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Friday 27 April 2012

Dialogues With The Physical | The Space Between | Tate Britain

Text by Travis Riley

Facing out from the entrance of The Space Between, (the title given to the recent rehang of the Tate’s contemporary collection) kneels a disfigured male, with disarmingly large, erect phallus protruding heavenward from between his legs. The work, NUC CYCLADIC (2010) is one of three pieces on display by Sarah Lucas, each a small sculpture stood atop two breeze blocks, which themselves stand upon an makeshift MDF plinth. The sculpture is made simply from “tights, fluff, and wire”. The beige tights create an evocatively flesh-like surface as they stretch across the contours of their filling. Whilst, only hinting at recognisable bodily shapes, the forms the models imply are explicitly figurative. At the rear of the models the sewn joints in the tights are left on show, just like the human body, we are uncomfortable seeing the parts that would usually be hidden from view. One of the works looks less like a single figure, but instead two nude bodies embroiled in a struggle, undoubtedly erotic.

Looking past the models to the far wall of the gallery space Tacita Dean’s Majesty (2006) comes into focus. A four by three metre image of an oak tree, equal parts imposing and sturdy, entwined and spindly. The tree is printed in strong, almost reflective ink, its form stands out dramatically from the background of the image. On close inspection it becomes apparent that the tree has been outlined, the rest of the image smothered by marks of white gouache, leaving only the tree’s stately structure as foreground. Beneath the tree, and echoing its black tangle of limbs sprawls Garth Evans’ Untitled No. 3 (1975). The piece is a rectangle of black rubber spread rug-like on the floor. Made up of short, affixed rubber strips the work hints first at a grid structure, which is never fulfilled. The inbuilt disarray in the connected strips causes the rubber to climb-up from the floor in twists and tangles, only occasionally lying flat.

The opposite of a rug, Alice Channer’s (Sleeve) (2009) is composed of four fabric strips, each hung from a steel hook on the ceiling. One side of the fabric bears a vertical monochromatic stripe detail, reminiscent of a bad pair of curtains. Stretching from floor to ceiling and back again each strip forms a loop; the shape appears industrial, giving the impression of a heavy-duty loom or conveyor belt. It's almost as if the piece should be rotating, following the directionality provided by the stripes. The material quality however, is not industrial, each loop of fabric is made up of more than one strip, and the joints attaching one piece to the next, whilst neat, are not hidden. Furthermore, when each loop reaches the ground, one periphery of the fabric breaks off, trailing flaccid across the floor to its end, breaking any illusion of possible motion. 

Lucy Skaer’s Zero Table (2008) consists foremost of a reasonably elegant, dark wood, dining table. The top surface of the table has been carved to form a positive impression of the figure of a zero. The figure in question is stained a dark, inky black, and on the floor are two A0 sheets. Each has been printed with the same zero. The prints have a remarkably authoritative, matt-black colouring. The literal transference from table surface to printed image immediately confounds the table’s practical implication, but also betrays a process that goes unspoken in this informal layout. To produce these prints a heavy mechanical process needs to have taken place. Aside from its printing-plate the table bears no scar, the images act as evidence.

Anna Barriball’s Untitled (III) and (IV) (2006) make use of slide projectors to show corroded images of, what appears to be, a family holiday. Each of the two projectors is stuck on one image, I keep expecting another slide that reveals something more than these damaged pictures, but it never comes. Next to the projectors sits Rebecca Warren’s In The Bois (2005). Three mock-museum vitrines are fixed to the wall. From their cheap MDF surfaces, to their mal-fitting Perspex fronts with rusty nails jutting out, to the shoddy wooden post that props up the third box, they seem to be entirely incorrectly made. Inside, the image is continued, their contents range from twisted neon lamps, to lumpen, half-painted clay masses, to pom poms, painted polystyrene balls, off-cuts of wood and clay dust, complete with an affixed detritus of human hair and fluff. Unable to contain the mass of undesirable museum pieces, the objects spill out, also standing on the top of the vitrines. These boxes couldn’t be further from the museum displays that they initially evoke.

Stepping through Becky Beasley’s work, an installation complete with dual-tone lino floor, that riffs off of the scale and tones of a set of swing doors designed but never made by designer, Carlo Mollino, you enter a dark projection space. A rumbling film projector on a tall black plinth takes centre stage. The film being shown is Graham Gussin’s 1999 work, Spill. In grainy black and white we are introduced to empty industrial spaces, large rooms with evident functionality, but no present use. The rooms gradually begin to fill with a fog, at first trickling in wisps, eventually pouring, a fluid torrent engulfing the vast spaces, and after twelve minutes, finding its way outside onto the roof of the building. The use of mist can be aligned with both theatrical and cinematic traditions, but in this case the impact is far more profound. By making the mist the subject, Gussin transforms it from a now disparaged atmospheric effect to a substantive motif of its own. As it spreads through the spaces, the eddies and currents of fog are sublime.

The title of the show, The Space Between, highlights an evident theme. Each piece holds its own immediate dialogue with physical space. To take further examples from the show, Karla Black’s full-room installation (At Fault, 2011), collapses under its own weight into a pastel-coloured and powdery, paper heap, yet equally fills the space with a bath-bomb perfume, and Ian Kiaer in his Ulchiro Project (2007), generates structures to fill a specific, hypothetical, spatial function. A tall, yet delicately thin, steel structure, leans into the room. From the side the miniscule angle is almost imperceptible, yet when faced with the sculpture, there is the overwhelming sense that it will fall forwards. The exhibition title deserves further consideration. Each piece shows signs of its making or subsequent processing. Sarah Lucas takes material that is used to cover human flesh in order to make an image of skin, Lucy Skaer’s images provide evidence of a material process that has taken place, but is not shown, and Tacita Dean’s Majesty, reveals a resplendent image, but only by concealing those facets of material deemed irrelevant. The works in the show exhibit a deliberate tension between image and material and doing so define a recognisable, though not physical, space between them.

The Space Between, 19/04/2012 – 01/2013, Tate Britain, Millbank, 
London, SW1P 4RG. The Space Between is part of the BP British Art Displays. www.tate.org.uk

The Space Between
Installation View
Photo: Tate

Thursday 26 April 2012

Art Doesn't Act and Doesn't Work | Forget Fear | The 7th Berlin Biennale For Contemporary Art

For the curator of the 7th Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art, Polish-artist Artur Żmijewski, the concept of the Biennale is simple - presenting art that has a transformative impact on society, that opens a space where politics can be performed. Subtitled Forget Fear, the Biennale takes place against a backdrop of hostility; citing the decline of support for culture in Europe (namely the Netherlands, Greece and the UK) and the arrests of Russian feminist punk-rock band Pussy Riot as a driving force. There are key themes of course, ranging from the political effectiveness of art to the way art is employed to construct historical narratives, but there's something more significant at stake here - a drive to influence political and ideological agendas and goals.

Forget Fear is all about stepping into the fire. Working in collaboration with associate curators Voina and Joanna Warsza, Żmijewski has chosen to present almost exclusively new works in the Biennale as opposed to adjusting existing projects to a theme. The Biennale takes place in various venues in Berlin, including public spaces. There will also be temporary projects and events as well as "Solidarity Actions" in Germany and further afield.

In 2011, Artur Żmijewski and Joanna Warsza spoke with Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 and the Founding Director of KW Institute for Contemporary Art about their aims for the Biennale and the idea of art as a societal force in relation to the current contemporary landscape.

Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza: What do you expect from art? Not from the Biennale per se, but in general?

Klaus Biesenbach: I expect a certain disruption. Over ten years ago I did a series of exhibitions in the KW Institute for Contemporary Art. I showed Teresa Margolles and Santiago Sierra. Margolles brought a container of liposuction liquid with her. Just imagine: rich ladies in Mexico City want to be skinny, while all other people do not have enough to eat. So their fat is being sucked out of their bodies, and Teresa got some of it and she made a Jackson Pollock-like painting out of the material, a big, golden, shiny dripping painting on the large wall in the main exhibition hall. You always think art has to be utopian and has to draw an idea of a better world, more eternal, more true. And all of a sudden, artists like Sierra and Margolles appear and became a part of what they criticize. Margolles by the very material she was using. And in Sierra’s case by the contracts he always made. You basically sign a contract and obviously you are exploiting someone. So you are not just showing "beautiful art" and making the world better. You somehow exploit the same system that you criticize, and you are a part of it.

Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza: Should art take part in the current moment? Or should we keep a distance to reality?

Klaus Biesenbach: I think art has to prove that is has a certain amount of courage. Art has to be unafraid. Art anticipates developments, hopefully in a fearless way. The request to the artist should be, "Be responsible and be unafraid."

Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza: What should artists be responsible for?

Klaus Biesenbach: That they are citizens, that they are human and political beings, that they are free in this given moment in time, knowing about what has happened, and understanding that their actions will be looked at. They could understand that there is a certain responsibility that they could influence something that is going to happen.

Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza: Through the rise of neoliberalism art was transformed into never ending competition between artists. This is capitalistic logic—different parts of society fight each other for profit. Artists became an army of individuals, who are not aware that they could create collective power and be stronger.

Klaus Biesenbach: When I came to Berlin in 1989, when the Wall fell, that was kind of a capitulation of socialism. The utopian idea of capitalism and the utopian idea of socialism is a dichotomy and part of the “bloc mentality” that I grew up with. As a child I never thought that one was right or one was wrong—it was just a reality that both existed. But after the Wall we first saw the capitulation of socialism as an idea, and now we are in the very moment of what seems to be the capitulation of democratic capitalism as an idea. So what is going to happen? Is it a vacuum? We know that if we look at the twentieth century, there are all these ideas of coming together, of solidarity amongst equals, solidarity with having a leader or not. To use a current example, many people commented that Occupy Wall Street did not have a leader, or did not have a "face." And then when the camp [in Zuccotti Park] was dissolved people said, "Oh no, they don’t even have a face. They don’t have a person who could carry on without the park." But the absence of one designated leader was part of what made Occupy Wall Street effective. They created a new deal. We should also be aware of what we do in the art field as they are aware of what they do in the field of politics or economy. You are part of a deal. And when it comes to the Berlin Biennale, I don’t know how you would deal with this. With public money, you are a part of a system, of a country. You are in the position of claiming to be independent, responsible and unafraid and I do not know how you achieve it without selling out, being on someone’s team, carrying someone’s brand, or taking private or public money. I never understood how to escape this logic.

Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza: But we never wanted to escape from this dilemma. We have never fetishised independence. Independence from society and the freedom of the artist are illusions. And if you have these illusions as an artist, it is very easy to be manipulated. We see many artists who are going down this path. They are manipulated and don’t even know that they are being manipulated. So, it is important to start to be aware and transform ourselves, or yourself, into political subjects. That’s why we asked artists: "What is your political stand? What are you dependent on? What community do you represent?"

Klaus Biesenbach: What about your decision to name Voina as associate curators of the 7th Berlin Biennale? I’ve learned more about Voina recently, and I am so impressed by what they do. They are so unafraid. Either they are crazy or unafraid, or both. But it’s very impressive. I am in Russia quite often; it’s an unbelievably brutal country. Sometimes as an artist or curator or art person, when you go to some of these places it’s a little bit like being journalist in a war zone; in a war situation you can say: I’m a journalist, don’t shoot me. It’s the same as: I’m an artist, don’t shoot me. Sometimes you have this stupid idea you cannot get shot, but of course you can get shot. It’s the same bullets, the same material.

Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza: Exactly because they don’t feel fear—they are not driven by it. Voina want to be responsible. They don’t want to be treated like protected artists, like people who are untouchable. They take a certain responsibility and they take action.

Klaus Biesenbach: Do they know who they are?

Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza: Politicians. Hopefully one day, they will declare it. It is part of strategy, to accept that you can really treat yourself seriously as a political entity and as somebody who can influence political processes. I'm thinking here about some other artists as well. They are using a kind of camouflage, but one day, there should make coming out. Do you know any such artists?

