Wait for one art gathering and three come along at once. After a week that would fly by in a blur of visual presentations and slideshows, a week of energised speakers sharing experiences and passions, I try to make sense of it all.
Beginning with Wednesday Creative One at McCoys hosted by Paul Dennis One Gallery: Jacqui Gay Head of PR and Communications at Hull City Council talking about her career path, including alt. music, Persil and the Canary Wharf regeneration. Jump forward a number of years and Jacqui is right at the heart of the City of Culture 2017 bid. Cue the shots of everyone jumping up and down after the early morning announcement. Who is laughing now world? Allow a little smile as the stories in the press shifted from ridicule to victory for rank outsiders Hull. A good presentation, a good way to not only put a name to a face but reveal something of the person within.
Fed and watered by food and drink from sponsors Wykeland, the forty strong crowd were ready for Michael Barnes Wynters. The buzz word was sharing: sharing ideas; sharing information; sharing passions; sharing time and space. Barney as he likes to be known, has moved up to Hull to work on the Roots and Wings Research Action Project part of the national Creative People and Places programme. Towards the end of his presentation he faced an unfair onslaught of questions, about the finances of the project. The snow fell in sheets, I rekindled an old friendship and I made some headway on a potential project. (you just never know who is going to be at these things)
Barney would fare better at Nourishment the creative gathering that followed on Thursday at Union MashUp. Described as a night for creative thinkers and tinkers and whatnot and being one and the same I piled in, along with seventy or more others. The first twenty minutes an aural visual journey on screen; a journey that took in art interventions, voicing sculptures, otherworldly dimensions, mechanics and music in a mishmash mix and it went down well.
Guest speakers artists Michael Mayhew and Laura Elliot are visitors from Coventry’s City Arcadia project. Cue more slideshows and presentations. With fire and ice, blood and footsteps in foreign lands: a nudge or two about Michael’s artistic act of ‘entering’ various cities.
Us creative lot after ten o’ clock can get a bit silly and puerile. Michael a prolific artist, opening up spaces through spectacle and challenging audiences at every turn, to rethink their relationship with the world around them. One image endures, a body, a person encased in ice, but surely that’s not possible?
Michael is currently in collaboration with Laura, they describe themselves as being tied together by an invisible cord, of working so closely together, to realise their aim in creating a haven for artistic enquiry, in a changing enviroment. Artspace is the name of their HQ set up in a mall in Coventry, a city with little or no nocturnal activity. The Marie Celeste act by the city’s population each and every night, encourages artists to experiment.
Mapping Coventry appears to be at the heart of the work, maps over time, in physical spaces, in the imagination or memory. Modernist architecture, concrete squares, brick boxes, futurism and other isms that I knew not. Enduring image? The digging up of the floor of their HQ to create a trench, representing the historical river that once flowed through the city.
Last week going through archive shots from our own Red Gallery I came across one of the time where David Priestman, filled the middle room with water and created stepping stones as part of an installation. It is very good thing and a rare thing to have spaces with those kind of freedoms.
So a debate followed about the nature of city, community and culture and the overriding points were that perhaps, the sound of Hull is this …. which I now interpret as fear and reticence, but later, it was suggested that we mull in Hull, before making a move. A good point at which to bid farewell to Thursday.
What Next? Hull at Hull Truck, organised and hosted by Dave Windass, was attended by a hundred and fifty or more names and faces from the creative community. Educators, artists, music makers, bookers, promoters, documenters and of course the speakers. No stranger now Martin Green CEO Hull 2017, spoke about the importance of marketing, of having an outward looking city ‘… you don’t want to be the one at the party who only talks about themselves’. An easy relaxed presentation style that leaves you enthused and invigorated, about the journey ahead: ‘buzzing’ is how someone described it afterwards.
It was refreshing to see the speaker with the most support was the one who was the least comfortable in such rarified surroundings. Mark Page, Mak, the Sesh, Humber Street Sesh, was enthusiastically applauded at every turn. Not just for his efforts to try change the fortunes of the talented homegrown musicians and artists, but for the honest and straightforward way in which he has gone about it. Pictures reveal stories and we can all tell the story of where we were last year, when the heavens opened and the rain did fall on Humber Street in biblical proportions. I was huddling underneath the leaky plastic roof of the Adelphi Club stall. I think they shifted a fair few dry t-shirts after.
Larkin 25 was remembered in a fun and serious presentation by Elaine Burke and we are all left with a smile, knowing that the Toads have led to a similar public art project Hello Koala down under. Andrew Pearson Ensemble 52 made a timely rant about the importance of money, about artists being paid for their efforts and rightly so. Too long have we said ‘Oh I’d love to be involved, I really value this work, it’s too important not to do… but is there any chance of GETTING PAID?’ If we are good enough to use, we are good enough to be paid.
The enduring conversation was about engagement, about audience engagement, audiences that are currently not engaging with the arts. Folk who do not go to theatre, or go to see paintings on a wall, or watch bands on stages or look at screens with funny images.
For some people it’s just not going to happen, they may have football or fishing or playing darts down the pub, (dangerous territory we start categorising people) they may watch box sets, they may go bird watching or do jigsaws, or go to gym or dance in nightclubs: or do all or none of the above. Whatever. That is their release, that is how they express themselves and that is fine. You can show an audience the stage door but you can’t make them love theatre. However, much work will be done in building audiences, catering to different communities citywide, to ensure that there really is something for everyone in Hull 2017 from Radio One to the Turner Prize (maybe) from Eno to Rachmaninov (perhaps) and everything else in between.
The other talking point was language, in particular Art Speak, that domain where artists contrive the most hifalutin terms to describe their work, their process, their inspiration, their practice… what they have done, why they do it, how they do it and what they will do next. Obscure artist statements evidence for the ‘art is elitist’ camp.
What do you do? I’m a media practitioner, I’m a text-based content generator. I’m a facilitator a communicator and a cultural ambassador.
What do you do? I go to stuff and I write about it.
Friday evening, nearly done. Artlink Princes Avenue, Laid Bare Staff show. Preview, free wine and nibbles while looking at stuff, mostly on walls. Good turnout for the first show of 2015 and more rekindling of friendships, catching up with mates and having a giggle. Artist statements contain little personal details like ‘last supper’ ‘favourite album’ revealing a little bit more about the artists behind the work: nice touch.
After debating the validity of the cyanotype claim behind a set of prints (cyanotype new word for me too, camera-less technique that uses sunlight, no not a clue – I don’t set out to bamboozle) and also enthusing over the enduring allure of Felicity Kendall’s rear, I pick up with Michael Mayhew again. We discuss language at some length, we both agree that words are freeing, words are fun, words are beautiful and powerful, we both agree… ‘If we only have five hundred words then we will all be fucked.’
Thus ended a week of going to stuff, talking to people, meeting new people, talking to people, going to stuff.
Recommended by others:
Tennis Match by Rauschenberg
Also Cunningham, Cage, MacGregor
Being Boiled Depeche Mode