi prize. How has this affected you?


p25 Carlos Bunga at National Museum Cardiff, Ric Bower, 2014 p26 Landscape, Carlos Bunga, 2011, Site-specific installation, cardboard, packing tape, matt paint, glue, Exhibition view at the Hammer, Museum, Los Angeles, courtesy of the artist and Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid; photo: Brian Forrest p27 & 31 Mausoléu, Carlos Bunga, 2012, Site-specific installation, cardboard, packing tape, matt paint, glue and 45 sculptures of the Pinacoteca’s Collection, Exhibition view at Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, Courtesy of the artist and Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid p28 Exodus, Carlos Bunga, 2014, Site-specific installation, cardboard, tape, paint, Exhibition view at Artes Mundi 6, National Museum Cardiff, courtesy of the artist and Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid; photo: Warren Orchard p29 Khôra, Carlos Bunga, 2013, Site-specific installation, cardboard, packing tape, glue and matt paint, Variable dimensions, Exhibition view at Museo Universidad Nacional de Arte Contemporáneo (MUAC), Mexico, courtesy of the artist and Galería Elba Benítez, Madrid; photo: Oliver Santana

Issue 5


An Intellectual Ball of Twine On the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, American artist Alison Crocetta’s response to a commission opportunity was to explore different aspects of a symbolic flower. She talks to Emma Geliot about poppies, an evolving art practice and her journey from sculpture, through performance, to filmmaking.

We’re sitting on a rooftop above Cardiff’s city centre, ignoring our cooling coffee. Alison Crocetta has been visiting from her home in Ohio, where she’s an Associate Professor in the Department of Art at The Ohio State University. She is one of the artists who was commissioned to make new work for Outcasting: Fourth Wall (O:4W) artists’ moving image festival, and she has come to oversee the installation and give an artist’s talk about her work. As an art student Alison Crocetta made sculpture, but gradually moved into performance, embracing a very physical, objects-into-action, endurance-driven and body-focussed process, during her MFA at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She made a performance designed to be seen by one person at a time, through a small window, and it was then that her tutor, Jude Tallichet, commented, “Your work’s really filmic, you should really think about making films.” Crocetta says her first response was, “Me and what army?” At the time she felt she had no reference point, didn’t understand the history of avant-garde film, and this seemed an insurmountable problem. Over the next ten years film came calling. “Film was coming slowly towards me over the

horizon.” Crocetta was using black and white photography to document her performances: “That practice of using the camera as a tool, the strategic link-up between photography and film, has always been alive for me and important. I really wanted to capture the flux, the fleeting moment, in performance.” She wondered, “What would happen if I made a performance specifically for a moving image situation? I took the plunge and it really worked.” However, she’d needed to understand herself as a sculptor and performance artist first. “It’s been a 20 year process – combining these modes of making and thinking, into a hybrid practice.” How does she think her way into a new body of work? Crocetta considers for a moment. “I would say that the film work and durational performance actions within my practice each form a vein of inquiry with their own related yet unique conceptual threads. I try to find the best form to meet my shifting ideas.” She’s just finished shooting a film trilogy in Norway, one of several in her work as a filmmaker. These trilogies are interconnected and yet they are each driven by a unique set of concerns. We talk about some of her socio-political work and the problem of finding curators who


are interested in taking it on. In 2001 she had the idea to make work about the American Bill of Rights, but it took her until 2006 to get the means to make it and then another four or five years to find the right opportunity to show the work. “People can be a little cool towards socio-political work”, Crocetta observes. The idea had come to her after the 9/11 attacks, but no one was in the mood for a serious

Summer 2014

work around rights and personal freedom she says. “[Art] work in New York City had a lot more glitter. When the country needed to be at its most sober it was off in fairyland.” By contrast, her O:4W commission came about very quickly. “What was fabulous about O:4W was that I could propose a socially-engaged work and find the means to produce it very quickly. It was amazing.” Would it have been a different work with a longer lead-in time? I ask her. The subject matter, poppies, she describes as ‘an intellectual ball of twine’ with both a historic and contemporary import. She found herself

wondering “is this a documentary subject, leading me into an idea that’s bigger than a short video project?” She chose to represent, and reflect on, the two most associated aspects of the poppy — as the pain-relieving (or brain-numbing) provider of morphine and the red emblem of remembrance which marks World War One’s Armistice Day each November. When I met Crocetta, every other passerby’s coat sported a red flower and the hanging basket stands in front of Central Station were decked out in giant versions of this symbol of war and peace.


With little time to doubt her instincts, Crocetta had only a few months to make the work and present it. Time also had to be spent finding the right location – a field, somewhere in England (the pharmaceutical company growing the poppies were anxious that she didn’t reveal the specifics of the site where she made the film). “There’s something about being thrown into it, standing in a field of poppy straw, and my body navigating that.” This experience – of being in a vast sea of rustling stalks, waiting to be harvested – threw up all sorts of tangential historical connections for Crocetta, who found herself thinking of early works by German artist Rebecca Horn. She was suspicious of getting too bogged down in the intellectual side of the project, though: “My way is more physical – by moving through it [the poppy field] I can understand and process it.” Crocetta has a similarly intuitive approach to working with sound: “Some things are recorded through the camera, others are manipulated or generated by me.” She often collaborates with others for the soundtracks to her films. “When I knew I had the commission I started to think about my status as an American, coming to the UK for the first time to make work in someone else’s country. I wanted the soundtrack to tie in to my country.” In previous film and performance works she’d referenced spiritual hymns, folk songs from different traditions, such as the Shaker movement, the Civil Rights movement and worker songs.

“They’re part of the historical fabric of America,” Crocetta explains, “and I’m trying to find my way to reanimate that history through my body in performance and within the soundscape of my moving image projects.” For On Poppies, Crocetta decided to use a heavily manipulated, slowed down version of the song Where Have All The Flowers Gone? by Pete Seeger, written around the time he was testifying before the UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1955. “The tune went through a very heavy editing/sonic process to get to the underbelly of the song and my contemporary understanding of it.” Installed in the Outcasting: Fourth Wall (O:4W) storefront Panopticon gallery, Crocetta’s commission played on a double-sided screen. The first side showed the gentle swaying of the drying poppy seed heads; the other, a reversed, black and white film of a woman, her head not shown, making commemorative red poppy brooches at the Royal British Legion poppy factory in Richmond, Surrey. The ergonomic equipment used seems not to have changed in the 92 years since it was set up to provide work for ex-servicemen who had lost a hand in the First World War. Both sides of the screen are characteristically leached of colour, so that, with the slowed down and manipulated soundtrack, the effect is eerie and dream-like. The On Poppies project was delivered at an unusually fast pace. What was that like for Crocetta? “I always like to have a feeling, a


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healthy dose of fear, like it’s a little beyond me – excitement mixed with a splash of unease. Starting from there makes me expand. When you expand as an artist, there’s a kind of vulnerability in the work that tends to infuse it with something real and often unexpected.” And how does she process her response to a finished piece, to decide if it has worked for her? “I like to think of work as having a radioactive half-life, a burn time. When you have a goose-bump moment in the making, then that work tends to have a longer burn. Those are the works that still inform me. They still feel very current. They shapeshift, have the capacity to give one insight on one day and another on another day.” Crocetta expands, “I think work should invite multiple readings that complicate or challenge each other in a way. There’s [also] a tension between subject and medium. For example, this was a moving image commission. Could I make a durational performance about the poppy flower? Yes, I think I could. It’s finding the path to get there.” When she gets back to the States, Crocetta will be revisiting a previous project, A Circus of One (which was shown as part of the O:4W 2012 screening programme). In a new iteration of the work, she plans to take this circus on the road and is creating a work for live performance in collaboration with composer/musician Zac Little. She’s already been working on A Circus of One (Act II) for the last three years, “It’s giving me a run for my money – like writing a novel compressed into 20

minutes!” Crocetta laughs fondly, as if remembering a troublesome but much-loved child. “Sometimes I want to walk away from it. The reason I’m doing Act II is that I felt the film was not the end of the story; I want to see how it works with my aging body” (in A Circus of One project Crocetta performs all of the acts alone). This new work has been informed by Crocetta’s collaboration in 2013 with choreographer Yurie Umamoto for a durational performance called Rain or Shine in Berlin. “The idea of rehearsal is almost taboo in the performance art world”, Crocetta says. “It’s more about setting up a situation and going for it.” However, she’ll need to rehearse for a performed version of A Circus of One, and, she adds, “I’m interested in the fact that you can’t repeat the same gesture twice, there are subtle changes.” I’ve been listening and scribbling intently. Reaching for my coffee cup, I gulp without thinking and, as I look up from a startling mouthful of cold caffeine, Crocetta adds thoughtfully, “Life is unfolding and we are all animals.” Yes, it is and yes, we are. —CCQ


p33 Lift, Alison Crocetta, 2005 photo: David Pardoe p34 On Poppies, Alison Crocetta, 2014, video still of commemorative poppy flower production at The Poppy Factory p35 On Poppies, Alison Crocetta, 2014, video still of a field of poppy straw p36 & 37 A Circus of One, Alison Crocetta, 2011, 16 mm, black and white film still


Issue 5


The Moment of Making Sean Edwards’ artistic practice crosses media but is rooted in a conceptual minimalism, where the detail of a millimetre gap is as important as the commentary on failed urban planning. Sam Hasler talks to the 2014 winner of the National Eisteddfod Gold Medal for Fine Art about sculptural objects, Bruce Springsteen, Ghostbusters and transubstantiation.


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upbringing. I wasn’t really aware of the wider possibilities for this visual expression to be a legitimate way to communicate ideas, I guess, beyond commercial means, like advertising, illustration, etc. A wider set of possibilities began to open up slightly through GCSE and A Level as I started to look at art more closely. It wasn’t really until Foundation level, studying under Brendan Burns, that I found out what it was I’d been doing and looking at. I think that there’s a trajectory that can be seen though my formal art education. In some ways I feel like I came to contemporary art quite late, but I think it was helpful to have a certain naïveté at those early stages. It was art education that gave me a structure, learning about art history and art theory. This was the way I became aware of what that visual language was. I probably didn’t consciously think of myself as an artist until I’d graduated from The Slade. SH: Why are you specific in describing yourself as a sculptor? SE: It’s largely that my education was focused specifically on sculpture. At Cardiff, the fine art course was split into specialisms. I studied sculpture, so all my lectures and tutorials were structured around a sculptural language. There was a focus on the manipulation of objects in space, which is arguably the main concern of sculpture; so, I describe myself as a sculptor to reflect this sculpture background. It’s a shame that that specialist nature has gone from the course. SH: Is a sculpture background different from a painting background or a printmaking background?

