Monday, 30 May 2011

Beacon Bimonthlies 5

BB5 built on the success of its predecessors in bringing a night of thought provoking art-entertainment and soup to a large crowd of Lincolnshire based art glitterati.
Written and photographed by Daniel Warren (@danfwarren), artist and writer.

Georgina Barney

Georgina Barney talked about her experiences as an artist since leaving Ruskin in 2006. She works in the rural environment with an emphasis on drawing and writing.

Georgina Barney gives her talk

Georgina started by showing some of her early works. They were playful, sculptural drawings. One featured lengths of elastic material pinning down tree branches; in another she suspended a black ball in mid air, which cast the shadow of a full stop on a pristine lawn. They filled and explored green space, rather than the white of gallery interiors.

I think a lot of my practice has been about connecting my experiences in rural areas, sometimes with those areas and sometimes trying to bring it back to a contemporary art discourse.

From making physical interventions her emphasis seemed to change to a more immersive practice, looking for ways to interact with the rural environment and its inhabitants. Georgina started working on her uncle’s farm and went on to travel the length and breadth of the island volunteering at different farms. She documented this journey on her website It has photos, drawings and a thoughtfully written account of her travels.  It makes you realise that the remoteness of many farms is not only geographical, their methods are also unknown to most people.

Map showing Georgina's Journey

From her first exhibition she has been involved in the discussion around her work, engaging with her audience directly. Working with others seems to be integral to Georgina’s practice whether it's with the Arts Council, agricultural bodies, farmers or art audience. She asks questions in person and in her work, then shares her experiences.

Georgina organised a residency in an agricultural college where she saw the skills of the trade being taught to young people. Many artists look at other crafts and revere them, attracted by the discipline of a day's work with a clear objective and conclusion.

I became very fascinated by the experiences of students at an agricultural college…their experience in a rural place and the education they were having…the promise of their going into the world to produce food rather than art.

Georgina seems to reverse the process, she commits to her practice and rolls her sleeves up in the same way a farm labourer would. She goes out to work as a farmer, but makes art rather than food.

‘20/5/2011’ by Alan Armstrong and Amelia Beavis-Harrison

Amelia and Alan are a duo interested in the conventions of public performance; they explore discomfort and participation by performing to arbitrary yet playful rules.

Alan has just starting to read from his long scroll of facts
The performance was an ‘on this day’ widget. Alan paced the room and read a list of facts related to the date, while Amelia used props to silently give them a visual. We were told about kings, queens, celebrities and musicians.

The research was unashamedly copied and pasted from Google and Wikipedia, but it was still interesting.  After all, inaccurate and biased research is not exclusive to the Internet. Despite Alan’s thinly veiled ignorance on each subject he still seemed believable. The act of sitting and listening to someone who stands and reads from paper seems to encourage trust.

Amelia dressed the audience like medieval child soldiers and adorned them with newspaper hats. Balloons were released and kicked around. I wanted to pop one but it seemed unnecessarily violent. Later Amelia set off a collection of party poppers worthy of a helicopter gunship. At one point Alan talked about the rock band Kiss, and some people had their faces painted in vaudeville fashion. The required participation showed the audience to be reserved but accepting.

While they worked as a team, Amelia and Alan both clearly addressed their own agendas. Amelia tested the audience with physical interaction while Alan played on the conventions of public speaking and being spoken to in public.

Like Google there was no filter for taste and the audience was subjected to a clip, raw from YouTube, of Cher performing ‘If I could turn back time’. Cher’s sexual confidence and lack of clothing was a marked difference to Amelia and Alan.  Amelia was measured and silent. Alan was stuttering, ungainly, bespectacled and funny, like an art school Steven Merchant.

Dale Fearnley

The Collector is a short film by Dale Fearnley, it documented a house where every room was clad wall to wall with boxes, display cases and shelves. They were filled with china sets, toy motorbikes, vinyl, and radios, anything cheap and collectable.

The screening of The Collector
The film worked its way around the collection methodically, surveying the objects. The film was narrated by the collector, the man to whom the collection belongs. His kind and good-humoured voice, eccentric and self-deprecating accompanied the filming of the objects.

The film steadily led through one door after another, beckoning the viewer further into the house. The voice, without physical presence, added to the sense that the house was imbued with the character of the collector.

After ascending the stairs the camera panned between rooms, disorientating the viewer in the maze of detritus. There were more stacks of things suffocating the walls. In close up you could look at something and find it interesting, but in its entirety the collection was scary.

For the collector there was no mess or disorder, to him everything was carefully catalogued and displayed. He could find a specific LP in seconds or pluck a specific motorcycle handbook from hundreds. From the outside the collection had got out of control and now seemed to own the collector, like a friendly Norman Bates.

For me the success of the film was the tension between the character of the collector and the overwhelming size of the collection, between the pleasure of hoarding and the weight of excess, between the mystique of the eccentric and the pressure of social conformity.

The one clear room in the house was the guest room. If the house was like a human subconscious, filled with nostalgia, neurosis and quirks the one room which looked ‘normal’ was the one left for interaction with others, and for self-awareness.

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