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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.

visit us at:

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:


E: T: 01978 292093

— 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

w: (chwiliwch am/search for ‘Art Central’) e: Twitter: @ValeArts Facebook: Art Central

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


Thin Place Thin Place

10 Ionawr January – 28 Chwefror February 2015 10 Ionawr January – 28 Chwefror February 2015 Archwilio cydgysylltiadau rhwng Archwilio cydgysylltiadau rhwng celf, llenyddiaeth, gwyddoniaeth celf, llenyddiaeth, gwyddoniaeth a diwinyddiaeth. Dan ofal Ciara a diwinyddiaeth. DanJonathan ofal Ciara Healy ac yn cynnwys Healy ac yn cynnwys Jonathan Anderson, Adam Buick, Ailbhe Ní Anderson, Adam Mackey Buick, Ailbhe Bhriain, Christine ac Ní Bhriain, Christine Mackey ac Flora Parrott. Flora Parrott.

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.

symposiwm symposiwm

symposium Mediating a Thin Place: symposium Mediating a Thin Place: approaches to the inter-connected nature of

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 9

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,


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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


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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.

Issue 5

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


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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?

Issue 5

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.

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? 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.