One of the hens is taking a battering, she used to be the Queen,
then she went broody and now she's looking to be on the way out.
I've moved her to the fruit cage but will I ever to able to
reintroduce her. Check out the funky R&B soundfile for good
advice. I find 60's soul has the answer for most major
St. Georges Day is formally recognised by wearing a red rose in
"Making John Ruskin Dull" Quote:
(John Ruskin used St George to brand his vision for a micro
utopia/escape from modernity.)
"We will try to take some small piece of English ground,
beautiful, peaceful and fruitful. We will have no steam-engines
upon it, and no railroads; we will have no untended or unthought-of
creatures on it; none wretched, but the sick; none idle, but the
(None dead but the idle, none sick but the wretched - almost
everything Ruskin wanted came to pass but backwards. John Ruskin
was surely the world's most disappointed man.)
This entire event is an artwork - for want of a better
description; you are part of it, we are all implicated in
We (Grizedale Arts) want to create several short films that make
us think about the systems under which we have tried to live and
think about some systems we have yet to try. We want to construct
systems for living that suit us as community animals, systems that
help us for a time, in this next moment; accepting there are no
ultimate solutions. What is certain is that the idea of freedom of
the individual is unnatural, unhealthy and fantastically
destructive to the species.
There is at hand a reappraisal of John Ruskin, how and why he's
been forgotten since he stopped talking (and stopped breathing),
whilst the world got on with absorbing so much of what he opposed.
He now seems to be emerging again as a complex thinker with a
strangely contemporary mindset, contradictory, nascent,
Let us set up clubs, societies, make up stuff and force some
ideas on others - they'll love it once they get going.
What was the Coefficients Dining Club?
In 1902, in the shadow of John Ruskin's death, the leaders of
the Fabian Society, founded the Coefficients Club to bring together
the most powerful figures in the British Establishment with social
critics and idealists to discuss and make plans for social reform
and a new, unified liberal new world order. And eat.
Just over 100 years later we plan to re-form the Dining Club
format, using this forum for discussion, to bring together six new
voices to give speeches on social and cultural reform over a
socially pointed menu.
The Coefficients' principle aim was to ensure the continued
growth of imperially driven, liberal capitalism in the 20th
century. As this idea has seemingly run its course, this event asks
what are options and ideas for this century?
Members you will have heard of include H G Wells (the experience
inspired The Shape of Things to Come), Bertrand Russell
(who left in a bate), Alfred Milner (one of Ruskin's Road Builders)
and many militarists, politicians and economists who's names will
have largely slipped from public consciousness. The whole endeavour
lasted seven years.
Grizedale Arts will continue to use this format until it
WHAT IS GRIZEDALE ARTS?
A residency organisation based on a farm in the centre of the
Lake District. It tries to develop the way art thinking and art
practice impact on society, through projects exhibitions and events
developed through an extended community of artists and creative
people associated with it.
We are filming the dinner and making short films of each of the
six speeches that can be downloaded from Grizedale's website, these speeches will be used to explain and support
aspects of the Grizedale programme and we will be encouraging
schools and colleges to use them as propaganda in their own
The point of this dinner is to provoke action. We all talk too
much about what we feel and think - who cares - just bloody get on
The evening will be punctuated by interruptions, starts and
stops, for the filming and audio recording, the performance will be
dominated and controlled by the gathering of material for
dissemination: this is part of the point.
There will be 24 invited diners at an elaborately dressed dinner
table partaking of five courses of soup. The audience will sit
around, cabaret/"Later with Jools Holland' style, with soup and
bread and drink.
SCHEDULE (WHICH MIGHT ALSO BE ANNOYING)
Each of the speakers will give a 10 minute presentation at the
head of the table. Subjects will centre on visions for ways of
living. Between each speaker there will be a musical interlude
provided by a Rock Orchestra (a 19th century slate
harmonium) and a barbershop quartet - both tributes to John
Ruskin's musical taste.
The Rock Orchestra will play the instrumental bridge from James
Brown's early 60's stage show between the speeches and finish with
a composition by the musicians.
The Barber Shop group will sing from the Polecat, a series of
songs known to all Barber Shoppers of all races, creeds and colours
- hence a common language that can be dropped into at the drop of a
Writer, individualist and pike fishing hedonist Simon Crump will
write a critical text about the evening, available on the blog
shortly after the event. He likes to be provocative and doesn't
take kindly to criticism. Try not to sit next to him.
