Writing / Grizedale Arts Blog

Waving a straw in the Albert Hall


The task of making a meaningful statement in a city you don't know is bad enough. Making a meaningful statement in a city you don't know and has a population of around 16 million is a bit worse. And seeing as it has an exhibition venue to match adds a little icing on the top of that problem too.

We are shown around the empty Bienal exhibition building which is like three Turbine Halls together. And that's just one floor of three. All beautifully done by Mr Niemeyer of course.

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 10/03/10 at 21:47

Ruskin goes to Sao Paulo


This is the first of a number of dispatches from Sao Paulo, Brazil.
I'm here with Jeremy Deller to develop a project with him for the Sao Paulo Bienal this coming September. It came out the project we were working on for the Whitworth Ruskin show, a film by Jeremy on the wrestler Adrian Street, which has a lot to say on the Ruskinian themes of education, social development, craft, labour, industry, ethics, aesthetics and self improvement.

Adrian was born into a coal mining family in south wales, but escaped this life through bodybuilding, costume making and wrestling, transforming himself in to The Queen Bitch of Pro Wrestling. He now lives (aged 68 and still wrestlng) in LA, running a cottage industry in wrestling costume production.

The plan is to combine this with a rethinking and reworking of the victorian Mechanics Institute and make it work in the context of the Bienal and Sao Paulo.

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 10/03/10 at 13:11

A Perfect Excuse


At the weekend I admonished a mountain biker who was urinating onto the wood stack I was in the process of moving, he explained that he thought it belonged to the National Trust.

He finally apologised and considered that that ended the matter, that no further discussion could be enterd into, (apology accepted or not). It seems to be a new fad to apologise quickly and then with the magic word 'the wrong is gone'. Politicians and public servants seem keen on the approach. So I would like to apologise in advance, I'm sorry', and that's an end of it.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 16/02/10 at 07:44

Ruskin's Relational Aesthetics


I gave a lecture recently to some of the sudents at Chelsea School of Art. One of their number, the young master Robert Mead, was most enthused therein by such talk of Mr Ruskin's forebearance of all things discursive, relational and altermodern. He has since written in haste to share his essay Ruskin's Idea of Relation and it's Connection to Post Modern Painting, which I attach for any reader wishing to pursue this line of enquiry.

I would be tempted to say one might take his arguments as applicable to Tintorett as to Salle, but this is for another occasion and we must, in the first instance, take delight in this exhumation by youth so that that these thoughts may be possessed of the minds of the masses.

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 02/02/10 at 16:27

A visitor cometh


Just organizing for a visit from Californian academic Avery Gordon and found this interesting interview touching on the hypocrisies of the environmental movement as well as some of the high minded and historical precedents and ideals. Avery Gordon interview

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 19/01/10 at 16:32

Ruskin Soup

Ruskin Soup

Now we've established that big John Ruskin is worth saving from the dreaded Heritage Vampires, how do we sustain and nourish ourselves on his memory? Ruskin Soup of course!

According to Adam Sutherland, Ruskin was always a man with a plan - and this went as far as having an idea that the working man should always have the recipe for a perfect soup on hand. Cue the ruthless pursuit of a food metaphor by yours truly while Adam cooks. What was Ruskin Soup? Did Ruskin have the ingredients? Could soup - or art for that matter - really sustain and nourish the Ruskinian working woman or man? And how about their fractured and fissured twenty first century counterparts? Can Ruskin's recipes really help us find the way out of the post-postmordern stew were slowly simmering in? All - or more likely none - of these questions will be answered in our culinary homage to the late, great Big John Ruskin (and Keith Floyd).

Posted by John Byrne on 17/01/10 at 16:52

Happy Christmas

Thanks to Mat for reminding us of Oscar Wilde's words, 'Its easy to be good in the country'. Although I think Oscar meant good as in not be naughty because there is nothing naughty to do, and I think Mat meant because there is no-one to get naughty with, but what it really means is there is no competition and whatever you do looks good.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 13/01/10 at 19:28

Li Yuan Chia in Cumbria - BBC radio doc

Just in from David Gaffney:

Dear all,

You might like to listen to this programme about Chinese artist Li Yuan-Chia who lived in Cumbria for a time and set up a gallery.

When Taiwan's first abstract artist settled in a Cumbrian farmhouse, his life changed. Deriving inspiration from landscape and local people, he encouraged new British artists and anticipated the success of contemporary Chinese visual art.

Li Yuan Chia was one of the first significant Chinese abstract artists of the 20th century. This programme, presented by Sally Lai, the director of Manchester's Chinese Arts Centre, examines his career from the place he spent the last 28 years of his life: a stone farmhouse, built next to Hadrian's Wall in Cumbria.

