I am a freelance professional art technician and art handler. I used to work all over the world for arts institutions of all sizes, private collectors, commercial galleries and directly for artists. On 17 March I found that overnight my complex schedule of work for the rest of the year had been cancelled, my world locked down and I felt a great deal of uncertainty for what lay ahead. Many mention that we are living in unprecedented times but this term just didn’t seem to capture the fear that struck me as I began to realise that my world, life and career would never be the same.

 

I have been working as a freelance art technician for the past 3 years and have over 12 years’ experience in this field.  My livelihood depends on working on art exhibitions, with art collections and cultural events.  With the closures of cultural venues I became well aware that many of us freelance art technicians were going to experience extreme hardship due to this loss of income and employment.

 

Sarah Titheridge, Martina Schmuecker and I decided to respond to the Covid-19 crisis by creating the Art Technician Emergency Fund to raise money and provide short-term relief to our colleagues and friends in the industry who had lost all of their work and are suffering financially. Art Technicians are the backbone of the art and museum world. We love our work, and most of us go above and beyond in working for artists and institutions. Due to the precarious nature of the work art technicians do, work is sporadic. Most people work from pay cheque to pay cheque and there is no financial stopgap. Although the government set up some financial aid for the self-employed, this only helped a small percentage of art technicians. Many of us fell through the gaps and were reliant on universal credit or any arts grants that we might be eligible for.

 

We asked all those back in March who signed up to the fund when they anticipated experiencing financial hardship and the result was staggering.

 

 

So we created an online art auction, spent many, many hours contacting artists to collate artwork donations and calling out for freelance art technicians to sign up to receive financial support. The auction was live for 4 weeks during which we did everything we could to raise awareness and help to see the bids roll in. We were fortunate enough to be selected to sell a collection of 2020 Solidarity (12 artist) posters funded by an organisation, Between Bridges, founded by Wolfgang Tillmans. This was an incredible boast to our auction and 4 weeks later we had a huge success.

 

Article from The Guardian

 

We managed to raise a total of £26,100 which was paid out to 55 applicants. That means we were able to pay each art technician applying to the fund about £474. Just over 100 Artists – 104 to be precise – donated 145 artworks, and we managed to get 79 successful bids for those artworks. We also had the wonderful support from Between Bridges, and sold 169 2020 Solidarity Posters through the auction at £50 each, and lastly we had 13 individual donations of various amounts, coming to £2115.

 

We were elated to be selected for this New Art West Midlands Engine Micro Bursary which provided us with £250 to help towards much of the administration, marketing and publicising costs which all contributed to enabling us to raise such a large sum of money to help a great deal of art technicians out.

 

This collective generosity made a substantial difference to many people who are really struggling right now. It has given our industry as a whole a boost to know so many people were willing to donate to the fund via artwork donations or the purchasing of artwork to support them in this crisis. We hope that this fundraising initiative can in a small way contribute to giving art technicians more visibility in the arts, and show the importance of this profession for the cultural sector.

 

It will be a long road ahead for a lot of us technicians and art workers, as most of the institutions and galleries we work for are looking to cut costs on all levels. So far most of us have no news of any work available in the months ahead.

 

Follow us on Instagram @arttechnicianemergencyfund and help us raise even more next time to help support art workers and technicians.

Taz Lovejoy reflects on the progress and success of the Art Technician Emergency Fund started with two other art technicians as a response to cancelled work amid Covid-19. Taz was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to help support the administration and marketing of the initiative.

In March of this year I took a trip to a small town called Stroe located 1 hours’ drive from Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I was going there to participate in a two-day event that explored the capabilities and limitations of the human body and mind.

Limp. UV Printed image on synthetic latex, wooden dowel. 2015

As an artist I have always been interested in the human body, not necessarily as a figure to be drawn, painted or sculpted but as a subject to be examined and referenced. This interest bordered on an obsession when I became fascinated by the world of extreme male bodybuilding back in 2013. I spent quite a lot of time learning about the rites and rituals involved in this extreme activity. One thing that continues to resonate with me is the fact that this group of individuals push their body to the absolute extreme, solely for aesthetic purposes. There is no reward for how much weight an individual can lift or how quickly they can run, in this world, the only thing that is important is how they look at the end, the appearance of the end ‘product’.  I like to imagine how that parallels the art world and the production of art works. Within my practice, I have referenced these extreme bodies and the activity itself in many ways, most recently in the form of abstracted painting or sculptural objects. The process of making my work will also often connect to some of the activities involved in extreme bodybuilding (repetitive actions, physical pressure etc.). When presenting my finished works for exhibition I would describe the process of making them as ‘unseen performances’, to reference the physicality involved in their production. In 2018 I decided that it was time to consider making the unseen, seen, and that I would begin to develop a piece of live or recorded performance work. This shift in my practice is what prompted my application for the Engine Micro Bursary and to give me the opportunity to kick start this new chapter of research and development.

The combination of mental dedication and physical effort demonstrated by bodybuilders is the main reason I have continued to stay interested in it. The effort required to achieve and maintain these extreme bodies is almost incomprehensible. When considering how a performance piece involving the body might exist, I think about this combination of extreme physical and mental activity. I often seek out examples of individuals or groups who push things to the limits. One such individual is a 60-year-old Dutch man called Wim Hof, also known as the Iceman due to his infinity with all things cold. I first encountered Wim and his antics when I watched a documentary exploring his seemingly humanly impossible feats. At one point, he held 26 separate individual Guinness world records for extreme human activity, including the furthest swim in ice water, the fastest half marathon barefoot on snow and the longest time in direct full body contact with ice. All of this led people to believe he was a one off, a freak of nature who did not feel cold in the same way other people did. Wim claimed that he was not unique but was merely optimising the capabilities of the human body and he could teach anyone to do it. To prove it, Wim began what has now become known as The Wim Hof Method a system that combines regular exposure to the cold, breathing exercises and meditation. This method, however, was not just a frivolous venture into record-breaking but rather had some significant physical and mental benefits. Wim claimed that by practising the techniques of the method you could improve sports performance, reduce stress and strengthen your immune system. I was hooked, I wanted to know more. I discovered that a number of scientific studies had been carried out on not only Wim himself but also a group of trained individuals. It appeared they were able to consciously activate their autoimmune system, something that was previously believed to be impossible. I found this all so fascinating. Could it be that a slightly peculiar Dutch man had unlocked some new potential in the human body?

Wim Hof, breaking the world record for time spent surrounded by Ice.

I started to imagine how the things Wim was doing might relate to performance art. I was reminded of the endurance performance work popularised in the 1970s by people like Marina Abramovic, Stuart Brisley and Vito Acconci who pushed their body, mind and public perception to the limit. But it also brought to mind how materials can be used to evoke certain responses. I thought about transience in relation to ice and how it has been used as an art material in the past, with the obvious example of Marc Quinn and his frozen blood head piece, Self. The idea of referencing aging via the changing state of a material is something I referenced previously in my latex works, a material that quickly shows signs of wear and tear when pulled taut. I was confident that this could translate in other ways.

I discovered that there was an event-taking place, which might shed some light onto the specifics of the Wim Hof Method. It involved a series of lectures, workshops and participatory activities, so I signed up and booked flights to the Netherlands.

There were a group of around 30 participants and a team of four Wim Hof instructors who would guide us through the weekend. The morning started with a detailed introduction into the background of the Wim Hof Method. It transpired that this was much more than an activity simply to impress your friends with how long could stay in cold water. It appeared that the health benefits of the method were vast and yet all that was required was some conscious active breathing along with some exposure to the cold. It seemed too good to be true. As the day went on, we were introduced to the science behind the method. One of the trainers, Bart Scholtissen, a former neuroscientist from Amsterdam who found the method after suffering from poor mental health, introduced how active breathing and cold exposure can alter the way our bodies react to physical and mental stress. He discussed how in a contemporary world being endlessly stimulated by technology had resulted in a mass amount of people being stuck in the fight or flight response mode which can result not only in mental anxieties but also physical ailments. Through breathing, we could return the body into a resting state to allow us to relax fully and recuperate from daily stresses. It all seemed very reasonable and I remained as open but a sceptical as possible.

After morning lectures, we began some participatory activities that included going through the breathing exercises. These exercises, known collectively as ‘breathwork’ are based on ancient yogic techniques of conscious and deliberate airflow into the lungs. The aim, as explained by Bart, was to increase the amount of oxygen in our blood and to decrease carbon dioxide. By doing this we encouraged the cells in our blood to flow through our circulatory system in an active and efficient way, the result being an almost paradoxical increase of energy and the general feeling of relaxation. Afterwards we broke for lunch and I had an opportunity to speak with some of the other participants before returning for a series of discussions in the afternoon. Learning about the other participants, why they were there and their experiences was very interesting. Almost every person I spoke to, described how these breathing techniques and cold exposure had significantly impacted their life. From those with mental health issues and even mental illness to others with physical problems such as autoimmune diseases, each one described how the Wim Hof Method had help them deal with their difficulties.

Day two started similarly to day one with some more lectures into the science behind the method but also a bit of background to Wim himself, who also made a surprise appearance in the morning and give a motivational talk. He’s an extraordinary character and I can see why people are drawn to him, but also how he could be a target for sceptics. For me, I was happy experiencing all of this without judgement and an open mind. Today we would explore the cold exposure aspect of the method first hand. After a couple breathwork of sessions and we collectively prepared to enter an ice bath. For some this seemed to be no big deal but for most, including myself I was quite anxious about the prospect yet I had a sense of inner confidence perhaps feeding off the more positive members of the group. We gathered around the (ironically named) hot tub which had been previously filled with cold water and ice and were invited to enter at our own pace. I watched on to observe both how people dealt with the cold but also how the instructors guided them through it. What became immediately apparent is that by controlling the breath you controlled your ability to resist cold. Our body’s natural response to a sudden drop in temperature is to breathe quickly and shallow, to increase the heart rate and pump blood around the body to generate heat. This is also the sensation that triggers our in-built fight and flight response. By actively controlling the breath and slowing it down, people were much more able to deal with the cold water. When it came to my turn I could feel my heart racing before I even step foot into the cold water but I was confident that by applying the same methods as others, I would be able to do it. As I stepped into the ice, I immediately took a sharp intake of air, a gasp, and could feel my heart racing even faster. As I lowered down into the water my breathing rate increased and I felt an almost overwhelming urge to get out. At this point I tried to focus also on my breath trying to be more conscious, taking control and slowing everything down. As I gained control of my breath I felt my heart rate slow and the urge to get out dissipate and before I knew it I was fully emerged in the ice water being joined with five other participants. I had never experienced anything like that before, that sense of taking control of your body and your mind to overcome something physical like this was a new and exciting prospect. I sat in the ice for probably two minutes before getting out. As I emerged I felt amazing and in a way I’d never experienced before, my body felt energised, I was tingling from head to toe. It was genuinely a moment I would never forget. Eventually we had all had our turn in the ice bath, we made our way back to the main area for some warm tea, and a final debrief.

