Attended a farm auction at the weekend, a spectacular gathering of farmers, there were pick-ups and land rovers for miles parked up along the lanes. The massed body of people dressed in wellies and overalls was a phenomenal sight, very uniform, a specialised group that you rarely see on mass. The auction covered everything from the most dilapadated sheds and piles of timber to quad bikes and tractors. We bought some odds and ends, rag rugs and pottery (very tasteful).
The winter cherry makes a nice contrast with the forest lichens in this Denby three legged dish? I wonder what it was designed for and by whom. Maybe an ikebana craze in the 70's, sounds plausible. I went to an Ikebana class in Tokyo last year, much to the shock of a lot of tiny delicate women. It's a simple system, painting with flowers. There is a system for getting proportions right, 2 x diameter + 2 x height of vessel = height of subject, 1/3 height of subject = height of object. The rest is just an asymetrical fill within the sphere of the subject and object, just like trad landscape painting Well actualy its a whole lot more complicated but that was the basic begginer bit and its seems to work).
One of the farmers in Japan (nicknamed by us as pants man due to him only wearing y fronts when we first met him) has sent through the portraits he made of the villagers that Barnaby had painted (on white velvet). The idea of the project was to do with ownership of image and copyright. Barnaby gave the portraits to the sitters, the images that pants man took could be Barnaby’s art, or he could have the portraits translated again - for example copied by reproduction painters in China. This could run for ever and everything belongs to Barnaby or the sitter or the other interpreters, it’s all in the contract.
On the way back from town (London) I stopped over in Manchester to record a discussion or rather a response to a series of questions about public art. I did have the worst hang over and was suffering from acute sleep deprivation – not because I had partied so hard – I don't do that - but because hotels in London clearly do not consider themselves as places people might want to sleep in – noisy – err yes. It does slightly beg the question what do these buildings thing they are offering?
Back to public art, the discussion was with the Freee Collective, Dave Beech (who has great hair) Mel Jordan and Andy Hewitt. My reading through of the questions had left me thinking who the fuck cares – I mean you’ve got to be in academia to really give all this ‘is it public, realm, sphere, art, government’ shit any time. I ve attached the list of questions and my jaundiced notes (in italics) if you want to see what was to be answered and what I thought.
Alistair and I attended the Giles Deacon catwalk thing during London fashion week (we are planning a project to design a land uniform for Lawson Park). This sort of performance has got a lot to be said for it, it’s very short - each incredibly ill looking teenage model just walks the length of the catwalk, their arms hanging like dead fish, their faces bearing the expression of a depressed teenagers bedroom and showing an apparent indifference to where they are and what they are wearing. I was a bit surprised by how generally un glamorous the whole thing was - there was little glamour in the audience, almost less than at an art opening. The clothes were pretty great though, although I have never and I suspect will never see anyone wearing such things, (i dress fairly conservatively and I get more verbal than I want). I was left trying to work out why fashion is such big business, how this all translates into actual money and if there was a way to make performance art perform a similar PR role for other product.
I was interested to note how many businesses were sponsoring aspects of the event, even the model agency (Storm) was being sponsored (by Alfa Romeo), where does this sponsor the sponsor thing end. In this instance this sponsorship meant there were a lot of men in smart red cars picking up girls in darkest Shoreditch which one might say looked a bit interpretable.
Spent the day making jingles with the people of Egremont at the opening of the radio station. There were quite a few people that turned up plus a bunch of lads who were rather thrilled by the helium balloons (re voice adaptation). Their obsessions with Nazis/violence, homosexuality and peer pressure reminded me of the horrors of being a male teenager, however they did manage to do a jingle albeit with the aid of helium - hear it on the web site - www.egremontfm.com
The station will run over the weekends, from 8am to 2am Friday to Sunday, pretty ambitious, however there are lots of keen radio enthusiasts and DJ’s all dying to do a drive time show and even a breakfast show.
The local staff were a bit freaked when the local bad boy hard man came in to offer his services, he is honoured as the best local rapper, he did nt quite manage a jingle but it was touch and go! He left promising to put together a show without swearing, now that might be a bit of a challenge!
It has been quite a struggle getting the show working (a bit of an understatement) but everyone has really pulled out the stops, especially the volanteers without whom it just would'nt have happened, so I am listening to it now on line and it sounds great - maybe too professional!
The show can be listen to on www.egremontfm.com the site has a listen again facility as well.
