cover: Volkhardt Müller, Obsolete Services, 2015/16, woodcut, printing plate in progress inner cover: Volkhardt Müller, Impurities (detail), 2016, concrete, mild steel, barley, wax, black pigment
TOPOS and The Plantation: Notes for a Beginning TOPOS is located on the second floor of a post-war shopping complex at the margins of Exeter’s city centre. Waiting for redevelopment, it has grey areas that are not closely observed or maintained. The view of Exeter I am afforded here is rare, complex and has deepened over time. A couple of windows downstream from the studio, a patch of agricultural wheat is slowly expanding on a first floor window ledge. Outside the betting shop, smoking men consult their mobiles. The woman in the furniture shop always seems to be typing a very long letter, and sometimes after his shift, my new friend from the NHS Walk-in Centre comes up to discuss the latest art work over a cup of tea. My inbox holds emails from strangers who would like to visit the space when they’re in town, mostly I say “sure, come over” and they do, and when they come again, they send me a text. These informal visits have become a big part of the life in the space. A visiting arborist, retired and all the way from Exmouth, told me that we sometimes forget to what degree we share our landscapes with wild creatures. On the roof opposite the seagulls looked on as we drank tea, ready for the scavenge. It’s often the accumulation of such exchanges that leads to ideas, and in November we set up a printing press on Sidwell Street and made City Beast, a comic strip where animals comment on people. Passers by had to think of captions for the empty speech bubbles, receiving a print copy of their art work in exchange for their words. In the big cities there is a history of artists occupying the margins of the centres. Areas like Montparnasse, Soho or Kreuzberg that were full of life but where rents weren’t at their highest, are now the stuff of romantic legend. Today’s artists who are not engaged directly in commercial production, often find themselves pushed back even further, to the industrial estates and farmyards, to temporary occupations and into garages and spare rooms. Such localities cut down on the kind of opportunistic exchange and passing traffic that have become such a big part of the TOPOS space. But TOPOS isn’t just central, it’s big enough to step back, allowing the often necessary luxury to see at a distance what one is making, the chance to project an idea into space and the opportunity to look at it from different angles. This is not just about big work, it’s about imagination unfolding. Sometimes my own work surprises me, a bit like I had nothing to do with it. When I stepped back from Shroud, a minimal engraving of Sidwell Street, a lost future was looking back at me with a clarity I had neither anticipated nor seen in the original. This experience informed our first discussion on Utopia and the Dream of Permanence, a wildly meandering head workshop that didn’t leave a stone unturned. The themes for the discussions Josie Sutcliffe and myself are hosting with an increasing diversity of guest provocations, always come out of the work in the space. So far they’ve chimed well with mixed audiences, many of whom weren’t particularly keen arts people in the first place. An incredible accumulation of materials also happened throughout the residencies with Dawn Scarfe and Sean Borodale. Both artists chose to work collaboratively with myself and the wider studio surroundings. The residencies were geared towards being research opportunities with
Sometimes at the end of a residency period it does feel like the end of a line has been reached. With TOPOS it’s the opposite, beginnings have been made. Maybe its the inexhaustible guiding theme of landscape, maybe its the nature of a permeable making space in the centre of the margins, probably its both. The plantation is a very different landscape from the pastoral idyll, fundamentally because it’s trimmed to maximize a crop. With its perpetual repetition, the plantation aims for expansion and consequently refuses a frame. When I worked with volunteers on the rolling hills around Exeter to re-stage a series of famous 17th century pastoral paintings for video, it was all about framing. Free-roaming livestock is part of the pastoral repertoire, as an element of sustenance it illustrates a contained and harmonious economy, a paradise lost, all set within a stable and pleasant frame. Pastoral ideas and images maybe a common part of our cultural heritage, but the plantation is everywhere. When we enter a supermarket we enter the plantation, on the motorway we become part of its arterial system. At some point it occurred to me that as I was framing the pastoral vision, what I really did was exclude the plantation from this dreaming. In my imagination the two have now become the flip sides of a coin. This booklet aims to be a record of the activities at the TOPOS space, rather than an exhibition catalogue. But its publication does coincide with two concurrent exhibitions at White Moose gallery in Barnstaple, and at the TOPOS space itself. Between them they show work that led up to the activities at TOPOS, and work that emanated from it. When I think of the exhibition title I think of it as an umbrella for everything that can be seen in these two shows. But I also very much see it as an inspiration for a developing programme of new work. Volkhardt Müller, January 2016
opposite top: Volkhardt Müller, English Themes After Claude Lorrain, 30 min HD, 2014 opposite bottom: The Guard, 30 min HD, 2015
a public sharing at the end. Consequently we generated more ideas and fragments of makings than could be processed into finished work, and besides the finished pieces several ideas for future work were framed. Sean’s residency inspired the discussion on Quality and Alchemy, and after Dawn and myself had been examining the rural horizon’s that frame the city, we invited the public into a conversation about Producing Landscape. Throughout the year TOPOS was accompanied by Alex Murdin whom I regularly consulted to discuss the many aspects of the project’s progress, utilizing him as a critical mind who could reflect both on strategic decision making and on artistic process. Alex also helped to make connections with practitioners in the field; all of this a most valuable combination in support of a multi-tasking artist. All year round the workings at TOPOS were documented by Benjamin Borley who has captured the essence of the space, and the people who’ve been part of it in great photography.
