My application to New Art West Midlands’s Engine Micro Bursary scheme was to support research within Northern Europe in which I visited a number of significant museums and galleries to make video and audio recordings and photographs, generating source material for a new project.

Provisionally entitled ‘Hum’, this new project uses video in which sound is the primary source, in this case the sonic environment of the museum. This work will be audio described in a new collaboration with Dr Louise Fryer of University College London, BBC Radio 3 and the National Theatre, in which we aim to experiment with and examine the potential of applied audio description in relation to visual culture, as both a way of increasing access, and to explore the experimental use of audio description forming part of the works’ content, as a creative contributory element itself. To Dr Fryer’s and my knowledge this has never been explored previously.

Andrew McNiven: Untitled (Belgian Autoroute Services), 2018. HD video, multi-channel audio (work-in-progress)

The Micro Bursary enabled me to extend an existing trip for pre-planned projects at Greylight Projects in Brussels and NP3 Artspace in Groningen and spend several days researching filming, photographing and sound recording in museums and galleries in Belgium, the Netherlands and France. These included the Mauritshuis, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (Rotterdam), MHKA (Antwerp), Musee des Beaus Arts Lille, and others. Many of these were previously visited as part of my AHRC-funded practice-led PhD almost a decade ago, examining the conditions of display in the museum. I was able to generate a significant amount of research material with which to further develop my work.

In addition to the planned museum visits, there were also useful, and perhaps productive ‘collateral’ opportunities – filming and recording a Belgian motorway from the service area provided the source material for a potential work with a Ballardian sense of place; the seaway entry to Rotterdam’s Europoort offered a kind of ‘hum’ and scale hard to find anywhere else in the world.

Caravaggio: Boy Bitten by a Lizard, 1594-1596. Installation at MHKA (Antwerp) as part of exhibition Sanguine/Bloedred

 

Ed & Nancy Keinholz: Five Card Stud, 1969-1972. Installation at MHKA (Antwerp) as part of exhibition Sanguine/Bloedred (originally inc. in documenta 5 in 1972 before disappearing for nearly forty years).

I was also able to encounter previously unseen works: Ed & Nancy Keinholz’s rarely seen ‘Five Card Stud’ (1969-1972), originally part of documenta 5 in 1972 before disappearing for nearly forty years, and one of two versions of Caravaggio’s ‘Boy Bitten by a Lizard’ (1594-1596) from the Fondation Roberto Longhi in Florence – the other being in the National Gallery in London – both part of ‘Sanguine/Bloedred’, Luc Tuymans’ vivid exploration of the baroque at MHKA in Antwerp.

Being awarded the Engine Micro Bursary has also been useful in providing leverage for funding the wider ‘Hum’ project, and I have been successful in securing a significant award through the Kerr-Fry Bequest from the University of Edinburgh towards this.

That the bursary supported both the planned and the unplanned is significant. In allowing an artist time, opportunity, new experiences and encounters, the potential for new ideas is supported. The value of this is huge.

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