Klaus Biesenbach: Abbie Hoffman did this. Also Joseph Beuys, Christoph Schlingensief. Who else is on the way?

Artur Żmijewski & Joanna Warsza: Marina Naprushkina from Belarus. And, I would say, others who are part of the 7th Berlin Biennale project. They started politicizing art in a very substantial way. They reversed the process of de-politicizing art. It started years ago and somehow the exhibition based in Berlin was evidence of it—we saw fully de-politicized art. But at the same point there are people who are smart enough to use art for political reasons. Unfortunately usually these people are not artists.

Klaus Biesenbach: Earlier in 2011 I watched TV and there was the Arab Spring in Bahrain, the first dead people, the first people killed. You look at China and you know that something is going to happen; you look at Russia and you know that something is happening right now; you look at Mexico and think, "God, that got out of control." In some areas of Greece there is 25 percent unemployment, what can people there do? You see the images from riots in Libya or Egypt. Something is happening, imploding or exploding, also in New York where I live. But now I am sitting in Berlin, and I feel strange calmness here. The idea of democratic capitalism simply doesn’t work anymore today in many economically succesful regions in the world! At the same time in Berlin you have this ongoing art festival. You are surrounded by artists, exhibitions, and galleries. Every day in Berlin is like the opening week of the Venice Biennale or a day in Kassel during Documenta. One has the impression that everything here revolves around art, all day, every day.

The 7th Berlin Biennale: Forget Fear, 27/04/2012 - 01/07/2012. www.berlinbiennale.de

Copyright Tomas Rafa

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Big Brother is Watching You: David Dunnico: 1984 Looks Like This | Salford Museum & Art Gallery

Text by Liz Buckley

George Orwell’s enigmatic novel 1984, first published in 1949, got the world thinking; was this a prophecy, or simply science fiction? First written not so much as a prediction for the future, but as a topical fiction story, Orwell’s prophetic tale has turned out to be chillingly relevant to every generation since its publication. The current exhibition 1984 Looks Like This at Salford Museum & Art Gallery centres on the story of 1984, as well as the photography of David Dunnico, who as an artist has occupied himself with issues surrounding surveillance, as well as the unnerving relevance of Orwell’s novel to today’s society. This exhibition offers a collection of work by Dunnico, as well as his impressive collection of copies of 1984 and related ephemera, showcasing not only the changing covers of the book but also its consistent relevancy to our modern culture.

David Dunnico, a Manchester based artist, uses his documentary photography to highlight just how integrated surveillance cameras are in our modern landscape. Dunnico’s blunt black and white shots include CCTV and its familiar signage around the Manchester and Salford areas, showing the sheer abundance of such surveillance equipment in just two cities. As a society we have grown to largely ignore surveillance, as we become more and more overwhelmed by warnings such as “CCTV may be in operation in this area.” It is easy to forget that in the city you could be caught on camera over 300 times in a day. With reality shows now covering every possible area of life, and billboards on the daily commute telling us how to think, it seems we have welcomed big brother with open arms, and are quite happy to hide from the negative connotations of surveillance. Even the infamous phrase “Big Brother is watching you,” which many only now connect with the popular reality show, is in fact an invention of Orwell’s.

Dunnico’s collection of photographs for this exhibition highlight for the viewer just how many CCTV devices are out there and can be captured hiding amongst the architecture, even in simple pictures of the urban landscape. A camera even watches the gallery space as viewers explore the exhibition, showing their image on a television screen. While surveillance techniques can be useful for criminal investigations and prevention, it is unnerving to know that your every move is monitored, and even the layout of the city has been engineered to deter suspicious behaviour. The "Telescreens" as described by Orwell in 1984 were designed to make society nervous and encourage people to act more warily in public. As it turns out, such "telescreens" have become an integral part of our living environment, and, in turn, 1984 has become an increasingly pertinent story for our generation.

