Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Beacon Bi-Monthly 13, in association with Primary Studios Nottingham

Friday 2 November, 2012 
My name is Stephanie Bolton and I have been working with Beacon on a three month graduate placement scheme on the Compass project. I graduated from The University of Lincoln this summer, with a BA in Journalism. 

Michael Saunders 
The evening began with an impromptu talk from artist Michael Saunders, since the minibus with the Nottingham speakers was stuck somewhere in traffic. Michael had literally just arrived back from Cuba
a few hours earlier, where he’d been for the 50th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis. He gave some background to his trip, informing the audience that he was born just before the missile crisis, but felt that the fear had somehow imbued itself in him and that this work is a way to somehow discover or put aside that fear. His current project began with him photographing a chain of nuclear missile sites in Lincolnshire, until he found them unsatisfactory in his quest for “trying to find a way to express the waste of human effort that went in to fighting the Cold War.”

He’d been contemplating visiting for 8 years, but it was only two months ago that, quite impulsively, himself, his partner and his Spanish friend bought tickets. He spoke of his pre-trip plans to take certain things into Cuba that would break the quarantine Kennedy set up in the Cold War years - a photo of a piece of missile (he would’ve taken the actual piece but discovered it had asbestos) and shirts patterned with aerial views of missile sites – and when he confessed this to the Cubans they erupted in laughter. He spoke of the friendliness of the people, the environment of recycled and mended products because of the economic blockade and the fear of the Cubans that the Americans want to invade their country.

It was at a conference organised by a union of historians and writers that Saunders was welcomed to join a workshop and a drive out to one of the missile sites – an obvious high point in his trip.

He explained the nervousness and difficulty surrounding his trip, and how it had turned out to be “much more complex” than he anticipated. He said the trip had changed him, and that although it has allowed him to put the Cuban missile crisis and Cold War behind him, it has also “thrown up loads more things”. For now, he said that he is just trying to process what an amazing, mad process it was.
Thank you Michael for the fascinating stories.

The minibus arrived and the first of the Nottingham based guests was

Rebecca Beinart 
She gave an overview of her practice since her graduation through to her current work. Her final project for her BA in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University was a treasure hunt around the Victoria Centre market that ended in a revelation about the history of the centre. Beinart said she wanted to show this project because it was at the time when she was becoming interested in art as an experience, situation or intervention as opposed to an object. This was the beginning of recurring issues that kept coming up in her practice, most notably finding different ways of looking at a place.
After graduation she started Yolk, an artist collective she worked on with two of her peers, through which they built relationships with all of Nottingham’s twin cities, inviting artists over to do collaborative projects and visiting those cities themselves.

In 2007 Beinart started an MA in Arts and Ecology in Devon, an experimental course that brought a range of ideas and cross-disciplinary artists together. It was this, and the set of questions it provided, that has shaped her work since.

She spoke of her 2009 work Corridor, commissioned for a festival in Bristol, for which she walked along the River Malago with seven different people including a birdwatcher, member of the council, and a local campaigner to get different perspectives. She then worked these into a walk that was a public event.

Beinart also discussed Field Kitchen, a self-sufficient mobile kitchen from which to create meals form food found in her surroundings; Exponential Growth, a project that asked ecological questions about growth and limitations; Potion, which explored her interest in the balance between a plant being poisonous and medicinal; and her on-going collaboration with her sister, Origination, about family history, migration and memories.

She admits that her projects, which are often collaborative, are often quite big and have lots of layers to them; so much so that most of them have their own website.

Her current project with Wasteland Twinnings is a worldwide network of artists who are researching wastelands, giving them an opportunity to share methodologies and knowledge. Beinart’s wasteland is Nottingham Island, once the site of the Boots factory, now used for recreation. In September, the site was twinned with wasteland in Jakarta in Indonesia and an agreement was printed from elderberries and the maringa tree from Indonesia.

Yelena Popova 
is another artist based at Primary Studios in Nottingham, (where Rebecca Beinart also has a studio). she talked about the work she’s produced since she graduated from the Royal College of Art 15 months ago in a practice that is a mixture of painting, installation and video.

She showed a piece from July this year. The theme was the Olympics because of the time at which the project was shown and Popova tried to find a metaphorical equivalent to the practice of painting in sports. She looked at the figure of the discus player and drew comparisons with painters through their combination of balance, circular movement, force, repetition, creating distance and moving forward. This can be seen in more detail on her Discus Discourse website.

She also spoke of the project that was the result of her Chinese residency; an 8 minute documentary that looked at the Chinese coalmining industry and the industrial history and differences of the East and the West. She discovered another repetitive process that takes place when the East copy the changes they see occurring in the West. An interview with an elderly gentlemen who used to mine coal in Mansfield in Nottinghamshire brought all the elements together and allowed Popova to make the film and the connections.

She also discussed her ink drawings, made from Chinese ink, the recurrence of ghostly figures in her works, and her installation that took place in a ruined building in Norwich, to which she bought ovals into what she felt were very masculine surroundings. 

Matthew Chesney 
An artist and director of Backlit Studios in Nottingham, Matthew spoke about his work throughout the last 6 years, giving a brief introduction mentioning his interest in role play contemporary art and his influences, among which he lists avant-garde theatre director Robert Wilson.

He spoke about several of his works; ‘Tis Pity, on which he worked with the drama department at New College Nottingham and which he also took to the Musashino Art University in Tokyo; collaborative works exhibited in Germany based on the German underground brotherhood; and a performance by himself and his twin brother under Damien Hurst’s spot paintings at the Tate Modern.

Chesney talked about Backlit, the voluntary organisation he begun with his peers in 2008: “It was really about giving graduates an opportunity to curate and show their work,” he said, as well as providing artists with a chance to play. “That was the premise at many shows at Backlit, let’s get people to challenge their practice, show something they’re scared of showing.”

In 2011 they were forced to move to a new space in Nottingham, but the programme continues with critical debate, skills development across all artforms and BackCrit, critical sessions that provide feedback in an informal environment.

On being an artist-turned-curator, Chesney says it’s been a “huge turning point” in his career as an artist and in his practice.


The minibus departed back to Nottingham, having offered a wonderful glimpse of the current visual art activity in Nottingham...