“...the word landscape… we tend to assume in an English speaking context that landscape has something to do with “scape”, as in… “scope”, optical in the same way as microscope or telescope but… in work by a Danish geographer called Kenneth Ludwig... he argues that if you look at the language history it’s a Germanic term… its origin is actually “ship”, the same as “fellowship” or “stewardship”… prior to the association we have with scenery, space as visualised... there is the sense of a team or band who collectively own the land...” John Wylie, Producing Landscape, 2015
We are inviting people into the space to engage with the activities of creating art wherever possible, breaking down the walls that separate artist and audience, and that make art just another means of production. We provide hospitality and a panel, a diverse mix, a fairly equal ratio of academics and professionals involved in making things, and making things happen. The panel provides a launch pad for discussion by addressing the theme of the evening with a short statement or story – that is, their own take on it. Not an artists’ talk, not a theatre Q&A but something else then happens – a forum is created, perhaps not found elsewhere. Responses are made. The artist meets the craftsperson, meets the engineer, the producer or farmer, the academic and the consumer too in the same space. The authority such as it is, of the panel, Volkhardt and myself, is designed to recede into the background whilst remaining a holding ‘core’. By keeping the format simple, we allow room for surprises and for discoveries to be made. The constellation of voices during each talk is lightly held and becomes an exciting and creative process in its own right. Everybody is eager to learn, to engage and best of all, to question. It is hardly ever quiet but is always thoughtful. Every time we think “who will come to this evening... and what will this theme and group of people bring into the space?” Many people came again and again and new faces keep appearing. The works in progress in the space and the journey of the works produced, provide a mise en scene within which the talking unfolds. Each time we sit differently and sometimes awkwardly, balanced precariously on anything at all, sometimes a chair. We sit mostly around and in the space with no sense of hierarchy. We sit for almost two hours. Each time there is new work, a new setting in the space, a new theme and a new panel. Each time there is a fresh beginning and also a continuation. Josie Sutcliffe
opposite: Discussion event: Utopia And The Dream Of Permanence, 2015 next page: Volkhardt Müller, Shroud (detail), woodcut on ash plank, 2015
The TOPOS Conversations
“It’s the shifting nature of Utopia… you’ve made me re-evaluate Sidwell Street, which I have always thought it was the arse end of Exeter, and now I’m looking at it slightly differently… If you look around you see there are some beautiful watercolour paintings, architectural drawings of the Barclays Bank. This was someone’s dream, they thought that it was going to be the perfect building but everything’s moved on since then, and yet now… my home is built by Wimpy and they are all designed to last for 20 years and then they are going to rebuild the lot, there’s no idea of permanence or Utopia.” Unknown Speaker, Utopia And The Dream Of Permanence, 2015
Topos (plural: topoi): ancient Greek for “place” Topography (n): the configuration of a surface including its relief and the position of its natural and man-made features: the art or science of making maps that show the height, shape, etc., of the land in a particular area. It is a generalisation (but everybody has to start from somewhere1) that the usual place of choice for contemporary culture is the city. It contains the largest number of people to form an audience, it has the public spaces to make and show the products of culture, the infrastructure to broadcast, inexpensive places for artists and creatives to live and work near each other, and of course the money created by industry to consume whatever has been created. From this point of view the city is usually placed at the centre of any cultural map as a cosmopolitan space which connects easily to global goods, the knowledge economy and the never-ending twists of fashion. As we leave the city centre, go through the suburbs towards the rural edge, interest and activity wanes, until an event horizon is reached where culture ends and a (largely mythical) nature-without-us starts. Some involved in the arts hold onto this map for both pragmatic and historical/cultural reasons as part of: “…an art world that continues to privilege the city as the only relevant site of art practice and dissemination (evident in the tendency to identify major biennial exhibitions with particular cities, and in the ongoing relationship between new museum construction and the process of urban redevelopment). As Kane-Sy writes, “it is habitual to think that art may, and must, rhyme with urban existence alone.” The core/periphery logic of globalization thus reiterates a more general prejudice within the discourse of modernism that contrasts the city, as the site of an advanced, cosmopolitan culture, with the conservatism, stagnation, and idiocy, in Marx’s famous words, of rural life.” (Grant Kester, 2011) 2 To live and work in a place like Exeter in Devon is to know this basic binary of urban and rural as false. Although as a city Exeter might see the rural hinterland of Dartmoor and North Devon as peripheral, Exeter itself is experienced as peripheral to larger cities, Bristol, Birmingham, and London, and therefore both central and on the edge at the same time. Perhaps this is why there has been for some time a sense of cultural crisis in Exeter which, as the political capital of Devon, has always seen itself as a hub for culture but now has increasing competition from other places like Plymouth, such that the: “chief issue facing Exeter in its cultural role is whether it is able to raise its game and become a genuinely regional cultural centre.” (Exeter City Council, 2003) 3 As in many other cities around the UK suffering from recession, plans have come and gone for new attractions and trophy buildings without result. An alternative might be to reject the biennial and the architectural bling in favour of embracing a location on the edge and, by rejecting the fantasy of centrality, “raise its game” by supporting a more dispersed culture that diffuses across the boundaries of city and countryside. TOPOS offers an example of this cultural diffusion in action as part of a growing movement of artist-led projects that reconfigure the co-ordinates of the urban/rural, centre/horizon and local/global. Devised by artist Volkhardt Müller in 2014, it was prompted by the offer of a free studio space for a year in a disused commercial storage space in the city centre of Exeter, owned by Crown Estates and TIAA Henderson Real Estate. Previously these developers had donated space in one of their new shopping malls, Princesshay, for temporary occupation as a performance space as part of the participatory artwork This City’s Centre (2012-3), which Müller worked on as part of the collective Blind Ditch. This City’s Centre asked citizens of Exeter to look out from their windows in order to both rediscover and reimagine their relationship with the city’s heart. The managers of Crown Estates and Land Securities were impressed with this different approach and saw the opportunity to utilise their stock of low profile, empty properties as a new way of supporting local culture whilst maintaining their use.
So TOPOS, although hidden away in an old storeroom, has been connected from the start with a central economic stakeholder in the fabric of the city with plans to further redevelop city around the studio’s location in Sidwell St. Regeneration is always controversial but faced with a choice of engagement with the situation or to withdraw, Müller chose to engage, not least because this is the territory he has covered before in between the politics of regeneration and conservation. For example, in 2008/9 his residency as part of Aune Head Arts’ Triparks project saw him relocate an 85m long section of Dartmoor turf to the centre of Plymouth for Swinedown Walk (2008), providing the vicarious experience of the countryside for an urban audience, and equally marking the environmental (and aesthetic) impact of the city on the countryside in the scar left behind by the turf’s removal. Thus Müller sees the connection between city and landscape as part of a wider social and environmental commentary, and sees the act of mapping this out as a way of connecting city to country and living and working space to the natural environment. Importantly, Müller also saw the potential for this different type of cultural space to introduce some of these ideas into public conversations about Exeter’s future. Topology (n): the (mathematical) study of geometric properties and spatial relations unaffected by the continuous change of shape or size of figure. To suggest that the process of TOPOS was a mapping or topography would be to give a false impression. The products of topography, Ordnance Survey maps, Google Earth, architectural plans, land registries etc., have always been only one way of defining places. On the other hand topology allows the folding, bending and overlapping of places and spaces so that they become plastic and malleable in the hand of creative thinkers, scientists, mathematicians and artists alike. Topology makes new systems of connection outside of the usual controls and constraints that disturb the usual ways of seeing and experiencing place. A classic example of topology is the London Tube map where distances and the geographical positions of stations are changed even though the relative connections remain the same in order to create more easily understood system for traveller navigation. The map famously became the subject of a lithographic print by Simon Patterson, The Great Bear (1992), where it retains the same visual structure but the station names along Tube lines are replaced by lists of philosophers, comedians, footballers, people called “Louis” and so on. In doing so Patterson folds together different fields of human knowledge and endeavour in a seemingly arbitrary way in order to make surreal juxtapositions. For example the station “Kate Adie” (a BBC war correspondent) connects directly to the station “Venus” (the Roman goddess of love). This topology of transport infrastructure becomes a key to the explosive expansion of connections, real and imagined, in a global age where the infrastructure of digital information connects anything and everything. TOPOS was conceived by Müller in this sense as a topological experiment, as a city studio space that was not a retreat but a specific location that connected him topologically to the publics surrounding it. Over the following year a folding of the map occurred through a series of public conversations and participatory interventions. Distances were shortened and new connections made between sound artists and farmers, meteorologists and furniture designers, architects and cultural geographers, printmakers and foresters, regardless of boundaries. In order to catalyse these conversations four artists, writers and performers, Sean Borodale, Dawn Scarfe, Josie Sutcliffe and I, made work in response to these conversations with Volkhardt and others. There was no doubt about the energy created within the space, as Müller says: “The permeability of the space, the many informal visits by people, the intensity of engagement when they come. What’s striking in public showings is that people commit themselves to the space and the work often for hours.”