Sam Hasler: When did you first think of yourself as an artist? Sean Edwards: I think that, unconsciously, I learned very early on that I could communicate through visual language and I always found that expression through visual language was natural and comfortable to me, but I wouldn’t have said I ‘knew’ this until much later. As an eight-year-old kid, I liked the Ghostbusters, so I made myself a proton pack. In some ways it was as simple as that. The arts were not a part of my

SE: I think so. In the very beginning, it’s a simple case of a different set of studios, equipped for different ways of working; then, it’s the tools and the practical techniques you use and, then, it moves into a different set of conceptual concerns and theories. There are two core approaches to sculpture: one, a reductive method, starting with a block of material and carving, removing until you have the work; and, two, an additive method, beginning with something small and adding and adding, piece by piece. I think my work still comes from these two methodologies. SH: That sounds like a very physical, handson process. People perhaps imagine a more


conceptual approach to making artwork, particularly work that seems minimal in nature? SE: Yes, it’s a physical process in the studio. I wouldn’t say that I’m a conceptual artist. There can be a crossover. I remember being given a Lawrence Weiner interview to read as a student. It’s an early interview with him and he talks about a significant shift that took place in his work, from his physical paintings and sculptures to the text work. There was a sculpture he was making; he had a piece of stone, he kept turning it around, looking and looking, trying to find where he could make a start to his sculpture, what would be his initial approach. At one point, he realises that this process, everything he was doing, all the thought and the questioning, this was the work itself. He then began making the text works we know now. There’s still a physical root to this thinking. So, very early on, it was through this process-driven, conceptual art that I began to develop my understanding of sculpture: the possibility that the making is never complete, that sculpture is a process. It places a great deal of importance on the viewer. The moment of making, I hope, is always present in the work, so that the viewer can enter into that process. SH: The viewer should enter into the process of making the work? SE: Conceptually, yes. The receiving of the sculpture is a part of its making. They literally complete the work when they engage in the process of its making. For me, that moment of exchange is the work. It’s hard for me to articulate these ideas in words. The fact that I find this so hard to explain is the reason I keep on making sculpture. SH: There’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote where he says that asking someone to read a book is like asking someone to turn up at a concert with a violin, sit in the orchestra and play their part. Is this similar to how you think people should engage in sculpture? SE: Very much so. It’s in that way that there are demands on the viewer to do more than merely accepting it. They play a part in the creation of the work much the same way as reading. The viewer has a responsibility, but this comes from the way I do things. I

think in a visual, sculptural language – objects and their relation to space, the materials things are made of, and the way they’ve been built – it’s just the way I view and understand things. That’s the reason I’ve ended up making. I think the viewer needs to be coaxed into that way of thinking to be able to receive the work. I’m attempting to set up a situation where that can happen. SH: You have spoken about bringing the studio to the gallery, or exhibitions being like a studio. Your exhibitions don’t look like this room, your real studio, so how does that work? SE: It’s an approach towards being able to make exhibitions. It’s something I’ve been thinking about over several years. I try to bring something of the studio into the gallery space. The studio in this case represents an intuition, or intuitive way of thinking; whereas, the gallery seems to represent a set of more definite ideals and intentions. I’ve been trying to find a way to get a balance between intuition and intention. SH: Are you playing around with the status of the objects? At first, it seems as if you are grandly lifting the status, calling a chair a ‘sculpture’, and at the same time diminishing the status saying the space is a ‘studio’. SE: No, I don’t think that’s my intention. I very seldom refer to the things I make as ‘sculptures’. I prefer to call them ‘objects’. The problem with thinking about status in my work is that I never think of the objects as being completed. The studio activity is the sculpture and I want to take that activity and the unfinished status of the objects into the gallery. With my show at Chapter, the objects might have seemed complete, but they were, for me, a massively incomplete set of propositions for my practice. It’s all the ideas we’ve discussed, about the viewer and the process of making. That’s what I’m trying to figure out. SH: Let’s talk about the Chapter show. I remember at the time thinking of a famous story. There’s a guy who works at a scrap yard and the guards think he’s stealing. So, every day they search his wheelbarrow and can’t find anything but rubbish and scrap that he can take. It turns out in the end that he’s stealing wheelbarrows. I saw your show at Chapter as an exhibition of wheelbarrows. There were as many objects

in the gallery as most other exhibitions in Chapter, and yet it still looked virtually empty. Was that intentional? SE: Yes, it was intentional to make the space look empty; or, at least, appear empty at first. It was a space that I knew very well and very personally. I wanted to work with every part of the building, including the people there and the way things are done there, and the history and previous uses of the building. I was thinking about people’s expectations, what people are used to and comfortable with, and I wanted to challenge that. I think I pushed things to be more intuitive. I wanted to push that idea of the audience completing the work to an extreme. SH: The exhibition was designed to appear empty in a certain way, but it doesn’t seem to me that your exhibition was about emptiness or nothingness; not in the same way that some artists are dealing explicitly with those concepts. SE: No, it wasn’t about nothingness. The gallery, the building and the people that use the space were a set of things that I wanted to work with; I wanted all of that to become an object. I wanted these things to be sculptural material in the exhibition. My way in to thinking about the installation was to treat the building in the same way that I treat one of my small ‘practice objects’; to offer it up to the same set of questions and circumstances that I would a practice object in my studio. The emptiness of the objects in the exhibition and the other interventions I made, like the panels that were removed from the wall to expose the windows, I wanted those things to present the building as an object. The objects I did make were there to support the building itself. I wanted to confound people’s expectations and in some way I wanted it to be a difficult exhibition. SH: It was difficult; it seems as if it was quite mischievous too. Is there humour in your work? SE: Not really. I don’t think that I intend to set up humour. I never think to myself ‘I’m going to do this like this because I think it will be funny’. SH: But what about the way that the work is provocative, is that not humorous? SE: Maybe it’s with an intention of annoyance more than humour. [Laughs] No, it’s not really annoyance or humour that I think of when I


plan and make the work. I think there is an intention of friction and that can lead to many possible reactions. I want the work to have life. I don’t want it to seem dry or dead. This could be humourous at times, but in other works, Maelfa, for example, it’s something else. There were specific shots that we looked for when we filmed that: the glimpses of people and elements of colour that would bring some life to it. SH: The recurring motif of Bruce Springsteen within your work seems to occur with a little humour. It carries elements of teenage fandom, personal obsession and human warmth into view. How did that motif develop? SE: I guess sometimes I’ve played on it in a humorous way. Since about 2009 he’s been present in several works, but mostly in small episodes. I wasn’t a huge Springsteen fan before then. I only really started listening to him because of my Nebraska project and the interest in him grew from there. I’d found out about Springsteen’s Nebraska being this four-track demo tape that was released as an album. It’s the looser, unfinished, demotape qualities that I really liked and the idea of a ‘sketch’ being presented as complete. Nebraska had such a specific tone, both its musical tone and its political tone. At one point, he is almost howling like a broken man. It’s not his grand epic records that I’m so interested in. I took a quote from him in an interview where he said, “I want to write small and with just the details”. It’s that side of his work that I’m most interested in. The work started out as a research project. I was going to the British library and digging out all the reviews I could find from the time when Nebraska was released. It’s just before Born In the USA, from where he goes on to become a global superstar. Nebraska was a record where he didn’t do what was expected of him and it surprised the fans and critics of the time. I had a notebook where I was working through all this research and, in the end, it was my notebook that was presented in the gallery. My notebook was my version of Nebraska; it was a work presented at that early stage of production, trying to keep all of those looser, unfinished, demo tape qualities. SH: You were brought up in a Catholic background. Do you describe yourself as Catholic? SE: No, I’m not practising.

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SH: Does your background in Catholicism influence your work?

SE: Not at all. This change is to do with the offering and receiving of the bread. The bread becomes a ‘host’ of a declaration. When Christ offered the bread at the last supper and said ‘this is my Body’, the belief is that the bread became his body. It was his body that was offered, but the object retained the physical properties of bread. The change was a change in relationships to the ‘substance’ rather than a change in the atomic, physical properties.

SE: There are all sorts of ways that it influences the work, but most of those are left in the studio. It’s not very often explicit in the work. Just over there, I have a box of material that I’ve collected in relation to Catholicism. I often think about making more explicit work about it, but it’s not happened yet. Maybe it never will. Catholicism has had an influence on the way I think about sculpture, particularly in the idea of the transubstantiation of the sacraments.

SH: I’m interested in the relationship between an artist’s identity in a religious, political, national way and its presence in an artist’s work. I’d like to ask about your Welsh identity. Is that something that has a presence in your work?

SH: Transubstantiation is quite a complicated concept: the idea that, during a specific part the church service where bread and wine are distributed to the congregation, the bread changes into the ‘body of Christ’ and the wine changes into the ‘blood of Christ’. So, I can see how this might influence your thoughts about sculpture. Could you say a little more about it?

SE: It quietly exists in the sculpture. There’s a sense of tone, a Welsh tone; but in a similar way to the Catholicism, it’s present in the work in one respect, but the work is not about Wales, Welshness, God or Catholicism. You don’t need to know about these things to understand the work. Working in London felt very different. I made a different kind of work when I lived there. The studio here is influenced and affected by the Welsh landscape; by that, I mean the physical landscape, the industrial landscape and the cultural landscape. For me, politically, it’s also important to be a practising artist based in Wales. I want to contribute to something here. I want to contribute to Welsh culture. —CCQ

SE: It’s the way that you can take something and not have to do a massive amount to it to change its intention. I think this is relevant to sculpture, the idea that something can be significantly changed without its physical form being altered at all. But, importantly, the Catholics believe that it’s not a purely symbolic change. It’s not a metaphor; it’s an actual, real change. The bread is flesh. The wine is blood.

