Sunday, December 11, 2011

How To Explore

In May myself and Andrew Branscombe will be going across to Harlech in Wales, to take part in the Harlech International Residency, with 6 other artists from Austria, Italy, Macedonia and Spain.
The works made during the residency need to fit into a box: 30 X 30 X 60cm dimensions, and needs to be able to be posted, as the works will go in an exhibition in Harlech, and then travel to different European locations to be exhibited there.
There will also be a series of Skyped sessions within the project, aiming to explore connections and networks.
I am really looking forward to going and having a week to explore Harlech: and have submitted a proposal to make a kit for exploring. Here it is:

Anna Francis will create a box full of the equipment needed to explore. The box will contain a range of measuring devices and apparatus needed for excavating, recording, investigating and uncovering a particular place. Site-responsive works will then be made.

Anna is interested in places, and how we pin them down. She is interested in uncovering their peculiarities and particularities, and is interested in engaging other artists and the public in this activity. Exploring new places is fascinating, and Anna will come to Harlech to use the items assembled in the box and do that. Also, Anna will use the week to create a ‘How To Explore Manual’ which will demonstrate how to use the apparatus within the box. The manual will then accompany the box to Stoke-on-Trent, Lodz and Naples where Anna will aim to persuade an artist from each place to use the box and instructions to explore their home. Anna is interested in asking other artists to reframe the familiar; asking another person to look differently at the place that they know very well, in order to uncover something new about it, and using the ‘How To Explore’ pack to make some site responsive artworks.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

AirVent Calendar

This Christmas AirSpace is celebrating by constructing a superdouper AirVent Calendar in the gallery window. We put out a call for artists to create a special box, and then each day of December (until Christmas eve) one of the boxes will be opened.
It's been exciting having the boxes arriving the last few days - some by post, some hand delivered. Kate Lynch is project managing the AirVent - and has a vision of how to bring it all together - a clue in the image above (By Kate.)
I have just finished making mine.
I can't really reveal what it looks like yet - as mine will be opened on day 10.
Also, on the day that the artist's boxes are opened the artist/or art group and their work will be celebrated on the AirSpace website and on social networking sites.
But I will put the image of the work here when it's the 10th plus links to the AirSpace site where all the boxes will be revealed each day - for now here is a description of the piece, I think it's a reaction to being totally skint:

For AirVent Francis aims to draw attention to the frenzied buying activity which occurs in the Festive Season. Families throw themselves into debt, year on year, in the name of something that many of them don’t believe in. The piece ‘Gifts’ is a stark reminder that in times of recession, waste should be measured.

Here it is:

Artists involved will be revealed each day.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Platform P at the Duke