Topical (adv): of, relating to, or arranged by topics; referring to the topics of the day or place; of local or temporary interest; The material and history of this place also had an agency in these conversations. Sidwell Street is an unassuming shopping street at the north-eastern end of the centre of Exeter, a mixture of mostly independent outfits - butchers, hairdressers, a pound shop, hairdressers, bars, fast food joints, hardware, pets, musical instruments, ethnic grocers, charity shops, a small market and a Methodist church - St Sidwells. The current buildings were built in the bomb damaged debris of the medieval East Gate area in the post-war period. The 50’s architecture is of red brick and concrete with neo-classical details like columned arcades. It was part of a hopeful plan for rebuilding the city started by town planner Thomas Sharp in 1946, called “Exeter’s Phoenix”. This was a period of optimism, of dreams of technology creating a better life but there was often a price for this modernist optimism:
left: Volkardt Müller working on Impurities, 2016
“This is concrete, I don’t know what you think about concrete but it’s an extraordinary material, developed by material scientists so that it’s a very complex thing using silicates, calcium hydroxides, rebar, very cleverly engineered, but it’s mass produced and it’s developed in a way that’s very easy for builders and constructors to use… any gumby can use it. But if you go down the road there, there’s a church, St Sidwell’s, that’s made out of concrete it’s [one of] the first reinforced concrete buildings in this country… what looks like stonework is all pre-cast concrete which was developed in France, Montpelier, and then moved over here. Obviously a lot more design, beauty and time is involved, and passion, but… the builder went bust… and the architect went mad.” Participant in Quality and Alchemy public discussion at TOPOS.
In the present day Sidwell Street looks distressed and is a stark contrast to the adjacent wealthier Princesshay shopping centre which was similarly rebuilt as Britain’s first pedestrianised shopping precinct in 1949, but more recently redeveloped into modern shopping mall in 2007 in a post-modern style of glass, steel and stone cladding. Now Sidwell Street is the subject of similar regeneration plans. So TOPOS has taken place in an environment in a state of undecided potential for change which throws its history, social and economic make-up into sharp relief as this place’s future is considered – what to keep, what to throw away, who will stay, who will go ?
Utopia (n) (ancient Greek meaning “no-place”): an imaginary island described in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) as enjoying perfection in law, politics, etc: hence an ideal place or state; any visionary system of political or social perfection. Volkhardt Müller’s first piece of work made in this space, Shroud (2015) reflects on its architectural and social context, and the post-war utopian hopefulness of the town planners and architects. A two metre long monochrome woodcut print made from a single bark-edged plank of wood, Shroud is delicately incised with a classical perspective of Sidwell St, banal, devoid of inhabitants, signs or symbols. The hoary grain of the wood repeats the patterns seen in the surrounding concrete walls of the TOPOS studio. These wall still have the imprints of the crude wooden shutters which were used to form the concrete and testify to the hasty nature of its erection in the 1950’s. Cultural geographer Professor John Wylie, in conversation with Martin Self, Director of the Architectural Association and others at the TOPOS studio talk Utopia and the Dream of Permanence articulate the relationships this work touches on: Martin Self: “the gothic ruin… [is] the ruin of a lost past.. whereas the ruin of a modernist building is quite powerful and uncanny… the idea that its actually the ruin of a lost future” John Wylie: “[Utopias are]… nostalgic of the past but also… nostalgic of the future, there’s a famous short story by William Gibson, it’s called The Gernsback Continuum, it’s about this guy who starts to suffer a whole series of hallucinations in which the Flash Gordon world of the 30’s through to the 50’s has actually come to life, the story is about a future that never came to be, the one that haunts our dreams as much as any kind of notion of utopia being backwards or nostalgic.” Volkhardt Müller: “there is also the Arcadian dream, a bit of an English thing… a backwards dream of a better future…”
Shroud and other works made at TOPOS connect these ruins and dreams as Sidwell Street moves between its history - a rise from the ashes of the Second World War and a first bright future of shopping and plenty, its impoverished present and its possible future - its imminent demolition and the recurring dream of another future of prosperity created by current plans for redevelopment. Distopia (n): The opposite of utopia. An imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, for example a totalitarian state or environmentally degraded place. As the memory of the building, its future past, makes the TOPOS space uncanny (un-homelike), so too does its functional usage. It is part of a retail infrastructure of shopping, which makes it a sort of in-between space, a conduit for the distribution of goods, where they were received, labelled, sorted and stored before they were sent out for public consumption. It is a place inbetween the maker and the user. Because of this it is a type of hidden space for passing things through, like an air duct, a road or a data cable: “The in-betweeness of infrastructural industrial and commercial spaces is also an aesthetic space: we can all think of any number of fairy tales, horror films or “duct films” like Die Hard or Alien where there are ghosts, terrorists or other things in the attic, basement, walls or service infrastructure. These are places which we sense with our hearing as we listen to the sounds of uninvited animals like rats, spiders, cockroaches and bats, or from which a strange smell comes, or of which we only catch a glimpse of as the curtains twitch. These are unknown sites within the known boundaries of familiar habitation, like home or work, which are therefore uncanny, understood but strange at the same time. This known unknown is a differentiated aesthetic space and is therefore becomes an “ideal place for utopian dreaming” 4 for the artist, who after all is used to the garrets of old.” (Alex Murdin 2015)5
In a description of his time spent at TOPOS with Müller, resident poet and performer Sean Borodale inhabits in this in-betweeness as a vantage point:
The image and words that Müller and Borodale saw in the mirror circulate around a dark figure (a figurine of a black monk brought into the studio by Borodale) which appears in the artists’ book and video installation, The Monk by the TV (2015). In these works a still dark face or a silhouette appears on TV screens, in streets, at windows observing the cityscape, the shoppers and the transient life of the city street and embodying all the hidden urban fear of the criminal fugitive or terrorist plotter. The voyeuristic black monk is prefigured in a work made before TOPOS, Any High Street (2012), in which the last panel of these backlit woodcuts shows a scene observed by Müller of the dark side of city night life, its arguments, tears and the ever present threat of violence. Similarly the new video work by Müller, The Arena (2015), restages these night time scenes, acted by volunteer members of the public in a more innocent daytime setting. The films commence with the entrance of individual figures who assume dramatic (but static) poses found classical landscape paintings of rural scenes6. As more actors enter from the wings and assume their positions a scene develops as a narrative snap shot from the previous night, set against a backdrop of passers-by and the streets of the city. Topos (n): a traditional, recurring or conventional literary or rhetorical theme or topic, as in commonplaces The topography of Exeter can be described as a roughly made bowl where the city sits in the centre of the river valley surrounded by hills, rising to their highest at Haldon Hill to the south, a precursor of the uplands of Dartmoor. This means that for most of the city there is a view of fields and woods. When working on This City’s Centre Müller describes how one of the participants pointed out a prominent lone tree on a hillside which they had always noticed.