The impressive collection of 1984 copies as collected by Dunnico are all on show in the gallery alongside the artist’s own work. The continuing publication of Orwell’s novel is highlighted here with its many different covers, and is indicative of how this fictional story made significant observations way ahead of its time. Many of the covers for 1984 bare the familiar eye symbol which we now associate so closely with Big Brother, and perhaps the most unnerving is the 2008 Penguin Reader version, adorned with 18 eyes watching a solitary black figure. A lot of the older book covers have a lurid and trashy appearance, implying a fashionably cheap science fiction novel, certainly not symptomatic of the significance that was in store for 1984.

1984 Looks Like This is certainly a thought provoking comment on surveillance in our modern society, and shows how CCTV has even picked up connotations of being urban and edgy in popular culture imagery. For those not familiar with the text, this exhibition explores how this novel is increasingly relevant to continuing generations, and how a topical science fiction story rose to fame with its prophetic predictions. David Dunnico’s photography reminds us of the constant evasion of privacy going on all around us and our growing familiarity with even the warning signs for CCTV surveillance. Dunnico’s images alongside a mixture of classic and contemporary copies of 1984, as well as recent Manchester Evening News posters warning us of naked airport scanners and increasing numbers of cameras, makes for a vigilant and evocative exhibition.

David Dunnico: 1984 Looks Like This, 17/03/2012 - 01/07/2012, Salford Museum and Art Gallery, Peel Park, The Crescent, Salford, M5 4WU. www.salford.gov.uk

Related Events:

Cover Story: Artist Talk by David Dunnico
Saturday 2 June: 2 - 4 pm
As part of the exhibition, documentary photographer David Dunnico talks about the cover designs of George Orwell's book 1984.

Documentary Photo: Artist Talk by David Dunnico
Saturday 16 June: 2 - 4 pm
David Dunnico talks about how to make a start in documentary photography. This talk is aimed at amateur photographers who are interested in making their own documentary projects.

Both talks are free of charge and do not need to be pre-booked.

Courtesy the artist

Tuesday 24 April 2012

Currents 106: Chelsea Knight | Saint Louis Art Museum | Missouri

Text by Laura Elizabeth Barone

Chelsea Knight’s current solo-exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum, Currents 106: Chelsea Knight, is a two-part, show, split up into two galleries on opposite sides of the museum, each of which have a distinct – though language based - all-encompassing environment. Knight is clearly fascinated by the power of language, by what is meant and by what is said, and how language enables us to maintain ideas of our own race, class, gender, and identity every day. In one of the galleries is a short film, titled The End of All Resistance (2010), a single-channel, 29 minute video of psychological test and play. Across the hall is Frame (2012) an installation meant to look like a construction site with photographs and an 11 minute film with real construction workers reading and commenting on feminist texts.

The End of All Resistance consists of three pairs of people: two male, U.S. army interrogators, a married couple, and two female actresses. The married couple and the actresses were both given scripts based on the techniques demonstrated by the interrogators from a U.S. army manual on torture. In using the techniques to discuss their own marital and quotidian issues, the married couple becomes aware of sources of conflict, power, self-interest, and ambition within their own relationship, and the actresses’ near exact mimic of the interrogators technique reveals the inherent performative aspect and character play within a questioning session. The film is divided into nine sequences, each one, a demonstration and acting out of a specific technique, such as the "Fear-Up" technique, or the "Repetition Approach," the "Silent Approach," or the "I have a Vision" technique, in which the interrogator describes the person’s ultimate "happy place" in exquisite detail, promising fulfilment of that place if the one being questioned cooperates. Sitting on a bench, facing the film in a dark room, the film allows us to look reflect upon ourselves, how we manipulate through language, even unknowingly, and forces us to examine the cost versus the benefit of this for both ourselves and the other person.

Frame, by contrast, explores the performative aspects of language by pairing a stereotypically unexpected combination together – construction workers and feminist texts. The construction workers, non-actors, are filmed while building the set for Frame, while also reading, sometimes their own interpretation, of theoretically heavy readings. In an interview in the gallery guide with curator Tricia Y. Paik, Knight said the work was meant to “reference the proximity of labour environments to discursive environments,” thereby bringing to light the connection between life and theory (or lack thereof). Knight’s film attempts to bridge the gap between the people writing theory versus the people living it, and questions if that has to be mutually exclusive. The whole environment of Frame implies the viewer in these constructs as well; you can walk around the "construction site" while listening to or watching the film, experiencing the constructed product of the labour while hearing both male and female construction workers speak of the societal constructions of women.

