When, where and how was it decided that women would, by default, take care of housework?
Clive Maclennan showed his beautiful and ever so touching series ‘ A year to Remember…. Or maybe Not’ at Chateau Marcus. In many ways, it was a reworking of difficult times where he left his job and changed gear to find out more about what matters in him. During this period of change he also lost his boxer named Roderick and let a new dog named Roary in his life. Lots of people had lengthy conversations with Clive which is no wonder as his photographic images were not only simply stunning but also deeply engaging. I particular love the image of the painted over graffiti as it seems to tell so much whilst revealing so little. In it self it is not a silent piece and asks questions about what was actually covered and why. At the same time, it tempts me to think of a word to put there in this beautiful diffuse white space and I struggle to decide between ‘complex’, ‘illegible’ and ‘refuse’.
Salon Slum set off with Octavia Bettis giving a performance standing rather solidary on a chair. She questioned our perception of a person’s appearance, what is the true self, what is put on for appearance, what is actually real. Consequently, she tore off her false finger nails, wiped off her make-up, tossed away her high heels and the inlays of her booster bra. All in all, very poignant but also rather stressful and uncomfortable to watch as it reminded me how we all sometimes can un-revel without actually meaning it.
Then Fenia shared her video about coffee and darkroom and her ideas about archiving present moments and artworks. An ever important question for a performance artist! The video, it has to be said, is really a beautifully quirky piece! I also showed an 8 min excerpt of my 1h 42min long moving image ‘resident’ and I have written about this experience in another blog post. Gabriele Minkeviciute showed a painting which is quite extraordinary and hard to describe as it conflates the personal with the surreal, optimism with utter darkness.
There will be more about her work as she will exhibit at Chateau Marcus in June! Daz Disley had printed out the coding of one of his programs that forms the base for visual collaborations with musicians. Needless to say the printout was at least 15 meters long and simply dazzling. He also showed us an example what he does with it by grabbing images from the Internet and the running them through his program.
Finally, as the last piece Kev Snell, Sam Douce and Keaton Robinson gave a performance together. The Wrong Way Down Jazz Street. This is an entirely new collaboration that came out of Salon Slum March! Kev and Sam where on the drums, whilst Keaton generated an extraordinary speech act. Next to this, Sam also managed a visual stream consisting of deconstructed images of x-church that were projected across the performing Keaton. Very powerful, very engaging, definitely want to see and hear much more of it!
Overall, it was a brilliant opening of Chateau Marcus and another great Salon Slum and I look forward to what the next events might bring.
Photos by Clive Maclennan, Debs Fulton and myself.
Why is it so challenging to talk about what we make? Why is art at times such a contested ground? These are the two of the questions that last week’s events at x-church, the opening of Clive Maclennan’s show ‘A year to remember … or maybe not’ and Salon Slum April raised to me. I must say, I had put myself on the spot with showing an 8min excerpt of the 1h 42’ min long moving image ‘resident’. This is one of the pieces that came out of my residency at x-church and means a lot to me. It is solely made up of snippets of conversations that I had with many of the lovely people I met during this time and, courtesy to Marcus Hammond, a very long drive around Gainsborough in a white transit van.
To be frank I was chuffed as I got, rather unexpectedly, a lot of positive responses. Yet during the screening I became also aware that I had not been able to talk with everyone I had wanted to. This made me feel guilty, partly because I really don’t like the game of in and out, of prioritising one person’s view over another. But in due fairness I have to say that it was mostly out of my hands, not only because of the length of the residency but also the less than ideal weather conditions. Yet what really distracted me during feedback is how far I can go with questions about the piece without being leading, dominating or boring everyone to tears. The thing is that I really wanted to know and things close to me and close to others never leave me cool or chilled. Forever, I worry and look about potential trespasses or unintentional leakages. Aiming to do right by others and to try to do right by your work seems, at times, an act impossible.