left: SeanBorodale & Volkardt Müller, Monk by the TV (detail), Artists Book, 2015
“My sense was of existing for five days IN the membrane between the artists’ thinking/making/working space and the immediate proximity to the city streets outside… The influence of the city upon the artist, the forays the artist makes into the city; living for a week intensely in the permeable space that a studio is has put a pressure on thinking – making as thinking - and it forced our dialogue into a space which, to me, felt like it lay inside the depth of a mirror-glass in which reflection happens; reflection compressed to an intensity in the moment of making.”
Müller in turn pointed this out to the artist Dawn Scarfe when she came for her residency at TOPOS. Scarfe was immediately interested and describes the way she connected to this backdrop to Exeter in terms of her previous sound works work which move between a centre and a wider environment: “I’m often using glass objects that resonate at particular pitches to maybe draw sound out of the environment… arrange them spectrally so it’s trying to get this oscillation between foreground and background…” The results of their journey to the tree and the negotiation of their way over private property to reach this shared visual amenity were two works which connect foreground to background, centre to peripheral horizon. Eclipses (2015) is a performance, sound and video installation in which Müller on a far hillside tries to position a large white round disc in the sights of binoculars held by Scarfe who remains in the city and instructs Müller as to position by phone. Broadcasts From the Edge of the World (2015-) is a work in progress, a proposal for street conversations on the subject of the lone tree as part of a radio-based performance. Müller and Scarfe also share an interest in Romantic art and artists. Müller in particular speaks of the influence the painter Caspar David Friedrich has had on his work. Friedrich’s most wellknown paintings include the Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog (1818) and The Chasseur in the Forest (1813) in which figures with their backs to the viewer stand on the edge of a change of environment. The height of the climber who looks out over a sea of fog from a precipice and the hunter about to enter the dark forest in pursuit of quarry unknown are on the verge of something both great and fear-inducing. Müller describes this topological manoeuvre, a short-circuiting of fore and back grounds (essentially the same as that used in Eclipses and Broadcasts From the Edge of the World), as “The Romantic trajectory... standing in the foreground… they dream themselves into the background.” Topology (n): also, the way in which constituent parts are interrelated or arranged e.g. “the topology of a natural ecology, a society, a computer network etc” Volkhardt Müller: “The idea of the Bauhaus in the 1920’s… someone comes along and says how can we drive artistic processes and thinking through into mass production and produce goods that are cheap to be produced but that are very high quality standard and that are aesthetically pleasing. Why has that failed, because it has failed. There is some of that residual stuff going on, but as a mass phenomenon? The relevance of this for me is to do with sustainability, we simply can’t continue this… to churn things in and out, it’s like some crazy eating habit.” Paula Crutchlow: “But we can… because in the end what’s going to happen is we’ll just eat ourselves. Does it matter?” Discussion during Quality and Alchemy public event at TOPOS Printmaking is essentially a material concern. Paper or other similarly absorbent material, e.g. textile, is used to take an inked imprint of the surface of another material, a metal, wood, plastic, stone and so on. The print records the particularities of the material as well as the marks made by the artist which shape the conceptual content. Given that printmaking has been at the core of the artistic processes seen in to TOPOS, and that the studio is a former storeroom where material products are bought and sold, it is no surprise that many of the conversations within the space have set out to describe a history of materiality. What was discussed was the economic and cultural shift from the long-lived crafted utilitarian object, to the mass manufactured product endlessly digitally reproduced in “a near total flattening of everything down to this homogenised gloop of products” 7, to the way this means that objects are differentiated as an experience of enjoyment, freedom or empowerment - “MOVE WITHOUT LIMITS - Reach your max then reach for more in the quick cooling Nike Pro Hypercool Training Tight”8, to the topical cultural, economic and political reassessment of provenance: “ingredients but also values… there’s no value to it if you don’t know where it’s from, you’ve
left: Using the printing press for City Beast, 2015
got nothing invested in where that food’s come from, you don’t care that maybe on the other side of the world someone’s life is totally tied up in that…”9. These discussions on the origin of materials meandered back to the landscape as the source of resource, where they had come from, the consequences of their extraction, their place in the wider ecology of human, animal, plant and mineral activity. This was a map of the interconnectedness of all of these agents in shaping a future where pressures on resource mount from the inexorable growth of the human population.