On my journey back from the Netherlands I reflected on my time there, considering all that I have learnt and experienced. It struck me that learning is not always a cognitive brain centric activity and that we can also learn through physical experiences via the body. I started to think about how I might begin to produce artworks informed by the information I had received but also, and perhaps more importantly, the physical and emotional experience I had. Up until very recently, my working methods would primarily consist of extensive theoretical research. Reading about a specific topic until I felt I knew enough about it to represent it via image or object making. Whilst the body would often play a part in the conceptualising of the work, I had not always considered it as truly embodied practice. Moving forward, I want to try to produce works that are more responsive to physical urges and feelings rather than explicitly cognitive ones.

Taking this experience back to the studio has been an interesting one. I have been determined to spend less time in my head and more time in my body. That’s not to say that I’ve stopped thinking critically but rather allowed my body to also have a say in the decision-making. Recently I produced a series of performance to camera works, which reflected this new approach. I can’t exactly say what these photographs are, what they do or how they might be conceptualised within the context of an exhibition but I feel positive about that. I have a sense of freedom around my art making that was arguably not there prior to my Wim Hof experience. I feel as though I can try things now I would have otherwise talked myself out of doing, for one reason or another. In parallel with the feeling I had on leaving the ice bath, I feel energized and excited about this new development chapter ahead.

Brian J Morrison
http://www.brianjmorrison.com/

 

 

 

 

Artist Brian J Morrison reflects back on his research trip to Stroe in the Netherlands earlier this year, funded by an Engine Micro Bursary.

Last year James Lomax was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to undertake a research trip to Madrid. He reports back: 

I was very fortunate to be awarded one of the Engine Bursaries last year which I used for a research trip to Madrid. I had not visited Madrid before. The trip had two purposes; to visit museums and galleries (in particular the Museo del Prado), and to also make new connections in the city.

Madrid is rich with museums and galleries, and the Museo del Prado is at the centre of this. It was somewhere I had wanted to visit for a long time. It is the main Spanish national art museum and is renowned for having one of the finest collections of European Art in the world. It houses work from the 12th to 20th Century, based upon the Spanish Royal collection, and includes both painting and sculpture. Artists in the collection include Francisco Goya, Hieronymus Bosch, El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and Diego Velásquez.

My practice is largely installation based, with a focus on print and sculpture, and is often influenced by and in dialogue with painting. I particularly wished to visit the Museo del Prado to experience Francisco Goya’s Pinturas Negras or Black Paintings and Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Early Delights triptych. Goya’s Pinturas Negras consists of fourteen deeply moving paintings which the artist painted in oils directly onto the walls of his Madrid home in the latter years of his life. Not only dark in tone, the paintings are of far darker content, reflecting Goya’s bleak outlook on life – not only his own, but also reflecting the political climate at the time.

Hieronymus Bosch’s collection of paintings in the Prado combine works on board and larger panel works which are two sided, hinged, triptychs. The Garden of Earthly Delights triptych is a three part painting depicting the spherical earth when closed. Upon opening, the panels depict the fall of humanity, starting with Adam and Eve on the left and a descent to hell on the right. The colour and exquisite detail in the painting, undertaken in the late 1400s, is immense and overbearing. The experience of the Prado itself is one that reflect upon often. It was great to be able to witness these paintings in the flesh and to allow them to make their mark upon my own work.

During the course of my four day visit I was able to visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to see Dorothea Tannning’s exhibitions, Behind the Door, Another Invisible Door as well as the museum’s incredible collection. I also made a trip to Factum Arte, a specialist in art conservation and fabrication. Factum Arte seeks to construct a bridge between new technologies and craft skills in the conservation of cultural heritage and in contemporary art. They use their technologies to create identical replicas as well as recordings so that these works could be recreated in the event of being destroyed by a natural disaster etc. As well as this I attended a number of openings over the course of the visit and was able to meet with Madrid based curators and artists.

Last year James Lomax was awarded an Engine Micro Bursary to undertake a research trip to Madrid. He reports back.

Image: Ian Richards

Image: Ian Richards

Trevor Pitt reports on TRANSMISSION, a pilot project funded through our Engine Micro Bursaries last year.