Listen to the programme here


Li Yuan-Chia

Born in China in 1929, Li was educated in Taiwan. He worked and exhibited in Italy before moving toLondon in 1963. Here, Li's reputation was established with monochrome paintings and scrolls marked with a tiny, isolated dot.

But Li came to dislike the fashionable metropolitan art world of the mid-1960s. In 1968 he met Cumbrian painter Winifred Nicholson, who pursuaded Li to move away from the busy capital to a far more remote location, near her own home. With his own hands Li then set about converting a farm building, the Banks, at Brampton, where he built a gallery, library, theatre, printing press, children's art room and photographic darkroom, and opened it to the public. It became a popular attraction for local people, art afficianados and tourists walking Hadrian's Wall.

Over the next ten years over 300 artists exhibited at the Banks, which was also the base from which Li's organisation, the LYC Foundation, was able to commission work by young British artists, some of whom became very successful later, including sculptors and land artists Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash and Bill Woodrow.

Li's own work moved into abstract sculpture, using magnets, gold leaf, plastic discs suspended on plastic thread and additional text. The landscape also affected him, and he began to explore photography and environmental art. Always, he wrote poetry.

But after Arts Council funding became increasingly limited, (Is this right? That can't be right, DG) the LYC Foundation had to struggle to survive. Li continued to produce art, which became increasingly contemplative. He fell ill with cancer and died in 1994. Art historians now acknowledge Li Yuan Chia as having paved the way for the current expansion of Chinese contemporary art. But his former home in Cumbria is derelict.


Posted by Karen Guthrie on 22/12/09 at 20:39

Seriously Compromised


architecturally and politically - Happy Christmas y'all

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 18/12/09 at 12:24

The Dictatorship of Art - a Jonathan Meese inspired discussion


Today we shot a lively discussion at the Lawson Park TV studio, on naughty German artist Jonathan Meese's work and idealogy...

Pictured left to right is GA's Alistair Hudson, critic and Meese-o-phile Robert Eikmeyer, academic and writer Charlie Gere and academic John Byrne.

The final film will be up and online in early 2010.

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 14/12/09 at 23:42

St Peters (Glasgow not Rome)


Angus Farquhar of NVA in Glasgow recently invited Karen & Adam to share an inspirational but very wet (just like home then) tour of the unique St Peter's seminary just outside Glasgow. abandoned now but a rare example thereabouts of an architectural icon of the 1970's and now justly listed. NVA are bravely engaging in the battle to reclaim the building and surrounding landscape from the jaws of Nature - the grounds include an immense range of historic buildings from the 15th / 16th century onwards, and a landscape to match.

A good array of images of the incredible site can be seen on Flickr here, and you can read about Historic Scotland's detailed report on the building its significance and possible future here.

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 07/12/09 at 17:56

A welter of welts

The stream of irritating press releases that run through my mail has been particularly virrulent of late, must be the season. Heading the pack is surely the School of Saatchi, unbelievable that anyone would agree to do this, X factor for art, only from the starting point that art is a totally minority interest with an audience in the thousands. So Saatchi's idea that this will be the X factor for visual arts is mental. Actually I am remembering I was asked to do this a couple of years ago, a pilot version made in the north - They asked me to be on the panel, it was 3 days in Newcastle in a studio and then a couple of interviews, I initially said no, then they said they would pay me £10,000 and I said yes - soooo that's how it happens. I mean I thought I would use the money to support good projects, and maybe something interesting could be done with the show. I was naive back then about TV, I now know that you have absolutely no control or influence and that the TV production is unbelievable ruthless in getting its simple messages across.

Other favs include A Foundation's two Euro art tramps in conversation, very drawn out men in black talking about obvious stuff and giving it the full slavic gravitas - quite funny, listen to it as an audio work. The message is 'cun ve do art vat hiz uzeful, yeh zo maybe could be, umm I dont zay hef to. more here

The rest without going into detail, Campaign for Carlise to become city of culture, Abandon Normal Devices and blow minds by using film and video presentation, and so on.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 20/11/09 at 12:04

All aboard the Lawson Park Library launch


On Sat. 14th November, Guestroom launched their new Lawson Park Library with a Coniston Institute film screening with Oxen Park Cinema Club and a cruise on the solar powered Ruskin Launch on Coniston Water.

Sailors pictured above (left to right) Rob Little (UCLAN), Glenn Boulter (Musician / artist & GA intern), Adam Sutherland (GA director), Maria Benjamin (Guestroom), Dorian Moore (GA technologist and tall person) & musician Jack Maynard.

Thanks to everyone who attended and took part.

Posted by Karen Guthrie on 16/11/09 at 13:08

Honesty is the best policy


Wapke Feenstra was always a little critical of our honesty policy for the honest stall. She would I think prefer that we gave fixed prices for the goods, rather than a pay what you think its worth system, which I understand, given the effort in producing most of the goods, including or especially vegetables. None the less true honesty always wins through even when someone steals all the money from the jar as this picture shows. They have kindly drawn on the jar with the 'comments pen'.

