Attention series No.4 Covid 19, the rural idyll & climate change

THEN: WRITTEN IN ON 30TH MAY

Before reading further, take a look at this video clip.

Is that your rural idyll?

In the light of the shutdowns occurring across the world, we are undoubtedly struggling to do everyday things that we take for granted. Travel, work, leisure, exercise, culture – all disrupted. How are you coping? Is it very different from your usual everyday life, or is it not dissimilar, but a bit more extreme? Do you miss the noise, the pollution, the packed trains, the spontaneous flights to sunnier climes? The casual shopping therapy to bide your time spending your hard-earned cash?

The video shows a world where nature is simulated, but you can’t touch it. Not like in the good old days, five months ago, when you could walk into a shop and be greeted at the counter, not two metres away from it. The game is as surreal as our present reality.

Until Covid19 the headlines were all about XR, climate change and Brexit. Conversations about those subjects have gone as quiet as our skies and our roads. They are still an issue, but we have taken our eye off the ball, big time. Now the only balls we hear about are rich footballers bemoaning loss of income, or Wimbledon players not being able to play tennis. Really – is that what the majority of people are worrying about? I doubt it. They are more likely concerned about friends, family and incomes. While the media carry stories about unimaginably well-payed sportspeople, at home people are worrying about the NHS, the service providers such as shop assistants, refuse collectors, delivery drivers –  the people who are important to our survival.

We thank them wholeheartedly.

This planet rolls on, for now. It is the biggest ball we rely on for our survival, yet we are still not keeping our eye on it. When I watched the promotion for the Walden Pond video game (above) it made me question the rural idyll – the quietness, the tranquillity, the sense of solitude. Not aloneness, which can feel very sad, but solitude, an act of choice, of preference.

Those of us who create things often relish thinking time, making time. A house by a peaceful lake would be our dream, as it was Thoreau’s. But for many, this is a nightmare. I was intrigued by the mostly accurate depiction of natural objects in the video, and how they move – the water, the sky, the creatures. And mildly amused by the awkwardness of the little boat, very badly located on the bank. Solid objects are difficult to simulate in soft surfaces, just as hard thoughts are challenging when your brain is muddled by fearful thoughts.

Back to Thoreau, my sister told me he didn’t live in isolation, as she discovered whilst researching for her book Technobiophilia:

“By his own admission, he [Thoreau] was hardly isolated. He regularly walked into Concord to dine, read the papers, visit the post office and have his laundry washed and mended.” Sue Thomas Technobiophilia, page 160)

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Image for Technobiophilia by Sue Thomas

image (c)carolyn black in Technobiophilia[/caption]

It is a bit like that now, with the pandemic. Those of us who live in rural areas feel like we are enjoying a period of solitude, the rural idyll, but we are still connecting with the wider world. Thoreau didn’t have the internet, he just had newspapers, aren’t we lucky!

So what interests me is how so many groups are setting up online forums of support and activity for local groups. Possibly the biggest loss to those who live in villages is not having a chat in the waiting room at the doctors, or at the local pub. Now they go online to their village Facebook page, or join a What’s App Group. Which is great. But there is a risk that unless those conversations are held wider,  localism to such a miniscule level may make us forget the bigger picture.

The media talk about the ‘British’ suffering with the pandemic, yet it is world-wide and others suffer far more than we do. And while it spreads ever wider and wider, individual’s daily lives are shrinking. So many people are switching off the news because they simply can’t bear it. Brexit was like that too.

Social and physical distancing is an imperative, a necessity. And online socialising is a great replacement to fill the gaps. But let’s not let interactions come down to the lowest denominator. Localism is important, but the planet matters more.

Back to the awkwardly placed boat on the side of the pond. It reminded me of me. How I feel.

Of the other week when I walked by the Severn and wanted to lie down on my back and watch the clouds. There was no-one in sight, so I did. I don’t usually lie down outside in public places, as I am a little ungainly when I do so. But that didn’t matter. And when I settled with my spine firmly grounded on the earth and watched the huge white clouds zooming across a bright blue sky, I thought to myself “if it has to be zoom, can it be this type of zoom please?”.