Grizedale got asked to do an oyster card wallet (some sort of travel pass thing) - a part of celebrating 60 years of the Arts Council. Not quite sure if I get the connection but I guess they wanted something from the ol’ countryside, nice to asked though. Kinda hard thing to do, so little space, we would have liked to do something a bit promotional but it didn’t really seem possible within the constraints. The other idea was to crusade a new set of morals, a code for social living. The Arts Council ambition is to promote the idea of a ‘right to art’ . I like the idea of what you might have a right to but didn’t know or care, or that was not of any relevance, i.e. a right to luxury goods ‘err like thanks yeah’. So anyway we did a code for the country which referenced many other codes of behaviour all of which have been horribly abused, misused and re interpreted. The text is accompanied by an elysian fields like image of Langdale valley in the Lake District sourced from the internet. Langdale was the site where the London bombers allegedly trained for their attacks, allegedly running up and down this idealized UK landscape wearing heavy rucksacks.
I think the message of the code and image we finally produced was fairly clear, hinting at various interpretations but fairly clearly saying something about the degeneration of social living, the over emphasis of individual rights over the common good, our twisted and overblown concept of freedom and the kinds of reaction this position is likely to generate.
Anyway after everyone (commissioners, designers, Arts Council) had had thier say, it was maybe slightly more ambiguous (or less) so here for anyone interested is a version I thought worked - (on advice I was happy to take out a rather pompous quote about freedom being a licence).
A Code for the Country
Rights of Persons
To say anything in private and nothing in public
To feel superior in a variety of ways
To inflict themselves and or any parts of themselves at any time upon another or others
To be right unequivocally
To shrug off the burden of others
To ‘whatever’ by any means necessary
With sincere thanks and regrets to:
Privacy laws, The Declaration of Independence, Legal Rights, Paris Hilton, Malcolm X, 10 Commandments, Islamic principles, Green Cross Code, Rights of Man, Burgess Meredith/Mickey Goldmill, William Wordsworth, The Country Code, Lager ads of the 1970’s, various Christian doctrines, the Highway Code, Tony Blair, Milton, Raymond Babbitt
Twisted pulled and hurt …..
Finally Summerhill is sold and today we cleared all the ghastly B&B style crap into a skip. I've waited 5 years to do this. The sale now releases money to start on the building of Lawson Park.
Anyone with fond memories and in need of a momento can pick up a souvenir on ebay - floral everything.
The house has been bought in association with the Baptist church down the road, they will be using it as a religous study centre.
This is Olaf Breuning, Marcus Coates and the Juneau projects
The gallery seem to be having great success in selling chairs from the show, which is nice. Grizedale has been under some pressure to develop income streams. Selling art seems like the second least likely way to do this (selling farm produce being the even less likely), still who knows, chairs at £1,000 each, starts to add up - and the beauty is its all for charity (Grizedale arts being the charity).
The idea was to make a kind of shanty town down one side of the gallery, did'nt want to mess up that perfect white space.
Robert Eikmeyer a German curator came over to help with the show, he is developing some projects with us and is currently working with Jonathan Meese, who I think has had a big impact on Robert, it’s all gone a bit rock and roll – he’s talking revolution! I talked to Jonathan Meese on the phone, who sounded really funny, I look forward to his visit to Grizedale in June.
Spent the last week in Lausanne, somewhat nose to grindstone trying to turn a somewhat random pile of Grizedale material into an exhibition. It's always a tad tricky to get all the disparate things to hang together and in this case to stay hung. The Gallery was designed by Jean Giles Decousterd – an incredibly 70’s guy with his Mini and Michael Caine trench coat, the Italian Job theme tune kept playing in my head – ‘this is the self preservation society’ (well it was Switzerland). Jean Giles is more importantly also an incredibly interesting man, he made a fantastic proposal for Lawson Park, (see attachment).
Of course everyone was very nice and chic, Switzerland is always a nice place to visit. I think they were all a bit unsure of the exhibition, bemused, it is always hard to explain the whys and so on. It all seems so obvious to me but I have forgotten what the audience expectation of exhibitions and art is. So our, 'art ideas that are useful' mantra which underlies and really explains most things takes a bit of getting used to.
Nina Pope - one of the 7 Samurai artists has just come back from Toge (Japan) - she took a group from the Royal College - interactive design department. Of course they had a great if rather cold time. Check out the snow!
more pictures on
Sharp and beautiful frosty days arrive at last to break up the leaden top soil we had delivered recently. All the signs of spring take a bit of a knock back and not before time, it was all getting out of hand. We have planted seeds in the poly tunnel in preparation for the return visit from the Japanese village of Toge. We are planning to make a restaurant with them in Coniston village to demonstrate locally all the wild spring shoots that are edible, actually not just edible but really good, one of the most memorable meals I had in Japan was at a soba restaurant, cold buckwheat noodles served with tempura of spring shoots. Not so sure how the our village will take to this but we are also asking all the best chefs of the area. It really is a pretty unique thing, the expertise of the village is rare in itself and very much part of a passing way of life.
The wind, will it never stop, it is becoming rather disturbing and a little bit scary, the trees sway around crazily like some sort of ‘It's a Knockout’ prop.