Drawn in Cursive (Part 3), a Chapter Touring Exhibition, is at MOSTYN, Llandudno until 01 March 2015,

SH: That sounds quite gruesome.

p38, 40 & 41 Drawn In Cursive (part one), Sean Edwards, 2013 Installation view Chapter, Cardiff , Image courtesy the artist, Limoncello, London and Tanya Leighton, Berlin, photo: Jon Fallon p43 Drawn In Cursive (part three), Sean Edwards, 2014 Installation view MOSTYN, Image courtesy the artist, Limoncello, London and Tanya Leighton, Berlin, photo: MOSTYN


An Elephant in the Room When artist and filmmaker Inga Burrows went to work with the cast of a long-running Welsh language soap opera, she had no idea what might happen and neither did they. She talks to Emma Geliot about soap making in character, subversive folk dancing and making art from memory.

Chronologically this story starts with an egg (but that comes later), features a young art student, bound into silence by too-tight, mummifying bandages, and ends up with a pink elephant in a green room, as a snake eats it own tail. Forget the egg for now – that’ll have to wait for a bit. Instead, here’s Inga Burrows, a young art student on her way to a fancy dress party. It’s Halloween and it’s an art school party, so there’ll be lots of cool looking types. Her dad winds her up tightly in bandages until she is obliterated in crêpe. Too late she’ll discover that she’s bound too tightly to sit down and nobody recognises her; no one speaks to her for along time, certainly not until they’ve had plenty to drink. A long time later, one of those once-ina-blue-moon opportunities shimmers on the horizon. Artists can bid for big funding from Artangel to realise an ambitious project usually out of their range. Inga Burrows sits down and thinks… We’re meeting because I’ve been tipped off that something interesting has been happening on the set of a TV show. Burrows is explaining the chain of events that led to an unusual installation at artist-led gallery g39. Back to that funding application. Burrows says that, a while before the Artangel

opportunity came up, she’d half-joked that she’d love to be artist in residence on the set of Coronation Street. “The fantastic contrast of the sublime mountain landscape of Hilda Ogden’s wallpaper and the tragi-comic antics of the Ogdens inspired me”, she will tell me when we meet. I remember that wallpaper — an unlikely and exotic landscape, adorned with flying ducks in a terrace in Weatherfield. She decided that rather than just lay out the bald proposal, she would weave the storylines of ‘The Street’ (as it is fondly known) into her own biography. A bold move. It didn’t get funded but Artangel liked it so much they asked if they could publish it. She showed a producer friend, who was in turn a friend of the producer of the long-running Welsh soap opera Pobl y Cwm (People of the Valley). The friend warmed up the producer and primed the pumps. So, when Inga approached him about working with the cast of Pobl y Cwm, he was ready to say an enthusiastic “yes”. The Arts Council provided funding and the University of South Wales gave Burrows time off (she’s a senior lecturer) to take on the project. There was one snag – Pobl y Cwm (PyC) is a Welsh language soap, made for S4C, with a punishing shooting schedule to produce five programmes a week, every week of the year, and Burrows doesn’t speak Welsh. But she’d thought of that and planned to bring a Welshspeaking documentary filmmaker


Summer 2014



Issue 5

doppelganger with her. This language double had her own research reasons for taking part and would document the project while she acted as an intermediary. Fine. Until the producer said that, on reflection, this was a bad idea – the cast wouldn’t know who to focus on. Ditch the double. Despite the enthusiasm no one really knew what to expect. Burrows had thought of some possible outcomes – the first being to get something out of the project into the Lle Celf at the National Eisteddfod (the art exhibition in Wales’ biggest cultural festival). She entered two whiteboards with a complex production matrix – who can be in the same shoot with who, who’s on holiday, who’s off contract and the ‘bubble’ where the shooting pace hots up to fill a four-week holiday hiatus. It got in to the exhibition with consternation from some quarters: is it art? Why is it art? What else did she do? I asked. She hung out with the cast in the Green Room in Cardiff (the show is set in a West Wales valley, but interior and street scenes are filmed at Roath Lock studios, in Cardiff Bay). She left art books lying around and started talking to the cast about art. She brought in psychologists and interviewed them about their characters, and ran workshops for them in character. They made soap based on the fictional memories and responses to smells that their characters might have had – proper soap, with individual fragrances and the picture of the character responsible for it on the packet front. And Burrows planned to film an all-cast dance in the streets of the fictional village of Cwm Deri. All of this happened in the closed world of television. The workshops led to intimate revelations and unexpected conversations. Burrows explored the relationship between actor and character, discovering that one actor actually carried a hand-drawn family tree for her character in her handbag. In October, Burrows recreated the PyC Green Room in the warehouse ambiance of g39, in Cardiff, with faithful copies of the sofas, the lights, the ceiling tiles, the coffee table and reading matter, but with added extras. On the TV a film of the workshops loop. On the walls and floor there are artworks made by the actors in character and an almost life-size pink papier mâché elephant head, which appears to have crashed through the wall. For one night only, some of the available cast members are due to come to the gallery and perform their dance for an audience. Then rumours fly around that they’re refusing to dance and that Burrows has got in a replacement dancer. The crowd arrives and we quiz each other over drinks, not sure what to expect. Does anyone know what’s going to happen? Sitting outside the Green Room we watch a film of Pobl y Cwm producer Ynyr Williams explaining the production schedule in front of the whiteboards at the Eisteddfod. In Welsh, of course, but with subtitles. It’s fascinating in its complexity and logic. Then it ends. We’ve been told that the dancer is ill but that the cast will be doing something in the Green Room and we’re invited to stay and watch. Some of us go inside and I’m under the pink elephant’s tusks. Two actors sit on the sofas; the audiences sit on chairs behind them in the room, or outside, looking in through the doorway. The actors start chatting. My Welsh isn’t brilliant but I get about 70 per cent. They’re talking about Burrows. She sits in my eye-line, camera on her lap but definitely in the audience. “Oh good”, I think, “Inga will take some pictures of this so I can use them later.” The camera doesn’t rise from her lap and I’m conscious that she doesn’t understand what’s being said. I remember our previous meeting and the girl

mummified in bandages, not fitting in. The actors start talking about the artworks they’ve been shown. Jeremi Cockram (who plays Sion White) is particularly taken with the ‘Furry Cup’ (I want to scream “Meret Oppenheim!” but don’t). Two blokes just chatting, back and forth. They seem benignly bemused by the experience of working with Inga, with what she’s offered them so far. Then Tara Bethan (who plays Angela Probert) bursts in, saying she’s just come from a session with Burrows and it was “Ffucking Ffantastic” (I’m trying to get across the Wenglish with all of those ffs). She’s been asked if she even likes her character; if she met her in the street would they be friends? She’s never thought about this. They chat on for a while. Tara’s mother rings and she tells her what’s been going on. They run some lines – falling into character then out again, slump about on the sofas. Then they remember that they’re supposed to be putting together a dance piece for Inga to film and sound a bit panicked. Tara takes charge, they find some music and work out a basic routine, moving around the furniture. She’s obviously used to dancing; the lads are more uneasy but give it a go and joke about subversive folk dancing. That’ll do then, they’ve done what they promised. Burrows, or rather the artist playing the character ‘Inga’, stands, comes into the territory of the Green Room and the language switches to English. She asks how they are, how the dance is going and if all the cast are going to do it. They smile, look her in the eye; say it’s all fine, all under control and not to worry. They fib right to her face. It stops. We as audience are suddenly players in the room and allowed to ask questions. The actors have been playing themselves, roles they aren’t used to? ‘How was that?’ we ask. ‘Strange’, they reply, it’s not something they’ve ever had to do before, takes them out of the comfortingly familiar territory they’re used to. Stranger for us, perhaps – like watching a snake eating its own tail. What have they got out of working with Inga so far (the project wasn’t finished then)? This is more complex. Jeremi Cockram says that actors choose acting so that they can play lots of different roles, but in a soap opera they can end up being the same character for over 20 years. Working with Inga introduces the creative side back into the job. Jonathan Nefydd, who plays Colin, says he was really resistant to the idea of doing the workshops in character but, at some point in the soap-making, he found himself selecting the smells that would mean something to Colin, not necessarily to him (Jonathan), and so found himself complying rather than resisting as he’d intended. For actors a long-running stint as a main character on a soap opera means a level of security in a notoriously insecure profession. But there’s a creative trade-off in exchange for paying the mortgage with that single role. This project has introduced a new level of creativity, despite it having to be shoehorned into a fast-paced, high-pressure production schedule. For the actors who embraced its possibilities (not all did), it has clearly been revelatory. But what was in it for Inga Burrows – the artist, not to be confused with the artist playing the character of the artist? It’s been interesting for the ideas that it has thrown up, she reflects. It’s taken her notions of participatory practice in new directions. And it has been exhausting in its ambition and complexity. “It was almost impossibly ambitious – getting artworks made by fictitious characters. I’m going to put aside participatory artworks – ultimately I’ll avoid participatory artworks”, she says firmly. For the moment, I suspect, but not forever. However, there’s still a soap bubble in her future. “I’m going


to make an autobiographical feature film – Coronation Street is bound to pop up. I’m going to re-enact moments that are part of my biography. The house [where she grew up] still exists – my mother still lives there.” Seeing Clio Barnard’s 2010 film, The Arbor, made a big impression on Burrows. In that film actors lip-synch testimony from the family and friends of the dramatist Andrea Dunbar, who died after a troubled life at 29 and whose work drew on her experiences of living on a council estate in Bradford. “I want to fold in work that I’ve made; animations of my parents splitting up, re-making films from memory, working as closely as possible to the original.” We talk about how possible it might be to recreate a work that no longer exists from memory. Would one have to recreate the conditions around the making of that work too to get the same feel? Is it possible to remake something from another time? Burrows remembers a film she made as a student – it was about abortion and featured an egg. It is with hindsight that we recognise how significant a particular piece of work was, and by then it is gone. The not-very-structured-to-begin-with conversation unravels as we start to work out how to approach the re-making of work, or of work we might have just dreamed about, and suddenly we feel an exhibition of reclaimed work coming on. Before I commit to a radical career change I say goodbye, promising to be back for the dance performance from the cast.—CCQ Project blog – Pobl Prism,

p45 Inga Burrows at g39, Ric Bower, 2014 p46 The Artist Residing, Inga Burrows; photo: Ric Bower p48 ti fi ni , (you me we), Sion White; photo: Ric Bower


Spring 2015



Southern Lines and Northern Lights Taking the temperature of design talent in Wales is never easy when so much work happens below the domestic radar. Curator Ceri Jones shines a light on some talented designers in a new touring exhibition.