The Musical Stones of Skiddaw is a very large
tuned percussion instrument made of a type of rare hornfels rock
found near Skiddaw in Cumbria, England. Constructed between 1827
and 1840, the instrument was played all over Britain including
Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria in 1848 and generated a
fortune for the family that built and played it. The instrument has
been housed at the Keswick Museum and Art Gallery in Cumbria from
1917 to the present day. Ruskin had his own stone xylophone made,
now housed in the Ruskin Museum, Coniston.
Jamie Barnes works as a freelance Curator,
artist and musician. Jamie was the Curator of Keswick Museum and
Art Gallery between 2004 and 2009. In this time he helped Grizedale
Arts in the revival of playing the Musical Stones and has continued
to perform concerts throughout the country.
Gavin Bradshaw is a composer and musician. The
majority of his output is made through his alias QXTC, and is
predominantly electronic sequenced and synthesized music.
Chris Stones (no really)
Musician and coordinator of SoundWaves music programme. Chris
was inspired to work with the stones by his interest in the
Indonesian Gamelan tradition.
The musicians will be dressed - by their own volition - as your
old school Geography teacher.
Barber Shop is a revival movement established
in the 1930's to save the rapidly disappearing Minstrel Music - a
black phenomena centred on the church - as it transformed into the
much harsher and emotional black gospel style. Barber shop is a
white American phenomena that revels in the accappella chord and is
itself the base for white gospel quartet singing.
Ruskin is reported to have particularly enjoyed the touring
Minstrel shows (the Georgia Minstrels amongst others toured
England) performing the standards at home. Yes he was in effect a
gangster rapper, eschewing the high-minded for the popular.
Bandwagon Barbershop Quartet - Bob, Andrew, Jim
and Glenn, formed in April 2009 and as well as competing in the
national quartet championships, provide entertainment in the form
of close harmony singing in the barbershop style, through shows, at
weddings and other private gatherings and at public events. All
four singers also pursue their love of the genre through membership
of and active involvement in the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club
and its six times national championship winning chorus 'Hallmark of
Each of the speakers has a set of bowls and flatware made by
contemporary crafts people working in Sheffield - all based at
Contact - Persistence Works, 21 Brown Street, Sheffield S1
Ruskin saw Sheffield as being like Rome (with its seven hills),
he was also keen on the idea that it was a hot bed of old-school
craft skills - i.e. medieval - hence the collection for the Working
Man, now housed in the Millennium Galleries as "The Ruskin
Stefan Tooke, (silversmith) - soup spoons and
Stefan has a passion for food and focuses his work around the
theme of dining; he is particularly interested in spoons. The work
references labour and craftsmanship by retaining the making marks.
Each of the spoons has a specific eating function as well as
fitting the contours of the hand.
Charlotte Tollyfield, (silversmith) - hand spun
Charlotte's work focuses on the process of forming; destroying
and re-creating three-dimensionally shaped vessels.
Hanne Westergaard, (ceramicist) - Porcelain
Hanne will be creating a set of ceramic bowls that will
incorporate the influence of Rockingham Porcelain- a 19th century
high-end manufacturer of porcelain based in
Rotherham between 1826 and 1842. Hanne will incorporate the
decorative style of Rockingham into the Danish Modernist aesthetic
that informs her work.
Emilie Taylor, (ceramicist) - slip and scraffitto
Referencing the Arts and Crafts period consistently featured in
her work, overlaid scraffitto drawings depict scenes from the 'Soup
Summit' of 2008. The end of a three year period of wrangling
between Westminster Council, the Church and London Voluntary Sector
Organistaions as Westminster Council tried to amend byelaws that
would mean soup runs would be illegal. The Soup Summit met at Tate
Britain in 2008.
The work references The Arts and Crafts in the making processes
and the pattern used to decorate the bowls, overlaid with Penny's
The rest of the diners will be using ceramics designed by the
Marquis of Queensbury and Jessie Tate for Midwinter with further
crockery by Kathie Winkle for Broadhurst.
Queensbury was a descendant of 'Bosie', Oscar Wilde's lover.
