Flows first project goes public soon – exciting!!!!

The Cabinet of Local Change is a pilot for a future collection of ‘cabinets’ that will be commissioned specifically with touring in mind. This one is specifically for Forest of Dean residents.

Artist Simon Ryder (artNucleus) was commissioned by Flow Contemporary Arts to create a ‘cabinet’ in some form that could be used to reflect upon changes in the nature of the Forest of Dean, inspired by his own research in this forest and through engagement with local Community Library users. A key part of this process was for it to be made public via blogging.

The cabinet will make its first appearance on Thursday 29th August 2013 – Mitcheldean Library at 2.30pm and Newnham on Severn Library at 6pm.

Simon is concerned with peeling back the narratives from places, people and objects, then weaves  them together into new configurations in the form of sculptures, videos, texts and artefacts. Working together at Mitcheldean and Newnham community libraries, Simon and Carolyn opened up new ways of thinking about how libraries might operate. They shared blogging skills and how technology can provide opportunities for artists to reveal their working methods, as well as inform the making of art – technology and nature combining in the creative process.

Inspired by the symbiotic relationship between trees and fungi in the forest, the outcome is fascinating. It is a unique storage system that appears to grow through the books on a shelf, like an organic extension, with partially enclosed spaces to contain ‘items that signal change’. Modular in its construction and open source (with the 3D templates freely available for download from the internet), Simon worked with the designer-makers at Millar Howard Workshop to produce a cabinet that can be flat-packed down for storage and touring. The cabinet is a portable work – it will make appearances at scheduled times, providing a beautiful and original focus for local discussions about change. To start the ball rolling, the first items to be placed in this cabinet will be printed copies of Simon’s blog, some books that informed his thinking, and a vial of water from St Antony’s well; the remaining spaces are empty, awaiting library users to add their own artefacts.

Flow Contemporary Arts works with both arts and non-arts partners to initiate produce and present contemporary art in unusual locations. Founded by Carolyn Black in 2012, Flow specialises in making things happen through the unique approach of commissioning artworks that respond to place, yet can also adapt to other contexts. If you wish to host or support the work in the future, contact Carolyn@flowprojects.org.uk

The project was supported by the Forest of Dean Local Action Group and the Forestry Commission.

scanning branches with X-Box, photo Chris Morris
scanning branches with X-Box, photo Chris Morris

press image Cabinet on shelf small

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Supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas

and Forestry Commission FC logo_eng_linear_col

The Barbican, Welcome Trust, Helen Chadwick & sunshine

Some days you just have to go and see some art. When a friend asked me what would I recommend he saw when in London I decided to join him, and it was fab.

The main show at Barbican is Cage, Johns, Rauschenburg, Duchamp and Cunningham, which was enjoyable, though the atmosphere there is always a bit dark and dungeony. But that worked quite well with the theatrical sense of the show.

The highlight for me though was the Geoffrey Farmer in the Curve Gallery – what a wonderful piece of work. I first saw Farmer at Documenta last year, when he showed Leaves of Grass, and this one was equally as mesmerising. The Surgeon and the Photographer was poetic, picasso-esque, python-esque (as in Monty!), Dali-esque and the narrative like a strange detective-esque experience.

It was wonderful, and I found myself reading it like a book, considering how some of the puppets were on pedestals addressing groups of people, some engaged with nature, balancing butterflies on their fingers whilst cut-out birds flew overhead. Some carried weapons, so looked like military rows of soldiers, some seemed free of hierarchy or order. Multi-cultural, the film element morphed people heads from one into another, or showed sequences of stills of war, of clothing etc.

After that, a quick dash around Welcome Trust – outside art from Japan, well worth a visit, some real gems in there. Then a whizz to catch Helen Chadwick before it closed. Piss Flowers in the window alongside an evocative text were pleasing, but the majority of work didn’t excite me the way it used to. But it did make me think of Next Nature and how she juxtaposed flowers and flesh together and played around the edges of the erotic by alluding to genitals. She was a very special artist and the way she portrayed meat and flesh as equal is carried on by contemporary artists like Elpida Hadzi-Vasileva. Elpida is representing Macedonia at Venice this year, so check it out and see if you can see the relationship.

Sisters on Saturday: Symposium at SVA, Stroud. Sue Thomas; Semiconductor: Squidsoup; Simon Ryder The New Natural

new nature

This Saturday 25th May is going to be a very interesting day. As part of the SITE Festival, artist Simon Ryder is hosting a symposium to consider the future of nature – what do we mean by ‘new nature’? Is nature only what we already know of, and some feel, have damaged irrepairably, or might it be something unimagined and unforeseen?

My sister, Professor Sue Thomas, and I, find nothing unusual in such conversations. When I look back at some of the weird discussions and debates we’ve had over the table in the past, I have rarely stopped to wonder whether this is usual family fare. It’s our normal – which is what matters to us.

Intense dialogues about when we are online, do we ‘feel’ we ‘reside’ online? Is virtuality another geography? Where does fact and fiction begin and end? Does it end? We mostly agree. But what do you think?