Last weekend I was in Plymouth as I had been invited by curators Edith Doove and Ray White (of Platform P) to take part in their event at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel as The Chambermaid. The Duke is an important historic building, built in 1863, as the Hotel manager told us - to cater for the Railway Station which used to be just outside, bringing people to and from the harbour boats. This explains some of the buildings fantastic original steel work features, which have much in common with Victorian train station design.I met Edith at the Trajector art fair in Brussels earlier in the year. This was really interesting, as the two experiences could not be more different. Hotel Bloom Brussels describes itself as a modern design hotel, and is a sort if swanky 'art' hotel. I wrote up my experience of that event here. But my experience was that the hotels were quite reserved in their approach to art happening in their hotel; whereas the Duke seem to have been willing to really push the boundaries - which is admirable, considering this is a working hotel. The staff at the hotel were really accommodating, lending me a chamber maid trolley for my performance and also cleaning equipment, they were also really friendly, and seemed quite interested and bemused during my performance, even offering me a job.I decided to build on the unexpected experience in Belgium, where I was almost invisible. This interested me. I quite like the idea that my presence in the hotel during the event might blend in - where guests and visitors might be unsure whether I am 'real' or not. In fact, this time quite a few people did not notice that I was doing a performance, obviously seeing me as part of the hotel - asking me for directions to the toilets, or simply ignoring me. I decided this time, instead of delivering room service, which was not allowed last time, or standing silently as I ended up doing, I would make myself useful by cleaning the public areas of the hotel.I was interested in exploring the value that is placed on art, artists and cultural activity. In particular the way that artists are rarely paid properly for their time and work. I was interested in questioning the perceived usefulness of an artist's activity - giving myself the task of doing two jobs at once for this performance - representing a group of artists as curator, while taking up the role of Chambermaid at the Duke - cleaning the hotel at the same time.Most artists hold down a number of multiple jobs in order to pay the rent, while attempting to maintain an active and critical arts practice at the same time, especially in the early years of an arts career, but sometimes throughout.In recent projects I have noticed a particular stance from some members of the public in relation to the funding of the arts - during the recession. Questions of value and worth have arisen - and I have heard, more than once, opinions ranging from - this is a waste of money, to - the money for this project could have been spent on a hospital.I hoped that through this performance I could begin a conversation about the value of my activity as an artist - and find out if my activity would be more acceptable if teamed with something which looks demonstrably like labour.
My question then: 'Is my work worth more if it includes some form of manual labour or industry, or is my arts practice enough?'
Platform P managed to secure funding for the event at the last minute - so the artists and performers did receive a fee, which was fantastic, but makes the question even more pertinent.
Before the event I put out a call for artists to make small multiple artworks in response to the theme of Hotels. I was really pleased with the response, and selected 7 artists works to display on my trolley.The lower shelves of the trolley had cleaning equipment, and one member of the public said 'That trolley was set up by someone with OCD' which I liked.In between cleaning I represented the seven artists and their works, giving out information about the artists and their multiples. This information is included at the end of this post, with links to the artist's works.On the day of the performance I was feeling unwell - having a bad cold. I decided therefore to ease into the Chambermaid performance, by starting on the third floor. This would give me a chance to get into the rhythm of cleaning before talking to the public. I cleaned the book shelves, the skirting boards, the windows, the door handles, the light fittings, the staircase and banisters, the mirrors, the pictures.There were some open rooms on the 2nd and 3rd floor, so every now and again a member of the public would wander along the corridor and encounter me.
Some just stood and watched me cleaning, as if it was a fascinating thing, while others would speak to me, and I would have a chance to tell them about the artists and their works.
As I got closer to the ground floor it got busier. And then came my favourite part of the performance. I noticed that the piano was very dirty, in particular - the keys were filthy.
I decided to give them a good clean. One by one I cleaned each key, which would create a plink plink sound which echoed around the reception area. This brought the attention of the public, one man even came across to ask if we could do a duet, so while I plinked away at the key - he played the other end of the piano. He told me that earlier in the day he had had a go on the piano, which I had heard, he was very good. He said that as he was playing he had thought to himself how much nicer it would be to play the piano if it was cleaned - so he was very pleased about my work.This was the cloth which I used to clean the piano.