While the media bemoan economic crashes, find yourself a safe space, a private place, make the most of it, because it won’t last forever. Take the opportunity to lie on your back and wonder, wouldn’t it be great if it was always as quiet as this? And how can we move to make that our rural idyll?

How about we steer some of our strategic thinking back to planetary issues? Use online interactions to do something useful. We are getting used to our narrower lives now, our new normal, and no doubt enjoying the resultant quietness of it all. This *is* the rural idyll we have been going on holiday to find. We are living it. Go for a walk from your house, see how far you can go without meeting a soul. Listen. Look at the springtime rising out of the soil, blooming on the hawthorn bushes, the blackthorn. Wild garlic to eat, ferns unfurling, swifts and swallows have arrived. The sky above, only occasionally chalked with the vapour trail from a transatlantic plane. Goods trains keeping our industries going, farmers still working the land, tending their livestock.

Let’s get through this together and plan for what is ahead. I’d like to hear from others about this, as I am sure I am not alone. If we are going to talk online, on phones, over garden fences, let’s talk about the long-term future of the world. Doing so may also distract our thoughts from immediate concerns, like getting more toilet paper.

Our communities are getting stronger together now, it is no longer the rhetoric of ‘big society’ – people are actively working together to find solutions, and that is brilliant.

We need to hold onto that thought and keep our eye on the ball, collectively.

NOW: WRITTEN IN ON 14TH JULY

Updating, things have changed recently, new issues tom deal with. Lockdown being tentatively lifted, shops and pubs opening, football games happening but behind closed doors.

How do I feel now?

How do you feel now?

I for one miss the sense of safety that living in a rural place gave me. As the streets get busier, I see more sadness. Elderly people wandering around looking confused. Streets lined with crash barriers to widen paths. Though the risk of crash is not a vehicular one, it is both a physical and psychological one.

If there was music playing, it would sound ominous.

The land is bracing itself for increase of pollution, planes hitting the skies, roads churning out fume. We can wear masks, but what can the planet do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a myriad of opportunities for artists!

Just writing the title for this post warms my cockles! It’s been a while since I have been able to share opportunities – two very different ones – both a pleasure to be involved with. And what makes them special is they are both in the Forest of Dean!

  1. Destination Lydney Harbour – a public artwork contract – £70k budget – open to all

I am pleased to say I have been working as a consultant on this project. This is a substantial contract and requires experience of delivering permanent art in the public realm. You need to register with the procurement portal to get the brief and tender documents.

Publica – In-Tend Portal

The document downloadable below may be helpful in navigating the portal:

Publica Group partners_Supplier e-tendering guide

Artwork Commission_Flyer


2. canopy network micro-commissions and bursaries and gatherings too! – open to Forest of Dean Creatives from all sectors.

I’m the Project Manager for canopy in the Forest of Dean, (very part-time).

Thanks to an Arts Council England Emergency Grant, we recently contracted Rod Maclachlan as an Engagement Manager, to deliver engagement activities during lockdown

Visit website to see full details of the opportunities and subscribe to canopy mailing list.

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Attention series No. 3: walking with wandering body & mind

Another blogpost sitting comfortably in my practice blog, rather than here. Some of the attention series fit one site or the other, some both.

This one is about the experience of heading off to the riverbank and observing how my attention shifts from body to mind constantly, depending on purpose and context.

enjoy!

 

 

 

Pandemic writing – giving attention – reflection

The Attention Series

The Attention Series of writings are both disparate and connected. They speak of a particular time in my life, in our lives, that only four months ago were unimaginable. And how I am processing that world through acting, reflecting and writing. It is a rich time for sharing as we self-isolate and reconsider our place in this topsy-turvy world.

I have previously written a blogpost reflecting upon my first experience of live-relay theatre from London into a rural cinema in the Forest of Dean.  More recently, I wrote one about the gratitude I have during lockdown for suddenly having access to cultural resources that previously were too far away, or too expensive, for me to enjoy. These texts are growing into a collection of thoughts that cross reference each other and all relate to how one gives attention to the world, both online and offline. And the differences between those experiences. They are first person observations and the associated thoughts, physical sensations and emotions that arise when one attends to them. It was not my intention to connect them into a collection but is, I feel, a timely thing to do so.