Having had all these contradictory feelings in relation to the screening of my own piece made me realise that other artists might feel similarly. Engaging in dialogue over a piece where you as the author had invested so much is not necessarily easy. Simply put, it opens up feedback loops that are out of your control. This can be uncomfortable, especially when the piece is not received as you intended it to be. At least when you care about what you do and at Salon Slum people do care. Yet to reassure you, I can only say that the others seemed to take it rather gracefully and nobody fled suddenly the building or hid in the toilet. Anyway, I also survived albeit with a turmoil of feelings. In the end, I was even glad that I had shown the excerpt of the piece.
What to take forward? I don’t know. Maybe, that a peer review process is so much more than just ‘showing your work’. It can affect you, it can hurt, it can exhilarate, it can give you a sleepless night. Ideally, it does affect not only you but also the people who engaged with what you had done. I would argue that this is not a bad thing, especially as so little seems to touch us in a world where we have learnt to express ourselves rather effortless through emojis. And sometimes to sleep a little less and to count the medals of the night can be special if not productive.
 Have just seen a beautiful painting by Anselm Kiefer that is titled: The famous medals of the night.
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You might remember that mid of March was the inaugural show at Chateau Marcus which took place in conjunction with the second Salon Slum. Simply put both events were absolutely exciting as everybody really engaged and nobody came just for the buffet. Or the chitchat. Or the networking opportunity.
I have to say that this was in part down to the artists and what they showed. To give an idea I will briefly describe what happened throughout the evening. An account of the line up with a personal slant so to speak.
Joana Cifre Cerdà’s performance ‘I want you to feel the weight of my loss…. or is it the weight of my freedom?’ inside of Chateau Marcus was really unnerving and triggered so many contradictory feelings in me. This is rather ironic because all what Joana did was make a dough ball with the exact weight of the removed uterus and attached fibroids. 1.18 kg to be precise. Then she gave it to someone in the audience to hold it and when finished to pass it on. When I got it, my first reaction was to pass it on swiftly as I did not want that burden. I almost automatically, I was not alone in doing this, began to form and knead it in order to deconstruct this neat flesh coloured ball. At the same time this act of putting my thumbs and fingers in the salt dough felt extremely obscene, obscene in the sense that I was overstepping physical boundaries. Definitely a new experience to me.
Salon Slum had also a great line up. Charles Monkhouse had installed ‘The theatre of Iridescence’ a more mobile version of his highly acclaimed ‘Brocken Spectre’ installation. Brocken Spectre is a natural phenomenon where an image gets projected by the sun onto the clouds or mist. Charles managed to recreate these conditions for the Brocken Spectre involving a light projection and a complex set up of filters and pipes to create a very fine misty cloud. Yes, I asked and a fog machine definitely does not work. The intriguing thing about this installation is that only the person standing in the light beam can see it. What they see could be likened to a rainbow coloured halo or aura. When I tried it out I found this experience strangely moving and also reassuring. I don’t know exactly why and I will still need to think about it.
Octavia Bettis read one of her latest texts that she wrote in response to a painting by Hildegard von Bingen, an 11th century Benedictine abbess who is mostly known for her visionary theological writings and her musical compositions. Octavia’s response to this work was quite extraordinary and I believe she is another revolutionary to come. Keaton Robinson, a standup poet, performed two on the spot. An exhilarating experience and a first to me. John Bowtell showed his excellent film on one of his inclusive dance project that raised and resolved many questions about collaborative practice to me. Duncan Chapman talked about a strand in his work where he glitches landscape imagery into sound scores. Sam Douce showed his wonderfully quirky animation work. Lastly, Tom Constantine played a new piece where some of us actually spontaneously joined in. A great finish to the evening. Yes, the evening was thought provoking and intriguing. Yet the most outstanding thing about it to me was that I was moved and touched by what I saw and experienced. This made realise that I more often than do not feel but look at visual art as if it were an intellectual text. Maybe there are many other ways of engaging with art as part of everyday life. As a start, I might just try to move through the world with my eyes wide shut a little longer.