TRANSMISSION is a pilot project devised as part of my Engine bursary research into setting up a radio platform in Digbeth, Birmingham from which all programmes are made by artists, musicians and composers based in the West Midlands.

In 2018 I was awarded an Engine bursary to support my research and training into radio and online broadcasting with the objective of setting up an arts radio station in the West Midlands. To support the testing out of a pilot and training in audio and radio, I was also awarded a bursary from a-n and support from my Forge commission with Multistory.

The research culminated in the launch of TRANSMISSION, a two week pilot of an online radio station which will ran from 7 – 21 December 2018 on www.radiotransmission.co.uk

The radio makers include: Andrew Jackson, Andrew Hamilton, Andy Spackman, Bobbie Gardner, Cathy Wade, Carolyn Morton, Clare Lyndsey, Dan Auluk, George Reiner, Henry McPherson, Ian Richards, Jose Arroyo, Mark Murphy, Michael Wolters, Mike Johnston, Mo White, Paul Norman, Paul Wright, Tolley & Georgiou and Ben Sadler.

The aims were to carry out research into the practicalities of setting up a low cost radio station – evaluate the pros and cons of broadcasting online and via a radio frequency – learn how to use professional audio editing software – learn how to use professional radio streaming software – test out my idea for a dedicated arts radio station broadcasting from the West Midlands.

As part of my research I carried out online research, I visited radio stations, talked to academics and received 1-2-1 and online training.

I used the Engine bursary to visit Sound Art Radio (Totnes), Resonance FM (London) and Phonic FM (Exeter). The bursary has enabled me to gain invaluable advice from those ‘in the know’; Patrick Cunningham (Phonic FM) and Lucinda Williams (Sound Art Radio.)

 

Review and outcomes of my bursary

The project began in May 2018 with desk-based research into online radio webcasting and over the airwaves radio broadcasting. I looked at the legal and practical considerations of both options.

In June I set up a series of conversations with experts in the field and talked to them about my idea to set up an arts radio station based in Birmingham from which all the content would be made by artists, composers, musicians and writers. Each conversation was invaluable and helped me to shape my thinking in terms of creating a conceptual framework for the station, and guided me through some of the practicalities of testing out my idea. One of the drivers for the conversations was ‘Should I use the FM broadcasting or an online platform for the pilot?’

My first conversation was with Siobhan Stevenson who is an independent Radio producer and academic who has recently submitting her PhD ‘Discourses of Community Radio: Social Gain Policies in Practice’. I have known Siobhan for many years, so was able to have a very relaxed and open chat. She was very supportive of the idea behind the project, and much of our conversations were about the practicalities of setting up the pilot. She offered suggestions about how it could be sustained in the long term. One of Siobhan’s suggestions was to adopt a subscription model in which there would be a general programme of broadcasting that would be ‘free to all’ accompanied by services that people would pay to get access to. The other area we talked about in great length was the feasibility of broadcasting over the airways using either an FM or DAB signal. She signposted me to further information to research temporary licences and the new opportunities that were in the pipeline for using DAB multiplexes.

My next meeting was with Tim Wall (Professor of Radio and Popular Music Studies, Birmingham City University). He was on Sabbatical from his University, but gave me his time, and we had a convivial chat over lunch in the sunshine. Our conversation revolved around the questions of ‘What is Radio?’ and ‘Why is radio relevant in the 21st Century?’ I always have a very lively and challenging conversation with Tim and this was no exception. Like Siobhan, he was very supportive of the idea to create a dedicated arts radio station in Birmingham, and he thought that I should take the opportunity to experiment with the format.

As part of the bursary I travelled to the South West on a 3 day visit which included meeting with the Director of Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre Patrick Cunningham who set up Phonic FM, and spending a couple of days in Totnes with the Artistic Director of Sound Art Radio Lucinda Guy.

Through the conversation with Patrick, he talked about how Phonic FM evolved from a radio station set up in 2003 to support Exeter’s annual Vibraphonic Festival which ran for one month each year. In 2007, Exeter Community Radio (which broadcasts under the name of Phonic FM) was set up to bid for a full time licence from Ofcom which was granted in late Autumn of that year. Their output is largely music, both live and recorded, focusing on those tunes and genres you won’t often hear on mainstream radio. They support the arts (in the widest sense) in and around Exeter, publicise events and encourage innovation and participation. It is a volunteer run organisation, and Patrick talked about the reality behind the need for all the volunteers to be well trained and feel responsible for the upkeep of the station. As well as talking about the day to day operations, we also looked around the station and talked about equipment that would be needed. What I took away from this conversation was the scale of undertaking the setting up of a fully operational community radio station.

After Exeter I drove to Totnes and spent time with Lucinda Guy. Sound Art Radio is set in the grounds of Dartington Hall.  The station is run by volunteers and supported by a board of directors. It began as an experimental student radio station at Dartington College of Arts, and in 2009 became the community (and still experimental) radio station for Dartington and Totnes, regulated by Ofcom. The visit to Sound Art Radio was key to my research as it gave me an in-depth insight into running a station. As with my conversation with Patrick, we talked about the work involved in supporting a community/artist-led radio venture. Also like Phonic FM, the station began with a pilot project from which the station became fully realised over a number of years. One of the key aspects we looked at together was the pilot that I would undertake, and we both came to the conclusion that it would need to be an online service. Lucinda gave me some practical advice on what I would need and offered to support me through the process. She recommended that I attend the Community Media Association (CMA) annual conference in September which I duly did. Lucinda is the Chair of the CMA, and we were able to catch up again at the conference. She introduced me to some of the key people currently working in community radio which was a great way to expand my network in this new field.

