Monday, 29 March 2010

Twenty For Harper Road

‘Twenty For Harper Road’ was a disused travel agents, but for the month of April, it will be transformed to host the Tate’s first offsite project space. This idea, thought up by Raw Canvas*, will see the Tate educational programme temporarily moved to Elephant & Castle to hold free workshops and events with young artists, designers, architects and musicians – this is going to be a place to experiment with ideas about education and participation.

Harper Road will kick off with a flag-making event – the outcome will define the identity of the temporary project space, and a flag representing this will be hung outside. Fittingly, the last event for the project will be a banner-making workshop, the banners from which will then be taken on the May Day March. The events are aimed at a wide audience of the younger generations.

The project is thinking of the multiple ways in which it is possible to combine ‘artist’ and ‘educator’. The artists are becoming the educators through transforming aspects of their practice into a form of dialogue or practical workshop. Each artist whose proposal has been accepted, will have up to three days in the space to do what they want. This ranges from a pirate radio station, to food tours of Borough market and weekly crit. groups. There is an eclectic, energetic and hugely enthusiastic programme for this project space. ‘Twenty For Harper Road’ is very open to ideas and anticipates unexpected happenings as a result and last minute decisions – but this is all very welcome in what is almost an experiment for the Tate.

The programme will culminate in a series of seminars and informal conferences with other gallery education programs around the country and local initiatives. These discussions will examine ideas of independence, education and participation.

The project is really exciting, not only being the first time that Tate Modern has set up an offsite project space, but also because of the opportunities opened up as a result, to develop an independent program. ‘Twenty For Harper Road’ is a pilot project and creates a space for talks and workshops – with no one else having a base dedicated to these ideas at the moment, this project space is providing a focused environment to examine participatory activity.

- Holly Willats

‘Twenty For Harper Road’ facebook group.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Squid and Tabernacle

Squid and Tabernacle believe that artists should be given the chance to show work outside of the confines of the gallery. White walls are all very well, but they can be restrictive; gallery spaces are predictable – they hold no spontaneity, they could even be seen as down right lazy. Squid and Tabernacle seek out unusual exhibiting spaces that the artists have no choice but to respond to, and their latest find – a Dalston shipping container, is no exception.

I turned up on a sunny spring Sunday afternoon to a lot of noise and curfuffle as the team-at-hand were using a hoist to tilt the container. This was a good first impression – every action in this project is a direct response to the space – it is unpredictable and exciting. We all nervously tiptoed into the container, very wary of its reaction to this new imbalance.

The starting exhibition in this space, is the first solo show for London based artist, Rachel Price. Rachel showed me her work in progress and discussed her ideas for the exhibition. Having only just decided to hoist the container that morning seemed to highlight to me the energy and enthusiasm that is driving this project. Rachel’s work is sculptural, and she has used found materials in the derelict area to build the work directly within the space. Working in this environment has given her the opportunity to really think about her practice and create an exhibition that utilizes a specific space. Rather than create work she described as ‘precious’ for a gallery space, she has had to consider the setting and how her work can communicate with it.

Squid and Tabernacle have no presumption or ego about them – they are honest in their hopes for this project and realistic in creating opportunities for artists to experiment beyond convention.

Rachel Price: Planning Permission, 2 - 23 April 2010
Preview: 1 April, 6-9pm

Saturday, 20 March 2010

‘An Exploration of Perforated Space in Four Segments Words'

Go see this fantastic exhibition from Japanese artist, NaoKo TakaHashi at IMT Gallery before it finishes on the 4th April. Well worth it; and Donlon Books is next door – can easily spend the good part of an afternoon here.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

The Market Estate Project

Incorporating 75 artists, 66 site-specific projects, 20 vacant flats, and one soon to be demolished 1960’s housing estate, The Market Estate Project has caught many people’s attention over the last five months, and on Saturday this week it will all come together for its grande finale.

Gadi Sprukt was the man at the start. Living as a guardian at The Market Estate, a role set up to help with the prevention of squatters, Gadi approached Stephen Ross from Southern Housing with the idea of using the disused flats for an art project. Ross took a brave risk in agreeing; there is a very off-putting array of legal and safety requirements to let such a project take place. By carrying out the arts project in the estate, Ross recognized there was a strong part for the project to play in the community regeneration programme, and a transition period has been created for the local community before the estate is bulldozed on Monday 8th March.