New talent. Go and find it. Tease it out. Celebrate it. And so I did, enjoying some inquisitive minds and lateral thinking along the way. The exhibition Southern Lines and Northern Lights comprises work by a selection of designers currently practising in Wales. Their meticulous prototypes exemplify refined craftsmanship and production pieces echo the marks of the maker. The exhibition explores bright ideas and an insightful understanding of the materials needed to illuminate them. Curating the exhibition gave me pause to reconsider the process of design. Design is working out the combination of mechanics and aesthetics that will make something function effectively in a social and cultural context. Yet, between concept and realisation, there is a journey of workings out and of development to map. Of course, the route varies between different products, projects and systems, but each design journey is mapped by a series of explorations, exchanges and resolutions. The final destinations can be very exciting. Design is inherent to our daily lives, from our toothbrushes to our bus stops to our modus operandi. It exists as an ongoing dialogue between us, be it one of compromise or of challenge. As The Design Museum’s strapline puts it, ‘Design is a way to understand the world and how you can change it’. So, turning the spotlight on selected product designers and how they work, creates opportunities to consider the influence of design more broadly. Surprisingly, and frustratingly, creative talent in Wales sometimes needs to be winkled out. Several of the design practices in the show work internationally and have established professional profiles and, yet, at home, operate under the radar. This may be through personal or professional choice, or it may be because ambition and achievement in this particular creative industry is not widely understood or celebrated. There is the omnipresent economy of scale to contend with when considering the globally-relevant attributes of a small nation but, with design being a process that can be tangibly explored and resolved in a global forum, this problem can simply dissolve. The Design Commission for Wales has internationalism running through its core like a mantra through a stick of rock and creates opportunities for the wider sector to benefit from international markets through its inclusive dialogues and networks. “The greatest threat to creative innovation is a failure to exchange ideas, learning and experience”, says Design Commission Chief Executive Carole-Anne Davies. The Design Commission for Wales regards designers as instinctively operating within a global perspective. That would be wonderful if true, but I feel that it is an aspiration rather than a reality for many. We have platforms for exchanging experience, for research and exploration. Design Wales is open and active in facilitating these. Its

recent initiative, Makers Using Technology, is a supported service that enables designers to investigate the potential, and the limitations, of current technology in their work. Fab Lab (Fabrication Laboratory) Cardiff builds on the experience of the global Fab Lab network, as well as the research and technical expertise of Cardiff School of Art & Design, offering access to facilities and technologies without designers having to make a big financial investment. The rural development initiative, Menter Môn, enables micro businesses to develop products via supported prototyping, identity development and business partnering. Based at Coleg Sir Gâr in Carmarthen, the Textiles Technologies Project encourages the uptake of knowledge, new technologies and technical expertise. It aims to transfer experience and skills between academia, business and designers. ‘Do one thing well’ is the motto of the Hiut Denim Company, the latest enterprise of David and Claire Hieatt, who worked with the Textiles Technology Project to refine jeans patterns. Established in 2010 to reinvigorate the former denim production town of Cardigan and to draw upon local skills from the industry, the Hiut Denim Company exemplifies shrewd design through its parallel engagement with both the local and the global, tied by significant integrity of purpose. It’s perhaps too readily accepted that talent designers venture out of the country in search of experience and opportunity. Happily, some return, and there are new arrivals. There is an appetite and ongoing need for good design and innovative Welsh designers can feed this demand. Can we partake of such global opportunities more widely, however? Herein lies an equation, one that weighs: capacity of population + reticence + uncertainty of global benchmarks against industrious tenacity + integrity of concept + advocacy of indigenous talent. Designs can be effective because of designers’ insightful appreciation of the micro and macro environments we inhabit. These environments are perpetually shifting, but the essence of good design remains a reliable constant. —CCQ Southern Lines and Northern Lights is a Ruthin Craft Centre and Mission Gallery touring exhibition featuring: Freshwest; Sian Elin; Louise Tucker; Sian O’Doherty; Loglike; Jessica Lloyd-Jones; Drws y Coed Mission Gallery, Swansea: 22 November 2014 – 4 January 2015 Ruthin Crafts Centre: 30 January – 12 April 2015.



p50 Pren 04, Louise Tucker, photo: Dewi Tannat Lloyd p52 Rosette in Teal wallpaper, Sian Elin, photo: Keith Davies p53 Pool Table, (detail), Freshwest


Now Breathe As the Wales Millennium Centre celebrates its first ten years, Emma Geliot finds out what new artistic director Graeme Farrow has up his sleeve for the next ten years.

The Wales Millennium Centre (WMC), designed by architect Jonathan Adams, is affectionately known as ‘The Woodlouse’ or ‘The Armadillo’ by the locals in Cardiff because of its unusual curved design and metallic cladding. Opened by the Queen in November 2004, it was one of the biggest Millennium projects in Wales. Its opening wasn’t without controversy as this multi-art form venue was a substitute for a proposed, dedicated opera house designed by Zaha Hadid. A last minute volte face turned that ambition into something else, something that would have broader appeal. And then there was a funding crisis and a Welsh Government bailout, causing a stink from the rest of the cash-strapped arts community. However, that’s all in the past now and the centre is thriving. Over 13 million people have visited the WMC since its opening, it contributes over £50m to the economy and it employs a thousand people. Big numbers for a small nation. I’m meeting Graeme Farrow to talk about the future of one of the biggest arts centres in Europe.


Farrow joined the WMC team as Artistic Director in April 2014, fresh from running Derry/Londonderry’s UK City of Culture year. He brings with him a vast experience of delivering very complex and artistically ambitious projects and lots of new ideas for adding some extra creative fizz to the centre. His current role isn’t straightforward, however. The WMC is home to a whole host of different organisations: Welsh National Opera, National Dance Company Wales, Literature Wales, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Hijinx Theatre, Touch Trust, Ty Cerdd and the Urdd. At the rear of the building, the Arts Council of Wales is

on hand to keep an eye on things. It’s more like managing an airport or a shopping mall than an arts centre. Farrow sees his job as drawing together the numerous threads and raising the stakes in artistic ambition. “We’re the national arts centre of Wales – we need to take that very seriously in terms of what we can do for the nation and all of the arts sectors”, Farrow says. He’s been mapping out what might be possible creatively and physically, ready to sign off the artistic strategy that will take his vision forward. The Centre is on a 7.5-hectare site and accommodates a lot of connected spaces, including the 1,500-seater Donald Gordon lyric theatre, the Weston Studio and the Hodinott Hall for concerts. There had been attempts at showing visual art on the walls of the circulation areas but Farrow feels this has been unsatisfactory and does the work a disservice. Instead he’s looking at interventions in the front of house space, such as Andy Singleton’s Ice Storm, which flows throughout the building for the Christmas season. This is part and parcel of Farrow’s ambition to make sure that visitors to the WMC immediately feel part of something creative when they walk through the doors. “It feels like WMC is starting to breathe. That’s important and finding ways to make it breathe – that’s my job.” Farrow observes. Of course, the theatres are programmed far in advance – the WMC is a host venue for big West End musicals too – so immediate flexibility is limited. Farrow feels he could change about 15% on the main Donald Gordon stage and 50% elsewhere. He’s been looking at The South Bank Centre, “It’s a destination – not just the Festival Hall; families go there, to the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Hayward Gallery and other spaces”, Farrow says. He likes the fact that there’s a lot of work done outside of the complex and that the programme has been ‘festivalised’. So Farrow is looking at making a coherent approach to programming, taking a more curatorial role. He wants the programme to be like a bus journey for audiences, to take them somewhere interesting. At the moment there are bursts of one aspect or other in the programme and then a gap and he wants to link events together more. “If audiences are interested in contemporary dance they can’t wait 18 months between performances.” Farrow wants to ensure that dance lovers coming to see Matthew Bourne can be told about the next dance event there and then.


Most importantly, he wants to steer the WMC towards production, rather than just presentation, and he wants to encourage arts practitioners to think big. “This place has a fantastic ten-year history but it’s not punching at its weight nationally or internationally”, Farrow explains. When he began to visit in the lead-up to starting his new role, he remembers, “All I could see when I came here was opportunity after opportunity: to create more work here; producing rather than presenting; making more work collaboratively; doing things on a large scale (which isn’t happening a lot); and to export it – around Wales and internationally.” Farrow is currently working on a very large Roald Dahl centenary project for 2016, primarily working with National Theatre Wales and Literature Wales. He thinks it needs the same approach as the Dylan Thomas 100 festival but, “Roald Dahl is more accessible and he was born in Cardiff. Roald Dahl Plass and the Norwegian Church are close by, so we have a duty to celebrate him.” Farrow is not envisaging a 2016 birthday cake party. He wants to build a longterm relationship, “The scope of what we can do because we’re multi-genre is huge.” For a man whose career in the arts began as an usher on minimum wage in an art house cinema, Farrow has gone through everything that he’s tackled to date like a dose of salts, bringing off some very impressive projects in his adopted Northern Ireland home and for Derry as UK City of Culture: presenting Hofesh Schecter’s contemporary dance project to an audience of 4,000 in a rock venue; creating the spectacle of The Return of Colmcille (1,500 participants); lighting the city with Lumier and Artichoke; and, of course, bringing the Turner Prize to a former British Army base, attracting record visitor numbers – equivalent to nearly twice the population of Derry. He’s on a mission to engage audiences and raise artistic expectations. “I’m a lad from Sunderland who never had any engagement with art. I figure if I can appreciate and enjoy the Turner Prize and Hoffesh Schecter’s work then anyone can”. —CCQ

Ice Storm, Andy Singleton, 2014, (detail of installation at Wales Millennium Centre as part of its 10th Anniversary celebrations), photo: Ric Bower

A Promise of Paradise

Together by Sophie Warren, Jonathan Moseley, Anthony Elliot, Libita Clayton and Axel Wielder offers a visual palimpsest of how the city centre is used by communities with differing, even opposing, agendas. Brentford Towers (1985) by Stephen Willats was made for the residents of Harvey House, a tower block in London. His invited residents to select personal objects of significance to them indoors, as well as things seen through their apartment windows. They explore issues of private space in urban development, as do muf art/ architecture (currently working with residents of Lawrence Hill). Upstairs much of the work explores how humans inhabit architecture and the city. Downstairs the grounded, modernist architectural models are static. This is in direct contrast with the mappings in Doing Things Separately Together, which relate how people are physically embedded in the city. The routes and spaces that these various groups move through produce a theatrical vision of potential confrontations or collaborations. The sensation of movement through, not built upon, emphasises the daily choreography that occurs. Meanwhile, Arnolfini’s off-site programme for The Promise, extends this freedom of play into the streets. Oscar Tuazon installed Live Steam Shift Whistle on Clifton Downs to host communal barbeques. The plinth supporting the work echoes the modernist architectural models in the gallery, as well as the concrete underpasses where Awake and You’re in Motion by Jeremiah Day was installed. On the outskirts of the city, underneath the M32, is an underpass that joins the communities of Easton and St Werburghs, which many avoid at night. During the day, it is a sad, humble space, brightened only by loud-coloured graffiti; not political or confrontational, just hippie flowers and garlands; an attempt to humanise the brutal architecture.