My final visit was to meet with Peter Lanceley at Resonance FM, the UK’s leading community broadcast platform, operating two radio stations across FM and DAB Digital Radio in Central London and Brighton.

Peter is responsible for editorial, web and technical development, fundraising and programme management. Resonance has always been a touchstone for my idea to set up a station in Birmingham, and Peter was incredibly supportive of the idea and even went on to suggest that we may be able to exchange programming. We looked at the technical set up and again Peter recommended going down the online route for the pilot.

Now that I had a clear idea that the pilot would be an online station, I set about researching the various platforms and set up 1-2-1 training sessions with sound engineer Bridge Williams who helped set up systems for Brum Radio.

I was now in a position to set up the station and begin the pilot. My original idea was to subscribe to Airtime Pro ‘Starter Package’ for 3 months and produce a pilot of 12 programmes to be broadcast weekly. After reflection I decided to subscribe to Radio.co and rather than broadcast 12 programmes over 3 months, to programme 14 consecutive days.

The pilot was called Transmission and was launched at an event on 7 December as part of Digbeth First Friday. Programmes ran from 5pm every day until 21 December 2018.

The programmes were made by 24 artists, musicians, composers and writers and ranged from broadcasting new sound works, newly released works, mixtapes, podcasts and a daily feature of film reviews and documentaries. Full information on www.radiotransmission.co.uk

Highlights from TRANSMISSION pilot

Composers Bobbie Gardner, Andy Spackman (Sad Man) and Robin Buckley (RKSS) each presented recently composed works. Artists Mo White, Andrew Jackson and Dan Auluk each presented soundtracks from moving image works they had made. Artist Ian Richards and artist duo Tolley Georgiou each presented dynamic sound collages that explored dark themes.

Composers Henry McPherson, Andrew Hamilton and Justin Wiggan each presented new works. Writer Mike Johnston presented a series of poetic works ‘Four Concatenations’. Artists Cathy Wade, Ben Sadler and Mark Murphy each experimented with the mixtape format in the making of 60 minute programmes. Paris based writer and broadcaster Paul Wright presented a daily edition of Ubanstates that explored art and well-being.

You can find links to all of the artists mentioned on the Transmission website ‘Meet the Programme Makers’: http://radiotransmission.co.uk/

Composers Michael Wolters & Paul Norman created a 3 hour programme, ‘Difficult Listening with Paul and Michael’ that introduced listeners to their work.

A series of podcasts ‘Eavesdropping at the Movies’ by film scholar from University of Warwick Jose Arroyo and former student Michael Glass were broadcast daily at 6pm, and included discussions of classics such as ‘Casablanca’ and recent release ‘BlacKkKlansman’.

Artist Carolyn Morton made an hour long soundscape ‘Round the World in 60 Clips’ that collaged field recordings made on her travels through Asia and South America

Artist George Reiner and academic Joash Musundi made ‘Aunt Nelly’ a programme that explored the relationship between ‘the diva’ and queer identity.

Over the fourteen days we had a steady level of listeners, and you can see from the below that was that people were listening from across the UK.

Internationally we had listeners from Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Spain, USA, Korea and Brazil.

I’m very excited about the future ventures and plan to launch a 6 month run in 2019-20.

 

If you would like more information about the future of TRANSMISSION or would like to get involved contact Trevor Pitt – trevor@podprojects.org

Trevor Pitt reports on TRANSMISSION, a pilot project funded through our Engine Micro Bursaries to support research and training with a view to set up an arts radio station in the West Midlands.

For ten days in July, Nottingham Trent University’s Fine Art studios and workshops host The Summer Lodge. The Lodge started as a means for busy academic staff to reclaim the experience of experimenting with their own practices without constraints or distractions during the vacation. More than a decade later, it has evolved, providing a collective space for thirty invited artists to undertake experiments, pursue new ideas and allow unexpected leaps of imagination.

There is a strong emphasis on a relaxed social/community environment with regular potluck meals (in fact, the Lodge starts with a shared meal), activities and opportunities for new dialogues and critical exchange. There is also a significant emphasis on research. The first week concludes with a symposium addressing a different topic every year, comprising presentations from a range of invited speakers from international academics to undergraduate students, followed by a panel discussion and participation from the audience. The 2018 Lodge provocation was ‘Autotelic/Toward Play‘ exploring ideas around playfulness and experimentation within artistic practices. We explored parallels between the immersion and absorption young children experience in their play, combined with reflection on our motivations when making work and on achieving a balance between working towards resolution whilst simultaneously leaving things open.