I spent the last couple of hours of my 4 hour performance in the foyer area of the hotel. Cleaning and speaking to the public. I became not only curator of the 7 hotel related multiples, and chambermaid but also information sign poster. Members of the public coming in for the Platform P event began asking me when performances were starting, which rooms the works were in, how to get to the ballroom, and what was that piece of work about (amongst other questions.)
Overall, and once rested, I felt very pleased with the performance and its reception by the public. My favourite comment was 'It's really great having you here to tell me about the art works - some of the other stuff was hard to understand, but this is great because you have explained it.'
I am interested in revisiting ideas around the usefulness of artists' activity. I would like to try out other performances where a variety of roles are being performed at once, and where notions of industriousness are explored. The Platform P event was fantastic, and was something I was really pleased to be involved in. I met some fantastic artists, some of whom I hope to collaborate with in the future. I hope that Platform P does another event in the future. Perhaps I will get a promotion next time, and get to work behind the reception desk?
Casts - Behjat Omer Abdulla has been working with the notion of identity for many years since he first found himself in a state of exile trying to gain recognition by the Immigration system in the UK. It has been over thirteen years since he left his native land, Kurdistan-Iraq. As a mixed media artist working mainly with drawing, photography, and video installation, he uses his practice to listen to peoples’ stories and try to create a platform for debate around the issues raised. For Behjat, art questions who we are and how we place ourselves in the world. It is a way to be in touch with our responses to life and a way of speaking that allows viewers to translate, decode and change it to their own languages. Here the Chambermaid is showing small sculptural works which capture the imprints of identity, casts in gold taken from porcelain goods which reference the Duke’s luxurious past.
Divorce - David Bethell is a UK artist based in Leek, in the Staffordshire Moorlands.
Bethell's work is inspired by landscape and the natural environment, often looking at the contrasts and conflicts of human influences on landscape. His work also looks into our aspirations, desires, and our failure to achieve these unattainable dreams. He uses a range of media from performance, installation, object and animation.
Here his piece Divorce takes as inspiration the hotel as a site for romantic tryst. The promise of a perfect fit between nut and bolt is frustrated through the gold plating process. Raising the value of the objects has rendered them incompatible.
l'odeur d'hôtel - Andrew Branscombe’s piece responds to the prevalence of Formica as a construction material for furniture in the majority of reasonably priced Hotel and Motel rooms. The work consists of a small piece of wood effect Formica, rectangle, shaped and sized to fit inside a matchbox. The object is promoted on the outside as a car air-freshener to be hung from the rear view mirror. There is however no particular scent other than that of the material itself, which is bland, and manmade. The piece is examining the blank mundane and sterile environment that a mass-market hotel produces, contained within an outwardly exciting package. The piece aims to celebrate the distinctive nature of the Duke.
Postcard Books – A vital core running through Anwyl Cooper-Willis’s work is a sense of the ridiculous. Exploring how humans jostle and politic, making a way for ourselves in society. The posturing and pomposity, the hubris, the hypocrisy; an image of the absurd.
Here, offers of communication seem to be being made but remain somehow unfulfilled. The messages in Postcards from the Past – on having been Sixteen in their terseness decline to give anything away, and in 23 Postcards of Hotels: 22 Never Sent, the un-sent card itself is a failed communication; the reader must make their own guess as to the circumstances of the non-sending. The postcard, a stereotype of trite communication, is used to confound that stereotype.
Art Soap - Kate Lynch’s artwork deals with issues of sustainability and environmental concerns through the use of recycled, salvaged and natural materials. The Artist explores processes of deconstruction, reconstruction and conservation; highlighting historical features and visual histories revealed within the architecture of buildings.
The piece here reflects Lynch’s interests in replicating and appropriating packaging. Art soap is hand made using rosemary, bergamot and orange essential oils which aid creativity by promoting focus and clarity.
Bed Bug – Kim Matias is an artist and photographer based in Bristol, UK. Her embroideries often pick up on the downtrodden, forgotten or grotesque. Celebrating that which is usually overlooked, and finding beauty in the most unexpected of places.
Kim often uses human hair and other collected fragments within her embroideries.
Stay - Glen Stoker uses photography and film to explore the human condition and its relationships with the surrounding world. With a particular interest in the hinterland, both physical and metaphysical, the work often includes notions of journey, walks and mapping.
Stay is a text and photographic study of ten Stoke-on-Trent City Centre guest houses, forming part of a larger body of work investigating the idea that place = space + memories
Thanks to the 7 artists who made works for my trolley gallery - and thanks to Glen Stoker for the photographs.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Stick Up: How to Collaborate

