Photo: Nick May from Food Chain Exhibition
These observations base on notes taken on day. Thoroughly enjoyable but as notes reveal patchy.
Full website here : http://www.thecollaborators.org.uk/What_is_Rural.html
Steve Messam: Site-specific public artist
First speaker was standing in for Ian Hunter from Littoral.
Site-specific ‘sculpture’ mostly financed by business and aimed at the spectacular rather than the sublime.
To me suffered from the ’roundabout art’ disease that aflicts much ‘public art’ i.e. it grand and spectacular bit like a firework display to draw attention to itself and satisfy the ‘sponsors’ but as actual art almost non-existent. Mr. Messam was genuinely concerned with local issues and genuinely believes he not only drawing down significant wads of sponsorship but also highlighting important issues. At time there some depth as in his sheep pen covered in hides but mostly it looked like big buck = big bang art and the actual art almost irrelevant…i.e. why not fireworks and be done with it?
EMMA HEALD: Advisor for Natural England
Good overview of Natural England remit and challenges in current economic climate. Little direct relationship to arts it seemed.
LIZ and PAUL GENEVER: Farmer
Excellent grounded non-academic highlighting of real issues affecting modern farming. Learnt something…
TALKSCAPE exhibition: KATE GENEVER and ADAM O’MEARA
Kate had been instrumental in bringing symposium together drawing on twin background in farming and the arts.
I found actual show confusing and the noble aspiration of rehanging it did not really help give a sense of artists in it. I reserve judgement and Adam’s drawings appeared interesting.
JOHN PLOWMAN: DAVID GILBERT: ROSALIND STODDART
Three speakers round table. Not very enlightening and revealed more about the scarcity of funding post ACE.
Plowman safely berthed in academia and as with all three there an almost missionary zeal to ‘bring’ art to the poor downtrodden masses or as in Norfolk these days Bankers in 4X4s. None seemed to exist in real world at all compared to the farmer.
Indeed it could be argued that projects like Beacon are actually part of the problem not the solution for rural communities if they actually still exist. The proportion of residents actually living in coastal holiday towns and villages is below 40%. No number of art interventions or decorative arts galleries can hide that. I was irritated by the religious opportunism of ‘metropolitan’ minds who without hesitation believe ‘rural’ people need a site-specific application or another dubious alter-modern happening. I was not the only one who felt this.
Top-down not bottom up attitudes despite the conviction by the instigators/curators (and funding recipients) that they doing just that…naive in extreme and very Old Labour approach..i.e. throw culture at masses they will like it…..now as empty as the towns they tried to save……
Sarcastic footnote: Stoddart calls herself an INDEPENDENT CULTURAL ENGINEER..this cuts no ice with me and just shows the ego inflation prevelent these days in the sector…..curators ten a penny so I suppose this cultural re-branding..god help us
DAVID WALKER-BARKER: Artist
Old-school approach (Royal College) actually made beautiful artworks and had a significant practice founded on genuine knowledge and a historic sense of place and history. Note I have to highlight this as this kind of work few and far between these days!
TIM NEAL: Anthropologist (Wildsite and Tourism)
Wild card literally and at time seemed a little out of place but in hindsght the area which actually provoked most interest for me.
Instead of art practice buffoonery we had some fairly in depth analysis of what actually made people consider places as ‘rural idylls’ from Samuel Palmer on. His observations of English in France chimed perfectly with my experience on the ground in NORTH NORFOLK.
The images of ‘rural myth’ created by artists are along with curators above seriously implicated in the destruction of viable healthy rural communities. To wander through a pitch dark rural idyll as second home owners and holiday properties lay empty is to experience first-hand the effect of rural gentrification. Abstract pontificating or arty musings do not hide this desperate state of affairs.
The rural landscape is an increasingly depopulated picture-postcard manned by the modern swains i.e. transient workers and illegal immigrants. They if employed in something more than service industries man increasingly ruthless mass food production facilities which hidden from the Range-Rovers gaze by screens of trees.
NICK MAY: FOOD CHAIN EXHIBITION
The following exhibition of farm workers in 21st century brilliantly spotlighted this and suggested that the true artform of the modern era is documentary photography as nothing else is keeping pace with the destruction of rural values.