City Beast (2015) was a participatory print project by Müller and volunteer collaborators which took a printing press out onto Sidwell Street and invited the public to contribute to two simple comic strips. In the first set of three frames a child dashes toward a group of sea gulls eating discarded chips from the pavement in order to pick one up. This street scene sets up a relationship between human and animal which is sufficiently ambiguous to encourage a variety of responses. Was the child attacked by the gulls in the first place? Is she stealing the gulls food? Is she about to clear up someone else’s rubbish? Whatever her motivation the speech bubbles (blank for participants to fill in) connect to the gulls, who are given a voice to express opinions on the girl’s actions. In one version one of the gulls turns the tables on the girl: “They are destroying the world and should be culled”. It is a simple action but participants have been able to empathise with the birds usually seen as pests, to see themselves as cohabiters of public space and as part of an ecological continuum. To see oneself in this way is to see public space as part of a set global biological connections, an idea first suggested by philosopher Michel Foucault: “With the emergence of mankind as a species, within a field of the definition of all living species, we can say that man appears in the first form of his integration within biology. From one direction, then, population is the human species, and from another it is what will be called the public. Here again, the word is not new, but its usage is. The public, which is a crucial notion in the eighteenth century, is the population seen under the aspect of its opinions, ways of doing things, forms of behaviour, customs, fears, prejudices, and requirements; it is what one gets a hold on through education, campaigns, and convictions. The population is therefore everything that extends from biological rootedness through the species up to the surface that gives one a hold provided by the public… From the species to the public; we have here a whole field of new realities in the sense that they are the pertinent elements for mechanisms of power, the pertinent space within which and regarding which one must act.” (Michel Foucault et al, 2007) 10
Topical (adv): designed for or involving local application and action (as on the body, e.g. a topical anaesthetic).
left: Volkhardt Müller, Arena, 30 min HD, 2015
TOPOS then has existed both at the centre and the periphery of Exeter for over a year, physically as a space of infrastructure between public gallery and private studio, thematically in its discussion of the ecologies of the urban and the rural, socially as an observer of place and an actor in its regeneration and artistically as a mediator between individual expression and collaborative participation. As such it suggests a way forward in developing cultural infrastructure in regional cities like Exeter as part of a fluid set of non-traditional spaces which rely on catalysing agents, in this case led by artists, as well as (or instead of) focussing on traditional facilities such as galleries and theatres which are now facing even bigger challenges in sustaining their programmes 11. In this TOPOS exists in relation to a growing number of similar initiatives; the Serpentine Gallery’s Edgware Road Project which generated the Centre for Possible Studies in an empty shop in order to create a dialogue between international artists and local communities; Plymouth Arts Centre’s Project 11 in which artists occupied retail spaces in the commercial West End of the city. Mainstream recognition of these methods grows. Printmaker Ciara Phillips was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2014 for turning an art gallery, The Showroom, into an agitprop print resource in Workshop (2010 ongoing) and in 2015 Assemble won the Turner Prize for their work in Toxteth, Liverpool with the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust and Steinbeck Studios to the refurbish local terraced housing and public spaces with reclaimed, DIY features.
These projects diffuse cultural activity from studio, to gallery, to public space, to commercial premises, to private home. What is perhaps unique about TOPOS though is that it takes in an expanded field of operation which encompasses both city and countryside, recognising that both of these cultural spaces are equally central to a globally connected society facing the challenges of a creating a sustainable future. In doing so it creates a space for a diversity of opinion and perspectives which nevertheless come together around a set of urgent concerns (the future of the city, the breaking down of its boundaries with the countryside and long term sustainability.). Perhaps what has been achieved by TOPOS so far is what Felix Guattari, a foundational philosopher of the ecological movement, has articulated as a joint objective which challenges consensus in a “fluidarity” of positions where: “…a plurality of disparate groups come together in a kind of unified disunity, a pragmatic solidarity without solidity” (Guattari, 1989: 10) 12.
1 Nowhere is harder, but not impossible, to find – see “Utopia” 2 Grant Kester, The one and the many, (2011: p. 99) 3 Exeter City Council, A cultural strategy for the city of Exeter (2003), [online] www.exeter.gov.uk/media/pdf/a/t/ Cultural_Strategy_for_the_City_of_Exeter_Final.pdf 4 Slajov Zizěk. Living in the end times, (2011: p. 278) 5 Alex Murdin. The unknown and known potential of Topos (2015), [online] www.ruralrecreation.org.uk/topos/ 6 For Muller their poses echo the classical poses of Picturesque tradition of landscape painting forged by artists such as Claude Lorraine, and used to portray a Romantic rural idyll inhabited by shepherds and shepherdesses, nymphs and satyrs, and so on. This is most apparent in a previous work Videotopia – English themes after Claude Lorrain ( 2014). 7 Ben Huggins, furniture designer in conversation at Quality and Alchemy (2015), TOPOS space. 8 Slogan seen in JD Sports shop, Princesshay. 9 Participant in Quality and Alchemy (2015), TOPOS space. 10 Michel Foucault. Security, territory, population : lectures at the College de France, 1977-78, (2007: p.105) 11 Recent times have seen both the Spacex Gallery and Northcott Theatre in Exeter experience crises brought about by cuts in public subsidy. See for example: www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/Exeter-art-gallery-Spacex-appealsmoney-secure/story-25835730-detail/story.html 12 Felix Guattari. The three ecologies (1989: p.10)
Text by Alex Murdin, January 2016
opposite: Participants of City Beast, 2015
TOPOS and Landscape: An Essay Organised Around Four Propositions 1. Go indoors to look out with fresh eyes. Let me tell you about the first time I visited TOPOS. It’s a place without a front door, without an obvious face to show to the world. It’s around the back and out of sight; not hidden or invisible exactly, but as it were offstage and overlooked. It offers no announcement of itself amidst an everyday zone of throughput, service and maintenance. We met – Volkhardt Müller and myself – immediately outside TOPOS, where things are off-loaded and recycled, a place made of metal-grille access stairways, stacked wooden pallets and flattened cardboard boxes. It was just getting dark. We climbed the stairway (I never like the way you can see through the mesh), and went in through a metal-framed door that was made to be always locked and kept shut. When academic researchers, writers or art practitioners talk about how they ‘approach’ landscape, they usually don’t mean this literally. They mean their attitude, their method, the understandings and perspectives they bring to bear. But I was struck by our literal approach to TOPOS. The opposite of what we might usually imagine when we think about encountering landscape. Instead of a journey outward – out of the town and into the countryside, outdoors, and very often also upwards, a walk to some vantage-point offering a widescreen view – with TOPOS, the direction of travel is firstly and decisively inwards. In order to get there - to get out there - you first have to slip out of sight, and find yourself moving behind closed doors and down quiet passageways. This was what my own first encounter with TOPOS showed me: that if we want to better understand ‘landscape’ in its varied forms, we could do much worse than approaching it through what might seem its negation – by moving into a semi-derelict urban interior, deep in a low-end retail space. What do things look like from this vantage-point? 2. A landscape is always both hidden and revealed. Some years ago, I had an idea for a project, or a piece of writing, called ‘hiding places’. I liked the double meaning of the phrase. On the one hand, and directly, places to hide. On the other, the cultural, political and economic processes
