Thursday, May 22, 2008



29 year old artist seeks space for reflection and development of curatorial project which puts art works together, taking dating agency methodologies as a means to find perfect partners for individual works of art.

Standing Room - Exhibition space at HMS.
This is part of the proposal submitted to HMS (Harrington Mills Studio - LongEaton) for the project WLTM - a curatorial residency over July and August which will result in an exhibition at the end of that two month period.
In many ways the opportunity to work on this project, which is a bit of a departure from my most recent practice (although a return to some previously explored concerns), will provide a mental break from the political and sometimes tiring issues of regeneration in the city, but will also provide a physical break from the city too. Perhaps a bit of distance from Stoke-on-Trent will come at a very welcome time, and will enable me the space and time to reflect on all that has been happening.
Anyway, I will be placing a call to artists very soon to submit a piece of work for the WLTM exhibition. The piece submitted should be representative of the artist's practice, and should function as a good stand-in for them as an artist. Each artist will also fill in a carefully constructed questionnaire. Dating agency methods will be employed in order to calculate how well each artist (and therefore their stand-in piece of work) match each other. The 6 best matches will be deemed the 6 perfect partners and this will form the selection method for the exhibition.
In this way the selection methods are entirely objective, rather than the usual way of curating a show which is to select what you like, or what you think is good, or what you think best fits the brief.
Perhaps this project is borne out of thesometimes disheartening process of applying for hundreds of exhibitions and not being selected, and wondering what on earth the selection criteria was, and why work was not chosen. With this project each artist really has an equal chance, and the selection process is entirely transparent from the start. It will be interesting to see how other artists feel about such a process. The plan is to also have a networking event at the private view where artists can meet their works perfect partners.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Secret Object Arrives!

Last week a secret object arrived in the post. I can't say what it is yet - but it was very exciting - and later in the year I will be able to reveal all...but until then you will have to make do with this picture and a couple of clues: it has something to do with Scotland, the job centre and a mysterious brown-haired woman.

What this city really needs is...

During the Longhouse publication launch on Friday, 16th May I set up the mini-project 'What this city really needs.' The Longhouse PAD (mentioned previously) gave 9 artists an opportunity to think about and respond to the city of Stoke-on-Trent.
The process was incredibly interesting, causing a reframing - asking me to look with fresh eyes at the faults and indeed the good points of this city, my home. 'What this city really needs' aims to provide the same sort of reframing for others - and is also a chance for people to voice their opinions on the regeneration process and the changes that are effecting the fabric of the city on a daily basis.
'What this city really needs' consists of a map of the city centre and lots of map pins with tags which visitors to the Longhouse publication launch exhibition could put their suggestion, thoghts and ideas on and then pin them onto the map.Interestingly, quite a few of the suggestions were to bring back buildings and features of the city which have been lost as a result of previous 'improvement' schemes. This really underlines the need to consult the public and users of a place when plans are being drawn up to change it - in order to avoid making mistakes and losing valuable assets.
One of my favourite suggestions that someone made was to build some permanent concrete table-tennis tables, like the ones in Berlin. I have seen those tables in Berlin, and they are really well used - people bring their bat and ball with them - and sometimes you even have to queue to get a game. This would be a fantastic addition to the city centre - perhaps we could set up a temporary one, and then use that as a way to ask people if they'd like a permanent one - and what other changes they would like to see.
Alongside the map is a plinth with the instructions on it, and the pens for writing on the tags, and also a pile of postcards. They read 'We don't need a cinema or an art gallery here......what this city really needs is a great big supermarket.' This is a comment on the fact that the local ABC cinema (that was just a few doors down from AirSpace, had a pink leopard skin carpet and a powder room), was being demolished at the time that the Longhouse PAD took place.
The results of the poll, which was set up on this blog to ask the question 'What does this city really need,' were also displayed at the launch - in the toilets! The aim of this piece was to highlight the unreliability of polls. I invited people I know, and people who may happen upon this blog to vote - most of those would be artists, or at least art sympathisers, and therefore the vote would be entirely biased. Given the four options for what this city really needs which included: a sports centre with a swimming pool, a contemporary art gallery, a great big supermarket or a tram system, most of those asked would choose a gallery (66% in fact). When displayed the statistics do not give any information about where the poll was taken or who was asked.
I think the results are fairly conclusive: What this city really needs is a contemporary art gallery!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The Residency at the Institute

I have been back from the Institute for a couple of days now - and I am still processing exactly what happened and how I feel about it. First impressions - it was tiring, there was a lot to discuss, I haven't stopped talking about it since, I want to go back.
Friday Evening - dinner at the institute

360 degrees of the institute

Image: Sunday at the Institute.
Documentation of the residency:
anna-francis-at-the-institute-flat - Upload a Document to Scribd
The full PDF documentation can be requested, if you are interested.
Read this document on Scribd: anna-francis-at-the-institute-flat

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Monday, May 5, 2008

Flowers for the Eccentric City

Word has just been received that my proposal 'Flowers for the Eccentric City' has been selected, and I have therefore received the honour of their £1 Arts commission! This means that not only can I afford to make a new piece of work, but the documentation of the project will be published in the next issue of the Eccentric City.
Package arrives: the £1 commission and other stuff from 'The Eccentric City.'