Knight’s exhibition at the Saint Louis Art Museum is at an exciting time in her career – Knight is the 2011-2012 Henry L. and Natalie H. Freund Fellow and the Triangle Arts Association Artist-in-Residence for the year. Fittingly, it’s also an exciting time for the Saint Louis Art Museum itself, as it has been undergoing a major and costly expansion project to be complete in mid 2013, making Frame a particularly poignant and timely piece for the museum, itself surrounded by construction noise, machines, and workers all day, every day. Now that some of that construction has been brought inside through Frame and that viewers have been given a lesson in manipulation through The End of All Resistance, Knight has aided us greatly in becoming aware of how we play identity, some of the reasons why, and making us question if we really want to keep doing so.

Currents 106: Chelsea Knight, 06/04/2012 - 01/07/2012, Saint Louis Art Museum, One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis, MO. www.slam.org

Chelsea Knight Untitled (2012)
Chromogenic Print; 40 x 50 inches
Courtesy of the artist

Monday 23 April 2012

Miró: Sculptor | Yorkshire Sculpture Park | Wakefield

Text by Elizabeth Holdsworth

The sky is wide in Wakefield, or at least it appears so. Shouldering this weight of blue, Joan Miró's bronze sculptures trample the neat lawns of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the glossy black of polished bronze a slick upon amorphous and primal bodies.

Split between the Underground Gallery and the outside Gardens, the exhibition spans the entire career of an artist perhaps more primarily known for his paintings, examining his sculptural output in a first major UK exhibition. In the open air, Miró: Sculptor highlights the Catalan artist's predilection towards ancient figurative forms: earth mother totems prising open cavernous clefts containing within the origins of the world. Although also known for his use of colour, sun soaked primaries outlined in black and bleached out chalky white, these polished bronze outdoor sculptures reflect another side to the artist in the more muted yet crystal clear air of Yorkshire.

It was from the mid 1960s to the end of the artist's life which saw his most intense period of sculptural production. The result, over two hundred bronzes, loosely fall into two distinct categories: those moulded from clay and those assembled from scrap or found objects. The moulded works form the smooth and rounded lady lumps of figures on show in the open air, while the assemblages are more often rough and jagged in texture, many painted in bright pop colours. These bright assemblages in bronze instil a greater sense of the phantasmagoric than that which the artist claims to be his more "conventional" approach to painting and printmaking. However, the prints displayed alongside sculptural works in this exhibition hold no less striking and fantastic a power than the sculptures, being specially selected to reflect and complement the works on show.

The first room of the Underground holds a number of similar amorphous ebony figures to those seen outside, the 1966 twin works Oiseau Lumiere and Oiseau Solaire emphatically occupying a corner each. On the walls, the black, red and blue examples of the artist's lithograph prints resemble childlike daubings in poster paint, further emphasising the sense of the primitive, the naive and the pure. With a focus on the return to nature, Miró's sculptures are as much about simplifying elements to purer forms as they are about fantasising and dreams.

The exhibition makes the opportune connection between Miró and the Surrealists in its "project space" at the end of the line of galleries in the Underground. An educational room offers an extraordinarily large amount of material for students to engage with all aspects surrounding the artist's practice, displaying his sketches and objects with audio-visual information and a bewildering amount of wall text. The tradition of Surrealism was, however, too restrictive for Miró, so although there were corresponding tendencies he could never himself be categorised as a Surrealist artist. So much the better, as to make this classification would in fact be performing a disservice to an artist whose vision was entirely his own.

As the work in Miró: Sculptor is not displayed chronologically visitors are presented with a delightful contrast of techniques and finishes. The smooth, finished bronzed are displayed in conjunction with the round, assembled ones. These collaged pieces, cobbled together in deliberate crudeness then immortalised in bronze, contain an amusing array of everyday, worthless objects. On this first occasion were spotted parts of a broken doll, a used bar of soap, a tap, a wooden spoon and a set of false teeth.

In an interesting yet rather blunt estimation from Jacques Dupin, poet and friend of the artist: Miró "shows no skill or ingenuity in the manipulation and combination of objects. His instinct saves him from cumbersome superfluity occasioned by manual skill and the tricks of the trade." In other words, these works highlight a particular method of making which demonstrated a new kind of artistic gesture. Undeniably goofy, yet strangely and contrarily elegant, the works on display in Miró: Sculptor indicate the breadth of work of one of the most important artists of the 20th century. Split between inside and out, and as with all exhibitions at YSP, the work has the drama of rolling landscape and open sky to contend with and is perhaps in danger of being overshadowed by its dramatic cloudscapes.

Miró: Sculptor, 17/03/2012 - 06/01/2013, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield, WF4 4LG. www.ysp.co.uk

Copyright Successió Miró ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2012
Photo: Jonty Wilde

A New Art Fair for Yorkshire | Saltburn Arts Fair | 3 - 5 August 2012

Saltburn-by-the-Sea still has a pier, making it a seaside resort in the traditional and best sense. This time last year, the local creative community was preparing for The Exhibitionists , an artists open studios event that celebrated the quality and diversity of the work being made in the area. Following the success of The Exhibitionists, curators Jenny Hall and Becky Mitchell have taken things one step further by launching Saltburn Arts Fair, the first event of its kind to take place in the area. Aesthetica spoke to Jenny and Becky to find out more about the fair, and how artists can get involved.

A: To someone who doesn't know much about Saltburn-by-the-Sea, can you just talk briefly about your choice of location and how the area lends itself to an event of this kind?

SAF: Saltburn-on-Sea and the immediate coast-line has a long standing reputation as a melting pot for creative endeavour, achieving fame in the 19th century as the home of the Staithes group. Traditionally Saltburn has been at the heart of the creative community in the Tees Valley and North Yorkshire region with one of the highest concentrations of artist studios and creative businesses in the area.

A: Where did the idea for the art fair stem from? 

SAF: After we put on The Exhibitionists we had a lot of feedback from the creative sector indicating that there was an appetite for a curated arts fair in the area. We drew inspiration from events such as Brick Lane and Brighton Arts Fair and, working in partnership with the local creative community, mima (Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art) and the local authority, have put together a programme that will act as a beacon for quality, tourism and localism. The team will work with a nationally recognised artist, who that will be will be announced later this month so keep an eye out!

A: It’s good to see you are working in collaboration with mima. What will the gallery bring to the programme of events? 

SAF: On Saturday 4 August mima will host a symposium, taking the theme of "People and Society" the Symposium will bring together top named speakers from the arts world. The Symposium will be followed by a series of performative and live works based at Saltburn Arts Theatre. Mima will also be assisting with the curatorial panel as well as organising a Northern Rail mima train to assist all those late night revellers travelling to and from the launch event. 

A: Could you talk us through the highlights of this year’s programme? 

SAF: We are still in the early stages of developing the programme, however we already have an amazing line up of performers and musicians for the launch event on Friday 3 August - tickets will go on sale in the next month. Saturday will open with a thought provoking Symposium curated by mima followed by live performance and live 'Art Fair' installations at the Community Theatre. Sunday will see over 40 artists demonstrating and exhibiting their work in the town centre with fringe events at local galleries.

A: How can artists get involved with the art fair? Are you looking for a particular type of work?

SAF: Artists are asked to apply through the Arts Fair website. Our theme is "People and Society" and we are interested in artists responding the way in which their work interacts in different contexts such as the "Fair". The event is flexible and can accommodate live art, time based pieces at the community theatre as well as stall based performance and exhibitors.q

Saltburn Arts Fair, 03/08/2012 - 05/08/2012. www.saltburnartsfair.co.uk

Image courtesy of Bob Mitchell

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