Rural Art Space

May 1, 2007

WHY WE LEFT THE VILLAGE AND CAME BACK LAUNCH

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruralartspace @ 11:33 am

Artists Kathrin Böhm and Wapke Feenstra, from myvillages.org, will introduce their organisation and Bibliobox, a travelling archive of documentation and information, set up by myvillages.org in 2005. Together with Adrian Plant of Shrewsbury Museums Service and mediamaker, they will present the ideas behind Why We Left the Village and Came Back and invite participants to discuss how the commission might be developed for Shropshire.

WAPKE FEENSTRA EXPLAINS THE BIBLIOBOX

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruralartspace @ 8:41 am

Member of myvillags.org and creator of the Bibliobox
HOW DOES THE BIBLIOBOX WORK
A brief introduction into creating a space for display and discurs

THE START

Ditchling “Village Convention”, was a gathering of 40 practitioners from mainly North West Europe, which took place from 20th to 22nd May 2005 in Ditchling, East Sussex, UK, to address contextual art practice in rural environments
They all brought documentation of their own art practises. I asked them at the end of the convention to give the documentation to set up a bibliobox, and Ditchling became the first collecting point for the archive. The present content is a collection via myvillages.org contacts from 2003 till now. More than 50 different art projects from 11 European Countries are presented and represented in the box.
On location and in action, the Bibliobox facilitates exchange and comparison of ideas in regards to the production of contextual art in the rural environment. All books, DVD’s and audio documentation in the box is about arts projects that engage actively with the context and a rural public, and the nature of the box reflects those facts.

WHAT IS THE BIBLIOBOX?
The box itself is made from plywood and coated with polyester finish.
The Bibliobox is a travelling archive; it contains information about art projects in the rural context. To bring it somewhere it needs a host, a table and a plug.
It is a small box with big ideas and comes and goes as a mobile unit to the countryside. Like myself right now.
On invitation by a local host, the box can travel to a village and be opened up for presentations. The programme of the presentation lies within the responsibility of the host. The host may be a local artist, an art institute, a farmer, the local fire department or a village group.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLIOBOX DO?
In a rural context, the box offers a broader view of people living in similar situations in other rural areas. It presents an opportunity for people to share experiences from art periphery to art periphery, also through the website. The box informs on the diversity of village life and art. It invites people to make their own contribution to contemporary art. Inhabitants of rural areas are being inundated with floods of images when the countryside tries to develop new functions, but are rarely considered a potential audience for contemporary art. The Bibliobox can change this outlook.


HOW IS THE BIBLIOBOX ORGANISED?

BOOKLETS
Every country represented in the box has a small booklet in which the projects from that country are described. There is also short information about how the artists interacted with the village or rural environment. It’s the same text as on the website.

BY LOCATION
Why organize it geographically and not by artist or date or commissioner? A retired acquaintance who had worked for more than 20 years in an architecture library advised me to do this, because the box is about rural places, and what is happening there.

POSTCARDS
There are also postcards in the box to be sent around, and information sheets about the box in the local language. Today got an English information sheet in the conference map

HOW TO GET THE BOX? WHAT TO DO?
Go to the website.
Download the contract, sign it and sent it to me.
Having the box around is for free, you only pay for the transport and insurance.
Download the manual.
The box is easier to pack out and is easier to set up than a simple camping tent.

Most people who order the box also order me or the whole myvillages.org group.
This costs a bit more of course.

EXAMPLES
At KCO, a cultural organization in the East of Holland, I spent for example an afternoon with six men from the cultural board of the local government. We had a workshop with rural background drawings, films from the box and me reading poetry.
At the Creative Rural Economy Conference in Lancaster we met Swedish ecological farmers and artists called Kultivator they talked about their planned Harvest Feast and asked if the BBBox could go there. Then BBBox went from Lancaster straight to Sweden – without us this time.

In the contract the host agrees to take pictures of the different presentations with the BBBox.
Pictures from each location are online, together with a small report written by the host. The report tells about the occasion, the context and an online a link to the host’s website, and we ask eachg host to suggest new entries for the BBBox.