Oscar Wilde claimed to be a member of Ruskin's Road builders, 'The
Diggers', several of whom were members of the Coefficients Dining
The audience will use and enjoy the complexity of Ryan
Gander's 'Love Cups'; a rustic Japanese interpretation of
Josef and Anni Albers' Bauhaus glass, silver and ebony 'Lover's
Teaglass', itself based on the designs of Christopher Dresser for
James Dixon and Sons, which in turn were copies of Japanese sake
vessels collected on Dresser's 1876 tour of Japan. See what he's
done there? But why?
Bread knives, butter knives and table tea lights made by the
students of the Freeman College, Ruskin Mill Charitable Trust
Benney trained under Dunstan Pruden - of the Eric Gill Ditchling
utopian Arts and Crafts community (Gill being a Ruskin disciple).
He worked as a designer for Viners throughout the 60's, creating
commercially successful designs of which the 'Studio' range of
cutlery is the most famous, utilising his trademark 'Benney Bark
Finish', now an industry standard.
Benney's legacy lives on under the unfortunately-named brand
'Benney' (Crossroads, ABBA, Hill, Jets,)
Roadside flowers - 'there is as much beauty in the planarium
worm as in the neck of a swan'
"It's not the easiest film to digest-but it's intensely
important, and impossible to look away from or forget." -Andy
Aaron, Very Short List
A true vision of utopia, a brave new world reality where it is
the animals and plants that have been automated. The occasional
visceral moments act as reminders of humanity - having a religious
feel akin to the martyrdom images of the Catholic Church. People
will look back on this film and wonder at the intimate nature of
the relationship between people and animals it portrays.
This is the reality of what we all depend on to survive whether
we eat it or not, the genius of man's supremacy over nature, in
many ways a thing of great sophistication and beauty. What many
have in the past strived for, buying us the time to develop so much
and do so little with it.
Soup is the basic staple of any rural community and an 'al
deskco' staple, John Ruskin in his blog Flors Clavigera
(which means, roughly, a jolly good clubbing) repeatedly promised
the ultimate soup recipe, one that would afford all a good healthy
diet. He never delivered it.
A meal of five courses in five soups (entirely vegetarian) will
be served to the 24 invited diners. The audience will be served
Soup of Theseus from a soup kitchen, with bread and drink.
Here we will offer five possibilities on what he might have had
Gaspacho - cold tomatoes, garlic and wet bread - maybe not
exactly what Ruskin was thinking.
Toge Soup - a mixed vegetable soup from the village of Toge in
Northern Japan. Eaten three times a day by the rice farmers of the
village and unique to their village - seaweed is the stock
The Soup of Theseus - Ministrone/Fassoulada - the most famous of
farm soups, probably close to what Ruskin had in mind, Ruskin's
reference was to the soup that Theseus prepared for Hercules before
Stilton and cauliflower - some hideous 80's invention still
popular in Edinburgh and Bristol.
Ile Flottante - sweet soup with the floating island of Jonathan
Swift's Lauputa in the middle, a satirical observation on an
effective form of state control - sit that state on my face, calm
me down a bit.
Bread hand made by the students of the Freeman College, Ruskin
Mill Charitable Trust
There are a lot of men involved in this event - there does seem
to be a gender disparity in the urge to create systems for living,
the gender with the least experience of the actual systems taking
the lead. Could be a clue in there somewhere?
Graphics by Karen Guthrie
Filmed by Maria Zeb Benjamin
Technical management and web by Dorian Moore
Edited by Alistair Hudson - the arbiter of the reasonable
Concept by Grizedale Arts Commune
Detail by Adam Sutherland
Helpers: Lucy Livingstone and Ed Bailey
Cooks, servers and cleaners - all the above
Thanks to Richard Greer, The Millennium Galleries Sheffield,
John Moores University and Media Arts Northwest for supporting the
This is a Media Arts Northwest Action Research Project
In 1874 Ruskin proposed to a select group of Oxford
undergraduates that they endeavour to build a flower bordered road
between South and North Hinksey - to assist the two communities.