Intention, attention and outtention seem to be a talking point during the Covid19 pandemic.

Intention:

A thing intended; an aim or plan

(In medicine) the healing process of a wound

Attention:

Notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important.

The action of dealing with or taking special care of someone or something.

things done to express interest in or please someone.

(Military) a position assumed by a soldier, standing very straight with the feet together and the arms straight down the sides of the body.

Outtention: no dictionary definition

Found online, referred to in dialogues about the soul: “…..about levels and layers of our intentions, one of them being “out-tensions” vs. “in-tentions”. An “out-tention” is the first layer of intention that you are projecting externally. This energy serves the exterior version of you, the self that others see, and the one detached from the soul.

I initially added outtention as a term that evolved in my own mind, whilst considering the relationship between attention, intention and the strange wobbly place we are in now. When I searched for outtention online, it was revealed it lacks definition, but is a term used for things relating to the soul.  My experience is that external things presently seem more raw, my senses are uber-alert, my mind stimulated by the effort it takes to simply exist in the context of this pandemic. Or risk falling into the void.

We need to draw on all out senses and discover new ways of seeing and understanding the world. It is both curious and frightening. I find my curiosity is winning most of the time as I reflect and try to understand this new world.

If I were to define my use of the term ‘outtention’ it would be to “pay attention with intention – to deliberate, to attempt to understand something one has never experienced before in life”.

These writings are the best I can do.

And documenting how I experience the pandemic in words and imagery.

 

new commission opportunities for artists

I am currently working with b-side to provide Creative Producer support to 6 new art commissions for a public art trail in Weymouth town centre. The commissions are for Weymouth & Portland Borough Council.  They include the potential to create work in association with water refill units – to our knowledge the first time public art has embraced promoting the use of units, as a trail,  to reduce single-use plastics. Wessex Water are supporting the project.

Full details about the commissions and to apply, visit Curator Space.

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news about upcoming exhibitions, crowdfunder & projects-in-waiting

EXHIBITIONS:

Forest of Dean open studios event: farOpen Studios, my work will be in Newland group show. Launches Friday 6th October.

Old Passage Restaurant, Arlingham, Casa Interiors in Newnham on Severn and at Creates Gallery, Monmouth, all ongoing.

UPDATING

I know, I’ve been rather quiet on the Flow Projects side. Sorry.

As many people are aware, I’ve been taking a bit of a sabbatical from producing to restart my own practice. Inevitably, as always happens for me, my personal passions have seeped back into my practice as a producer and sparked off something unexpected. It’s all bubbling away in my planning folder, research and conversations have begun. Watch this space to find out when my own creative flow merges with my parallel world and converges to make a wave!

It’s all about the river, of course.

Meanwhile, my explorations of both sides of the Severn are culminating in the production of a book and  body of work that manifests itself as original charcoal/chalk panoramic drawings and giclee prints made of them. And it is getting exciting – a bit like waiting for the big bore to arrive on an equinox.

Two new things now rolling on the tides: one, a crowdfunder and two, selling prints via my Carolyn Black Art  website. I’ve polished up my digital skills, dredged them up from my background as a video artist and am presently collaging them together to do these things.

THE CROWDFUNDER

Launching in October, there will be a myriad of rewards, some of which will ONLY available via the crowdfunder. There will be an open edition of my most recent drawings – of the Old Severn bridge at both ends. The whole project explores both banks of the river opposite each other, and the bridge is both the entry and the exit of my narrative in the book. Like bookends. The words and images will be framed by them and the prints fro  the original drawings will be offered as rewards at a lower price than my usual wall prices. They will be offered as singles, but of course you may wish to buy a pair, to see both sides together and make you ponder about the things that evokes for you.

Next year is going to be a significant one for the Severn Bridges, as it will mark the end of the tolls and open things up in both directions – England to Wales, Wales to England. There are pro’s and cons, and hopefully my drawings will provoke some discussion about them. More flow, probably.