My starting point for the residency was examining the influence science has on the cosmetic dream of youthful and transformed skin – I had planned to make some simple salves (incidentally, the university workshop staff couldn’t have been more helpful and encouraging about my experiments). It’s interesting that the freedom to simply play, with no expectation that you need to make or show anything can result in considerable creative results. Making fairly effective salves is remarkably easy – I had a whole range produced after a couple of days and this actually became secondary to curiosity about the application and transformative effects.

 

Conversations with other participants prompted me to explore the mythology and plant lore in greater detail – the idea that our faith in the modern science behind cosmetics might be influenced by much older cultural paradigms. I researched and collected wild herbs from the local graveyard and botanical gardens and explored how I might harness their (purported) powers into my range of salves. Lodge members were also surprisingly enthusiastic about trying out some of my concoctions, although we learnt (the hard way) that some of the active ingredients like turmeric aren’t that pleasant on skin … The realisation that I needed a stand-in for real skin led to other surfaces that could be palpated and transformed resulting in some training on a sewing machine, which I had never tried before (alarming!).

Aside from being really enjoyable, the residency had a lasting impact on my practice, both in terms of my willingness to play more within my processes of making and also the range of materials I engage with. Certainly my interest in utilising ‘real’ and living materials in my sculptural and installation work started during the Lodge experience and some of the pieces I made and ideas I entertained during that ten day period continue to morph and evolve today.

www.mattgale.co.uk

 

Matt Gale reports on his residency at Nottingham Trent University’s Summer Lodge last year.

After graduating from university in 2017 I was fortunate enough to have been awarded a New Art West Midlands Engine Micro Bursary in 2018. The bursary was to allow me to support the development of a major project by covering materials and travel costs, as well as acquiring further research resources.

 

The resulting project has become known as ‘D.E.F.E.’, a direct reference to the origin of the factual research documents. This award allowed me to purchase copies of declassified military files from the last active year of the Ministry of Defence’s UFO reports desk and hotline (2009). These became the backbone of the work and the thread that weaves throughout.

 

Upon enquiry at The National Archives, it was revealed to me that the copies that I had been able to download and print were the same versions that were held in the archives – “The digitised files with DEFE 24 relating to Unidentified Flying Objects, UFOs, are redacted documents. The personal information remains closed [redacted] for 30 years from the last working date of the file. Only a digital copy of the correspondence is retained, the original paper forms and correspondence were not retained by the Ministry of Defence.” This somewhat diverted my focus of attention, but also added tinder to the flame of conspiracy.

One of the major costs that the bursary helped to cover was the cost of photographic materials and processing. It was important to me that the project was shot on film because it has a built-in quality of supposed authenticity or veracity; anything on the film must be present to have been photographed. Not knowing what I would capture initially, and potentially chancing on a sighting of my own, I wanted to remove the element of digital manipulation in the initial stages as much as possible. The prolific photograph of the Solway Firth Spaceman, shot on an analogue camera in 1964, best illustrates the element of undeniable authenticity. Such that the film company Kodak offered a reward to anyone who could prove the photo was faked. It was never claimed.

The Solway Firth Spaceman, Jim Templeton, 1964.

As well as material costs, the award went towards travel costs to various galleries across the West Midlands; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, The New Art Gallery Walsall and The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum in Coventry to name but a few, not to mention travel costs scouting locations drawn from the DEFE source files throughout the region.

 

I would also like to use this opportunity to mention that I took a ‘break’ from the project. Having been institutionalised at university and having a predisposed expectation of how a project developed, part way through the project I began to struggle with the anxiety of production. I think it’s incredibly important for both emerging and established artists to be honest and open about mental health in the production process of a project, and if a break is needed to gain a better end result in the long-run, then one should be taken.

 

Upon re-establishing my own mental health and grounding for the project, I was also incredibly lucky to have been selected for the East Meets West GRAIN projects and FORMAT International Photography Festival Masterclass programme. This, combined with my new sense of rejuvenation really helped the project come to fruition. There were some images that didn’t make the cut:

As well as some more successful images that went on to be apart of the resulting series.

 

The final series is produced with grateful support from Nicola Shipley, Beth Kane, Katie Peters, Michael Sargeant, Matthew Murray, Andrew Jackson and Natasha Caruana in the form of project and portfolio reviews, as well as all of the other masterclass participants.

 

As a result of coming to a sense of completion with the project, images have been shown at the RBSA Photo Prize 2019, Format International Photography Festival, Derby Photo Fringe and ultimately resulting in a solo show at Artefact Projects in Stirchley, Birmingham.

 

The support that the award has offered has been multifaceted yet received with unanimous gratitude.

 

D.E.F.E. images: www.thomas-wynne.com

 

East Meets West Exhibition at Derby Photo Fringe 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thomas Wynne reports on his research visits and the development of his work exploring Unidentified Flying Objects.

Exhibition catalogue

This report is an account of my participation in the international printmaking exhibition 3rd Global Print located in the Douro region of Portugal which ran from August – 30 September 2017.

Effects of forest fire between Porto and Alijo

The Douro region is famous for wine production and the vineyards dominate the landscape, climbing the hills and punctuating the ochre ground with green. The region has also been designated UNESCO World Heritage status.