The group we lampooned in the press and on campus, being nicknamed
the 'Diggers'. Notable members of this group included, Arnold
Toynbee (social reformer), Hardewick Rawnsley (co-founder of the
National Trust - lifelong Ruskin interpreter), Alfred Milner
(economist and member of the Coefficents) William Powell
(Whitefriars glassworks and model village) and Oscar Wilde (a
lifelong Ruskin fan - but possibly just for the day). The road was
not completed as the work was interrupted by the holidays, the
villages of North and South Hinksey remain unconnected but an
2. Oscar Wilde's possibly rather embroidered version
We were coming down the street-a troop of young men, some of
them like myself only nineteen, going to river or tennis-court or
cricket-field-when Ruskin going up to lecture in cap and gown met
us. He seemed troubled and prayed us to go back with him to his
lecture, which a few of us did, and there he spoke to us not on art
this time but on life, saying that it seemed to him to be wrong
that all the best physique and strength of the young men in England
should be spent aimlessly on cricket ground or river, without any
result at all except that if one rowed well one got a pewter-pot,
and if one made a good score, a cane-handled bat. He thought, he
said, that we should be working at something that would do good to
other people, at something by which we might show that in all
labour there was something noble. Well, we were a good deal moved,
and said we would do anything he wished. So he went out round
Oxford and found two villages, Upper and Lower Hinksey, and between
them there lay a great swamp, so that the villagers could not pass
from one to the other without many miles of a round. And when we
came back in winter he asked us to help him to make a road across
this morass for these village people to use. So out we went, day
after day, and learned how to lay levels and to break stones, and
to wheel barrows along a plank-a very difficult thing to do. And
Ruskin worked with us in the mist and rain and mud of an Oxford
winter, and our friends and our enemies came out and mocked us from
the bank. We did not mind it much then, and we did not mind it
afterwards at all, but worked away for two months at our road. And
what became of the road? Well, like a bad lecture it ended
abruptly-in the middle of the swamp. Ruskin going away to Venice,
when we came back for the next term there was no leader, and the
'diggers', as they called us, fell asunder.
3. Ruskin takes the piss out of those that worship the 'Goddess
Your ideal of human life then is, I think, that it should be
passed in a pleasant undulating world, with iron and coal
everywhere under it. On each pleasant bank of this world is to be a
beautiful mansion, with two wings; and stables, and coach-houses; a
moderately-sized park; a large garden and hot-houses; and pleasant
carriage drives through the shrubberies. In this mansion are to
live the favoured votaries of the Goddess; the English gentleman,
with his gracious wife, and his beautiful family; he always able to
have the boudoir and the jewels for the wife, and the beautiful
ball dresses for the daughters, and hunters for the sons, and a
shooting in the Highlands for himself. At the bottom of the bank,
is to be the mill; not less than a quarter of a mile long, with one
steam engine at each end, and two in the middle, and a chimney
three hundred feet high. In this mill are to be in constant
employment from eight hundred to a thousand workers, who never
drink, never strike, always go to church on Sunday, and always
express themselves in respectful language.
Maria opened a face book page for us, after years of resisting,
finding it a bit unnerving for some reason,the visibility of all
the connections is a bit scary, too much information, one's whole
past at the finger tips. I know everyone else is totally used to it
I am talking at this event next week, all about crafts and the
re visiting of the political ambitions of crafts, at least I think
thats the gist of it, doing the coefficients dinner in the evening
just to make it a bit more full on.
As I seem to have spent most of 2010 buried in a laptop writing
funding applications, proposals, pontificating and prose (oh and
galavanting off to summery Brazil), all that Ruskin talk made me
make some time for garden time today. Not quite green gym, but at
least sewn three trays of Pak Choi, Guy Lan and Choi Sum, all
courtesy of the Manchester Chinese Allotment Ladies via the Mother
in Law. If those babies take we're in for some sweet mother veg
this year. Oh Christ, look I'm at the laptop again.
Edward Bailey, Lucy Livingstone and Lucy MacDonald have started
work on the internship programme. Lucy L and Ed have been focused
on working outside getting the garden underway, with Lucy working
on the honesty stall grappling with the vaguries of voluntary
payments. She has made lots of cakes, on one day people left money
for them on another not!
Lucy MacDonald will be working on the collection so expect to
see lots more entries on the Lawson Park collection site
We will shortly be announcing the residencies and commissions,
its been taking a while to get everything in place.
6 Chickens arrived from Barrow - coughing slightly from their
car journey in with Julie - a kind donation from a friend of
Julie's, (the chickens not the cough)
Apart from escaping almost immediately from the pen, (where they
are kept for their own protection - principally from walker's
dogs), they have settled in and started laying immediately. Ed
built up the fence to Colditz standards, (he has been reading the
'One The Got Away' - an account of Grizedale's history as a
prisoner of war camp) and I have cut their wing feathers off with a
pair of rusty sissors.