It won’t affect the Severn River though, that will continue to come and go as it pleases, as it always has done.

The other reward will be an opportunity to pre-order the book. Indeed, that’s what the crowdfunder is all about. I need to contract the designer,  City Edition Studio, for the publication and print production. The Studio have some great ideas on how we can make sure the book is right for the content, as panoramic images are not the easiest thing to accommodate. It will be pretty special I’m sure.

The project got off the ground thanks to seed funding from Arts Council England, now I need a bit more help to bring the publication to its conclusion. And supporters get a good deal on my prints – it’s a win-win situation.

The panoramic prints on offer will be included in that publication, alongside several others. The images frame the river, and vice-versa. They act as ‘banks’.

The prints will make fantastic Christmas presents and I promise to get them to you in time!

THE PROJECT

It will be a development from the drawings and set out to create a memorable event that crosses the river and indeed joins communities together too. With my producer hat on, expect it to be substantial, unusual and very site specific. It will be in an unusual place, indeed in several. There will be crossings and sounds and haunting performances.

If this intrigues you, get in touch. It could take a while to get going and I’m going to need a good few partners to make it happen.

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Blackrock 2016 US & THEM

US & THEM is one of the artworks by Patrick Goddard.

Residency artists:
Patrick Goddard
Sally O’Reilly
Alison Turnbull

In the newly converted gallery at Lydney Park Estate, Matt’s Gallery + BLACKROCK is also showing the work of Willie Doherty

Last year Blackrock launched at Lydney Park in the Forest of Dean, so this years second offer was something to look forward to. I wrote about it from a personal perspective last year. This year the project feels more consolidating, more like  Harvest Festival, whereby the artists have gathered their thinking from the land and its history and shared it with others on the Estate . More mapped. More grounded in place.

That’s not to say the artworks last year weren’t grounded in place – indeed they were, very much so. That’s the good thing about residencies, the artists have time…..something very important when expecting artists to work in somewhere so far from a city.

As Robin Klassnik, of Matt’s Gallery said “Blackrock is national and international”, and is emphatic that it shouldn’t “pander to the locals”. It doesn’t, but it does bring excellent art to the area to be enjoyed at a local level for those that are interested, as I am.

And this year I have time to assimilate, to think and reflect, to consider what these artworks are collectively sharing with the viewers. And what they say about both Blackrock and the wider world.

Thankfully, there is another weekend coming up when the artworks can be revisited to inform my thinking. That’s on 24th & 25th September. Look out for information online, Facebook , or visit their website.

The first weekend included a performance by, or written by, Sally O’Reilly, which will not be repeated the second weekend. It was absolutely brilliant and what she refers to in her introduction speaks of the core curatorial concepts that all the artists have investigated and, duly,  responded too. A harvest festival with rich pickings and excellent produce.

The Forest of Dean, the rural & the arts

I’m delighted to hear that Arts Council England and The Forestry Commission have signed an MOU to work together to support contemporary arts in woodland areas. Some of you may be aware I worked for the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust for several years as their Project Director – I enjoyed every minute of it. At the time, whilst there were already many art projects hosted on Forestry Commission land, they weren’t particularly regarded as an important part of the FC offer. Don’t get me wrong, FC were incredibly supportive, but their visitor surveys didn’t even ask about whether or not people came to see the art at their sites. But that’s all changed now.

The appointment of Hayley Skipper up at Grizedale a few years ago marked a wind-change for FC and their relationship with art. Since then, Hayley has worked very effectively towards this moment, which is very exciting to see. Excellent leadership and patience has paid off. And Cathy Mager on a local level is doing some great work too.

This MOU is a turning point for arts in the Forest of Dean too. I’ve blogged before about how things are happening here – Blackrock last year; new works on the Sculpture Trail; a selected show for Forest of Dean and Valleys Open Studios group; and artists migrating to live here. New groups are forming too, Forest Arts Action Group, around the Postcard Exhibitions which fundraise for refugee projects.