The exhibitions were spread across six towns and eight cultural venues, containing the works of 543 artists from 67 countries. 19 artists represented the UK (although this should read 20 since, upon wishing to add breadth to their global reach the organisers placed me as the sole representative of Hong Kong, my place of birth). Interestingly the country with the highest number of participants was the US with 105 artists, whilst Portugal only had 16 artists.

These events are organised by artist/curator Nuno Canelas and his compact team and participation is through invitation-only. This offer extends to showing consecutively at the 9th International Printmaking Bienal Douro in 2018 with Global Print being the smaller of the two. Not surprisingly, with the number of works and artists in the show, the quality and mastery of technique, themes and approaches was great and breathtaking, demonstrating that printmaking is vital and alive in the world.

Due to a combination of wide distances between venues, the irregularity of local transport and available time after installing my work, I was only able to visit four of the eight venues. However these shows have been documented by the organisers with the images shared on their Facebook page @BienalDouro. The venues were:

Alijo – Biblioteca Municipal (Library of Alijo) / Piscinas Municipais (Municpal Swimming Pool)
Chaves – Biblioteca Municipal (Library of Chaves) / Centro Cultural (Cultural Centre)
Favaios – Museu do Påo e do Vinho (Bread & Wine Museum)
Foz Coa – Museu do Coa
Regua – Museu do Douro
Martinho de Anta – Espaço Miguel Torga (Miguel Torga Cultural Centre)

My visit occurred from 28 July – 4 August, flying from Birmingham airport, landing at Porto in order to take a two-hour bus ride to Alijo. This seemed to be the ‘centre of operations’ since it is the home of Nuno Canelas and where many of the overseas visiting artists stayed. Whilst all the other artists chose to stay at the main and much more luxurious hotel in Alijo, I stayed at the youth hostel – the Pousada da Juventude de Alijo which was clean, quiet, spacious, en-suite and came with a continental breakfast. This was booked for me weeks in advance by the organisers and at a reduced rate.

It was at the Biblioteca Municipal where I installed my work, a public library with an exhibition space and serving as one of the venues for Global Print. I arrived in Alijo slightly unprepared due to the fact that my email requests for images and dimensions of the cabinets that my work would be shown in were not sent prior to my arrival. Fortunately, and surprisingly Alijo has a shop that sells all manner of goods from China and it was here where I was able to purchase and adapt the necessary items for my installation.

Adrift on the Sea of Fertility, 2017
sanded Vogue magazine, print residue, kidney stone, polyester fabric

Titled Adrift on the Sea of Fertility my installation was housed in two glass cabinets. One cabinet contained a Vogue magazine, all the images of which had been sanded off its pages to leave dusty vestiges of ‘beautiful’ figures. The other cabinet housed the semblance of a lunar landscape comprised of the residue from the sanding process. Rock-like, a single human kidney stone sits alone within this scene.

Adrift on the Sea of Fertility, 2017
sanded Vogue magazine, print residue, kidney stone, polyester fabric

Coincidences abound in life; like bringing a work that resembles a barren lunar landscape, to a place that is flanked by the charred remains of recent forest fires. But unlike my work, there are signs that life is just beginning to push through the deathly black, re-greening the hills and valleys.

Extract from my travel notebook

Growing out of our conversations, this coincidence had also worked its way into the thinking of Nuno Canelas who had chosen my work to represent Global Print, being the sole image used on the promotional posters and banners as well as the front cover of the exhibition catalogue.

Exhibition catalogue

The exhibition opening was held at the Museu do Coa, an hour and half mini-bus ride from Alijo. Sited on top of a hill over-looking vineyards and the Douro river, the museum is of an uber modernist construction and located in the Coa valley, world famous for its paleolithic rock engravings. Much of the museum is dedicated to visualising and disseminating the research from this activity to the public.

The opening was attended by artists from South Korea, Switzerland, UK and Portugal. It began with a guided tour by one of the museum’s archaeologists who gave a fascinating and deeply-insightful talk on the meaning behind the images made by the paleolithic peoples followed by speeches from the museum director and Nuno Canelas. Further into the evening a delicious 3-course meal was also arranged at a very reasonable rate in the Museum’s restaurant. It was an opportunity for discussion, networking, and relaxation after the heat of the day.

On the bus ride to Museu do Coa I sat next to Silvestre Pestana, a prominent Portuguese artist who was showing solo at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santa Barbara, USA. An artist of later years he is a wealth of knowledge and experience of an understanding of art history ‘on the ground’ and it was fascinating and an education conversing with him on the journey. I hope to develop further exchanges.

