Monday, June 4, 2012

Final Day and Exhibition: Denouement

On the final day there was a lot left to do: I needed to construct the How To Explore Kit, and finish the Manual. Then I needed to do the last of my visits around Harlech, in order to have enough information and content for the Lion's Guide to Harlech Brochure. So, the morning was spent turning my kit contents into something which looked like a real kit. I suppose these kits are inspired in some way by Fluxus boxes and kits, and also thinking a lot over the past years about manuals, and providing instructions for other artists. (This all started back in 2008 - with the PEST DIY publication - where I made a manual of how to turn your house into a gallery. See the blog post from back then here.) Since then I have made quite a few manuals and guides for artists. 
I took all of the contents of the How To Explore Kit, and constructed the kit inside a box, which should be displayed alongside my manual - showing artists how to use the kit.
The manual is the third manual instructions sheet I have made: The first was for the BCB collaboration with Bethan Lloyd Worthington, and the second was for the How To Survive Kit manual for the Mac exhibition, Birmingham, earlier this year.
I used the contents of the kit earlier in the week, at an important site in Harlech - each item was used to explore the site in detail - getting a greater understanding about the place.
Once the kit was assembled there was just enough time to head up to one of Rhian's tips for the guide brochure: an old church and fantastic viewing point: Llyn Tecwyn Ucha. From this point you can get a view of a beautiful lake, and the sea and Castell Harlech in the background.
While there Andrew Branscombe made a film which captured an amazing natural phenomenon. A gatepost singing.
Then we headed back down the hill to the Coleg for the last night dinner with all of the artists. The residency had been tiring, confusing, rewarding, productive, enjoyable, frustrating, delightful, and inspiring. 
The comfortable house that we were staying in, and the wonderful food provided by the Coleg's chef, Kevin had made the experience smoother - having a space to share a glass of wine together and talk over the day's events was all part of the process. On the last night Kevin gave us a platter of local Welsh cheeses, which went down really well.
We returned to Stoke that evening, with a plan to come back to Harlech the following week to help to install the exhibition in the Coleg, and also to have a chance to meet the artists taking part in the second week of the International residency: this time artists from Poland, Spain and Ireland would be taking part.
Friday, 25th May - Andy and I returned to Harlech with our finished works.
I had asked in the Coleg if it would be possible to display the How To kit and instructions within the glass cabinet in the corridor. This cabinet contains a variety of 'eco-friendly' products for a better lifestyle, and I felt would be the perfect setting for the kit.
I was happy with how the kit looked - I like the idea that people may not notice that it is a piece of work at first, and feel it looks to belong in the cabinet.
The two collaborative pieces created during the residency were to go on the wall next to the cabinet. I had been really interested during the week by the Coleg's noticeboards, and the sorts of the things displayed there. Like the 'Failure is part of success' message above, which had seemed particularly pertinent to me half way through the residency week. The caretaker at the Coleg was perturbed that I was using the noticeboard - as it had not been cleaned up or painted, but I didn't feel it needed to be, as I am interested in institutional communication methods, and would prefer to use the board 'as is.'
The collaboration with Bethan Lloyd Worthington: on the right - the trail which Bethan had set for me, and which I had followed (taking over 6 hours) was made into an a3 text piece. I had 100 photocopied - each one was hole punched in the corner and then hung onto two hooks. The idea here is that the viewer can take one of the posters, and perhaps go on the journey with Bethan and I.
The collaboration with Rhian Roberts: on the left - I had made up the Lion's guide to Harlech, and had 50 printed for the exhibition. These were displayed in a four pocket brochure rack, and then the full poster displayed above.
Here is the front of the Lion's Guide to Harlech:
and the back:
I was really pleased with the two (very different) approaches: Rhian's tour brochure comes from the point of view of a local business woman - and is very much orientated towards the Tourist, whereas Bethan's tour is touchingly personal, connecting to family heritage and personal memory. 
I returned to the Lion to deliver copies of the poster and brochure to Rhian, she was very happy with them. 100 more of the brochures are on their way to the Lion - and I am sending them the image files, so that if they wish to get more printed, they can. I hope that this piece demonstrates the need for the local Tourist Board to do something about the lack of a brochure for the Town.
As only half of the residency artists were present Andy and I got our works up quick and then helped with other people's. The works looked good in the allocated space, and it is exciting to think of them making their way around the world, after being displayed in Harlech.
Andy's piece: Time-Shifter is a piece of slate from AirSpace Gallery roof, but potentially originally from Harlech, and then the coordinates of the exact spot where the whistling gate post can be found. There are a set of instructions for the viewer to rub out the coordinates and then rewrite them - therefore taking ownership of the elsewhere place for a moment.
Other works: Paz Die Dean's walking shoes were placed on the steps.
Ewa Zasada and Malgorzata Szandala's War Rug.
All of the artworks can be seen on a blog - set up by Juan Giordano and Laura del Villar in week two. They have created a great document of the Two Weeks here. Below is Tomasz Matuszak and FrenandoBarredo de Valenzuela's pieces.
The open evening saw all of the artists toasting John and Celia for being such fantastic hosts, and hopes of meeting again. 
The events were recorded on the Ustream channel, so that others not able to attend could still join in. We were really pleased to meet everyone, and had some great chats.
Overall, since returning from the residency, I feel incredibly happy to have been invited. I have made 3 new pieces of work (two of which were collaborations) and have understood and learnt some more about my working methods - and the things that are important to me as an artist. For me, work is always connected to place - and the connections and histories to be unravelled, uncovered and revealed. Projects of this kind need to have a legacy, but perhaps my idea of legacy was too narrow: I want the project to connect to the people of the place; but there is more than one way to do this, and it is also important to make connections with other artists, who are experiencing the project with you. In the second week, like us in the first week, the artists found a natural home in the local pub - and made some important connections with each other, and with the local people. The Polish artists had an idea to hoist their flag onto the flagpole in the castle, and they asked the regulars in the pub what they thought of the idea, not wishing to cause offence. They were told 'go ahead' it's an English castle anyway.
I don't know what will happen with the project next, but I really hope to be involved in the next Harlech Biennial. Perhaps we can create something which lasts a bit longer in Harlech, and gets people exploring Harlech differently, as I did through the 3 ways of Exploring: on my own with a kit, as a tourist with Rhian, and as a privileged adventurer on a personal tour with Bethan. Harlech is a special place and I will definitely go back.
Many Thanks to ICAW: Dash Art - it was, in the end, a real transport of delights.