visit to SITE Festival in Stroud – brief review Baseman; Hapaska; Wood & Harrison +

Good day visiting Stroud SITE Festival yesterday. Didn’t catch it all, but what I did see I enjoyed very much. Driving home is always thought-provoking – reflecting on what I saw, stimulating my mind with past and present connections, both with Stroud and SVA.

In order or my schedule, I saw:

Something of Place in the Museum in The Park

My friend Dr. Suze Adams  is part of the Space Place Practice Group and in the museum you will find a set of boxes re-appropriated by artist members of SPP. The membership consists mostly of artists working within an academic context, and this shows, each work being deeply grounded in theory and having very personal narratives. When they were explained to me I found them intriguing. But alone I would struggle – they are very private works that didn’t give away many clues as to why they contained what they did. I wanted, no, I needed, to know more about them, without reading the folder. The context of the room helped, the works nestled in with the existing displays – but those displays had museum style labels and information boards. It’s that tricky balance that is always a struggle – how to engage without making it a one-liner, obvious work. From my perspective, it was a little frustrating.

Interestingly, on reflection, I did not even think about the labelling or signage at any of the other shows I saw. Maybe it was the museum-ness that made me expect it?

The craft show in the Museum in The Park

Just have to share pic of Kyra Cranes pots, stunning. How on earth can anyone say that Craft is not ART?

What this picture doesn’t show is that some of the bowls have a bright, egg-yolk yellow glaze inside on the bottom.

kyra crane ceramic
Jordan Baseman ‘Green Lady’ at the INDEX gallery
I’ve been wanting to go to the INDEX gallery for a while but not made it until today, thanks to Suze’s local knowledge. Jordan Baseman’s film also left me a bit confused – in a good way.

(Note to self: I have a stinking cold, so maybe the whole day was affected by that – it could have been – the way we feel in ourselves influences our response to work, and I certainly felt fragile).

Anyway, I loved the narrative, the way the story unravelled and the emotional rollercoaster played out. The glimpses of denial about nonsense and superstition and coincidence. The logical head being challenged by the experience of the world. Avoidance of the ‘spiritual’ – I identify with that refusal myself. The voice and sound quality were excellent. but the film? I  wasn’t sure it was needed. Sometimes I closed by eyes, the visual busy-ness and random-ness conflicted with the emotional pull of the voice. Sometimes, when the screen became still, or white, it was ok, because then it allowed me to be in the room with the narrator. But sometimes it jostled for attention, like a needy child.

There’s something about the film visuals being needy and the boxes in the museums that are somehow similar. That sense that one is witnessing something that has very personal significance but, as a viewer, I am not quite ‘getting’ what that significance is? I want to, but it’s not quite hitting the spot. I closed my eyes a lot and listened to the woman’s story whilst the rain hammered down on the corrugated roof. It was very moving and intimate when my eyes were closed. The voice held my attention, the visuals dared me to look and try to find something familiar, but apart from the dreamy clouds, it was mosty rather chaotic. Like flashbacks on speed.

It made me think a lot later, and is still doing so. Good. The concept behind The Green Lady is very poetic.

Siobhan Hapaska ‘the sky has to turn black before you can see the stars’ in the Goods Shed

The Goods Shed is a brilliant space and it has this ability to accommodate a diverse range of works beautifully, and this one works really well in it. The fact that I am personally very interested in nature and technological issues allowed my spirits to lift as I enjoyed the sadness, the subtlety, the materiality of these trees horizontally suspended in cuboid scaff frames, shuddering like anxious nature does these days. Olive trees, an immediate association with Palestine and the trembling, oppressed people there. The wild springiness of the tree canopies vibrating wildly, making the leaves dry and fall, whilst the trunks slung from rubber straps were more stable and strong, resistant to the violent shaking, the roots just gently echoing the manic activity at the other end. The black shroud in the centre of its gravitational weight concealing the motor, the agitator.

I know why I enjoyed it so much – it was instantly an experience, a wonderful new way of understanding our fragile relationship with trees, with technology and with the politics of land. Phew.

siobhan hapaska 2 siobhan japaska 1

There will be a video available soon on my  Vimeo page, from about 10am today.

John Wood and Paul Harrison ’10 x 10′ SVA

How good to see the latest offering by Wood and Harrison. I selected a show with Neil Walker from SVA in the early 2000’s, when I was also making my own work, and Wood & Harrison were in that then. I have delighted in seeing how their work has evolved and matured. From crazy, playful, pseudo-optical illusions in their studios to this complex, highly polished film. And they have retained that lovely playful innocence but it has evolved into a much more complex animal, referencing politics, the recession, the insanity of office life, cartoons, David Lynch, our need for natural things in our sterile works (plants, fire, water). The film style like an ongoing elevator revealing every floor of an endless monotonous tower block of offices, each one identical expect for colours and contents. The humour of moments when the human penetrates ceilings and walls, or lies on the floor, seemingly in passive despair.

Brilliant!

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