GOAL
The idea of the box is to extend the network of myvillages.org and connect art periphery to art periphery – spread and collect experiences and create possibilities to meet and talk about the rural art space. Inform each other about locations and local knowledge used in that area, and above all we are just curious on what happens elsewhere. So this box also has a own story and is roaming the rural for us and sometimes with us.

Wapke Feenstra is a Rotterdam based artits and member of myvillages.org and creator of the Bibliobox.

Contact myvillages.org to order the Bibliobox at info(at)bibliobox.org

BIBLIOBOX TOUR REPORT BY ANTJE SCHIFFERS

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruralartspace @ 8:36 am

Member of myvillages.org
BIBLIOBOX TOUR REPORT

May I first introduce myself: My name is Antje.
I am one of the founders of myvillages.org and on this occasion I have the function to report about Bibliobox tour in Shropshire.

We arrived a week ago. I must admit: I did not see such a dark night for a long time, with the storm and the water gurgling in the ditches.
As reporters it was our first duty to research what had already happened to the box. That’s what we found out:

It has travelled to Wales.
Invited by an artist living in a remote place in the welsh countryside, Kathrin went there with the box. The artist had invited collegues of hers. We saw pictures of women and babies. The box and ist content were taken as an opportunity to show around portfolios and show each others’ art work, which surprisingly had not happened before.

Talking of we: may I also introduce my colleagues to you: Thomas and Iwan, standing in front of the Old Market Hall in Shrewsbury.

One friendly, one strict, following the famous good guy bad guy scheme in our work. Together we have of course much better investigative power than one alone would have had.

The second thing we found out about: A workshop has taken place in Wem. Initiated by Wapke. Students created a soundpiece for the Bibliobox which in the future will travel with it: “How does Shropshire sound like?”
We attended a meeting of the “Friends of the Museum” in Shrewsbury. It took place at 2:30 pm. We concluded that it must be a big honour to be a friend of the museum, and that the honour must be so big that people would leave their workplace beginning of the afternoon to attend a meeting. We were slightly wrong. The friends of the museum were very nice and all retired.
In the meeting a film by artist Paul Bush was shown. Some of the audience understood that we were the artists who made the film and made us compliments for the lovely artwork. To avoid being a deception, we did not reveal the truth.

_newtown_wales.jpg

We went to the beautiful Oriel Davies Gallery in Newtown, Wales, were the box was taken to a board meeting. I remember that the women were listening to a Bruce Springsteen song while doing the cleaning in the cafe.

In the Discovery Centre in Craven Arms the box stayed during Sunday’s lunchtime, placed in between people having curry or lasagne and the handcraft, maps and bird food displayed in the museum shop. We happened to meet a taxidermist.

_bishopscastle.jpg

Sunday night, all went to a pub in Bishopscastle, Adrian’s hometown. He had invited the box, some friends, most of them musicians, and his two sons, musicians too. Something we learnt in this session: a cat’s purring heals broken bones.
Provoked by the subject of travelling the plot of a recently published book was told: Because of a bet a men hiked around Ireland carrying a fridge. What was most remarkable for the one telling the story: The bet was about 100 pounds, but already the fridge cost 120.

Good advice for childrens education was offered: Pick a house some miles out of the village “ the village as a place offering some things children might desire “ so you can always blackmail your kids promising a lift it they behave.

While driving through beautiful Shropshire “ and still impressed by its wealth “ we imagined other places where it could make sense for the box to go:

It could meet a tourism development officer or a rural regeneration officer. There we probably would discuss promotion strategies or he would make a masterplan about how to integrate it into the new regeneration campaign: Shropshire “ Britain´s best kept secret!”

It could go to the cattle market. We would go in the early morning hours. People used to getting up early have more respect if you do the same.
Here you see a hut belonging to the National trust. If we put the box there, we could get entangled in discussions about the necessity of contemporary art – how important is it compared to the beware of the heritage or of nature? OR: What is more beautiful, nature or art?

As we now entered the domain of fiction:
A Shrewsbury based artist invited us to meet her travelling archive in a place where parts of it are stored: in the Hurst, a location belonging to Clunton and offering writing courses.

It smelled like professional cleaning when we arrived and had coffee and fruit cake with Kerry, one of the nice directors of the Hurst. We had a discussion about what to do with archives currently unused and then gave a privileged personal BBBox presentation in this cosy living room of the absent writers.