The chicken types are as far as I can make out
1 Ameraucana (lays blue eggs, Chilean cross-breed)
3 Maran (the 70s dream Chicken, dark brown eggs to go with the
dark brown bread and everything else)
2 Australorp (Orpington Austalian cross, light brown eggs and
lots of them)
Karen has suggest calling them after female gospel singers, so -
Albertina, Shirley, Clara, Cassietta, Inez, Dorothy, Loleatta,
Bessie, Doris, Delores - they do all seem to be rather chickeny
names - any preferences? Could simplify matters by grouping them,
also under Gospel names, so the 3 Jones Sisters, The Consolers,
Gloria Spencer (who worked with the by line the worlds largest
to this for a slightly odd rap about being big and the problems
of getting buried.
After the first meeting of 'The Autonomy Project' at the Van
Abbe Museu in Eindhoven (www.vanabbemuseum.nl/en), I
caught up with Van Abbe Director, Manchester City supporter (and
all round good egg) Charels Eshe and asked him for some thoughts on
Big JR. Being from Manchester (or a 'Manc' as we call those of the
Manchester persuasion here in the UK - Alistair Hudson is one too)
Charles' first memories of Ruskin were associated with his
influence on 'News from Nowhere' and other 19th Century
radical free press. It is also interesting that Charles also saw
some parallels between Ruskin's struggle with the aesthetics/ethics
question and the difficulties of making a meaningful socially
engaged practice in today's neo-liberal economy. Charels also has
some very interesting things to say on the show he would work on
with Ruskin - should the big man himself come back to work with us
Today's blog entry is a video diary as I sit in an Eindhoven
Hotel waiting for a meeting at the Van Abbe Museum (www.vanabbemuseum.nl/en) about
the coming launch of 'The Autonomy Project' which I've been working
on for nearly two years with Charles Esche, Annie Fletcher, Steven
Ten Thije and Clare Butcher.
I've been thinking a lot about what Alistair has been saying in
this Sao Paulo blog entries about the difficulty of meaningfully
engaging as an artists without collapsing innovative work back into
the pre-requisite formulae of international Biennial Land (or
Airport Art as I call it). It's a tough one and no doubt!
But it also strikes me that any questions over the possibility
of autonomy today are no longer circumscribed by bankrupt Modernist
debates about 'self-referentiality', or 'art for art's sake. Nor
can they be sustained in the aftermath of an equally bankrupt
postmodernism without some radical re-negotiation. What does remain
is the question of how to be an artist, thinker, writer, curator,
teacher or whatever meaningfully? How to develop a practice within
the existing globalized neo-liberal economy that can still function
in an oppositional sense? How to negotiate new perspectives on
better ways of living? All of these seem questions that were (and
still are) rooted in the problematic of John Ruskin's complex
relationship between art, aesthetics and ethics?
I recently caught up with Alistair Hudson in Manchester after
we'd given a presentation on 'Creative Partnerships' at Manchester
Museum. In a state of some despair, brought on mainly by
experiencing an update on the turf wars in UK Arts and Education
Funding (which seem to be increasingly blighting the possibility of
cultural experiment) Alistair took us to his family's favourite
Chinese Restaurant. After eating the hottest food I have ever had
in my life - a really funky Szechwan Black Pudding and various
forms of Offal Soup - debate turned, as always to Big JR. Alistair
went on to elucidate on the complex relationship between Grizedale
and Ruskin, between Grizedale and the world and the possibility of
Ruskin Returning as a Cultural Hoody stalking the self-satisfied
debates over art, ethics and social engagement (Oh, and the X
Grizedale regular Wapke Feenstra (www.wapke.nl) reads out her favorite
Ruskin quotation from 'The Lamp of Beauty: Writings on Art'.