through which some places are hidden away – pushed to the margins, rendered invisible. Critics such as John Berger and Raymond Williams famously argued that landscape – in art, literature and design – should be understood precisely as a means of hiding things away. In other words, they argued that artistic and literary landscapes were a sort or veil or shroud, or a masking agent, presenting us with an often-glossy and beguiling visage, in order that we might thereby fail to notice, or fail to acknowledge, a more troubling and cruel reality underneath. This idea of ‘hiding places’, never further developed sadly, came back to me with TOPOS. What do you do when you’re hiding? You watch, you keep a lookout. Each time I’ve visited the TOPOS site – and yes it is a kind of secret eyrie – I’ve been unable to resist peering out of the windows, down at the shoppers in the streets below. The privilege and seduction of hidden perspective, of being able to see without being seen. That the city might in fact consist of hundreds of such perspectives was a theme explored in Window, the key element of Volkhardt Müller’s work with Blind Ditch on the This City’s Centre project (www.thiscityscentre.net/). Here, in a long sequence of domestic viewpoints and spliced voiceovers, the hidden strangeness of the city came suddenly into view. Out beyond the Exeter streets, of course, you soon come to the Devon countryside; to the coast, the moors and the valleys. This archetypal pastoral landscape, invisible in one sense from TOPOS, glimpsed on the horizon from some of the perspectives in Window, is an insistent motif and preoccupation within Volkhardt Müller’s work. It can seem so accessible, it seems to show itself so clearly and readily – and yet it still always needs to be revealed afresh, as we can see in the tableaux vivant of Müller’s address to Claude Lorrain, Landscape and the Moving Image. Watching this, I suddenly remembered Jay Appleton’s theory of visual landscape – that its appeal lies in the way it offers both a prospect, a wide-ranging view, and a refuge, a hiding-place from which to peer. 3. More than ever, it seems we need a new politics of landscape in England. A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting in a dentist’s waiting room, only a few hundred yards away from TOPOS, as it happens. There was a scatter of magazines, as there often is
– I picked one up and started flicking through, as you do. Country Life: it was property porn, basically. The first few pages were mostly double-spread adverts for exclusive rural estates in the million-plus bracket. And they were all so excruciatingly English. The mythos of the bucolic English landscape was alive and well here, in its curvature and rhythm, its clipped lawns and, a little further off, down a winding path, its carefully wild flowered meadows. All yours if you can afford it. One of the narratives that a publication such as Country Life upholds and sustain is that there is a partition between city and country, urban and rural; that these are different spheres of existence, inhabited by different people. They co-exist, yes, but only in the sense of sometimes happening to be adjacent. But much of the work underway at TOPOS looks to both diagnose the effects of this bracketing-off of rural and urban worlds, and to highlight that in truth the rural and the urban are interdependent to the point that any distinction between them is merely heuristic. At one of the evening discussions at TOPOS, we heard from a farmer from south Devon – a producer of landscape. It was remarkable how remarkable I found this: I have to admit I am only a consumer, like probably 95% of the population, and in this way I am complicit too in sustaining a dream of the lovely distant background, as though it had nothing to do with private property, with capital, with profit, with a lattice-work of zoning and screening and excluding that holds things discrete and apart. I sometimes watch Countryfile on a Sunday evening on the BBC, I read the new nature writing and enjoy it, even as I can see it also tends to perform anew a labour of division in which the ‘wild’ and the ‘natural’ are somehow, at the same time, reconnected with and kept special and separate from us. Shroud, one of Muller’s key works at TOPOS, could be understood as a commentary on these kinds of issues. A dark, resonant print from a plank of ash is etched with a rectilinear line drawing of Sidwell Street, Exeter – only evident on quite close inspection. The workaday actuality of this mixed-use street (with its cheap chain stores, betting shops and NHS walk-in centres) becomes something modernist yet spectral. I don’t believe in reconnecting with nature, I don’t think this is possible even in principle, for there is not now, and nor has there ever been, a pristine ‘nature’ for us to find. What I see in Shroud, however,
is the way in which ideas of nature and the city come to constitutively haunt each other. 4. But don’t forget, there is no ‘place’ as such. TOPOS: from the Greek, meaning ‘place’. But also, in English today, with the inference of a discussion-point – a topic. Its a touch ironic therefore that in the first evening discussion event, we talked about Utopia, prompted by the modernist visions of post-war architecture that had led to the construction of the building we were secreted within. Topos and utopia – or, in other words, somewhere and nowhere, site and non-site, because by definition a utopia is not-here, can never be here and now. We talked about utopia as a kind of dream, never realisable in full, and to an extent I think this is correct. But that does not mean that a utopia is merely illusory. Another way of expressing the relation between TOPOS and utopia might be through the language of ghosts and haunting. I mean, every actual and imperfect place is haunted by a dream of the ideal, the perfect. Equally, every utopia is shadowed from the start by the spectre of imperfect actuality. So what does it mean, to say that somewhere is always haunted by nowhere, and vice versa? I would say that it means that, whether we like it or not, we have to let go of any visions we may have of authentic belonging to place, or landscape. Because every place, to be a place at all, must always already be not completely itself, must be out-of-place, in some way displaced, or even, as we say, internally displaced. John Wylie
“I paid for, what was for me at the time, a lot of money for a sofa and I didn’t sit on it and didn’t use it in the house until my partner rang up and said “the dog’s torn the front off the sofa” and I said well I can sit on it now and I can start having a relationship with it and that’s part of the alchemical process. There has to be a certain amount of destruction before we go through transformation.” Unknown Speaker, Quality And Alchemy, 2015
“...conversations make place… place is, amongst other things, a kind of energy or atmosphere, it isn’t just a physical space...” John Wylie, Utopia And The Dream Of Permanence, 2015