As reporters we are looking for adventures. We like to be taken to places and to meet people we never would have met without the subject of the research / the existence of the BBBox.

And, leaving my duty as a reporter behind and speaking as part of myvillages.org: That is something we like to happen with the BBBox and with myvillages.org as an organisation – and we hope we can also make it happen for some of those we get to know in the process.

To download Antje’s report press here.

SYMPOSIUM REVIEW BY RICHARD HEPENSTAL

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruralartspace @ 8:02 am

GETTING BACK TO THE COUNTRY
AN “IMPASSIONED DELIBERATION”

“Artists often act in the interstices between old and new, in the possibility of spaces that are as yet socially unrecognisable” (1)

In 2003 Shrewsbury’s 16th century Old Market Hall was transformed into a Film Theatre and Digital Media Centre. The manner in which the latter was undertaken was not only sensitive to the original interior architecture, but the final outcome revealed the distinctive timber roofbeams that had hitherto been “hidden” from sight. Moreover, it returned the building to that of a significant public space, one that attracts visitors from across the county. As a result, the relationship, or dialogue, between the old and the new, was literally manifested by the environment in which the Rural Art Space symposium began. This location, it seemed, provided a most useful context, or “space”, into which to consider the future possibilities of contemporary art and curatorial practice within a rural context. Indeed the opening speakers, from Shrewsbury’s Museum and Art Gallery, stressed the importance of connecting the “old” with the “new” in their programming and curatorial practices.
The morning’s first presentation was by the General Public Agency, an organisation that works creatively within the areas of planning and regeneration seeking to “make change happen”. Central to this organisation’s way of working is the idea of substantial mapping and research, in the pre-planning stage, followed by a “process of exchange” that engages local people. However, what became apparent from the case study discussed was the importance of time in the effecting of change. That is, the suggestion that lasting change doesn’t happen quickly but takes place over a long period of time. Significantly this “issue of time”, became one of the recurring themes of the day.
The symposium’s second presentation was delivered by Kathrin Böhm, artist member of myvillages.org and Research Fellow at The University of Wolverhampton. This presentation took the form of a research paper in which she considered the role, or potential, of “socially-engaged” art practices that take place beyond the gallery walls in a variety of outside spaces; art practices in which participation and dialogue are central. Could these practices themselves, her paper proposed, be read as “spatial constructs”? To illustrate this proposition Kathrin related how, after developing her own art practice in the city, she returned to her childhood village and the latter became, both conceptually and literally, a new space for art. Central to the development of these new, as yet “unrecognisable”, spaces for art were strategies that encompassed experimentation and rigorous self-criticism (on the part of the artist), participation (on the part of the audience), and an emphasis on “common interests” (both parties). Perhaps this suggests a conception of space as ” meeting ground”. Again the issue of time reoccurred in the papers’ recognition of the importance of “slow growth” in generating meaningful change within a rural environment.
Next we were taken on a humorous stroll through the work of Grizedale Arts; an “arts institution” or, possibly more accurately, an “arts network” based in the Lake District. Grizedale are certainly approaching artistic activity and production in a new way. Having recently “got rid” of their gallery, one of their key areas of work is engaging with people, through participation in art, in ways that are genuinely meaningful to local “non-art” communities. Alongside seeking, and valuing, the importance of local knowledge, and finding common ground, provocation, tension and conflict, where also seen by this speaker as useful tools, or “strategies”, in the development of arts across a rural terrain. Again there seemed to be a genuine interest in “making change happen”, and simultaneously an acknowledgment that real change can only happen over the long-term.
Finally the morning’s presentations ended with a review of the Bibliobox’s tour in Shropshire. Certainly the box seems to have a life of its own; continually chancing upon new “lasting encounters”, creating new networks and, as one encountee of the box suggested, providing opportunities for sharing work: something that doesn’t happen often.
In the afternoon I attended the “rural as a source for contextual art practice” workshop. This began with a presentation by the artist Richard Walker whose works engage with the landscape by way of, an almost ‘post-romantic’, sense of the impossibility of truly knowing, or coming to terms with, the immensity of that rural environment. The works take the form of spoken dialogue, music and video and seek to investigate our interaction(s) with the rural landscape. The characters within his work also view the rural as an idealised, albeit problematic, “escape from society”. Richard approaches the distinctly traditional subject of “landscape art” in an innovative way, both in his use of moving image and in his self-reflective responses to the rural landscapes in which he “encounters”.
Richard’s presentation was followed by the artist Matthew Cornford, one half of Cornford and Cross, whose collaborative arts practice produce works that critically engage with the specific contexts, situations, or spaces in which those works are produced. Often the result of this is an undermining, or problematizing, of the dominant power structures that exist within those spaces. Their work seems particularly successful in exposing the connections between cultural, economic and political interests. In the light of recent events (2) one example of this type of work, their piece “New Holland”, seems worth mentioning. Drawing on the links between Norfolk’s heavily industrialised agricultural landscape and the supermarkets that support that industry, they constructed a “turkey breeding unit”, from plans provided by Bernard Matthews, in the grounds adjoining the Sainsbury’s Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. Arguably, this clash between the industrialised rural economy and the elegant grounds of the Sainsbury’s Centre, proved too great for the exhibition’s organisers. As, prior to the arrival of the Sainsbury’s family for their annual visit, the piece was removed. However, as it was installed in the summer, the grass beneath the structure had turned yellow. Instead of letting the meadow grass return naturally to its original colour, the yellow area was replaced with brand new grass, and this newly planted vivid green rectangle became a perfect trace of the original work.
Finally Torange Khonsari an architect and member of public works, discussed the arts/architecture collective’s latest residency at Wysing. Looking at how people use public spaces and engage with their environment, Torange talked about using the idea of a “shared culture of walking” to explore the links between villages around Wysing. She suggested how existing “informal paths” could become a tool in the development of “people-led” networks in the area. As with the previous presentation issues relating to land, and public, ownership were raised. (Notably, Torange cited a conversation with Kevin Cahill, author of the comprehensively researched book “Who owns Britain” )(3)
Ultimately, what was most evident from many of the presentations was an underlying recognition of the relationship between art and the wider social and political worlds. Although ostensibly about “public art” (4) the following statement, by Patricia Phillips, seems particularly relevant to many of the symposium’s presentation’s concerns with interactive or collaborative art practices (and therefore, I feel, worth quoting in full):

“Public Art is not the grinding, arduous discovery of a common denominator that absolutely everyone will understand and endorse. It actually assists in the identification of individuals and groups and what separates them, so that agreement of a common purpose is an impassioned deliberation rather than a thoughtless resignation. ” (5)

The acknowledgment of a “common purpose”, together with the simultaneous recognition of “what separates” people, and, critically, the call for an “impassioned deliberation”, seems to reflect what took place during the symposium.
Following the close of a thoughtful event centred around the, problematic, subject of “rural art space”, the atmosphere amongst many of the delegates was one of tangible energy. Consequently, I left with a positive, even tentatively hopeful, sense of something beginning: a key moment for the arts in Shrewsbury and Shropshire. Undoubtedly the breadth of knowledge, broad range of interests and occupations gathered in one space was exceptional. And although there was no convergence in terms of defining rural art space, there was, I felt, a common purpose. And that, I believe, was an impassioned advocacy of the growing significance of the rural as a fertile space for contemporary art practice. What’s more, the event in itself served as a vehicle for deliberation and therefore, implicitly, endorsed the relevance of slow growth in generating lasting change within a predominantly rural environment. Finally, and perhaps most meaningfully, these “impassioned deliberations”will support the expansion of those networks of people interested in developing the “spaces for art” across rural environments.

Footnotes:

(1) Lippard, Lucy, from “Mixed Blessings” (originally published in 1990), quoted in a Gavin Jantjes (ed), A Fruitful Incoherence: Dialogues with Artists on Internationalism, London, 1997
(2) At the time of writing the poultry industry has been dominating news headlines, as over 160,000 turkeys were culled after the H5N1 strain, bird flu virus, was found at a turkey processing plant in Suffolk in February 2007.
(3) Cahill, Kevin, Who Owns Britain, Edinburgh, 2001
(4) The book from which the following quote is taken looks at artists working outside of traditional venues for art, and rather than seeing those artists as the creators of art objects, many of the case studies included suggest how these artists are now often adopting strategies analogous to social activism and politics.
(5) Phillips, Patricia, “Public Constructions”, Suzanne Lacy (ed), Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art, Washington, 1995
text by Richard Hepenstal
February 2007