One thing about the Forest is the reliance on word of mouth to spread the news. Facebook is increasingly used and is cheaper than setting up web pages, and easier to update and share. Checkout a few of these links and find out what is going on (or has recently):

Forest of Dean and Wye Valleys Open Studios

Cinderford Artspace

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust

Taurus Crafts

Blackrock (last year) review

Difference Screen (last year, continuing)

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Forest & Valleys Open Studios – Commodity, a selected exhibition

ARE THE NATURAL RESOURCES OF THE AREA MERELY A COMMODITY?

PRIVATE VIEW & LAUNCH OF OPEN STUDIOS: 6-9PM ON FRIDAY 8TH JULY AT THE GARDEN CAFE, (Facebook), LOWER LYDBROOK, FOREST OF DEAN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE.

Keep up to speed on FandVos Facebook page

Congratulations to all the artists selected for this years special exhibition. Each artist will be awarded a sum of £100 to thank them for their participation.

This year is the first time FandVOS has hosted a special exhibition curated by a guest curatorial team, led by myself and supported by Keith Baugh, Adam Cairn and Carina Greenwood. Developing the Commodity exhibition with the artists has been an absolute pleasure. A great thing about forests and valley landscapes is they offer wonderful hidey-holes for creative people to live and work in. Artists and writers have celebrated this place for centuries through their creativity and have gained quite a reputation for doing so.

It is fitting to exhibit these ‘Commodity’ artworks in the Garden Café. What is now a tranquil homestead, tucked into a hill near the River Wye, was once a thriving industrial area. With wire factories across the road and a viaduct that actually ran over the house! If you want to know more chat to Paul Hayes, the owner of the Garden Café – he has many stories to tell and is a fantastic host.

The works have been selected to provide an entry point into an enquiry about the Forest and Wye Valleys specifically in terms of ‘Commodity’. They are not commissions – FandVos does not yet have the financial means to commission new work, but they hope in the future that will change. Some of the artists have, however, created new works for this show, motivated by the opportunity to stretch their practice, which is fantastic.

I mention the hidey-holes above, because as someone who moved to this area ten years ago, I am constantly amazed by the number of new artists I encounter who are working the area. And it’s great to see young artists moving here too, adding to the mix.

Living here is very special. Some local artists work in far-flung places, while others choose to work primarily in this area. It’s a privilege to see the range of work made here and exciting to install it in such a beautiful building and garden.

Thank you

Carolyn Black

Novvy Allan

Novvy is showing three prints, unframed, that respond to three natural materials found in the area – water, wood and wool. She is also showing some associated materials, including a piece of knitting made with wool dyed with local natural resources, which was used to create the Wool print. The print of the putchers is concerned with the traditional method of salmon fishing used in the River Severn but now in sad decline. The wood represents the wrangling and landownership battles that have gone on forever in the Forest of Dean, and continue to this day.

Lizzie Godden

Lizzie’s work is made with textiles dyed from local materials and stitched tenderly by hand. Each thread has its own colour nuances that when overlaid across the other pieces of fabric create a sense of rhythm through the work. Lizzie walks the forest and the riversides constantly, meditating on the land, praying for its safekeeping. Fracking threatens to fracture this landscape beyond redemption. This work is a meditation on that fear.

Tom Cousins

Tom is a political activist and a muralist and the work shown here is a very clever way of marketing both of those things. It raises our awareness, through wit and humour, about the concerns communities have about fracking. The twist is, of course, that Tom can earn his living from these political issues, at the same time as making sure that his own concerns by others, who amplify their worries by shouting them out loud on their house walls. He does this work exceedingly well and his film plays on the irony of that. Do take a leaflet if you want to be heard.

Rob Olins

Rob is a sculptor renowned for public art work, which he has been delivering widely for many years. The acoustic mirrors and their associated narratives have been a focus for him for some five years. Big, bold and colourful, they draw the viewer towards them so the more subtle nuances can be enjoyed. Only when close up can you hear the sounds emanating from them and listen to the soundscape. They create a place within a space, bright and calling with a reward at the end – like being drawn towards a rose and bending down to smell it.