I’m taking a back seat on Saturday while others enter similar discussions, chaired by Rob la Frenais, of The Arts Catalyst. It will be an intriguing conversation as it unravels the different ways we might consider New Nature.

The New Natural Symposium
Semiconductor, Prof. Sue Thomas and Squidsoup
Saturday 25th May 10.30am-5pm
SVA, 4 John St, Stroud GL5 2HA
Installation Friday 24th-Sunday 26th May

11am-4pm Goods Shed, Stroud GL5 3AP

Book now:

The New Natural is presented by Heart of Wonder in collaboration with SVA, and supported by Alias.

Tickets £12 including lunch and refreshments £20 for weekend inclusive of evening events. See SVA website for more details, or give them a call.

Booking is essential as places are limited 01453 751440 or email office@sva.org.uk

Is blogging like whittling a wooden spoon – using words to hone the form? or just stirring things up?

In a BBC video, woodcarver Barnaby Carder talks about his passion for whittling spoons. I love this video and have revisited it many times. Barnaby talks of ‘honing’ his skill and tells the story of how he came to be whittling in London; how he had travelled and then decided to settle into a shop, indeed a shop window, where he whittles his spoons and people watch him doing so.

 When people see you make it, they like that

He refers to people seeing him making spoons from passing buses and they crave what he is doing. And they buy the spoons too. He is highly aware of the fact that his personal story is the context of his work, that they are intertwined. The timber he uses is harvested from the nearby Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park and that local-ness is key to him, it is part of his process:

It’s important to be around living trees, you can’t separate them from the finished product

He’s really considered in the way he talks about what he does, how he lives, and refers to the act of whittling spoons in a shop window as a performance. He reflects upon to his previous simple life and how complex it has become. The way he discusses each spoon is beautiful, his relationship with the object, the feel of whittling the wood and how, whilst creating them, he may say to himself oh, I’m not sure about that spoon and then someone else comes along and says they love it.

So why might this be like blogging?

What if the blog = the shop window?

What if the whittling process = writing?

What if the wood = the content?

What if the spoon = words?

Imagine this blog is my shop window, it is where I share my ideas, experiences and reflections. It is where I hone my thoughts by writing them down, whittling them, shaping them, trying to hold onto the initial thing that made me think about them. Be it the local woods, or the art I see, or the books I read, the places I go. They are my timber.

Sometimes it all comes together, and I am happy with what I have made, and other times I think oh, I’m not sure about that spoon [art I have just seen]. Or the words I just wrote. Just as Barnaby might sand and smooth, and think back to the tree, the wood, the texture, the grain, and attempt to analyse why the spoon doesn’t feel right to him, I do that after seeing exhibitions, reading books, going places. And if I blog, that process is public, because I am doing it in my shop window. And maybe sometimes there are sharp bits, splinters, rough edges, that are uncomfortable for both me, and the end-user.

It happens, none of us can get it right every time. Honing is an ongoing thing, thinking and reflecting is cyclical, and there will always be a risk of splinters and rough edges. Material is like that.

Do watch the video, it is so fascinating.

wooden_spoon__75611_zoom

at risk of being a groupie for Thinking Practice, great paper on ‘being plural’

There is little I can say about Mark Robinson’s latest blog, “We have come here today to be plural” other than you must read it if you wish to read a balanced and considered reflection upon the impact austerity is having on the arts. He uses some wonderful images as illustrations of how people can work together, let’s call them benchmarks, to whet your appetite.

I hold another image in my mind after reading it – A Sudden Gust of Wind by Jeff Wall.

jeff wall a sudden gust of wind

Flow Contemporary Arts’ first-ever project, in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire with Simon Ryder

Are Community Libraries really more than books?

Absolutely!!

Artist in Residence Simon Ryder explores the art of blogging and teaches others to do it too. Join us to learn more at the following dates and times:

Mitcheldean Community Library

10.00-12.OOam

Monday 13th May, 3rd June and 17th June

Newnham Community Library

2.00-4.00pm

Monday 13th May, 3rd June and 17th June

PLEASE NOTE THIS IS LOCAL FUNDING AND IS FOR FOREST OF DEAN RESIDENTS AND LIBRARY USERS, BUT WE AIM TO PRODUCE CABINETS FURTHER AFIELD IN THE FUTURE!

Flow Contemporary Arts is delighted to have been awarded funding from Forest of Dean Local Action, part of the RDPE programme for England, to initiate the ‘Cabinet of Local Change’ project at two community libraries, during May and June this summer.

At the meetings we’ll tell you a bit more about what we’re doing, but more importantly, Simon would like to discover how changes in the nature world of the forest affect you. How did changes in the past affect your life? What current changes in the nature of the forest might affect you in the future? Your answers will help Simon understand more about the forest – the people that live here and what makes it unique.

What you tell Simon will inform the stories he tells about change – not in a book form, but online – as a blog.

And if you fancy having a go at blogging yourself, we’re here to help. We’ll go through the basics and explore how computers can add to the wonderful world of words that Libraries provide!

If you are in the Forest, please download and share poster:  Are Community Libraries really more than books

blog image for flyers

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Supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas