Moving Images

O:4WAs I write this I’m getting ready to go to a conference about curating video at the University of Westminster. I’m going because I’m part of a team that are preparing to unleash a festival of artists’ moving image work across Cardiff this autumn and I need to feel up to speed with current developments.

Some time ago, when I was still working for the Arts Council of Wales, I noticed that artists’ moving image work was burgeoning in Wales, but there weren’t many platforms for it, despite the very sterling efforts of galleries and arts organisations. I also noticed that it was becoming a key component part of the Artes Mundi prize and exhibition (and the next offering will be no exception) and a chance visit to one of the Artes Mundi lunchtime talks in 2010 started me thinking and led to an article in one of blown magazine’s ezines about what makes this art form special (you’ll have to scroll through to find the story).

While setting up a short-lived commissions pot for artists’ moving image for ACW I’d pulled together a specialist team to deliberate on who should get grants. After we’d doled out the money we all got talking and all felt that there should be somewhere for this work to go. And so Fourth Wall . Pedwaredd Wal CIC was born, and from it Outcasting:Fourth Wall – the aforementioned festival – began to set out its stall, with support from ACW’s festivals fund.

The fourth wall bit might throw readers a bit, but it refers to that moment in a film or a play when a protagonist turns to the audience and speaks to them directly, breaking the narrative spell cast by the more formal story lines of traditional dramas. We feel that artists’ moving image already does that – communicating directly and tapping into the audience’s own experience. And the festival is a physical manifestation of the excellent Outcasting – an international platform for artists’ moving image started by Michael Cousin here in Cardiff. For O:4W Cousin joins Ruth Cayford, of St David’s Hall (and Cardiff Council), to curate the festival, which will manifest in all sorts of places and spaces across Cardiff and link to all the moving image activity going on across Wales.

The festival is programmed across a period of time when there are lots of festivals, exhibitions and events going on across the Welsh capital, and we’re aiming to link in with as much as we can. The aim of the festival is to be as visible and accessible as possible, while giving artists as much creative freedom as we can and getting maximum visibility for this work.

If you’re an artist working with moving image and this sounds up your street then follow this link and let us know what you might propose.

If you’re a rich philanthropist, or a company not clobbered by the recession and wanting association with something that really reaches a public, then please email me (always worth a try).

Our thanks go to the Arts Council of Wales and Cardiff Council, who have clasped us to the bosom of Cardiff Contemporary (partially explained here) and the host of organisations and individuals across Wales who’ve already shown their support. Please keep an eye on the web site (still under serious development) www.4wfilm.org to see how things are shaping up.

Blog Evolution

Dear Readers,
The blog has changed as I realised that the blackness made it hard to read and some of the info I thought was available wasn’t appearing. Please let me know if you think this is easier to read or if there are things that you’d like to see on the blog that aren’t there.

If you’d like to plug a project or artwork and would like it featured in the top picture bit of my blog, please email me your image (but bear in mind the letterbox format) with the name of the work/project and your name in the file name and I’ll try and get it up for random appearances.

If you’re wondering why the blogging has been so erratic of late it’s because I’ve been writing for other sites and magazines (which makes my bank manager very happy). Here are some places to find more stuff to look at.

Venice blog for blown magazine – a sideways look at the biggest art show (and there are54th Venice Biennale more on the way here too.

Review of Animate Projects Open Digitalis

Review of this year’s Locws International Art Across the City for a-n‘s Interface

And this weekend a group of us got together to start a new platform for writing about contemporary art of, from, for but not necessarily in Wales, called Rooters, which lives on Culture Colony. Hope you’ll join us there. We’re looking for more contributors to give critical writing about art in Wales a boost.Thanks to warp and g39 for helping us get this off the ground and Pete Telfer at Culture Colony for immediately setting up our platform.

My first post for Rooters looks at The Nihilists project on Sugarloaf (16.07.2011)Stefhan Caddick's wind powered sign WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.You can also find other bits of writing by me on Culture Colony too, including more on The National Museum of Art and Andrew Cooper’s current exhibition at Newport Museum & Art Gallery Dis-Location.

Balloons Over Canton – Chapter and Llanover Hall Partytastic

Llanover Hall balloons April 2011

When I was a mere slip of  a girl my parents took me to a strange place, with fluorescent food, artists dressed in bright coloured outfits, flashing lights, music, performances, films. It was odd and exciting. It was Chapter Art Centre’s first birthday.

Fast forward 39 years and it’s party time again (even though I’m only 29) as Chapter celebrates 40 years since a group of artists colonised the old Victorian school in Canton, Cardiff.