Although Gadi was the instigator at this point – there are six brains behind the project. Gadi joined forces with Giulia Sala, Helmut Feder, Elli Resvanis and Christian Nyamapeta, all five having graduated together from Central St. Martins with an MA in Narrative Environments. They then approached Nathan Lyons, Oxford graduate, who has experience in using empty spaces for community projects; and that completed the team of six – which they set up as the company, TallTales. They also have the help of Vicki Lewis from the Big Art Trust who is Project Manager.

So the idea? A five month project with artists, designers and creatives to work with the residents and community around the estate as a way of regeneration. The team began with a call out for artists to submit proposals for The Market Estate Project, with two criteria. The first, that the proposed works or projects must be exciting and playful – they were looking for artists with big ideas; and the second, that it will interact with, and represent the local community. The artists’ submissions had to respond, involve and connect with the residents. This is a poor borough, and the estate is being ripped down – the residents relocated. This project had to connect with this and respond to this situation. As a result, the curation process was very strict – with over three hundred people applying, a selection of 75 works were chosen to be developed.

A good example of how the artists have connected with the residents, is the Clarisse d’Arcimoles’ work, ‘The good old days’. D’Arcimoles works with reconstructing memories – she borrows photographs of people taken in their childhoods and then reconstructs them, by taking a current portrait of the person in similar clothes, with similar colours and time of day. For this project, d’Arcimoles has taken a portrait of Jimmy Watts, the first resident to have moved into the Market estate in 1967.

The response from the residents has progressed over the three months as TallTales have put in a lot of effort to win over the community. Initially, it was the older generation that approached the project, however after a successful launch party, younger generations began to take part. There are monthly meetings, and a hard core group has formed of residents who are particularly involved, having taken an important role in the curating and selection process. TallTales were given an office on the corner of the estate. This office has now become in effect, a community centre, with children coming through after school and Grans popping in for cups of tea – TallTales have really integrated in to the neighbourhood.

One of the most satisfying moments so far for the team, was settling the license for them to set up the Market Radio, from which they broadcast live from their office 24 hours a day. Having the radio station had enabled the project to reach a global community. It reflects the day-to-day happenings of the project, with residents often talking on air about their lives and experiences.

This five months of work will all come together on Saturday, when the Estate will be opened up to the public before it is demolished on Monday. The response to the project has been overwhelming. The day has been organised with two hour slots for visitors, allowing 500 in for each. Free tickets were available for reservation on the site – with the 1,300 going on the day of their release. They are hoping to have an extra 700 available at the door on the day.

It is not only these figures that seem extraordinary. The project currently has eighty volunteers making tea, helping with installing, stapling - and will have over 100 on Saturday. It seems that this project has really caught people’s imaginations and tapped in to an energy and passion that wasn’t being used before.

Saturday is set to be a fantastic showdown. The works exhibited will be highly playful – the artists have responded with big ideas. Hinchee Hung and Nigel Goldie have created the work, ‘Behind closed doors’ having gone round the estate with a team and dismantling around 100 doors and then nailing them back to back, to create one monumental dense mass; expressing the unfathomable closeness of a community living on a housing estate. Using found materials on site, Richard White’s work ‘Crowd Control’ is a response to the Market Estate's history of marches, protests and vandalism, an installation of boundaries that will take up half of the car park. Both these works demonstrate the possibilities The Market Estate has opened up to artists - in a conventional gallery environment, it is unlikely that it would have been possible for these works to have been made – space and budget would have been hugely limiting.
But it seems that this project has almost turned in to an artists’ playground – giving them the space and materials at hand, to let imagination and energy loose.

Perhaps some people might wonder, what on earth is the point of all this, that this project is futile as it will all be demolished. But TallTales hope that there will be two long-term outcomes. Firstly, they hope to work with other local areas, and hopefully Southern Housing again, continuing to use empty spaces to regenerate communities. And secondly, they want to start a movement. They hope to have inspired others globally – that with the right people and a bit of luck, you can get big projects like this off the ground and bring both art and community together in such a way.

This project is a fantastic example of what you can do with passion and enthusiasm. With a short life span from 2-10pm on Saturday after having taken five months to develop, this project is far from futile. Its five months will have undoubtedly inspired others to play with their ideas in other spaces, whilst having given an area that was destined for destruction, a creative energy and focus.

