Are festivals are the new venues and sites for artist production and presentation, and if so, what are the opportunities and limitations?
This is the question discussed at the rather brilliant Resonant Terrains Symposium, a two day event from the talented b-side festival team. Taking place at The Verne, a prison on Portland, Dorset, it was inspiring, unique and warming, with innovative programming.
More a gathering of non-conformist clever and interesting creatives – something of a b-side speciality and their modus operandi – it turned the usual symposium model on its head. Unlike most gatherings of artists and arts professionals I’ve been to, where there are endless presentations, with 10 minutes for a lone artist in residence to give some sort of creative response at the end, the Resonant Terrains programme had more artist input than formal speakers. And it was a very rich experience indeed. The Director of Visual Arts at Arts Council England, Peter Heslip, gave the keynote speech, with his usual sincerity and insight. Raconteur, thinker and artist Phil Smith gave a performance that was a verbal and intellectual tour de force, and there were various types of artist-led walks and tours of Portland, eliciting rave responses from participants.
For the artists b-side has commissioned for its biennial festival, the Symposium was the culmination of a week’s stay on the island, enabling them to research their projects for the September 2014 festival. The event ended with each artist giving exciting tasters of what they are planning. It includes characteristically iconoclastic projects from artists including Richard DeDomenici, Alex Hartley and Alistair Gentry, amongst others.
I was very pleased to be part of it, asked to talk about festivals from the perspective of my PhD research into the interface between biennials of art and public policy, one of a number of different viewpoints on the question. I’m beginning the week satisfyingly knackered and refreshed from nearly three days with what is becoming the b-side community and my much valued Dorset crew.
Also pleased to see this response to the event by Dominic Thomas on The Guardian Culture Professionals network. And this one on a-n Interface by Helen Stratford.
I’m in the South West again on November 11th to speak about my project Interpretation Matters to the Art Writing Writing Art group based at the University of Bristol. Part of their Autumn programme, everyone is welcome (but don’t ask exactly what I’m focusing on, because I haven’t planned it yet).
Between now and then, the intention is to put in an application to the Arts Council to realise the second stage of Interpretation Matters, which includes six workshops between partners Arnolfini and the Bluecoat, animating and developing the project website, an art-text exhibition at the Bluecoat and the realisation of The Interpretation Matters Handbook. If successful, this will form a major part of my work for 2014. In the meantime, a HUGE thank you to everyone who has contributed to the project and helped make it so successful in its research and development stage.
If all goes to schedule, before the end of the year I’ll also be completing a major piece of work with the Blue Monkey Artists Network, exploring their options for future programming and development. Currently based at the Towner Gallery, Eastbourne but likely to expand across Sussex, the Blue Monkey Network focuses on bespoke artists professional development provision and signposting on a local basis. If you’re a Sussex-based visual artist, you can become a member and find out more here.
And finally, I’m hoping that the year ends with a concentrated six weeks set aside to work on my research thesis. Phew!
All of which pretty much explains why I’ve been so patchy in my blogging this year. I’d been so good at keeping to my schedule of one a month over the last three years, but – thankfully! – my workload has been such that I’ve just not been able to fit it in on such a regular basis. Anyway, I’ve now remedied this for Autumn, along with a much needed revamped website – any comments on the new look are very welcome.
Another reason for not blogging is that I’ve had the opportunity to express myself via various pieces of journalism – links to the latest ones below. So, thanks for reading, and until my next post.
Sluice Art Fair, for a-n Arts News, October 2013
Frieze Projects 2013, interview with curator Nicola Lees, a-n Arts News, October 2013
Beautiful ArtSOUTH, feature, a-n Arts News, September 2013
When the subsidised visual arts went to Google for the day, The Guardian, July 2013
Interview with Peter Heslip, a-n Arts News, June 2013
No reputation without representation? A-n Arts News, June 2013
Why are Universities scrapping their Community Arts Projects? The Guardian, May 2013
In art as in life, interpretation matters, The Guardian, May 2013
Cr8net conference review, for a-n Artsnews, April 2013
Genuine collaboration is harder than the rhetoric suggests, for Frame and Reference, March 2013
Things Taken Apart, review of Rosa Barba exhibition, Turner Contemporary, for Frame and Reference, February 2013
Defending Freedom of Expression in the Arts, Conference report, a-n Arts News, January 2013
How to be an Arts Freelancer, The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, January 2013
Arts Freelancing: Learning to support yourself, The Guardian Culture Professionals Network, January 2013