Kathy Priddis

Kathy’s 3 Hunting Pots were especially inspired by ‘Commodity’ and represent different animals traditionally hunted in the Forest, always a source of food for foresters. Commoners’ rights for grazing were often high on the local agenda, and hunting with dogs represents both nature and the rural culture of Foresters’ resistance to the power of an overlord. The pots are richly glazed with local clay slips and iron ochres from Clearwell Caves; wax resist between the slip and the glaze reveals the original clay, which spontaneously interacts with the glaze to give both earthy and vivid colours. Her usual pots are more functional, made to be used.

Utilising Clearwell Caves ochres as pastels, Cinderford Stream uses a similar palette, harmonising with her pots, and revealing her love of complementary colours as found in Nature.

Claire Robinson

Claire is a landscape painter and has shown work in several exhibitions that explore themes of environment and conservation, exhibiting with organisations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Raleigh International, at venues as diverse as car show rooms, London Zoo, ecology centres and hospitals. For this show she has chosen to further explore her methods of making work that can be shown outside, in the place that inspires it. Using robust materials means that she has to make very clear marks, as opposed to the subtler ones she can achieve in watercolours. These works have a very physical existence and straddle the worlds of painting and sculpture.

Sally Stafford

Sally makes very beautiful paintings that often celebrate flowers and landscapes in a dreamlike way. At first sight, you may consider these works to be doing just that, but they were informed not so much by a celebration of place but as a sadness that an area of land near Cinderford, called the Northern Quarter is to be developed – putting all of the plants and wildlife at risk.

In the Northern Quarter of The Forest of Dean the land is to be scraped off and reused. This work is a fleeting record of a brief moment in its long history.  Made when it was a liminal place recovering from industrialisation; the haunt of dog walkers and anglers. A place in the process of rewilding. Once again the land is being pressed into service of man. This is my fragile record of an alternative.

Sally collected leaves, water and found iron from the site, eco printed the leaves onto paper and coated the results in beeswax.

Frances Warren

Frances comes from a history of working in the social housing sector and now creates art (which she finds hard to name as such) from found materials and upcycled waste. She paints, nails and ties these things together to create fascinating structures which welcome insects and other creatures to dwell in them. She paints them with colours which attract insects and the frames are not dissimilar to those Mondrian created in his later works. They provide miniature ecosystems that have been created from the rubbish that ruins our landscape we claim to love.

 

 

Call for host venues for The Story of Objects – the next phase – workshops

 

SOO yellow bar logo longJust a quick note to get you thinking over the weekend – I’m looking for hosts for the next phase of the Story of Objects – maybe it’s you?

The Story of Objects to date has very much been about ‘show and tell’ sessions, for research purposes.  The overarching vision – to create a social media network for things – is still underpinning all activity. However, the encounters have been rich and rewarding for many people.

One set of themes that came up again and again were inherited objects from family members that  relate to making or creating something. All sorts of tools and materials, artefacts and childhood memories.

I’ve been exploring how to work with the stories you’ve shared with me – there are the 30second shorts on Youtube; the Flash Fiction pieces on Medium and even a Story of Cake! The Facebook page shares news about the projects and also about other interesting object-stories from around the world – all food for thought.

The next phase will involve workshops – and I invite you to contact me if you’d like to discuss this for your organisation. I’m shaping the programme now and have some great ideas developing from the conversations so far. Each partner/collaborator is welcome to get in touch now to explore how the framework can work for you and your audiences. It is currently flexible and adaptable, which is another of features and benefits of the programme structure.

If appropriate, where a making activity is not right for the object theme, there will be an option to book a talk/presentation by a practitioner or specialist for the subject area.

I’d love to hear from arts organisations, museums, heritage organisations, material culture people, ethnographers, archaeologists and historians. Also, studios for woodworking, metal working, potteries, forges, printmaking studios, musical instrument workshops, anyone who makes – oo, and I may need a chef too!

Get in touch by email (carolyn@fkowprojects.org.uk), phone or message me via the Facebook page.

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