SYMPOSIUM REVIEW BY RICHARD HEPENSTAL

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruralartspace @ 8:01 am

GETTING BACK TO THE COUNTRY

AN “IMPASSIONED DELIBERATION”

“Artists often act in the interstices between old and new, in the possibility of spaces that are as yet socially unrecognisable”

In 2003 Shrewsbury’s 16th century ‘Old Market Hall’ was transformed into a Film Theatre and Digital Media Centre. The manner in which the latter was undertaken was not only sensitive to the original interior architecture, but the final outcome revealed the distinctive timber roofbeams that had hitherto been ‘hidden’ from sight. Moreover, it returned the building to that of a significant public space, one that attracts visitors from across the county. As a result, the relationship, or dialogue, between the old and the new, was literally manifested by the environment in which the Rural Art Space symposium began. This location, it seemed, provided a most useful context, or ‘space’, into which to consider the future possibilities of contemporary art and curatorial practice within a rural context. Indeed the opening speakers, from Shrewsbury’s Museum and Art Gallery, stressed the importance of connecting the ‘old’ with the ‘new’ in their programming and curatorial practices.
The morning’s first presentation was by the General Public Agency, an organisation that works creatively within the areas of planning and regeneration seeking to ‘make change happen’. Central to this organisation’s way of working is the idea of substantial mapping and research, in the pre-planning stage, followed by a ‘process of exchange’ that engages local people. However, what became apparent from the case study discussed was the importance of ‘time’ in the effecting of change. That is, the suggestion that lasting change doesn’t happen quickly but takes place over a long period of time. Significantly this ‘issue of time’, became one of the recurring themes of the day.
The symposium’s second presentation was delivered by Kathrin Bohm, artist member of myvillages.org and Research Fellow at The University of Wolverhampton. This presentation took the form of a research paper in which she considered the role, or potential, of ‘socially-engaged’ art practices that take place beyond the gallery walls in a variety of ‘outside’ spaces; art practices in which participation and ‘dialogue’ are central. Could these practices themselves, her paper proposed, be read as ‘spatial constructs’? To illustrate this proposition Kathrin related how, after developing her own art practice in the city, she returned to her childhood village and the latter became, both conceptually and literally, a new space for art. Central to the development of these new, as yet ‘unrecognisable’, spaces for art were strategies that encompassed experimentation and rigorous self-criticism (on the part of the artist), participation (on the part of the ‘audience’), and an emphasis on ‘common interests’ (both parties). Perhaps this suggests a conception of space as a ‘meeting ground’. Again the issue of time reoccurred in the papers’ recognition of the importance of ‘slow growth’ in generating meaningful change within a rural environment.
Next we were taken on a humorous stroll through the work of Grizedale Arts; an ‘arts institution’ or, possibly more accurately, an ‘arts network’ based in the Lake District. Grizedale are certainly approaching artistic activity and production in a new way. Having recently ‘got rid’ of their gallery, one of their key areas of work is engaging with people, through participation in art, in ways that are genuinely meaningful to local ‘non-art’ communities. Alongside seeking, and valuing, the importance of local knowledge, and finding common ground, provocation, tension and conflict, where also seen by this speaker as useful tools, or ‘strategies’, in the development of arts across a rural terrain. Again there seemed to be a genuine interest in ‘making change happen’, and simultaneously an acknowledgment that real change can only happen over the long-term.
Finally the morning’s presentations ended with a review of the Bibliobox’s tour in Shropshire. Certainly the box seems to have a life of its own; continually chancing upon new ‘lasting encounters’, creating new networks and, as one encountee of the box suggested, providing opportunities for sharing work: ‘something that doesn’t happen often’.
In the afternoon I attended the ‘rural as a source for contextual art practice’ workshop. This began with a presentation by the artist Richard Walker whose works engage with the landscape by way of, an almost ‘post-romantic’, sense of the impossibility of truly knowing, or coming to terms with, the immensity of that rural environment. The works take the form of spoken dialogue, music and video and seek to investigate our interaction(s) with the rural landscape. The ‘characters’ within his work also view the ‘rural’ as an idealised, albeit problematic, ‘escape from society’. Richard approaches the distinctly traditional subject of ‘landscape art’ in an innovative way, both in his use of moving image and in his self-reflective responses to the rural landscapes in which he ‘encounters’.
Richard’s presentation was followed by the artist Matthew Cornford, one half of ‘Cornford and Cross’, whose collaborative arts practice produce works that critically engage with the specific contexts, situations, or ‘spaces’ in which those works are produced. Often the result of this is an undermining, or problematizing, of the dominant power structures that exist within those spaces. Their work seems particularly successful in exposing the connections between cultural, economic and political interests. In the light of recent events one example of this type of work, their piece ‘New Holland’, seems worth mentioning. Drawing on the links between Norfolk’s heavily industrialised agricultural landscape and the supermarkets that support that industry, they constructed a ‘turkey breeding unit’, from plans provided by Bernard Matthews, in the grounds adjoining the Sainsbury’s Centre for Visual Arts in Norwich. Arguably, this ‘clash’ between the industrialised rural economy and the ‘elegant’ grounds of the Sainsbury’s Centre, proved too great for the exhibition’s organisers. As, prior to the arrival of the Sainsbury’s family for their annual visit, the piece was removed. However, as it was installed in the summer, the grass beneath the structure had turned yellow. Instead of letting the ‘meadow grass’ return naturally to its original colour, the ‘yellow area’ was replaced with brand new grass, and this newly planted ‘vivid green rectangle’ became a perfect trace of the original work.
Finally Torange Khonsari an architect and member of public works,
discussed the arts/architecture collective’s latest residency at Wysing. Looking at how people use public spaces and engage with their environment, Torange talked about using the idea of a ’shared culture of walking’ to explore the links between villages around Wysing. She suggested how existing ‘informal paths’ could become a tool in the development of ‘people-led’ networks in the area. As with the previous presentation issues relating to land, and ‘public’, ownership were raised. (Notably, Torange cited a conversation with Kevin Cahill, author of the comprehensively researched book ‘Who owns Britain’ )
Ultimately, what was most evident from many of the presentations was an underlying recognition of the relationship between art and the wider social and political worlds. Although ostensibly about ‘public art’ the following statement, by Patricia Phillips, seems particularly relevant to many of the symposium’s presentations’ concerns with interactive or collaborative art practices (and therefore, I feel, worth quoting in full):