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 12/11/09 at 14:45

A Lamb Baste 13th November 200 7.30pm


A Radio Animal event by Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson

Supported by the Storey Institute, Lancaster, The Henry Moore Foundation, Arts Council England and University of Cumbria:


Grizedale Arts is hosting a Radio Animal event - a meal at which a number of invited people, including artists, curators and arts facilitators, animal studies scholars, and local interested parties will discuss the issue of 'animal'.

We want to approach issues of identity in relation to animals. Why are we culturally so ambivalent in respect of who we are and how we should behave in the presence of either the term 'animal' or indeed animals themselves. As human animals, culturally we tend to value those animals that are not ourselves or very, very like us, chiefly in relation to their effectiveness in fulfilling some human function or need, or conversely the threat we believe they might hold to challenge our will or comfort.

Awareness of self, a faculty we (human-animals) believe separates us from other species, has unexpectedly brought us a troubled relationship with non-human animals. Because of this it could be argued, that a necessary psychological distance has been established between us and those species over which we exercise the most control.

Because so much of what we are in adulthood is inherited, our subscription to this legacy, leads us to believe without question in the apparent cultural order of things. Such belief generally, is accepting of our dominion over others and an elevated evolutionary position in relation to other species and thus fails in turn to recognize an intrinsic interdependence between species. An acknowledgement of this, might well have helped us avoid many of the more difficult consequences we face today in respect of the environment and therefore paradoxically our own as well as everyone else's survival.

The bottom line for such considerations is one concerning habitat - all species adapt well or less well, for better or for worse to different habitats and when those specialist habitats fail, an ability to move or to adapt quickly enough to survive, is tested. Uncertainty In The City (Snæbjörnsdóttir/Wilson, commissioned by Storey Gallery, Lancaster) is a speculative, artists' exploration into the relationship between humans and the animals that nudge at and breach the borders of our homes. At the heart of this enquiry is the membrane that is breached, whether this is a material 'skin' of bricks and mortar, fences and land, or a linguistic contrivance.

Radio Animal has been on the road since early summer this year asking questions of people regarding their proximity with other species, and discussing their experiences with others in the home, hidden in the fabric of their home, in the garden and otherwise as they go about their daily business.

At a time when environmental peril is discussed as a global issue and overheard in some form by us on a daily basis, leaving us often with a sense of impotence in the face of the inevitable, artists Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson are examining what 'environment' might mean in a more intimate and domestic sense - where consideration of this term might trigger a more meaningful and evocative recognition for individuals and where the sharing of space between species and its consequences might resonate more powerfully allowing some chance of new understanding and even new behaviour.


Illustrator Meg Falconer, farmer John Atkinson, Guest Room artist Maria Benjamin, poet Jack Maynard, writer and critic Rikke Hansen, tech fiend Dorian Moore, Grizedale Arts Director Adam Sutherland, artist Karen Guthrie, Alistair Hudson, (Radio Animal) artists Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson.

Posted by Alistair Hudson on 12/11/09 at 13:13

Wapke Feenstra


Wapke Feenstra has been undertaking a Grizedale Arts residency funded by the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, design and Architecture. Over the three month residency Wapke has been involved in a critical dialogue with both the organisation and its context.

She is herself from a farming background in Friesland 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 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 (ie 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 Chantrelles. She also built a market around the stall of local crafts and food for both openings and offered her own imported myvillages delicacies of cheese, brot and and pate.

Wapke contributed in other ways during her stay too, including the commission of the Lawson Park dining room table 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 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 from October 23 to 29. She is currently developing two projects with us: the International Village Shop with myvillages.org and a European toruing project on primary industries with German curator Robert Eikmeyer.







Posted by Alistair Hudson on 10/11/09 at 15:02

Rhyzom seminar eat lunch


Kathrin Boehm leads the Rhyzom field trip with Public Works, myvillages, AAA Paris, PS2 Belfast, Agency Sheffield. Another kind of conference/seminar use and they even did some weeding.

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 09/11/09 at 16:09

Shed loads


This is what two small ponies do on a daily basis

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 09/11/09 at 16:02

Radio Animal - Friday 13th November 7:30pm


Mark Wilson and Bryndis Snaebjornsdottir present a radio broadcast over dinner at Lawson Park. To Discuss our attitude to animals while eating some of them.

Guests include
Rikke Hansen (writer and critic)
Meg Falconer (Illustrator)
John Atkinson (farmer)
Dorian Moore (web designer)
and a range of the Grizedale staff

Tune in on via www.radioanimal.org

Radio Animal is supported by The Storey Institute, the Henry Moore Foundation, University of Cumbria and Arts Council England

Posted by Adam Sutherland on 09/11/09 at 13:12