Wapke Feenstra undertook a Grizedale Arts residency funded by the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture.
Over the three month residency in summer 2009, Wapke was involved in a critical dialogue with both the organisation and its context. She is herself from a farming background in Friesland (the Netherlands) and so well-suited to be the first artist in residence at the new Lawson Park headquarters and farm project.
Underlying her multi strand approach here has been a slight incredulousness around the British rural culture and also the British rural art scene. That any one bothers to farm this land of the Lake District, with no soil and no market for its product other than tourist entertainment, underlined much of her work here. Her membership of the myvillages group (with artists Antje Schiffers and Kathrin Böhm) made a good starting point, in that she was able to address the immediate issue of the Lawson Park Honesty Stall.
This stall, which had originally been designed and built by a group of art students from Oxford, was created as part of a chain of stalls in a network of shops that aim to promote products and ideas from peripheral zones (i.e. rural backwaters) through the sale of local goods combined with a socio-political message. The ambition being to engage with the tourist/visitor at a deeper level and encourage a truer understanding of the context. The Lawson Park Stall, however, had grown weather weary and tired, so Wapke offered to undertake the redesign and reconstruction of the stall, to make it effective and functional.
Working with intern Sophie Perry, the stall was adapted and extended with shelving systems, boxes, signage, a picnic table for eating and viewing leaden with homespun phraseology to stimulate the user into considering the value of the produce on sale (in this case a pay what you want honesty jar policy) and subsequently the value of rural life in general. The stall was launched at the opening of Lawson Park and was soon turning over a good few hundred pounds a week, clearly making an impact on its passing punters, including a beaming Nick Serota who cleaned us out of chanterelles. She also built a market around the stall of local crafts and food for both openings and offered her own imported delicacies of cheese, brot and pate.
Wapke contributed in other ways during her stay too, including the commission of the Lawson Park dining room tables made by the artist for the main and central (physical, social, theoretical) space in the building. Wapke used her familiar technique of overpainted plywood grain combined with supporting structure produced by Process Pipework Services of Ulverston.
She made research visits to three local farms: Bracelet Hall, Yew Tree and Nibthwaite Grange, the latter being the most successful as farmer John Atkinson was able to dedicate a considerable amount of time to explaining the reality of farming this land and his campaigning as then treasurer of the Cumbrian Commoners Association. Wapke took a soil sample from John's best meadow by the river which reinforced Wapke's aforementioned incredulousness as only 15cm of soil was the best she could manage without hitting bare rock. Wapke also took part in the Rhizome and MyVillages Symposium at Lawson Park, from 23rd to 29th October 2009.
Wapke continues to develop two projects with us: an online version of the International Village Shop with myvillages.org and a European touring project on primary industries with German curator Robert Eikmeyer.