Each day’s work was carried into the next day’s work and new work started on each day, so an accumulative process accrued and complicated and intensified; various concentrations cross-talked and crossflowed into each other. Recycling was a major process; we recycled materials – bird feathers, cardboard packets and rubbish, an old novel found in the vicinity of Sidwell Street. But we also recycled our conversations, our ideas, our meanings, our intentions, our gestures. The quality of what we did – however that may be measured – consisted in our use of everything to hand, importance or significance potential recognised in every encounter. Everything was given a chance. The discussion – the dialogue of trying to make – created its own limits of scope, time, situation. These limits grew naturally, partly from the character dynamic of us, perhaps. Alchemy and quality are two words that cropped up, and if they were not always used explicitly, were alluded to constantly. They haunted most of the conversations. Since most of our conversations involved actions, meaning as it grew to be, spilled over to action and was construed, manifest through
action. Talking was part of action but quality was tested through the alchemy of materials ability and our ability to get the materials to hold what we wanted to say, or wanted to see what the materials could ‘say’. Alchemical processes as states of language brought into change was something I thought about during this process. In terms of quality, I think the disruptions we allowed ourselves to bring to the process willed a distinct kind of quality: an integrity in being continually in movement. Everything we did was meant and the energy was up-beat, investigative. I can’t think of any better way to make a foray into the unknown, and it really was the unknown to begin with. And where our meanings evolved and collided a conversation found its own hybrid of language which included speech patterns as well as active, kinetic engagements with the space, the materials, with forays into the locality of Sidwell Street. In this sense, what was beginning to emerge during the TOPOS week was energetic and uncertain. How is it possible for us to judge how the projected graph line of our work might continue? Quality comes from finding in the present what is happening; this is how it felt in those five days. I think in seeking the right form to work in, by being unafraid, discovering limits, starting from scratch, again – limits of ability, our own and the material with which we work, as well as contextual limits of what we strike into – we started to understand how to discover again, to make, develop the skills which became so specific – the very specific skills appropriate to our specific kind of making. For instance, the pamphlet couldn’t have been – though in principle simple – more fiddly to produce. But somehow this fiddlyness seemed right. This might have something to do with a quality, a feel that carries through, and a self-awareness which does not cripple or kill off the energies of the first move. Sean Borodale, 23 July 2015
previous page: Volkhardt Müllerin the TOPOS Space describing Any High Street opposite: Sean Borodale and Volkhardt Müller in conversation
Our TOPOS week ran as a series of highspeed, high-energy days, during which a visible presence of accumulative creative actions filled the space. What came about were not finished works of art but a series of potentials; promise towards acts of making. New work was conceived of and started on each day, not simply to make new work but to explore the space and the membrane in which acts of making begin. My sense was of existing for five days IN the membrane between the artists’ thinking/making/working space and the immediate proximity to the city streets outside. Those streets were part of the resource for making work, as were our inner thoughts, ideas, our own baggage. The studio was a surface on which those interfusions could become visible discussions, teeming material processes. The influence of the city upon the artist, the forays the artist makes into the city; living for a week intensely in the permeable space that a studio is has put a pressure on thinking – making as thinking and it forced our dialogue into a space which, to me, felt like it lay inside the depth of a mirror-glass in which reflection happens; reflection compressed to an intensity in the moment of making.
“Mystery is a really important concept; it means that we don’t know what’s going on. We have to let go of all these ‘knows’ everyone’s talking about... And alchemy is about nothing else but mystery, so I think that’s an important word. Another important word I heard tonight is beauty. Now beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all of that but for me personally, art includes something that uplifts in some way and beauty is one way, mystery is another way. I think more not knowing is important.” Unknown Speaker, Quality And Alchemy, 2015
VM: “Can you see me?” DS: “You’ve disappeared off the edge” VM “This is a very different place to where I was before” [Transcript from Eclipses installation]. High magnification binoculars frame a section of landscape by excluding anything outside the angle of view of the lens. They also distort and reconfigure spatial relationships within that frame. Known views appear unfamiliar because aspects of the landscape are brought into unexpected alignments. ‘Eclipse’ by myself and Volkhardt Müller makes use of this phenomenon, using the eyepiece of a pair of binoculars as the frame for a work that interweaves performance action, landscape and observer in curious and unsettling ways. The binoculars were positioned on a vantage point on the top level of a multi storey car park in the city and directed towards Stoke Hill: one of the ridges that form the horizon of Exeter, approximately two miles away from the city centre. Our impulse was to stage an illusion within this view, moving between the urban and rural topographies within the frame. We constructed a theatrical prop: a paper disc that replicated a key architectural feature: the ball on the cupola of the Methodist church in Sidwell Street. We imagined the ball falling from the tower in the middle distance, and rolling down the hill in the background. To produce this image, we had to co-ordinate between the viewpoint on the car park and the hill in the distance with two-way radios. This drive to make a work together by placing ourselves so far apart as to make each other invisible to the naked eye, seems more than a little absurd. But the absurdity is something that we embraced from an early stage: the strangeness of action at a distance, grappling with the logistics of the space between us rather than ignoring it, as we do when we hold routine conversations over mobile phones and Skype. A shared interest in the themes of Romanticism influenced our thinking and process: a desire to reach for the horizon and the limits of perception, to explore the boundaries between self and environment, real and imagined. We discussed a romantic
curiosity: the Brocken Spectre, an optical phenomenon observers described as a mysterious, giant human shadow projected onto the clouds, often not recognising it as their own figure. Samuel Taylor Coleridge suggested that this ‘real spectre’ exposed the complex relationships between internal and external worlds. Features of the view from the car park alluded to other products of the Romantic age: the cupola echoed the tower in Lane’s Telescopic View of the Opening the Great Exhibition (1851), an optical toy published by C A Lane consisting of paper layers arranged to resemble a 3D landscape when folded out and viewed through a peephole on the cover. Surprising deceptions can be achieved with paper and perspective. The five foot tall paper disc we constructed in the studio became something else when taken the two mile distance to the hill. Illuminated by the evening sun, our disc re-appeared as an otherworldly glowing sphere: a ‘moon’. Witnessing this from the car park, through the lens of the binoculars, this simple device took on the appearance of a celestial event. Along with staging an unlikely vision in the landscape, we were also sensitive to the reveal, exposing the act of framing, and the effort involved in producing the action. To this end we used the audio from our two way radios, which were prone to crosstalk from the city: snippets of correspondence from changing rooms, building sites, nondescript electrical signals. They drew attention to the space between us, the technology used to connect us, and the many other co-ordinated actions taking place in the vicinity at the same time. We later synched this audio with the video. This oscillation between the illusion and reality, etherial and grounded, was a preoccupation that ran through the action, documentation, and final installation of the work in an arrangement that resembled a camera obscura. Our collaboration resulted in something that baffled, amused and disturbed us in equal measure: an Apollo lunar landing on the outskirts of Exeter and strange transmissions form the edge of the known world. Dawn Scarfe