All of this week I spent on generating a rough first cut of my moving image piece. To be precise, I worked most of the time on the audio edit endlessly re-listening to my collection of interviews. Over the last few weeks whenever I was in Gainsborough I did not only get involved with the everyday of this beautiful yet delicate network of communities at x-church, I also made a point of asking questions about how it is to live in Gainsborough. As my mind has a way of its own the conversations meandered and the interviews became more of a journey then a box ticking exercise. This was nice for me as everybody said so many interesting things that somehow related to what it means to be a resident, my current bone of contention. Yet working like that also produced an awful lot of material and handling 17 hours of recording is like taming a nine headed hydra whilst being rather like David and not Hercules with limited time and no budget. Yes, I am quietly pleased that a rough cut now exists. Not so pleased am I about its length. At the moment it weighs in a little over two hours. This is quite a lot to listen to for my future audience. When cutting the material it felt like a significant reduction after all my hydra had nine heads and every time I cut off one it grow two more. The audio track will also be combined with footage, footage that mostly stems from a long afternoon filming whilst being driven around by Marcus Hammond in his white van in Gainsborough. Through this I saw a lot if not all the locations that people at x-church had told me a about. Driving around was really fascinating as somehow the different places that had filled my imagination over the last few months suddenly became tangible. It was also a bitter sweet experience as the visual realitysometimes seems to reverberate so little. One of my interviewees said that not what surrounds us or what you own counts but what really matters are the people. I partly agree though I still can’t help but be in love with engaging with all aspects of the visible world. I have also to admit in respect of my choice of vehicle for filming that I have a quiet affection for this kind of utilitarian vehicle not only because of its bad reputation. After all I grew up with a white van and had the privilege from early on to enjoy a view given by its vantage point.
As my residency comes to an end you might wonder what happens to the relationships I have built with people at x-church. No, this was not my last visit, even though this project needs to end because I simply have get back to my PhD. As they all know I will return and my next visit will be for the opening of Chateau Marcus and Salon Slum end of April.
Having worked on taming my hydra all week is also partly the reason why I only will find time now to write about what else happened at my latest visit. This will be in my next post.
This is Joana’s blog post in relation to the work she will be showing at ‘Chateau Marcus’ on 16 March!
Tomorrow, Friday 16th March, something exciting yet also bewildering will happen at x-church. At least for the shed. Yes, shed life is not necessarily easy and clearly defined at x-church and other sheds, if they could, would think that what is expected from it is a bit much. I don’t know if sheds have self-esteem or think about class or status, but being shed to an upmarket lawn mower or bike, must mean something. Yet there is nothing of value in this shed, not even a flower pot or gardening gloves. If it was home to ordinary objects like that then it was clearly a long time ago.
I know only little about the previous life of this particular shed other than that it was rescued from an overgrown garden, yet I deeply respect it. This is in part as it is tolerant and open to most if not any preposition put in front of it. In its early life as a resident at x-church it was a safe house to things that Marcus Hammond wanted to lock away. It was also the time when Paul, one of the volunteers decided to give it a name. With tongue in cheek he aptly titled it ‘Chateau Marcus’. Yet the intended purpose of ‘Chateau Marcus’ was not to last. Artists seek opportunities in loose space and consequently it became host to Fenia Kotsopoulou’s beautiful work on feminism and body hair as part of ‘a small group show’ by Slumgothic Artist Resident Curators. This intriguing set of work was a lot to take in and certainly challenged not only the shed but quite a few of its visitors. Then I came along and as urban regeneration is sort of bothering me I decided to see ‘real estate’ in this temporary structure.
And now this Friday, we will host the very first performance and subsequent exhibition in the now pop up gallery space ‘Chateau Marcus’. Joana Cifre Cerdà, a multi-media artists based in Lincolnshire, is the one who takes the inaugural plunge. In ‘I want you to feel the weight of my loss…. or is it the weight of my freedom?’ she will undertake a durational performance exploring the experience of her recent hysterectomy. Almost certainly another challenge for the shed. It also has to deal with being e a gallery space, and I don’t know if this comes easy to a shed and what it does to its status. Yet, as the lovely people x-church, I trust that it will take it in its stride. After all, it has now been placed in the core of x-church and its community. This community has taught me that art matters to life, that it is indeed vital and that without being actively engaged in culture life would have much less to offer. This I find quietly reassuring as at one stage I had serious doubts about the purpose of art.