According to Wapke, Ruskin reads the paintings he is talking about
from a peculiarly British viewpoint and, in doing so, completely
misses their point (form a Dutch perspective of course). Was this
just another case of a Victorian Englander attempting to apply his
world view to everything? - no change there then I hear you
However, whilst I was listening to Wapke read her quote (and it
is her favorite Big John quote) there does seem to be a sweeping
confidence in Ruskin's assertions - kinda hard not side with him on
some levels. He talks of the Landscape containing a human element
that can't be denied - and that would weaken art by its absence. I
can't help beginning to thinking of him as some kind of Victorian
moralist crossed with Simon Cowell, an ethical critic running his
informed but detached eye over the runners and riders in the new
business of art. In view of Alistair's recent adventures in Sao
Paulo, there seems a crucial importance here. How could one even
begin to conceive of a contemporary global landscape without the
immediate necessity to confront the ethical as well as the
aesthetic? Despite all this, It's hard not to agree with Wapke's
In the evening we go to see the boxer Jesus Carlos. Jesus Carlos
runs a gym, boxing school and library under a flyover. He too has a
mission. In Sao Paulo the spaces under the numerous concrete
flyovers are a honey pot of vice, drugs and violence. Jesus Carlos
has taken on the task himself of changing the society that
surrounds him by establishing open air gymnasia where once there
was pile of trash - in every sense.
He wants to get the wasted souls off the streets and through
physical exercise and education, turn the drug addicts and gang
members into citizens of healthy mind and body. Jesus prides
himself on the fact that he has done this himself, without aid from
the government, just with good will and determination. He calls his
mission Human Recycling.
He has now established two gyms and we go to see the latest
first. Sandwiched between two roads, it is transparent and open to
the elements on all sides, save for a fence and the roof above
provided by the freeway. There is a boxing ring, homemade exercise
equipment and punch bags made from gas canisters and fridges and of
course the library. This started when the kids started to bring
their homework along and grew into a library to expand the minds of
all its members.
Opposite the gym is a small park where the drug dealers and
prostitutes make their trade. He wants to turn this area into a
communal allotment, but this may take some time. Recently one of
the dealers came over to kill Carlos for taking away his clients,
but he didn't succeed of course; Carlos, with the looks of a
Tarrantino star, is hard as nails and doesn't give up.
Whilst we talk to him there is a commotion going on over at the
park; flashing lights, police, a child in handcuffs. This is the
first meeting I've had in the middle of a drugs bust.
Afterwards we go to the first Gym, which is much bigger, under a
bigger fly-over. It is now dark and cinematic in the sodium glow of
the lighting. At the entrance, a a gap in the chain link fence,
there is a reception desk made from junk furniture. The whole thing
is like ghetto Edward Acland, nothing wasted and piles of spare,
saved materials stacked up in neat piles. Here there are two boxing
rings, extensive gym (with gas bottles and rocks for weights) a
skate park, another library with lounge area and even a few tents
for the eager. Now, evening the place is busy, maybe 50 or more
people working out, reading, watching TV or doing spectacular
stunts on BMX on the skate ramps. It looks like it's doing it's
Calos wants to go on. He wants a gym and library under every
flyover in Brazil. He wants it to become a free university for the
underclass. That's a long way off, but I wouldn't be surprised if
The parallels with the Mechanics Institute (both here and at
UNAS) are direct and startling, inspirational. But the real
question is how we work with all this stuff. What do we make for
the Bienal that doesn't just fall into the trap of Bienality and
just pointing at all this stuff, like the first colonists drawing
and measuring every plant and animal and native they clapped their
Jesus Carlos is already well known - even the AA are coming to
see him for a summer school fro crying out loud.
If you are reasonably comfortable in Brazil you go to private
school, if not you go to the state schools, which by all accounts
are a lost cause - or you will be if you go to one.
Around town you can spot the private school kids - all white in
freshly pressed coloured t-shirt and shorts, in an orderly line in
a park, museum or cultural centre. The rest are hanging out,
playing football in the street or at least not so visible.
The school in Heliopolis is the culmination of the self helping,
self organising spirit that pervades the shanty town. The head is
relaxed and casual but a man on a mission. In 1999 a 16 year old
girl pupil was murdered on her way home, shot five times. He tells
how, on his way out of the morgue, he decided that things had to
change, that the school should take responsibility and take a
leadership role in the community. In effect that that the moral
reconstruction of the favella should start with the children and
they in turn would lead Heliopolis in a new direction.
The first statement back then was to hold a Peace March through
the streets, to lay down their intent. This now happens every year,
but it is in the day to teaching that the work is really done.