Public Art is not the grinding, arduous discovery of a common denominator that absolutely everyone will understand and endorse. It actually assists in the identification of individuals and groups and what separates them, so that agreement of a common purpose is an impassioned deliberation rather than a thoughtless resignation.

The acknowledgment of a ‘common purpose’, together with the simultaneous recognition of ‘what separates’ people, and, critically, the call for an ‘impassioned deliberation’, seems to reflect what took place during the symposium.
Following the close of a thoughtful event centred around the, problematic, subject of ‘rural art space’, the atmosphere amongst many of the delegates was one of tangible ‘energy’. Consequently, I left with a positive, even tentatively hopeful, sense of something beginning: a ‘key moment’ for the arts in Shrewsbury and Shropshire. Undoubtedly the breadth of knowledge, broad range of interests and occupations gathered in one space was exceptional. And although there was no convergence in terms of defining ‘rural art space’, there was, I felt, a ‘common purpose’. And that, I believe, was an ‘impassioned’ advocacy of the growing significance of ‘the rural’ as a fertile space for contemporary art practice. What’s more, the event in itself served as a vehicle for deliberation and therefore, implicitly, endorsed the relevance of slow growth in generating lasting change within a predominantly rural environment. Finally, and perhaps most meaningfully, these ‘impassioned deliberations’ will support the expansion of those networks of people interested in developing the ‘spaces for art’ across rural environments.

Richard Hepenstal
February 2007

To download the review as pdf please klick here.

VIDEO BOOTH

Filed under: Uncategorized — ruralartspace @ 7:55 am

The New Media College in Wem has interviewed delegates thorughout the day to give short feedbacks and talk about some of their ideas.

To watch the short video klick here.

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