Reflecting on the text written by Nuno Canelas that prefaces Global Print I sensed an anxiety towards the status of printmaking, in its complex relations to other art-forms, a disappearance of its autonomy;

… Printmaking’s hybrid nature … spanning the realms of ‘high’ art against its more utilitarian uses in everyday life. Something is lost in these overlaps, or rather printmaking recedes, a subsummation of one into the other. There is a print-consciousness within my own practice – in my relations with materials, the nature of my bodily engagement between the physical and the visual. Unfixed and mutable, artists call on print when their formal medium of choice is rendered speechless. Printmaking is intimately informed by the historical, by chemistry and the technological. Highly adaptable to requirements, its presence infiltrates our visual world, whilst being hidden in plain sight.

extract from my travel notebook

Despite the advancing breadth of printmaking techniques, practice and thought I felt the exhibitions did not stray beyond the known and uncontested parameters of contemporary printmaking culture. Perhaps this was due to logistics and what was practical to send work across the world. Whilst, in relation to the time, man-power and resources available it was sometimes in the hands of the gods as to how and where your work would be exhibited, with variable degrees of care and attention. Although this did not make the experience any less enjoyable and captivating. In its myriad of visual forms and themes, physical approaches and just sheer quantity, Global Print was able to offer a sense of how printmaking is being lived in the world today, and it’s Body Mass Index indicates good health. For me, looking at prints is something of a forensic activity. Eyeballing the marks both intentional and incidental, registration, plate tone and how the paper receives the ink, straying from print’s reproductive strangle-hold, there is much to enjoy in such inconsistencies. Then there are the actions performed to construct the print – dusting, smoking, eroding, cutting, pressing, wiping, gouging … a dance takes place with the (print)maker in the mind of the viewer. Roll on 9th International Printmaking Bienal Douro 2018

In Porto

Two days were allocated towards exploring the independent art scene of Porto. However many of these galleries were closed for the summer. This was especially true of the R. Miguel Bombarda, the street famous for being lined with independent galleries, here deserted save for a few cafes and small retail shops.

To kick things off was a much anticipated visit to the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Serralves, an obvious choice being a mere 40-minute walk from the Airbnb. The large paintings of Julie Mehretu seemed tailor-made for the airy, naturally-lit spaces of Serralves and there were a lot of paintings to see. I enjoyed walking through the sneaky corridors, mysterious channels that connected the vast open rooms.

Sharing the same grounds is the Serralves Villa, a luxuriously hedonistic 1930s Art Deco building. Previously a private residence and now an exhibition site with a fantastically gaudy pink-marbled bath and sink washroom. Inhabiting the spaces were the interventions of multidisciplinary artist from New York, Nick Mauss. Witnessing the architecture, design and decorative elements of the villa and their appropriation into a site for art was a highlight of my trip.

Sismografo (www.sismografo.org) was one of the few independent galleries open. There aren’t any signs directing you to its location. Situated on the first floor above retail spaces it is accessed via a wooden staircase from the street and obscured by a semi-street vendor (of what I’ve forgotten). I very nearly missed a visit after having been told by the vendor that no one had passed him since he opened and that it must be closed. I decided to venture up anyway and was surprised yet happy to see the doors open with someone invigilating the space. The gallery is flanked by large street-facing windows, occupies two large-ish white-walled rooms and was showing the work of Lisbon-based painter Gil Heitor Cortesao – oil paintings on paper and plexiglass. The invigilator turned out to be a member of the steering group who decide upon the artists they wish to show. After a chat that included all the possible independent galleries I could have visited outside the summer break she directed me to another space just round the corner.

Maus Habitos is located on the 4th floor above a retro-fronted car park and a self-contained gallery adjoining a bar-cum-coffee space. Again there are no signs directing you here. Efrain Almeida (Brazil) and Rigo Flores (USA) were the artists showing, work from a recent Cross Residency supported by cultural organisations Caravanna and In Residence Porto, comprising wooden figurative sculptures and large figurative pencil drawings on paper respectively.

Safe Art, a permanent exhibition site housed in a former bank, Porto

Safe Art is located along the central heart of Porto. Formerly a bank it is now a permanent exhibition site which extends down into its vault. It was showing an installation by Alberto Carneiro comprising the semblance of an in-progress harvesting of a rye field. Entering this space from the urban environment of Porto’s main square was a joyous experience, with shoes off and feeling the brittle snap of dry rye storks underfoot, I felt transported, out-of-place. Part of a trilogy from 1973-76, this piece was titled A field after harvest for the aesthetic delight of our body. The other two installations were being shown simultaneously in Lisbon. To my understanding Safe Art is part of a constellation of exhibition sites used by a Portuguese organisation called Culturgest that also runs events in dance, music, theatre, readings and conferences between Lisbon and Porto.

PurePrint was another organisation on my list to visit. It is run by the Faculty of Fine Arts at the University of Porto and hosts international residencies, exhibitions and conferences. Again due to the summer recess the department was closed, despite my attempts to persuade a member of staff and a security guard to let me look around.

My thoughts are directed towards what work to show at next summer’s 9th International Printmaking Bienal. For Global Print my attendance was required due to the nature of the work. In my practice there is an inclination to extend the language of printmaking, often into the realms of installation and performative modes of production. The need for ‘quality control’ towards how my work should be displayed is also a concern, making my attendance necessary. Before departure and during a chat over coffee, Nuno Canelas asked if I would like to speak at the conference that will form part of next year’s Bienal. Along with developing the networks made through Global Print (since a secret pact was made by all artists to return), the gravitational pull of the Douro is strong.

Pak Keung Wan
https://www.pakkeungwan.co.uk/

 

 

 

 

Pak Keung Wan on the international printmaking exhibition 3rd Global Print located in the Douro region of Portugal 2017.