Since that first visit I’ve spent so many happy hours absorbing the weird, wonderful, challenging and sometimes just downright strange offerings that have passed through the centre. From The Ken Campbell Road Show, (Sylveste McCoy with a ferret down his trousers long before Dr Who beckoned) and The Greatest Show on Legs   in the early days, to last month’s excellent Boothby Graffoe, my funny bone has been consistently twangled. The cinema programme introduced me to some of the finest films I have ever seen – some I had to go and see twice in the same week – and there’s been theatre, music and dancing, poetry and techno doings in the May You Live… digital arts festival. While  the Experimentica showcase has taken me on so many extraordinary journeys I can’t even begin to pick out all the highlights, although watching Good Cop Bad Cop perform Mas O Amser as the sun set behind the windows of the stiwdio space was magical and sowed the seeds for romance (aaah!) some years later.

But the gallery is where my heart lies. For a long time it was one of a very few spaces in Cardiff where you could experience contemporary art and see work by Welsh artists contextualised in an international and truly experimental programme. It’s almost impossible to pick out or name all of my favourites (there have been so many) without overrunning on the wordage, but there were two that really moved me.  Simon Pope’s Gallery Space Recall – reviled by the local press, who hadn’t naturally seen it, it played on place and memory in a strangely visceral way. While Anthony Shapland’s Suddenly After a Long Silence, with it’s gentle and empathetic look at the ordinary through transitions between day and night, night and day, will stay with me for a very long time.

Chapter has reinvented itself many times over the years, but maintained the same commitment to presenting the cream of experimental work across all art forms and, in  the process, has also supported generations of artists, who have used the centre to produce new work, or sometimes just to meet over coffee or beer and thrash out new ideas and collaborations. Out of sight, in the warren of offices and studios and across the road in Market House, artists and creative companies are beavering away producing some of the most interesting stuff to come out of Cardiff’s capital city. I have to give Chapter a shout out for their early and continued support for blown magazine and for inviting us to join the party on Sunday at the sunny and creatively throbbing Art Car-Bootique extravaganza. With a new refurb and the end of an era feeling as director Janek Alexander steps down after presiding over the rise and rise of one of Europe’s foremost arts centres, it seems as the reinvention will continue for years to come. Bring it on.

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Meanwhile, as the Chapter crowd were quaffing champagne to toast forty years and welcoming incoming director Andy Eagle,  just around the corner another cultural gem was celebrating. Llanover Hall, has just completed the new theatre space where the next generation of young artists will learn new skills, build their confidence and move on to join the throng of creative adults at Chapter.

Now Llanover Hall is a place that’s very dear to my heart. I went there as a child, slowly working my way through various courses (discovering on the way that I wasn’t cut out for drama, photography, screen printing or ceramics but loved the life  drawing classes). Another powerhouse fueled by enthusiastic artists and tutors, who have carried on their support through the Llanover Hall charity. So I eschewed the free cake and champers in Market Road and had crisps and wine and watched as enthusiastic young people showed us what they were made of. Everyone was in party mood – from the balloon launch to the grand finale – including the centre’s cleaner Rose, mildly tormented by Patrick the MC (and former Llanover drama-ite), who also ensured that the builders, who’d turned up to join in the party, got their own fair share of ribbing.

Improv, a catwalk with a difference, comedy, puppetry, light twirling and the final climax of UV madness to the soundtrack of a mash-up of Led Zepp’s Whole Lot of Love and, um the Pearl and Dean ad music, what wasn’t to love. I’d meant to show my face for an hour and then scuttle round the corner but the sheer joie to vivre of all concerned kept me glued to my seat. Llanover has been through some sticky patches in the past but I hope that Friday night demonstrated to the council members and officials present that it’s a municipal treasure and must live forever.

There are times when, as the t-shirts say: I Loves the ‘Diff

blown balloons at Chapter Art Boot-Ique

The Culture Colonists

Now I’m guessing that Anna Wintour didn’t start her career by flogging copies of American Vogue from a cardboard box but, as deputy Editor of blown magazine, I set off for Aberystwyth with said cardboard box,  some pretty pictures and assorted stationary and passengers. The rain lashed down as I did various pick-ups from Splott, Riverside and Carmarthen, looping around Wales before finally reaching my bed for the night.

In the run-up to pulling together an issue for production it takes something pretty special to drag me away from my obsessive war against missing or misplaced apostrophes, but then I was heading for an event that I couldn’t miss: the launch of Culture Colony.

Now if you’ve had your head in a bucket or don’t live in Wales you may not know about this creative community, the love child of the remarkable Pete Telfer or, to be more technical, an on-line community for creative people and organisations in Wales.

Telfer, a former cameraman for the BBC, notching up an impressive portfolio of films for such programmes as The Slate, before the Beeb dumbed down their arts content, felt it was high time to circumvent the Welsh media, who had so poorly served the arts in Wales and go, as Culture Colony’s  slogan has it: “Beyond TV”. And he has.