Two projects that consider the use and possibilities of public spaces were launched in Bristol this summer and Carolyn Black gave us her first response in CCQ issue 4. Now she goes back to consider how these complex projects delivered and the questions they raise.

When Arnolfini launched The Promise and Trust New Art Bristol opened the gates to PARADISE at Tyntesfield, just south of the city, I considered how we encounter both rural and urban exhibitions and what lies in between. The artworks in PARADISE were all outside the main house in the grounds, whereas The Promise had works inside the gallery and around the city. You can only visit Tyntesfield by day and there is a respectful formality. ‘Paradise’ as a concept marks the beginning of time and culture, whereas ‘a promise’ is always concerned with imminence and the future. The Promise exhibition at Arnolfini flips back and forth in time, with models of what might have been, fantastical modifications of what is, and explorations into what Bristol could be. Inside the gallery, the models showed a wide range of possibilities that were once literally ‘on the table’. Few came to fruition and this aspect of the exhibition has drawn in large audiences, which says a lot about Bristol – they care about the place. How the city is occupied and used by disparate groups is layered in the large circular prints upstairs. Doing Things Separately


Day’s lithographs, part of Awake and in You’re in Motion (Response to a Brief from a Bristol Radical Historian), nestle quietly on the concrete pillars, exploring the impact of the motorway above on local communities. Both Day and Tuazon’s bodies of work included performances in some way, and I felt their absence at both locations. A video documenting Day’s performance was screened on a monitor in the gallery, whereas the whistle could only blow on Tuazon’s work when in use. Would that the work could stay I’d love to hear it. Kate Newby used various sites for Awake and You’re in Motion, including a wall of graffiti in an underpass and the external walls of a tall building. Her works were playful and dispersed around the city. Mr and Mrs Hands was a series of interventions described in the Arnolfini programme as, ‘gestures and objects that explore the role that architecture plays in shaping thought and perception.’. Beautiful, hand-made glass objects with ambiguous, poetic labels harvested from St. Mary Redcliffe church were installed in the Cabin on Prince Street Bridge, behind glass windows. We can look, but not touch. Further along the bridge, a tree has its roots and base smothered and loaded with coloured, shiny concrete. The hand marks are all visible, patting, caressing and nurturing this brave chunk of nature, holding its ground amidst the tarmac and steel fencing. Then, high above, way beyond anyone’s reach, a red rope wraps around the upper floors of a building; the playful remains of a prank, a party, a gift for the city, or maybe a celebration? Between Arnolfini and Tyntesfield, on the outskirts of the city, Leigh Woods hosted an artists’ intervention, commissioned jointly by Arnolfini and Trust New Art. Assemble describe themselves as, ‘a collective of architects, designers and artists who strive to rethink how we live in our cities, creating opportunities to make public spaces more open and joyful.’ For their work Spirit of Play, they’d initially considered building a structure, but their workshops steered them towards consultation and discussion. The outcome will be a publically available toolkit. Having managed projects in woodlands myself, I respect their decision not to build a structure; architecture between trees often appears uncomfortable, which doesn’t sit well with their desire to be open and joyful.

The gallery space and city streets have a different set of codes of conduct to the rural woodlands, affecting the way we encounter art. All these things impact on our relationship with architecture. The idea of a Garden City was to plan around those differences, to make them work together as a whole. Yet, then, they would all be homogenous, like Poundbury in Dorchester, and anyone who has been there will know how uncannily, unnervingly nostalgic it is, like a stage set. These parallel exhibitions drew out similarities and differences, just as the many of


the users of the city in Doing Things Separately Together did. Indeed, that would have been a great title for the exhibition. —CCQ

p56 Mr and Mrs Hands, Kate Newby, 2014. The Promise, Arnolfini, photo: Stuart Whipps p57 Live Steam Shift Whistle, Oscar Tuazon, 2014, The Promise, Arnolfini, photo: Stuart Whipps

A Fistful of Festivals With more festivals, biennials, triennials and wandering extravaganzas than ever before, CCQ takes a look at an eclectic handful.

Bristol Biennial . Cardiff Contemporary . Seoul Marginal Theatre Festival Asia Triennial Manchester . Manifesta 10, St Petersburg . Flow Festival, Helsinki


Spring 2015

Two Across the Severn Bristol and Cardiff are two cities with fifty miles and the territorydefining Severn Estuary between them. Both cities held their second biennials this year and took over unusual, non-institutional venues to present work that was challenging, engaging and, sometimes, perplexing to new publics. Phil Owen and Emma Geliot take a city apiece and consider some new models for an age-old idea.

— Bristol Biennial­ — Phil Owen

possibilities for collaboration. Yet – though I observe that this tends to apply more in terms of east to west than it does going in the opposite direction – it is as if the muddy wedge of the Severn Estuary forms a psychological boundary. Take, for example, the Bristol Biennial. Produced by a young, relatively inexperienced team, featuring the work of mostly emerging practitioners (selection is via open submission), and taking place across a range of mostly non-institutional spaces, a festival of this scale would have struggled for visibility in London. In Bristol, however, despite an already very full visual arts programme, it has become a major event in a short space of time. With this status comes judgement. The festival is professional, ambitious in scale, with a strong, convincing identity thus far, and productively controversial (more on that later). The

Bristol is rarely thought of as a border city, yet, traffic depending, you can drive from the end of the Severn Bridge to the city centre in about 20 minutes. Given this, and despite the large amount of daily commuting going on, I am consistently surprised that there aren’t more formally organised links between the Bristol and Cardiff art scenes. Both cities sustain strong artistic communities, regularly refreshed by large student populations; both are home to internationally important contemporary art institutions; and both have to deal with the relative proximity of London and the excessive centralisation of the UK art world. There is much we can compare notes on, I think, and many


challenge to maintain this could be a very positive thing, both for the Biennial and for the city. With 29 events taking place over ten days, this year’s programme was busy. There was a noticeable emphasis on event-based work, be that performance proper, or exhibitions animated through discussions and workshops. This, combined with the fact that so many of the featured artists were international, lent the festival the quality of an active takeover, a temporary intervention into the city. Complementary to this, the use of such a wide variety of venues (public toilets and private houses amongst them) allowed those of us who’ve lived in Bristol for years the opportunity to feel like we were discovering it anew. Crossing the Line, at police station-turnedcommunity art space The Island, was the culmination of an opening programme of events, co-curated with the International Performance Association. This combined durational with timetabled live art pieces and, as is often the case with these sorts of events, I struggled to find a rhythm to properly engage with the work shown, unsure when I needed to be in another part of the building and unable to see through the crowd that congregated around whatever was claiming the most audience attention at the time. Nevertheless, there were plenty of sustaining moments through the evening: my glimpse of Diana Dieva folding small origami sculptures of birds in a former prison cell, with its metal toilet bowl directly behind her in my eye line,

the images of freedom and incarceration searing against one another; the rubbery casts pulled by Bean from the inside of her mouth, left to congeal around sticks and looking so much like lilies; or the amusingly silly Desert Island Deaths by Jonathan Rogerson, who, swathed in flowing black, collapsed, again and again, to the accompaniment of lovelorn pop songs. The Church of St Thomas the Martyr hosted Nanna Lysholt Hansen’s video installation Temporary Sculptures for Beijing Apartments. Six or so television monitors each screened footage of the artist posing nude in the manner of a classical sculpture inside different domestic spaces in Beijing. Each film, through Hansen’s occupation, gave a unique access point to private life in a radically different culture from our own. And occupations they are – referencing beauty, yet invasive, static and melancholy, almost malingering. In the midst of the chaos of a one-room flat, apparently home to ten female art students, Lysholt’s hosts go about their tasks around her; passing quiet, knowing comment and failing to appear unembarrassed, or seemingly completely ignoring her. Quite apart from the fascination of voyeurism (me watching them trying not to watch her), there was much to reflect on here around the impact of looking – visual presence disrupted by broken social norms, or the global reach of Western, historical visual culture – and the installation’s position, right in front of the ostentatious 18th century altarpieces which St Thomas’ is famed for, added another rich layer for consideration.

