Image: Insect Apocalypse 2022 by Dean Turnbull
HELEN REDFERN TALKS TO ARTS COLLECTIVE SUNDERLAND INDIE’S FOUNDER BARRIE WEST ABOUT CREATING WORK WHICH CAPTURES THE ZEITGEIST
“The formula of good art and people’s curiosity is key.” When it comes to the latest exhibition from Sunderland Indie, Earth Requiem, concept artist Barrie West advocates creating a space where creatives can express themselves in ways that capture the imagination of the audience.
“With Sunderland Indie,” founder Barrie elaborates, “I’m trying to open doors for everyone who is creative, to create anything that adds to the message.” The message has always been the zeitgeist at the time, which has led the collective to create work which spans many mediums and themes. Ten years ago, when Barrie became overwhelmed with the images and reports coming out of the Palestinian/Israeli war and the atrocities and terrible bloodshed, his show at Sunderland Minster concentrated on his response to the crisis in the Middle East. It became like therapy for him, and by the end of the first week he was getting numerous applications to join the first exhibition of All We Are Saying. As more and more artists got in touch, Barrie posed the question “Why don’t you have your own exhibition?” and before long, satellite exhibitions were organised from Seaham and Gateshead to Germany and Japan. “It spread like a virus”, remarks Barrie, “and really showed the power of the zeitgeist.”
So is the climate emergency the zeitgeist right now? All We Are Saying 3 – Earth Requiem, which will exhibit at Arts Centre Washington from Tuesday 12th April-Saturday 28th May, grew out of Barrie’s despair about the climate emergency. He expresses a sense of hopelessness at everything that has been spiralling out of control in the last three or four years in particular: “It’s like you have to grab people and say ‘You’re going to die’ before people realise they’re going to die. People are not going to listen. There’s too much at stake.” He’s creating art out of this anxiety about the world and finds it therapeutic to do something.
WITH SUNDERLAND INDIE I’M TRYING TO OPEN DOORS FOR EVERYONE WHO IS CREATIVE, TO CREATE ANYTHING THAT ADDS TO THE MESSAGE
That’s the motivation behind Earth Requiem: just do something, just say something. Let’s raise the profile of the artists involved and let’s make public what the public is concerned about already. Barrie recognises that it’s hard for people to be confronted with hard-hitting truths about climate disaster, but he’s confident that audiences will fill themselves up with the message when they see the interesting and demanding work by the artists taking part, which spans sculpture, photography, film, music, painting, poetry and more by artists including Dean Turnbull, Angela Sandwith, Ian Boddy, Stephanie Smith, James Wilkinson and Mike Clay among others.
During our conversation, Barrie spoke of his depression, anxiety and despair. I’m curious to know if he sees any seeds of hope. He responds with a long audible sigh and takes a while to respond. “I don’t know,” is his answer, “I really don’t know. I would hope people find some seeds of hope. Some of the stuff is quite beautiful. My stuff is always bleak. I’m just hoping some of the other contributors will bring an element of delight in there.” Climate anxiety is the zeitgeist. Barrie and the other artists in Sunderland Indie have found that doing something helps – the activity of doing something in response to the earth’s requiem creates its own hope. Join them in being challenged, inspired and motivated to take action.
Sunderland Indie present Earth Requiem at Arts Centre Washington from Tuesday 12th April-Saturday 28th May. www.thesunderlandindie.wordpress.com