My proposal included the following;
'The £1 Commission scheme would be an excellent opportunity to try out a new area of my practice which is based on the idea that even quite ugly, rundown areas of our city can be brightened up. I propose to spend the £1 commission on a packet of seeds which I will then go and plant in a brownfield area of the city, where the houses have recently been knocked down. There are many areas like this in Stoke-on-Trent, and once demolition has taken place they typically remain empty for years at a time. I will take the seeds and plant them, and then return periodically over the summer months to check on the progress of the seeds. Planting seeds is a new area for me, although I have previously created works involving the planting of bulbs.'
The idea is not new, and has been germinating since the summer of 2006, when I first started visiting these sites and photographing the slow and painful demolition process, watching streets being taken apart house by house. The sites remain open and empty for years, and what is interesting is the way the buddleia, poppies and even aquilegia take over fairly quickly. I felt that to add to the site, with either flowers, to make it more beautiful, or vegetables, to make it useful - as a food source, during the interim period between demolition and rebuilding would make the whole process more bearable for those who still have to pass the sites daily.
I told someone a while back about the idea and they told me about a man that they met through a community programme;
He is a recovering alcoholic, recently out of prison, he is prone to bouts of depression. He takes walks around the city where he lives, and on these walks he takes balloons which are filled with seeds and some water. When he sees a site in the city which looks a bit destitute, overlooked, or messy (much like the brownfield sites surrounding Stoke-on-Trent) he throws his balloon bomb, which splits open, scattering the soaked seeds around the space. Later the seeds grow, and the space is improved. This sounds like a really great way to take control of your life and see the effect that you as an individual can have on your surroundings. Is he an artist?
Synchronicity for the Eccentric City.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Longhouse Publication Launches

Stoke-on-Trent imagined - Coronation street style houses - factories and not much more.
In November 2007, 9 artists, plus two lead artists; Tim Knowles and Sophie Hope, hooked up in Stoke-on-Trent to meet with architects, city planners, members of the community and the council's arts development team to discuss the public realm areas of the city. The artists would spend a few days walking the city, and discussing approaches to public art in its broadest sense - in order to generate proposals for artistic interventions around Stoke-on-Trent. I was lucky enough to be one of those artists.
11 artists sign.
Longhouse, who organised this amazing opportunity, offer artistic development for artists working in the public realm and looking at cities. Among the opportunities offered are this one, the PAD (professional artist development) and the longer opportunity - Action Research - for individual artists to work on a particular and more sustained project.
The project was different for me, to some of the other artists - as this is where I live, so I know the faults and the plus points of the city more intimately, and could not be so objective as the others about what needs to happen here - what a funny position. The process forced me to remember what I had thought about the city back in 1997 when I first moved here - how I imagined a city full of Coronation street style houses, and endless factory chimneys. It also got me thinking about what I think of the place now, ten years later, and what my hopes are for this place, which has become my home.
Camera Obscura - a way of reframing the city for the people of Stoke-on-Trent, but more importantly, an opportunity to ask them about what they think about the bottle oven shape, often used to represent the city.
I came up with three specific proposals as a result of the residency, and these can be viewed along with the responses of the other 8 artists here.
The resulting publication showing all of these responses and a document of the days we spent together will be launched on Friday, May 16th from the AirSpace Gallery. It will be a chance for the group to return to the city, and discuss the impact that the residency has had on ourselves and our practices, for me this difference has been significant - an eye-opening opportunity to reframe the city around me, which I hope to repeat and instigate for others through my collaborations and output.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

There is Beauty in the City

The collaborative magnet project with Axis Festival is well underway, and people have started sending in their pictures, some are on the blog but more have been sent directly to Axis Festival's gallery. There are a few trends emerging; demolition and destruction, bums and people. There is still time to join the project - which will hopefully culminate in a public exhibition of all of the photos sent in. This weekend sees the main events going on around Stoke-on-Trent as part of the Axis Festival, and hopefully there will be plenty of people out and about with their magnets.Michael Callan's idea of Beauty in the City.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Residency At The Institute For The Art and Practice of Dissent at Home

This time next week I will be commencing my Residency at the Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home, run by two add three.
Two add three are a family, living in Liverpool - Capital of Culture, 2008. The institute consists of two University lecturers and their three kids, who live in a council house. They have put aside 10% of their income in order to set up a programme of residencies, events, performances and other artistic opportunities within their home. They say:
'The Institute for the Art and Practice of Dissent at Home is a space for dissenting the Capitalism of Culture'
During my residency I hope to carry out a number of activities and investigate a number of things, I will:

- Photograph the interior of the institute, but only the spaces which are open to me.

- Photograph the street which the institute is on.

- Investigate any remnants left by previous visiting artists, and any other artistic activity taking place within the institute.

- Carry out public consultation processes which involve gathering quantitative and qualitative data into the impact that the institute is having on the immediate vicinity, as well as the impact of Liverpool capital of culture.

While in residence at the Institute an artist's group from Preston who met through Plaited Fog - and organised Prestival hope to visit me as research into a series of publications called PEST, organised through Castlefied's Gallery's Project Space - PEST will examine non-traditional spaces for art practice and display, which are due for publication during July 2008. I will be writing a diaristic piece about my residency for their 'Home' edition. A web based link-up has been mentioned for the launch of the publications - linking various homes across the globe - Elaine Speight, member of Plaited Fog hopes it will be something like the Eurovision Song Contest. More as soon as more is known.