Holly Corfield-Carr’s MINE took place in the extraordinary shell and crystal-filled grotto, dug 300 years ago, beneath the gardens of Goldney Hall in Clifton. Her piece was intimately, lovingly site-responsive, produced from several months studying the space. Spoken-word, undertaken for only six audience members at a time (we were inveigled to read ourselves at points), and a narrative as intricate as the arrangement of minerals on the grotto walls, explored the interface of geology and human time, dropping in many arcane points from Bristol mythology. Set against the potential overload of the space, and the detail of her text, Carr’s performance style was informal and inviting – I almost felt like I shouldn’t look her in the eye, in case we both started giggling. Ded. Reckoning by the Dowsing for Water collective took the form of an open studio/ laboratory, the artists undertaking various water-referencing projects according to a process, and for an intended form of audience-engagement, which remained cloudy to this visitor. Similarly fluvial, Eve Mosher’s High Water Line was amongst the most visible pieces in the biennial, in which groups from across the city were invited to use a sports-pitch marker to draw the boundaries of local flood zones. The result was what looked like possible plans for alternative methods of traversing the city, counter to current streets and pavements, or reorganisations of territory – which of course, as indication of potential outcomes of

p58 NoFit State at Green Man Festival 2014, (a ten second performance), Ric Bower for CCQ p59 High Shoes, Zejing Liu, 2014; photo: Roser Diaz p60 Forest of Fallen Trees, Bjørn Erik Haugen; photo: Stephanie Elizabeth Third


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global warming, they were. As another exercise in allowing inhabitants opportunities to label and, therefore, contest or redefine their places, Shaun C Badham’s I’M STAYING is a neon sign of those words that will move around Bristol for the next two years, its siting determined by public vote. There is no doubt that in taking the name ‘Biennial’, eyebrows have been raised in certain echelons of Bristol’s art scene. After all, such a title implies a claim to representation which, in a city with so many established institutions and a large community of practitioners, should perhaps be more of a collaborative effort. Compare it with the Bristol Art Weekender, initiated this year by Situations and coinciding with the Spike Open. That festival incorporated contributions from over 16 different galleries and artist-led projects. Why should ‘our’ biennial be so much smaller in scale than Venice, Berlin or Liverpool? What does this say about Bristol’s relationship with the international art world? Alternatively, why should all biennials look the same? Surely, the concept is in need of an update, a refresh away from current impressions of a festival circuit traversed by the culturally over-

privileged, flying around the world whilst remaining very firmly within one self-referential bubble? Might a worthwhile alternative be something equally as international, whilst produced at a minute percentage of the cost and with more particular locality? Certainly, I had the strong impression of coming into contact with scenes and networks that I could not otherwise encounter, rather than of seeing the work of artists who have trained in the same schools, are represented by the same galleries and are written about in the same magazines. Do smaller cities have a particular role to play here? Bristol has its own particular qualities. It was the setting for some of the worst rioting in recent years, sparked not by youthful disenfranchisement, but by principled opposition to Tesco opening a branch in an independent shopping area. So, never mind the soubriquet; this biennial is not waiting for permission. Bristol Biennial ran from 12 – 21 September 2014

— Cardiff Contemporary­ — Emma Geliot Cardiff Contemporary is an ambitious festival, running on an unusual model; its aim is to pull together a whole host of activity to create a real focus for the visual arts in Cardiff over five weeks. For its first full-blown outing (there was a pilot in 2012) Cardiff Contemporary 2014 (03 October – 11 November) set out to penetrate the city and reach new audiences. I have to stick my hand up and declare that I’m on the steering committee and have been since the very early days of trying to scope out this festival, so please forgive any enthusiastic partisan ravings. The steering committee is important because there’s no festival director or individual curator; instead Cardiff Contemporary taps into the experience and enthusiasm of a wide range of arts organisations, festivals and artist-led groups, with Cardiff Council as its conduit for funding and support, backed up by investment from the Arts Council of Wales Festival Fund. Sheltering under its umbrella are: three festivals – Experimentica, Made in Roath and Outcasting: Fourth Wall (O:4W) – along with Artes Mundi, g39, Ffotogallery, Goat Major Projects, EMP Projects, tactileBOSCH and Cardiff Open Studios, together with 28 special commissions, three artists in residence, talks, events, performances, installations, exhibitions and projects. Phew!


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Cardiff must be the only capital city in Europe without a municipal gallery, although independent galleries have flourished over the past twenty years and the National Museum now has dedicated galleries for modern and contemporary art. Since g39 moved from the heart of the main retail area and the St Davids Hall foyer gallery was mothballed, there’s little to draw attention to contemporary art in the city centre – visitors who haven’t done their homework could be forgiven for thinking that Cardiff has no art scene. There are multiple meanings to the festival’s theme, Reveal/Conceal, and artists/arts organisations were invited to respond to it as imaginatively as they chose. Cardiff Contemporary peeled back the lid on the extremely lively, hidden scene and brought art out of the outlying suburbs and backstreets into sharp relief. Much of what happened this year took place outside of the arts institutions in the city: in disused buildings; empty retail units; specially commissioned structures/design collaborations; in clock towers; on tourist buses and even in The South Wales Echo, the local newspaper; and not forgetting the Phone Box Disco for the clubbers (by Swansea’s AE 101 Collective) on the main party drag of St Mary Street. Hundreds of artists were involved – the tactileBOSCH show, Paradise Lost, had over ninety artists on its own. As the festival launched, a steaming meteor was spotted, crashlanded into a car outside the Wales Millennium Stadium, while a few streets away, on a vast digital billboard, that same meteor could be seen hurtling towards earth, with the helpful words DON’T PANIC popping up intermittently. This was the work of Andrew Cooper, strategically positioned to capture the outsize crowd who were heading to g39 for the festival launch and the opening of Carwyn Evans’ show, UDO. Enthusiastic speeches were made, arty bags disseminated and a lot of social drinking occurred. There was a palpably exuberant mood to this launch – for once artists in the city felt visible and celebrated (or maybe that was just the beer). Outside Cardiff Central Station, for the entertainment of the taxi queues, Erwin Wurm’s One Minute Sculptures inspired a lot of pencils on noses and buckets on heads. Meanwhile, three empty commercial units in the soon-to-be demolished St David’s House were made over to become: The ‘Stute – the Cardiff Contemporary festival hub, complete with reading library, exhibition and a series of talks and events; O:4W’s Panopticon showcase for new moving image commissions and an international screening programme; and Free Mountain – Goat Major Projects’ sanctuary from the city, hosting performed poetry and sonic art, Chinese brush painting and providing a popular drop-in for Cardiff bus drivers. At 5pm each day Cardiff Castle’s clock tower rang out with Richard James and R Seiliog’s In Place of Fear, a mash-up of field recordings and Aneurin Bevan speeches. Meanwhile, from the battlements, Dominic From Luton’s red flag exhorted passersby to Call Mum, courtesy of Locws Projects. In the Castle grounds, Richard Woods, curated by Chapter, created a humorous nod to the William Burges opulence of the castle. Over at The Beuys Pavilion, in The Friary, complemented by another shop venue in Barrack Lane, EMP Projects, in partnership with The Design Circle curated an ambitious programme of talks, performances, screening and events that engaged the passing public in discussions around architecture and the public realm (Cardiff Contemporary includes design in its remit). Nearby, on Working Street, g39’s shipping

container hosted one of two Alex Rich projects, Spiller’s Biscuit, part of Reflections Towards a Well-Tempered Environment. Rich also took up residence in a pink hut on Cardiff Bay Barrage. Behind the shipping container, Swansea’s CIVIC made The Cardiff Story (in the Old Library) their base for the duration of the festival, running workshops for families and bringing Phone Box Disco to Cardiff for the opening night of the festival. Across town, the hyper-local Made in Roath (MiR) festival invited folk to join them as they tap-danced the Cardiff Register office statistics for Births, Deaths & Shuffles outside City Hall – a MiR peripatetic project that was just the tip of the iceberg of an incredible ten-day programme. Following the canal down to the Bay, past Matt Cook’s sculptures and the ducks, to Bute St, tactileBOSCH took over the old Customs and Immigration building for Paradise Lost, in an extraordinary homage to the late Kim Fielding (the opening night doubled as a fundraiser for the new Kim Fielding Award). Next door, Ffotogallery’s Bedazzled: A Welshman in New York in the Cory Building mixed sound, vision and theatrical performance. Back up towards town, the upper floors of Jacob’s Market hosted A Giant, Whose Shoulders I Stand On. Curated by Bob Gelsthorpe, four artists were invited to curate four others, which launched with performances, installations and a rooftop screening the same evening as Nowhere Bar (S Mark Gubb and Gordon Dalton) opened its doors for two nights – an artists’ dive with a limited choice of booze and snacks, loud music and lots of dry ice ambience. Over in the Victorian Morgan Arcade, On Record, set up by Cinzia Mutigli and Freya Dooley, celebrated all things musical – live sets in the cellar, vinyl, cassettes, posters. And on the airwaves every Thursday night, Sam Hasler presented Radio Nought, alone in the studios of Radio Cardiff from midnight to 2am – a soothing monologue with random bursts of eerie music. Meanwhile the three artists in residence, Simon Fenoulhet, Ian Watson and Daniele Sambo, plunged into the city for six weeks to reveal its hidden side. Fenoulhet squeezed into underground tunnels and caves to find subterranean gems, sharing via social media as he went to gather intelligence. Ian Watson also turned to social media to collect unlikely tales of mythical creatures sighted, or cited, in Cardiff – a lake full of rogue terrapins, an asbestos tarantula, a whale buried beneath the site of a retail park (allegedly) – making drawings and finally a sonic box. Venetian artist, Daniele Sambo, worked more below the radar, building up a network of contacts to gain access to back gardens, getting people to introduce him to their friends. His project will carry on beyond the span of the festival as he invites neighbours to create informal access runs using their collective DIY ladders and trampolines. Then there was Johanna Hartwig’s canal project, Watermark; Hangover Lounge to soothe flagging or over-socialised souls; Empty Walls – filling the unloved spaces with giant murals; Rebecca Wyn Kelly’s The Art Hotel and good cop bad cops’ Occupation, which imagined the city as a vast film set, with real extras (sorry, supporting talent...) lurking around the empty shops in costume. A couple of weeks in, Artes Mundi 6 opened, bringing charabancs of curators and journalists to Cardiff and, the same weekend, studios across the city laid out cake along with arty wares, to welcome a circuit of visitors for what has now become an annual event, organised by Goat Major Project’s Richard Higlett. In early November, as the tide began to ebb, Chapter’s


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annual Experimentica festival kicked off, adding more fizz to the city. Now the tide has gone out completely, everything feels quite flat again. Evaluation forms and accounts are completed, brushes and rollers rinsed and put away. It was a phenomenal event – as I’ve said, I am biased – realised for what I suspect would be a tiny fraction of the budgets of the Liverpool Biennial, Glasgow International or the Folkestone Triennial. I’d visited the first two of these this year on a compare and contrast mission. Glasgow felt similarly fizzy, but Liverpool, working on a reduced budget with very few public realm commissions to give it the presence of previous years, felt a little lacklustre by comparison. Is this model sustainable? Well, everyone is still speaking to each other (no mean feat considering the pressure to deliver), Cardiff Council seems committed to continuing to support the festival and the Arts Council

staff looked happy as they darted from site to site. But, of course, there are funding cuts ahead for everyone and there’s only so much goodwill that can be used to prop up a project of this scale and ambition. Curatorially, it’s interesting. It has been suggested that there should be an overall curatorial vision, but then where would that stop? It’s unlikely that the festivals and Artes Mundi would take kindly to external creative interference and the projects and commissions are linked to a unifying (albeit widely interpreted) theme and selected by a large group of people who have been involved since the outset. We will have to see what 2016 brings but, with all this energy in the city, it should be well worth a visit. —CCQ It’s been nigh-on impossible to name-check everyone who took part, please do have a look at the website to get a flavour of just how much went on.