opposite: Dawn working on her TOPOS Residency, 2015 overleaf left: Scenes from Broadcasts From The Edge of the World, 2015 overleaf right: Volkhardt in performance during Broadcasts From The Edge Of The World, 2015 (photo by Dawn Scarfe)
Action at a distance
“Can people be trusted with the land?… Why are some people custodians?… swathes of farms with no people, and then all these people packed in here, is there some way to dissolve that boundary?” Unknown Speaker, Producing Landscape, 2015
“One German translation for “desire” is the beautiful word “Sehnsucht”. “Sich sehnen” means to long for something and “Sucht” is the addiction. So it’s an addiction to desire, and the reality of the tree on the horizon is once you’re up there, you tend to step in a cow pat, and you look to the horizon again.” Volkhardt Müller, Producing Landscape, 2015
These ways of producing and consuming were reflected in what Volkhardt and other artists were doing in the studio, both making objects to send out into the world and inviting the public to take part in an experience, whether a discussion about 19th century Romantic art, the countryside of Devon or about Sidwell Street’s future regeneration. The idea for Exeter City Likeness Farm was therefore to somehow map and bring alive these relationships, in particular what the consumption of art might mean in a digital global market place which buys and sells anything and everything, including the experience of the countryside. At the time I was reading The prison letters of Nadya and Slavoj between Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from the Russian artist group Pussy Riot and the cultural critic Slavoj Zizěk. Tolokonnikova was arrested for her part in the Pussy Riot performance of Punk Prayer in a Russian Orthodox Church in 2012 and sent to women’s penal colony. Tolokonnikova describes her time there where she was forced to work for 17 hours a day sewing clothing as part of an institutionalised system of cheap labour, a sweatshop making clothes to profit the Russian government. In their discussion Zizěk points out that Western markets
equally exploit cheap labour not only in ways most often publicised, such as the sweatshop making clothes and other products, but equally in the consumption of experiences and relationships. An example given is that of “like farming” where poorly paid workers “like” products on Facebook or social media in order to create the impression of popularity and to encourage sales. As Zizěk says: “…in the universe of commodities “relations between people assume the guise of the relations between things””, and in the case of like farming viceversa. Alex Murdin
opposite: Alex Murdin, Likeness Farm Website Prototype, 2016
Mostly Volkhardt and I talked about the place we were in and how it related to the public spaces of Exeter and its occupants, the shoppers hurrying past in the street below, the shop owner trying to make a living, the homeless people on the street and the flora and fauna that made the city its home. Inevitably in this context we became interested in the dynamics of commerce and the relationships it created between producer and consumer, something which related back to the landscape around Exeter and its agriculture. Mostly though what was being sold on the streets had not come from Devonian producers, the farmer, the artisan or manufacturer, but had come from the people, resources and factories of the world. Just as often what was being sold was not a tangible product at all but an experience, like a holiday or a computer game.
“Provenance... Coming back to homogenisation we have standard crops where we don’t know where it comes from but it’s the most basic thing in our lives. So this relates back to alchemy because of bringing together ingredients but also values… there’s no value to it if you don’t know where it’s from, you’ve got nothing invested in where that food’s come from, you don’t care that maybe on the other side of the world someone’s life is totally tied up in that…”
Unknown Speaker, Quality And Alchemy, 2015
Thanks to all the people who to helped to bring TOPOS on its way through the Crowdfunder and to the volunteers and residents of Exeter who have participated in the making of work and its presentation. A big thank you to all the people who have contributed skills and resources in support of TOPOS, especially the ongoing support of Hannah Stevens. Chair and co-host on discussion events, Josie Sutcliffe Panelists on Utopia and the Dream of Permanence: Peter Randall-Page, Martin Self, Dr. Rose Ferraby, Prof. John Wylie On Quality and Alchemy: Sally Watkins, Ben Huggins, Sean Borodale On Producing Landscape, Dawn Scarfe, Simon Sutcliffe, Christine Duff Participants in the video shoots were: Anna Arousi, Katie Beard, Leo Bulleid and Bruce the dog, Devon Cairns, Kezia Cochrane, Chimene Ehdaie, Oliver Emson, Sarah Fakray, Rose Ferraby, Lucy Jane Green, Carla Hayes, Ben Hendon, Emily Holyoake, Fin Irwin, Jessica, Richard Knox, Simon Lex, Kelly Marie Miller, Tatu Nikkanen, Simona Penes, Raphael Persighetti, Will Pollard, Jonny Rowden, Shane the guard, Hannah Stevens, James Tapp. Production assistance and volunteer coordination on Arena, Katie Beard. Support with exhibition set up, public events and studio assistance: Helen Bovey, Stuart Crewes, Ruth Carpenter, Mathew Davies, Nick Doran, Suzanne Hocknell, Sara Hurley, Johanna KorndĂśrfer, Jules Levy, Cameron Long, Sarah Mac Gregor, Liz Oxburgh, Richard Rochester, Marc Sanders, Philip Scorer, David Salas, Vicky Smith, Hannah Stevens, Kathy Towers. Catalogue design by Nick Davies Photography by Benjamin Borley unless otherwise credited. Marketing support and advice: Belinda Dillon, Stuart Crewes, Julie Gavin, Chris Lawrence, Tony Walker. A very special thank you goes to Paula Crutchlow who has been an invaluable backup, sounding board and competent adviser on nearly every aspect of the TOPOS project from its conception until now. Finally l want to thank all the visitors who have contributed to this place as an unfolding conversation, bringing curiosity, open minded-ness and an expectation to quality to the space.
previous page: Rehearsing the video shoot for Arena at TOPOS Space, 2015
A project like this stands on many feet. TOPOS was supported by the Exeter Phoenix who provided the legal umbrella for the tenancy. Thank you to Patrick Cunningham for his decision to back the initiative, to gallery curator Matt Burrows for ongoing advice and feedback, and to Jonas Hawkins for his constant support. Princesshay provided the space for a peppercorn rent, special thanks goes to Wayne Pearce for his open mindedness. Spacex have helped the application process and have contributed time, expertise and resources at various stages. Thanks to Nicola Hood, Kathy Norris and Hannah Reeves. Working with Double Elephant and the Redefining Print Symposium, TOPOS became part of an event to showcase Exeterâ€™s print-culture to a national audience, with great success. Thanks to Simon Ripley for his generosity with time and resources, and to Julie Gavin and Stella Levy from White Moose for putting themselves behind the project.