Someone profits from it! Those cats (the cornerstone of the proposed ginger petting zoo) all over this fallen tree like a dreadful hairy rash, they are always straight in there to explore any changes to their environment - as are the visitors, as soon as we clear a bit of land people are in there straight away exploring - people and animals we cant help ourselves.
A few weekends ago we had a group of volunteers helping with clearing the forest and re-building walls. It was hard work but we got through a mass of work over the four days. The idea was to clear all the fallen, cut timber and brash from the plantation. We hope to encourage a moss garden to establish, and actually the cleared wood looks not so bad, the immediate result was that the walkers immediately started wandering around it and the schools groups took instantly to scattering the piles of wood chippings (bad). Much like the cats as soon as you open something up they are right in there.
The other rather animal thing that happens a lot now is mountain bikers after miles of cycling though empty forest stop and urinate in the garden. It’s an odd one and I have challenged them on several occasions. I am informed variously that ‘it’s what blokes do’, ‘It’s a right’, and that if I don’t like it I should put up a sign. Where might it end, bearing in mind what a disgruntled old man I am becoming I foresee a site festooned with signs, everything from no whistling (a special hatred) to no blasphemy, actually the ten commandments might just about cover it (apart from whistling which is obviously a sloppy omission from the tablets).
There is something rather strange about working amongst the pleasure seekers, weaving the laden barrows between the cyclists and walkers, usually ignored as if invisible, this correlation of labor and leisure has a particular nuance, both activities generators of sweat. During heavy rain mountain bikers often shout humorously at us ‘you must be mad’ as they wiz by.
Here’s an interesting piece on power generation, we have long been trying to track this local hero down, the yoghurt pot turbine has become a bit of a mythical idea for us having heard of it through anecdote only, here is more concrete evidence, even figures. I am sure we’ ve got 18 inches in one of the many streams that cut through the site.
Interestingly if this can happen t wont be the first water power on the site, the ubiquitous Ruskin initiated a number of water management and power generating schemes on the estate. Also interesting to note that over in Coniston there is a major water turbine being installed, I think on the site of another Victorian system, maybe it’s heritage lottery funded!
Audrey Steeley who used to work at Grizedale and is now director of Beatham Mill recently got funding to install a water turbine that will not only cover the power needs of the organization but also generate 30k a year in income, now that's what I call a ‘nice grant’.
George who has been working in the garden for us for the last 6 months has gone off to work for ASDA for the winter - what a waste with all his high level gardening skills, but it’s really to grim working outside up here in the winter.
The last job George and I did was installing the Viet Nam gate, a traditional garden gate and stile. Made for the Romantic Detachment project in New York the gate has toured the gallery spaces of the US and UK. Originally part of a piece by Cindy Smith, the gate was a component in Cindy's romantic and threatening vision of England. It was made by a Viet Nam vet with whom I spent an evening in New York, he was fantastically angry about what he saw as his betrayal by the US military, the gist of the hurt was that they lied to him and exploited him. He drummed with his chop sticks throughout dinner.
My own personal hell this last 4 months has been building the vegetable garden, trying to wrestle something out of the rock and water of the site. On one hand I have Karen (my partner) who thinks it’s going to look like Kew Gardens - an immaculate vegetable idyll - and on the other the reality of working with a lot of mud and rock and my own ineptitude. So finally the basic structure is in place.
Following on from the initial selection proccess done as a live webcast at the Greenland Street space in Liverpool we have had further meetings of the panel and finally shortlisted 15 of the applications.
The process seems crazy, so much work from all sides, each year we dissapoint/annoy 100 artists, and in fact probably 80% of those applicants would be good to work with, but somehow we have to find only 6. This year was a better than ever selection, hence the endless deliberation. It's a depressing process, by the end of it I want to find a new job, the equation is absurd, so little money, so little to compete for, so much material and ambition, so many ideas and creative thought. This week we have been responding to those who did nt get selected, trying to give some useful feedback, I'll post some of the correspondance in the near future. Still we've made choices and will announce shortly.
Grizedale is currently at that time of year when we need to make applictions for money to exist for another year. Both our local funders (councils) have cut (one has one is about to) funding completely and although this is a relatively small amount of money (£17,500 - actually not so small) it doesn't make life any easier. The Arts Council are telling us to expect the worst and that they are moving away from giving revenue funded organisations project grants. This is pretty bad news, the whole Arts Council thing is so hand to mouth, last year we were told to use the project grants to fund our activity. It is frustrating to see the process, a wandering around aimlessly sort of thing constantly restructureing. The Arts Council tend to reward the hopeless. The organisations that get money and particularly revenue money are those that have screwed, are massively in debt and dont do much, it is a strategy some organisations take. But it makes for a weird upside down world – it’s called the advancement programme!