p61 Bleach Box, Cian Donnelly, for Experimentica 2014; photo: Warren Orchard p62 Collective Memory (detail), Richard Gravelle, installation/ mixed media, as part of Paradise Lost, 2014; photo: Chris Lledrod Evans p63 Transubstantiation (detail), Nazma Ali, with Catherine Lewis and Mark Stephenson, Participatory performance/ installation/mixed media, as part of Paradise Lost, 2014, photo: Chris Lledrod Evans p65 Occupation, good cop bad cop, Commissioned for Cardiff Contemporary 2014 with support from Experimentica, photo: Warren Orchard p66 & 67 Top of the Popera, Stabbing Les, as part of On Record, commissioned for Cardiff Contemporary 2014. Courtesy the artists, photo: Noel Dacey

On the Margin The Seoul Marginal Theatre Festival uses performance to break down barriers and empower the socially marginalised to share experience and concerns with a wider audience, bringing them into focus. James Tyson went to Korea this summer to re-visit this most un-corporate celebration of the unseen fringes of society.

Its very name may sound an anachronism: Seoul Marginal Theatre Festival. With a preponderance of biennials, festivals and arts structures attempting to demonstrate a utopian centrality to the society of which they are part, to claim that one’s space is marginal is perhaps a strange admission of defeat. At least that’s what I thought when I first visited the Seoul Marginal Theatre Festival in 2006. I watched some videos of performance actions made in theatres using earth, a naked body, symbolic gestures, perhaps of protest, which seemed of another time. Yet I also attended performances around the mega-city of Seoul, which drew on folk rituals, traditional music forms, mythic stories and comedies. Each was a reflection of a society in which theatre seemed to be a place to say something. And this gave it reason enough, knowing that for an audience the theatre was a place where one heard or could see what otherwise would not be shared. This was also around the time that I read about the new Asia Culture Complex – the largest government-sponsored multi-disciplinary arts structure of its kind in Asia – that was to be opened in the city of Gwangju some three or four years later. It was to define and bring together the diverse cultures of Asia to promote dialogue and collaboration across this vast region and beyond. Gwangju is the city that, following the People’s Uprising of May 18, 1980, has become officially known as the ‘birthplace of Korean democracy’. It was home to Nobel Peace Prize winner Kim Dae-Jung and as part of this reimagining, the Gwangju Biennale, one of the first and still most widely known art biennales in the Asian region, was founded there in 1995. It therefore seemed fitting that the derelict city offices, which had become the gathering site of the Gwangju Uprising, should become this new hub for culture as an official government endorsement of civic renewal, democracy and international dialogue. Yet, in fact, some nine years later, I have come to recognise the defeat of the marginal as a deep act of resistance to both a national and global phenomenon of neo-liberalism, whereby too often the official government discourses, or indeed the rush for publicly funded support, can become an assimilation of a rewritten history. Dissenting voices become merely appropriated, hiding unresolved aspects of a society – let’s say the ‘marginal’ – that are too conveniently forgotten. On 16 April 2014, the sinking of the Sewol ferry resulted in the tragic loss of over 250 Korean schoolchildren. In Seoul, 100 days later, families and protestors continued to set up tents. These lined the historic main street and thoroughfare of Gwanghwamun, which leads to President Park’s house. The protestors were demanding a full public inquiry into what they considered to be unresolved issues relating to government corruption linked to the Sewol ferry disaster. The opening of the 2014 Seoul Marginal Theatre Festival took place 100 yards from these tents. In a 25 hour performance, theatre artist Kyung-Sung Lee provided attention, and a parade of characters, music and colour, to the persevering presence of the supporters of

the Sewol protest, symbolised by a yellow-crossed ribbon. During the following two weeks of the festival, further performances, exhibitions and film screenings presented artistic projects engaging with such matters as Jeju Island, where local citizens have for the past five years been protesting against the construction of a new US military base; a performance on the current states of Korean labour laws drawing on Kafka’s The Trial, following the strikes at the Cort guitar factory where, since 2007, workers have protested the closure of factories linked to securing cheaper workforces; an exhibition based on artworks by cleaning staff at a Seoul university and their involvement in political demonstrations for educational and labour reform; and sadly too, a celebration of the work of Hong-Duck Chae, who died in early 2014. Hong-Duck Chae, I realised, had been something of a visionary in the Korean performing arts scene since the mid-1980s. He made videos, collaborative projects and solo performances, where his poetic vision, humour, and willingness to get art seen continually questioned and confronted daily reality (one video of a performance shows a hilarious naked sword-swinging soldier running out onto a Seoul street at night). His work reflects an effort to make a more human space within a too often de-humanised environment. Following South Korea’s rapid industrialisation and concurrent political regimes during its post-war neo-colonial transformation, its every move, in common with other states across Asia, such as Taiwan and Japan, was negotiated through the demands of US economic policy. It was Hong-Duck Chae himself who I had seen in that video nine years earlier, naked, in what now seemed like an inspired conjoining of Artaud and Jean Genet: a pioneer, a performance artist illuminated in a spotlight with dust falling around him, surrounded with flowers, earth. Prior to this year’s Gwangju Biennale opening in October 2014, the Biennale Foundation together with the Gwangju Art Museum launched Sweet Dew, an exhibition with performances, talks and events, which reflected on the legacy of the Gwangju Uprising of 1980. One event in August featured performances in Geumnam-ro, the main Gwangju thoroughfare where so much of the Uprising and its final massacre took place. Banners were laid out the length of the street that were painted and drawn over the course of a night. It turns out that several of these banners were deemed too political to be subsequently exhibited. Many focused on the tragedy of the Sewol ferry and the responsibilities of President Park’s regime. In such politicised circumstances, what becomes of the human form as a collective or solitary body in a society trying to find its breath? And, what enables any artwork to communicate its ephemeral place whether of resistance or to reflect the mere cruelty of nature, its beauty and return. —CCQ James Tyson is a theatre director, performer and writer. Recent works include the International Performance Festival Cardiff (2014)


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p69, 70 & 71 25 Hours - Shout to My Times, Kyung-Sung Lee, photo: Young-Rok Yoo



Nothing Happens Under Heaven Looking for harmony is a challenge in a period of rapid social, cultural and political change. Curator of Harmonious Society, Joshua Jiang, tells Denise Kwan how he tackled it for an exhibition that brought together 30 artists from Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan over six different venues for this year’s Asia Triennial Manchester.

Denise Kwan: The title of the exhibition, Harmonious Society, appears to reflect a sentiment found in Chinese social realist paintings: specifically, the idea of an unattainable utopia. Can you speak about this theme for the Asia Art Triennial? Joshua Jiang: This title is an immediate response from me to the umbrella title of the Asia Triennial Manchester, Conflict and Compassion. The title, Harmonious Society, is the same as that of the political proposition of the Chinese government since 2005. With the arrival of [President] Xi Jinping, he is moving away from the idea of ‘Harmonious Society’ and towards the new idea of ‘China Dreams’. There is an interesting transformation when we simply use the title ‘Harmonious Society’ in the context of contemporary art, and people may not necessarily consider it as a political statement. Some may think it is ironic or critical of current China, while others will trace it back to the traditional connotations of Confucius’ teachings. I think the title works in the English language, but when we translate it back in Chinese, we translate it as ‘tianxia wushi’ [nothing happens under heaven], which is less direct, but it provides an extension to the Chinese cultural traditions. There are two titles, for example the Chinese and English, but we are talking about the same thing. The longer you stay in a different country, the less faith you will have in translation, really; nothing can be translated anyway. DK: The title seems to question the very notion of harmony. Whose version of harmony are we talking about? JJ: The idea of harmony is conceptual, but it is perceived by the artists very differently. In this exhibition, I was very happy to see that we had six venues with different functions,

which actually supports and challenges the notion of harmony because the various venues will have different political or cultural backgrounds. The question is how the artists respond to the theme, and also to the physical spaces and the meaning of the spaces under the notion of harmony. DK: I felt the exhibition had re-occurring themes of illusion and power: for example, Yang Zhenzhong’s Long Live the Great Union – his version of Tiananmen Square made from cardboard and presented in nine individual parts – and Yuan Gong’s Losing Control, with sharpened scaffolding from his dismantled studio. What was your rationale for selecting the artworks? JJ: There were only a few direct selections, such as Yang Zhenzhong’s artwork. It was a commission in 2007 for a touring show in Beijing and Guangzhou. The original piece was shown in Guangzhou first, and then Lyon Biennial and it sold. The version you see in Harmonious Society was newly made. I thought this work was illustrative of the whole show and, at the first glance, you may see it as a political statement, but, from the artist’s perspective, he doesn’t see it as political. He sees it as more visual, more playful, and as discussing visual tricks about how perspective can create a singular picture, as simple as that. There is nothing political really. His work is similar to Zhang Peili’s work where you see a line of flags. They appear political, but essentially those artists are being humorous in talking about art and politics. DK: It’s interesting that Zhenzhong views his work as being a formal exploration. Is there a tendency for political narratives to be created by Western audiences, rather than Chinese audiences?