I should add that ‘Chateau Marcus’ as an exhibition space is not intended to be a one off. It will pop up again, and again, and not necessarily always at x-church. Yes, and we are planning already the next event at ‘Chateau Marcus’, an exhibition of the Gainsborough based photographer Clive MacLennan. Who knows what challenge he chooses to show?
This is is the link to Joana Cifre Cerdà’s opening: https://chateaumarcus.wordpress.com/2018/03/07/joana-cifre-cerda-i-want-you-to-feel-the-weight-of-my-loss-or-is-it-the-weight-of-my-freedom/
How I go about doing things as part of my residency does not go unnoticed and people at x-church seem to reflect and talk about it. This is good, yet also slightly worrying as everybody at x-church might understand better than me what I actually do. Marcus Hammond, for example, likened the way I engage with what is going on to a footballer playing between the lines. I don’t know much about football other than there are 22 players running like mad after one ball that they do not want to share. I also know that it attracts a lot of attention and a disproportionate amount of private money. The latter makes me feel mad, especially, when I think of the recent cutbacks in public funding that so much affect everyday life in the UK.
I can only guess what a between the lines player does and therefore decide to search online. It seems to be a desirable practice partly because the player moves between positions which makes the game more dynamic by opening up opportunities to score. I must add that this analogue has certainly its drawbacks as unlike football x-church and its communities is neither a one dimensional nor goal orientated entity. Yet I will run with this for the time being as it is nevertheless intriguing.
I don’t know if I actually take on different positions at x-church, I am after all always there as ‘the artist’, but I aim to engage with what goes on in the different areas simply because I find it fascinating. As an outsider I have the obvious advantage of a somewhat distant position. Therefore I raise occasionally questions that might set off things or lead to something new or different. Other times, I am just there to see what happens. As every encounter can affect change within the dynamics of a situation, being there might trigger something as well. At least, I’d like to think so.
Marcus take not: On the whole, I am fine with being likened to a player whose role in a game plan is not preset.
Yet this analogy made me also wonder if my way of engaging is actually reflected in what I generate as part of this project. And at the moment I take a lot of photographs. For this I mostly walk around in the neighbourhood, sometimes with a friend, occasionally alone. I photograph whatever attracts me at that moment, be it the shadows on a shrub or a rust stain on the pavement. I believe John, one of the volunteers, might think that I am infatuated with weeds as I seem to photograph a lot them. Rightly so, I rather like plants that are resilient and defy the system. Madona, another volunteer, also knows quite a lot about what I am likely to photograph. So does, of course, Clive.
Last week, I chose 147 images and got them printed. They are not big but still weigh in quite heavily. Unlike an online image you can hold it in your hands but every print has also weight attached. This is not only the actual weight that can be measured with the scale but also the weight of a certain responsibility. A print simply is that bit more serious or annoying. It asks questions. Where to place it,what to do with it, how to arrange it within a series. Suddenly, when the digital file leaves its crease-free online life, it not only becomes a tangible manifestation but it embraces object-hood. As with any object that unlike a chair or table doesn’t do much, it is an awkward guest in the room.
Now I sit here and look slightly uneasily at the latest pile of photographs next to me. I already have played them through, combined them in certain ways, got critical about how I composed them, took note of potential adjustments and re-shoots. Of course, I had a particular agenda when looking at them. Whilst arranging them, I reflected on how they might convey what I think, how they could come together in a book or on the wall. I ended up convinced, that I have missed out important aspects and that I needed to go for another walk to find out more. Yet I also keep wondering what the people who know me at x-church might think about how I have photographed their daily environment. Is there anything at all that they will like about this stream of photographs that all too often seems to get lost in gazing at walls, fences and lonely shopping trolleys? I worry a little, stop and put the images back in the pile.
Then there comes a new question: Does my work reflect the way I engage with people? Are these photographs players between the lines? Do they prompt new thoughts and reflections?
One way to find out is to show them to somebody else. Maybe this week, I might arrange some of the images on the back wall of Chateau Marcus. Accessible for everyone who want to see. Who knows what might happen? One thing though is for sure, any response or comment will be welcome and helpful. I might even get some answers to my questions.