Anna-Bethan from ve strata on Vimeo.

For the next 6 weeks the Stick Up exhibition is on display at AirSpace Gallery, which is part of Stoke-on-Trent's BCB.
I had the pleasure of collaborating with Bethan Lloyd Worthington, an artist who works with drawing and porcelain and who is based at Manifold studios in London.
The project was challenging, and infinitely enjoyable. I am really pleased with what we did. We kept a blog, which documents the entire process here:

Monday, September 26, 2011

Duke Of Cornwall: The Chambermaid

I have been invited by Plymouth based Platform P to resurrect the Chambermaid - for their art extravaganza weekend, due to coincide with the British Art Show in November. I am really pleased to be involved and am putting out a call for miniature artist's multiples for the Chambermaids trolley. The Chamber maid was first performed at Trajector Art Fair Brussels earlier this year, and was part of the Motel Kandinski project.
Here is the call below:
Title: The Chambermaid at the Duke of Cornwall Hotel

What: Small works and multiples responding to the idea of the Hotel.

Anna Francis will be taking a miniature gallery (housed on a hotel hospitality trolley) to the ‘Platform P’ weekend takeover at the historic Duke of Cornwall Hotel. This event is a British Art Show Fringe event. Anna will be representing the selected artists, acting as curator, and Chambermaid simultaneously.

To Apply: If you would like Anna to represent you at the event, then simply send in a proposal for your miniature art work/multiples responding to the theme of The Hotel. The item(s) should be no bigger than an ordinary sized match box. The items will be for sale and the artists will receive 60% of any sales made.

You may like to consider Hotel memorabilia, ie. miniature sewing kits, toiletries and other holiday survival items.

Proposal: no longer than 100 words to explain your approach and response idea.

An image/sketch of your proposed item(s).

Up to 3 images of previous works.

A 250 word statement about your practice (for purposes of representation and publicity at the event.)

Blog or Website addresses.

Closing Date for Applications: Monday, 17th October 2011

Artworks to be delivered by post/in person by Monday, 24th October 2011

Email: with applications or for more info/postal addresses etc.

Go to the Platform P Facebook Page for more info:!/profile.php?id=100002767921582

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wirksworth Festival Window

I have been invited by David Bethell, who is curating a programme of window displays for the Wirksworth Festival, to do a window. The reason he asked me is that he wants works which are site specific - or which fit the specific location of a small town high street. He was particularly thinking about the works that I have done along the lines of SHOP INDEPENDENT.I thought this was quite interesting, especially when he told me that in Wirksworth only one shop IS NOT independent, and that is the Spar. All other shops are independent, which is incredibly rare these days.
This got me thinking about how far we have come in the last 50 years in most high streets, moving away from Independence and difference, with high streets becoming more homogenised. This creep is something that we are now very aware of, but it happened almost without most of the general public's awareness.
If we continue down this route we will become a nation where there is only one big shop. High streets may no longer exist at all - we may have no choice but to shop in the big corporations. I love the fact that Wirksworth is full of Independent shops - but it is certainly something which should be hailed and celebrated.We went across to Wirksworth on Monday to have a look at the available windows and to see if there would be one suitable for my idea. I had imagined that we would all be using empty shops - as many of the Shop projects I have been involved in recently have utilised these empty spaces. Actually Wirksworth high street doesn't have many empty shops - in comparison to other places - and we will actually be using the windows of existing businesses. I was a bit worried by this, as some shopkeepers might think my piece is negative - and might not want something like this in their window. My approach for Wirksworth will be to create a possible - anti-independent store of the future. As a warning to Shop Independent and to keep supporting local shops I am going to create the BLAND Brand - a non-independent monopoly, which is the future of retail if the previous 50 years is anything to go by. The Bland brand will see everything available for sale in cans - nothing fresh or exotic. Everything from Bread, to beans to soap in a can.
No choice, No colour, No difference, No independence.
The chosen site for the piece is part of (but across the alley from) Ken's Mini Market - the chosen window is on the high street but is not the frontage of the business - which is good. Also it was unmanned - and is where the mini market shows the DVD collection which customers can borrow. A DVD shop is very different to my chosen shop type - so I think this could work.
I will be including a QR code on the window and on all of the items for sale in my shop window, this will announce: Buyer Beware - Shop Independent.
This is the making process for the Bland Shop at the Wirksworth Festival:
And this is the installation image of the finished shop window.