JJ: Long Live the Great Union was first exhibited in Guangzhou and the show was nearly forbidden. In the 12 months leading up to the Guangzhou exhibition, we discussed the work extensively. I knew exactly what the artist wanted and I know that he didn’t have any political intentions. During the installation, I was interviewed by a journalist, who asked if the artwork was a deconstruction of communist power, which actually frightened me because I am still holding my Chinese passport. I don’t want to make any trouble. I was really surprised by the power of political imagination in a journalist who imagined the work to be critical of communist power. Both the artist and myself felt threatened by this comment. We were ordered by the director of the museum to cover the image of Mao on the installation and the original slogan on Tiananmen. We will say it is no longer Tiananmen Square, the Gate of Heavenly Peace; it is just a normal building in the Forbidden City. It is not political and we get away from that. It was such an experience for me because I didn’t expect that; it’s very shocking to receive these comments. DK: That’s an incredible scenario – to be ordered to cover Mao’s portrait and the Chinese characters. JJ: To be honest, I don’t think the general audience would read it politically; nothing will be political. It’s just a tricky journalist who will interpret it quite differently in order to raise the tension. DK: On the subject of political readings and Chinese art, the writer Carol Yinghua Lu wrote an article called Accidental Conceptualism where she discusses the tendency for Chinese artists to be recognised for their ability to narrate social, psychological tensions connected to Chinese politics. How do you view this relationship of art and politics?

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political decision? It is so hopeless when you see this crisis and you see artists in the conference discussing the crisis. What can we expect artists to do and how can an artwork change such a situation?

JJ: During the rise of contemporary Chinese art there was a tendency to use a politicised visual language. Nowadays, the political environment is very different and also I believe Chinese artists are gaining more confidence on a global platform, so I don’t think that Chinese artists need to rely on a political language to raise their visibility. We can see the direct link between art and politics twenty years ago, but I don’t think it’s still the case. If we make that direct link, art seems to be too simple. I think there are still some artists who have a political concern about the current social environment, but I never believed that political concern or criticism should be the core of contemporary Chinese art. If this is the case, then Chinese contemporary art won’t go any further, that will be it and that will be the end of the story. It will end with Ai Wei Wei, if you like. Wei Wei has his own agenda, but there must be more interesting things going on in the world of contemporary Chinese art other than political perspectives.

DK: There is not one sole discipline that can change things; not medicine, not science but, despite that, it’s important that art is given the same platform as other disciplines. JJ: Exactly. Art can’t solve problems, but it can raise the question. Art can encourage people to think differently about regulations and rules set up for our society and to rethink the harmony of a society. Art cannot solve the problem directly. DK: Harmonious Society isn’t strictly an exhibition about Chinese artists discussing Chinese identity, as they did in the major Chinese exhibitions at The Hayward and Saatchi galleries. As an exhibition, it references cultural exchanges between Taiwan, Hong Kong and Mainland China. Was this a conscious decision?

DK: Exhibitions are always a snapshot in time and with the prodemocracy protests happening in Hong Kong, has that changed the way you consider the themes of Harmonious Society? JJ: I think the timing is perfect. When we heard about the Hong Kong crisis, we were having a conference in Salford University discussing the show and the reflections from the artists. Envisaging this current crisis, when can art do? We can’t be so idealistic; art can really do nothing about this crisis. You need to use your body to go onto the street to participate. Do you really believe that art can make any change to a

JJ: The reason to choose Chinese artists from Taiwan and Hong Kong is simply because I was invited by the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (CFCCA) as a lead curator of this project. I would prefer to include Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese artists, and I have a few artists in mind. Like Yang Zhenzhong, we are trying to avoid using any identifiable elements to represent Chinese-ness. I think


Chinese-ness is a very traditional question from twenty years ago, when people used images of Mao and big character posters during the Cultural Revolution to highlight the visual tradition of China. Looking at the current exhibition, you wouldn’t be able to identify whether it was produced by a Mainland Chinese artist or a Taiwanese or a British one; you wouldn’t notice that, unless it was an artist like Chen Chieh-jen, whose piece is very narrative based and talks about the story of the Taiwanese people, which is a different matter. DK: Might artists from the Chinese diaspora be included in future Asia Triennials? JJ: I’m very open to these suggestions. Coming back to your earlier question, our exhibition is not about representing Chinese art. We are discussing the global issues of greater China by inviting artists from different regions to focus on the same issue. We debate and celebrate rather than saying it’s a survey show about the most current art practice in China. To make a survey show is not what we want and which might have been the agenda in the Saatchi Gallery or Hayward shows. For me, that way of presenting the artists are introductory and the aim of the show isn’t really to discuss any particular issue. It is really about introducing current developments in contemporary Chinese art. Harmonious Society is not about that. I believe one hundred per cent of the artwork in Harmonious Society is being seen for the first time in the UK and seventy per cent of the artwork has been newly produced. To my knowledge, there hasn’t been an exhibition in the West that has been able to do that so far – certainly not in the UK. It’s a large exhibition; some work that I like and some work I don’t like as much. I know that the exhibition will need a variety of work because you can’t just curate the work that you like. There needs to be a balance, you need to eat fish and meat together. —CCQ Harmonious Society was held across Manchester from 27 September – 23 November 2014.

p73 Realm of Reverberations, Chen Chieh-Jen, 2014, Film still p75 Long Live the Great Union, Yang Zhenzhong, 2013, photo: Tristan Poyser



Ms Manifesta After a gruelling 2013 European tour taking in two dozen countries, five biennials (Prague, Istanbul, Venice, Thessaloniki and Lyon) and a solo exhibition on her return at ArcadeCardiff, Veronica Feeling decided this year to go East. Our favourite gonzo motorcycle adventurer crisscrossed Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia (Outer), all the way to Vladivostok, taking in just one art fest en-route: Manifesta 10 in St Petersburg.

As a motorcycle adventurer, I choose to ride solo on a parallel track, trusting in undistracted senses, diligently fingering a back-catalogue of coagulated fears – decidedly hard, but feels more good than bad. My hairy loner cape is, in the main, discreet, only quietly marking me as an outsider (small ‘o’ probably). But in June, rapidly approaching Russia from Helsinki, the modest manteau swells without warning into some vast fluttering continent, perhaps two if you count the faint stars and stripes motif. Sudden burden, neck cord tightens, eyes bulge, the forests grow taller, darker, closer, OUTSIDER. The border formalities are strangely calming: this window, that window, don’t smile, don’t die under a truck. Highway code? Don’t make me laugh. Hang on, this feels familiar. St. Petersburg became Petrograd then Leningrad then St. Petersburg: it doggedly stayed put throughout the changes, unlike roving Manifesta, which appeared in the city this year in stylish orange lederhosen. Slapped for being at worst an endorsement of, and at best oblivious to, ol’ Put-it-in’s bare chest. Notable boycotters include local collective Chto Delat? (What is to be done?), “Neither curator nor institution are capable of rising to the challenge of a dramatically evolving political situation, and we cannot be held hostage by its corporate policies, however reasonable they would sound under different circumstances”. But curator Kasper König (lovely chap) emphasised that his contract allowed artistic freedom – within the limits of Russian law, of course. Checked in, I hang up my swollen pelisse, peel off yellow leather, paint on preview black,

and collect a golden ticket. Manifesta 10 is a club. With games. In the Winter Palace treasure hunt, works are cheekily slipped into Catherine the Great’s collection… Ooh, get me a fondue set, a trip to Reykjavik, a well-built host or the right to protest. Battling through non-plussed, un-moved punters, “Excuse me, have you saved for ages to come here?” you’re standing in front of the concrete plinths cunningly snuck in as a clever comment on, oh, I forget, “Sorry, enjoy your day.” I admired Lara Favarettos’s intervention but, well, Billy Joel’s 1987 Russian tour sweated salty rivers and introduced the Peter Gabriel flop to the USSR. Yeah, there were powerful exceptions across the venues (Elena Kovylina), loads of things that touched (Vladislav MamyshevMonroe), tickled (Erik von Lieshout) or nudged my wormy brain (Slavs and Tatars), and even a road trip (Francis Alys). Tatsu Nishi’s construction of a normal Russian living room around a massive chandelier was so damn good I went back twice. The slightly grittier public programme got me out and about. The midsummer night-light stole my soul. A fine young thing got something else. And, wow, there was no expense spared on the M10 cocktails. But, ach, really?? “Formed from the desire to explore the psychological and geographical territory of Europe” (

half from St. Petersburg), and Vostokers refer to themselves as ‘far-eastern’ – so much for Brussels! As for psychological territory, the challenge of my massive cape afforded no place to hide; I encountered a deep, dark, distinct sense of the absurd in Russia. Check out Shostakovich’s satirical opera Nose if you don’t believe me; an official’s nose leaves his face and develops a higher-ranking life of its own. Could be Manifesta largely ignored an opportunity to engage with this sensibility, sadly missing a permitted, yet potent (and understood), form of protest. My bike is resting in the furry arms of the Iron Tigers MC, Vladivostok branch. In 2015 I hope to ride it across North America. I wonder just how liberal folk’ll be in Kansas, Toto? (You might not want to hear it as much as I didn’t want to find it but, beyond tiny urban pockets, there is a widespread, only occasionally grudging, respect for Putin’s refusal to back down. Individual policies unexamined. The West, centred on Obama, is seen as unfriendly, not quite an enemy, but getting real close. Low fuel prices might shake the economy but not the Lada driver. Sanctions? They mean that olives come in jars labelled “Made in Belarus”). —CCQ

After luxuriating in the scented inner circle for a few days, I left undeniably Euro-ish St Petersburg and fetched up three months later in Vladivostok. Still in Russia, the city is 60km from North Korea, takes nine and a half hours to fly to from Moscow (another hour and a


Ema, Akt auf einer Treppe (Ema, Nude on a Staircase), Gerhard Richter, 1966 , Oil on canvas, 200 x 130cm, Museum Ludwig (ML 01116, Cologne), photo: Rheinisches Bildarchiv

Summer 2014


Swyddfa Ewrop Greadigol y Deyrnas Unedig Cymru

EWROP GREADIGOL Cyllid a chyfleoedd i’r sectorau diwylliannol, creadigol a chlyweledol

CREATIVE EUROPE Funding and opportunities for the cultural, creative and audiovisual sectors #creativeeurope @CEDUK_Culture Perfformiad gan Andrea Gallo Rosso o’r Eidal, fel rhan o ‘Dance Roads Open Process’, wedi ei gydlynnu gan Coreo Cymru. Prosiect Cydweithredol rhwng y Deyrnas Unedig, Ffrainc,Yr Eidal, Yr Iseldireodd a Canada, wedi ei ariannu gan gronfa Diwylliant 2007-13 yr Undeb Ewropeaidd.

A performance by Andrea Gallo Rosso from Italy as part of Dance Roads Open Process, an EU-funded Cooperation Project between the UK, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Canada. The project is led by Coreo Cymru, Wales.