We are taken on a tour of the school which now has an attached
cultural and science centre - a communal place for the development
of the mechanical arts - science, art, theatre and so on. In the
main classroom there are over 100 children, a giant of a class. But
they are seated in clusters of six each around a table and serviced
by about 4 or so teachers. The tables break off into smaller rooms
to work on a project and then come back to the main class to feed
back and teach the others what they have learned. In this Q & A
the children are sharp and witty, but also quiet and all well
behaved. It is impressive to see a school working well, not just as
a place of education, but also as a social model.
We have lunch at the Heliopolis branch of MacDonalds. A scratch
built version of the burger chain that was recently threatened with
legal action by McD's - obviously a serious threat to the food
But I can see why, as it's actually really good. I have a prime
steak sandwhich with salad and a freshly pressed tropical fruit
drink, more than my five a day.
Another facet of the UNAS project is a kind of school house for
children out of school that prioritises kids from difficult
backgrounds, abusive or violent homes or learning difficulties.
This schoolhouse/poorhouse works to equip the children of
Heliopolis with the skills to operate in society and instill an
ethical framework in the community.
One example we are shown is a project for the children to create
and design machines that make for better living in the favella,
such as litter collecting machines. This project is heavily
sponsored by Lego. If you were of a cynical bent you would think
this is part of an extensive global marketing strategy, but I'd
like to believe that there is an interesting reworking of Victorian
industrial altruism at play here.
In a Q and A session with the children it is clear what the real
value of Britsh Culture is, when the first question is "Do you know
Next stop to the fevella's own community radio station, run by
volunteers and broadcasting 6.00 am to midnight every day. The
station is run on a shoestring budget, often earning an income
through advertising or exchange. They recently aquired a sofa for
the studio in exchange for 3 months of free advertising for the
The most popular music is of course a hybrid of tradtional and
R&B and everything else. Sao Paulo is basically a city created
by immigration, feeding its voracious growth. Music, along with
football, is their greatest mode of expression.
Jeremy and I are interviewed on air and we are inreasingly
feeling like Prince Charles on tour.
First stop in Heliopolis is to vist the UNAS library, this was
the beginning of the project. The library is run for the community
with all the books donated by the public. The books are lent on a
trust basis, with no membership scheme. The library also hosts book
clubs, poetry and rap nights.
The most popular books are from the philosophy section.
Tuesday, day two, and in at the deep end. Jeremy and I are taken
to Heliopolis, Sao Paulo's largest and poorest favella; a jerry
built shanty town of 125,000 people with a badass reputation to
match. We are warned not to take photographs in the street as the
whole district is run by the drug barons who might object to any
pictures that might reveal the mechanics of their trade. And we
don't want to look like stupid tourists.
We are here to meet the people who run UNAS a social project to
educate and improve the outlook of the citizens of Heliopolis.
Interestingly the favella is doesn't come across as the
murderous midden heap one is lead to believe but an amazing example
of a self organising society. Throughout it's rambling, crumbling
streets are all the shops, restaurants and services you would hope
to have in a town, albeit self governed by the druglords.
UNAS is exactly what we needed to see, a contemporary version of
a Victorian Mechanics Institute, spread throughout a number of
ramshackle buildings across the town - library, sports hall, radio
station, schoolhouse and so on. UNAS emerged from the vision of one
man and has spread to become the ethical backbone of the
In what is perhaps the equivalent of the poorhouse the children
work on projects (with Lego Technical) to provide
electronic/robotic solutions to communal problems, like litter
collection or hygiene. John Ruskin would be most enthused.
Monday afternoon after a good lunch in the park we meet the
education team. Carlo shows us a map of the city and explains that
education is the make or break of the 2010 Bienal. In 2008 it got a
bad name for being closed off and disconnected from the city folk.
Not helped by the fact that as a concept a whole floor of the
Bienal was left empty, which was subsequently raided by graffiti
To answer this they have set a target for 2010 to have 400,000
to take part in the education programme (the overall headcount for
each Bienal is 1 million. For this they are recruiting somewhere in
the region of 300 education staff.
School children from across the ciy will be bussed in and out,
class rooms built and the army of art teachers put to work to shape
the Paulinos of the future.
In the evening we go for a quick drink in a residency programme
set up by Helmut from Rio in another Niemeyer apartment block,
meeting other artists and checking out the cool blue bathroom.
Then onto a Japanese restaurant to do some top drawer sushi. Sao
Paulo has the oldest and largest Japanese community (ever) with
over 2 million resident.