The Market Estate Project

Holly Willats

The Woodmill

Just a few weeks back in February, The Woodmill threw open its doors to the public in a perfectly buzzing first night, with its exhibition, The Devil’s Necktie. We all know what it’s like, when you are the host numbers are everything - but The Woodmill had nothing to worry about; opening nights couldn’t get much better. With almost 1,000 people at the private view, this event can safely be accepted as one of the successes, a promising starting point for what is to come.

Goodness, so what is it all about? Under the roof of The Woodmill is a studio and gallery complex, made up of over 50 artist studios, 2 gallery spaces and a project space. It will run for two years, in which time it plans to give us a strong mix of exhibitions, talks, workshops and events that combine both the talent of early career artists, with the already established – enough to keep anybody busy.

The two that got this project off the ground are The Woodmill’s directors Naomi Pearce and Tom Trevatt, working with a strong team that includes, Emily Hussey, Dave Charlesworth and Thom O’Nions. I revisited The Woodmill after the PV to have a proper snoop round the place and had a chat with Tom about the project so far.

It cannot be denied that it is the welfare of the artists that is at the heart of this project. As Tom explained:

“We’re very excited to work so closely with artists at this stage in their careers. The project is supported by them financially through the rental of studios, but also the unquantifiable support they offer in terms of advice, skills, emotional and intellectual engagement is second to none.”

The Woodmill is dedicated to providing sustainable and affordable studio space. Offering rents at almost half the price of other London studios, it is unsurprising that they are already full up, having had twice as many applications to spaces, and now a nice waiting list for those patient hopefuls.

“Property prices in London often make it difficult for artists to find space, this project encourages the development of an artist’s career without the financial pressures of maintaining an expensive studio. The knock on effects of this are huge.”

Those knock on effects are out to be seen in the opening exhibition The Devil’s Necktie, a group show of the studio artists’ work and a good one to kick off with. Despite there being fifty-six artists with studios and as a result, sixty works in the exhibition, the density is a really positive factor – from sculpture to video, installation to wall painting – this diverse exhibition shows the talent that is working under the roof of The Woodmill and how together they have created an effective working community. Tom explained the importance of this starting exhibition:

“This was, in a sense, a watershed moment for us. The moment that made all the planning and hard-work worthwhile. As with everything so far, all the artists worked hard and we managed to install the entire exhibition of 56 or more pieces in under two days.”

There is an undeniable sense of common purpose already at The Woodmill, these are not the type of studios that you slink in and out of, “we often eat together in large groups, discuss ideas and offer solutions to problems. Without this supportive network we would be just another studio and gallery complex in London.”

Almost as if spoilt for choice – there is a project space and two gallery spaces - one being in an out building, dubbed The Hanger. This is the first part of The Devil’s Necktie you will find. Welcoming you is a wonderful work by Yuri Pattison, hanging ceiling to ground, these swathes of fantastically coloured fabric immediately pump energy in to the vast space and states that this is an exhibition that is not intimidated by scale – just like The Woodmill project as a whole.

Their next exhibition will open in April, a solo show from the Spanish artist, Elena Bajo. In the next two years of The Woodmill, both Naomi and Tom will curate the exhibitions and will invite guest curators for collaboration in the gallery, whilst Thom O’Nions will curate the project space. There is no set theme or structure to the exhibitions – Naomi and Tom want things to remain fresh, interested to see how different artists work together. There is also a residency programme, managed by Thom and Dave, who will invite national and international artists to The Woodmill.

It is not just exhibitions that this project offers the public. Talks and film screenings will be held in the project space. Print studios, sounds recording rooms and wood workshops are all being set up, managed by Emily. A reference library has also been created, titled Past Projects, which will be open to the public during exhibitions. Artists and curators will recommend books to be held here and so over time, it will begin to chart the project.

The project is self-sustainable, allowing it to develop in its own way, which avoids the usual financial and policy restraints. There is also a political motivation to the project. As Tom recognizes, “A gallery or art space is an actor in a wider network of social and political situations. With the numbers of artists working in The Woodmill we occupy an amazing position to realise certain potentials that a smaller gallery might not be able to.”

So all in all, The Woodmill is certainly going to be contributing a great deal, both to a large group of emergent artists and to those who visit the complex. You cannot help but be impressed by the scale of this project, and the enthusiasm with which it is being carried out. This is definitely one to watch. Bookmark it, post-it note it, pencil it in your diary - make sure you go visit it.

The Woodmill

Holly Willats

The Devil's Necktie: 12 February – 7 March 2010
Elena Bajo: 8 April – 16 May 2010

Thursday to Sunday, 12 - 6pm