When Jordan Baseman applied for GA residency in 2000, he had already established himself as one of the Saatchi Brit Art pack of the mid 90's with his distinctive brand of hairy sculpture. However his residency coincided with a stark change of tack from sculpture to video. His practice changed even more as he developed through the exchange at Grizedale - from fairly standard video fayre (installations, or strapping the camera to a pick-up going round in circles) to a far more engaging style of cut and paste story telling, with content and purpose.
Jordan is a notable example of the benefits of the Grizedale programme; particularly its long term relationship with, and exposure to things outside the regular world of the contemporary artist. In Jordan's case this was an engagement with a new set of ideas (those of Grizedale Arts and Sarah Tripp) and access to a world of 'outsiders'. Equally Jordan and his interpretation of the program was very influential on the way that Grizedale developed, and he became a guiding figure through the early part of the noughties.
He was amongst the first artists working at Grizedale to focus his attentions on life outside the Lake District National Park, to the margins of Cumbrian society. The large town of Barrow-in-Furness sits on the southwest tip of what has recently been optimistically rebranded as the Lake District Peninsulas, a series of isolated spits of land that jut out into the Irish Sea. One of the poorest towns in England, Barrow benefits little from Cumbria's annual influx of tourist cash, offering few attractions to the passing visitor. Jordan was drawn to the town's end-of-the-road desolation, and, as an ex-pat American himself, to its fascination with US culture. Line dancing is a popular pastime in Barrow, as is stock car racing.
Jordan starting filming the enthusiastically-attended Demolition Derby races held near the town at Roosecote Raceway and got to know many of the regular participants. His video 'The Sun Always Shines on the Righteous' (2004, 16') focuses on Granddad, a mechanic in his 40's who fixes up most of the cars before and after they are wrecked in the races, and Adam, an overweight and incredibly tall transvestite comedian who parades as the "Raceway Queen" in the pre-race entertainment. The film takes the dialogue Jordan had with these talking heads, weaving it into a wider story that is both funny and pertinent, getting under the skin of a place and its people.
Two other works made by Jordan at Grizedale also speak of their characters' aspirations and their dreams of escape. 'Born to Run' (2008, 7') features Alan and Chris, the proprietors of a mobile burger van parked by the side of the road that Jordan began frequenting on his journeys to the races. 'The One About the Camel' (9' 34") is a montage constructed from hours of footage that Jordan filmed of two men who worked in the market in Ulverston, a town close to Barrow. The title is taken from a joke by one of the men about a young camel bewildered at his physical unsuitability for a life spent caged in a zoo. By interweaving this story with footage of their rambling conversations on which they vented their frustrations and anger towards their jobs, the town, and their ex-wives, Jordan created a deeply subjective picture of two confused and troubled characters.
Despite always showing the works with his subjects' approval, Jordan drew criticism from some members of the local community for being exploitative, but by doing so made an important contribution to an ongoing debate about art's complicated relationship with it subject and audience, which in Grizedale (and indeed the wider art world) are often one and the same.
Jordan went on to also publish writing with us, the slim volume 'Bruno' available in our online Shop.
Bruno (Book) £ 4