The site offers a non-hierarchical forum for creatives in Wales. There’s no advertising (but please subscribe to keep it going), no agendas, but high production values and a lot of film content from Telfer, who can often be found, camera clamped to his editorially incisive eye, documenting cultural activity around Wales. What’s not to love?

For the launch (it’s been going a while but the site’s just had a major re-vamp) there were no press/media, no politicians or arts administrators, just a bunch of people who believe in the power of the collective platform and of the third (fourth? fifth?) way.

I was torn between (wo)manning my stall and attending the really engaging discussions. So, in the morning I sneaked into the session to hear a really thought-provoking conversation about archiving the arts, chaired (but in an informal “let’s just have a nice chat” kind of way) by  artist Stephen West.  Dr Heike Roms talked us through her work to date on What’s Welsh for Performance, followed by Eluned Haf from Wales Arts International, talking  in Welsh at breakneck speed (props to the fantastic translator who was just a heartbeat behind her) about the need for critical debate in Wales and bigging up Culture Colony.  Richard Huw Morgan, a last minute sub, who talked about some of his previous projects, future plans (both solo and as part of good cop bad cop) and how Culture Colony has supported his latest project – the cross-over from the digital world into the world of actively supporting creativity.

Around Aberystwyth Arts Centre artists had been invited to make interventions. So we had Kathryn Dodd and Louise Bird’s White Shift – Short Shrift; Roger Loughor’s subversive road signs; Kim Fielding’s disturbing photographs and Michelle Collins’ invitation to curate her un-edited archive while wearing a badge that said ” Artist”, “Curator” or “Critic”, with sustenance provided by Pete’s mother’s cake and sundry biscuits. But I can’t pull up at this point without mentioning the rather wonderful Dartboard for Witches in  the gallery. This exhibition offers a refreshing new look at textiles in art and has been exceptionally well presented.

This was not an event, nor  is Culture Colony an organisation, that could be dreamt up in any strategy. It is driven by goodwill, vision, passion and the collegiate and collaborative nature of the arts community in Wales.

Plugging blown, as was my mission, I was suddenly conscious of the role that arts centres and organisations play in Wales. This role doesn’t fit neatly into any monitoring or assessment format but… Aberystwyth Arts Centre have put themselves squarely behind Culture Colony, who are now housed in the splendour of the Thomas Heatherwick studio spaces. I ruminated on this as blown has had so much encouragement and support from Chapter Arts Centre. The unsung part that arts organisations play in developing artists and the wider culture in Wales deserves a big shout out.

If you haven’t had a look at Culture Colony yet I urge you to do so and, if you can find the modest wherewithal to join, then get PayPal-ing forthwith.

And finally, my apologies to my loyal blog fans. I have been out and about, and can commend to you: To the Buddha Veils and Voids, at St David’s Hall, Cardiff, featuring Peter Finnemore and Jonathan Anderson (who has a show coming up at The Mission Gallery in Swansea very soon); Bystanding at g39.  I also revisited the wonderful new Mostyn Gallery and  We have the Mirrors, We Have the Plans, (sorry but you’ve missed it, but more great shows on the horizon), which was well worth a quieter visit, away from the private view hoopla; spent too little time at Re:Animate at Oriel Davies (this year’s curated Oriel Davies Open curated exhibition, featuring the full gamut of some of the most exciting moving image practice form across the UK) and did my annual pilgrimage to the  National Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale, the gold medal for Fine Art this year going  to Simon Fenoulhet (hooray!)

More bloggery when blown issue 2 is safely at the printers (and there’ll probably be a shameless plug too).

Blogging to make a difference

Blogging for success

A quick, knee jerk blog today, in response to Joanna Geary‘s talk to aspiring Journalists at Cardiff School of Journalism.

Joanna was persuaded to blog by Peter Ashton, while she was working for  The Birmingham Post. She did it reluctantly and only as a diversionary activity from the horrors of DIY.

But it snowballed and her editor got wind and, to cut a long story short, she led Birmingham into the social media revolution and created a new platform for interaction with her paper’s readers. Before she knew it she was head-hunted by The Times and is now working for Uncle Rupert.

Joanna told her story so engagingly that it really made sense so… after  an afternoon of wrestling with the complexities of InDesign, I headed off for a Blown magazine editorial meeting (by some strange twist of fate I’ve ended up as deputy editor). As we were meeting at Chapter Arts Centre I started to pounce on likely candidates for our website. Bloggers with attitude, who know what they’re talking about and can speak to our readers who are interested in being taken to new places.

I’m still looking. Anyone who’s interested in contributing please get in touch. Naturally there’s no money, but if you’ve seen Blown, you’ll want to be part of it. If you haven’t get to your nearest stockist asap or see me for a discounted copy.