Images of New Work

B-Wing Funding Success & New Developments by Fiona

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June brought a stream of thrilling news. After months of what seemed like never-ending funding applications and a long waiting game to hear our results, B-Wing received several grants in succession for our art in prison project. This will enable us to pay artists and engage the wider community in a series of special events including free workshops, talks and exhibition tours. We are so grateful to Arts Council England and The National Lottery for awarding B-Wing a project grant.  We have also received match-funding from Somerset Community Foundation, Shepton Town Council and Cranmore Parish Council - huge thanks to them and to all our supporters (see our website for a full list). It has been worth all the meetings and late nights at the computer. Now onto the next stages of curating and making.

I’m co-curating B-Wing with Luminara Star, alongside 6 other artists/writers. 8 of us will be installing a range of site-responsive visual art, poetry and text-based artworks in the unique spaces of B Wing, Shepton Mallet Prison for Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2019 (21 Sept - 6 Oct).

All the B-Wing artists met together at Shepton Mallet prison recently to celebrate.  Ideas are accumulating, and new collaborations brewing. I’ll be collaborating on work with Lou Baker and Scott Sandford on an immersive piece.

We now have our logo designed (by Chris Lee) and hard work continues, moving the project forward.

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In the next couple of months, we are engaging the local community in free one-off workshops leading up to the main exhibition. I’m running 2 free workshops for adults on 23 July and 6 August, creating collaborative artworks (all abilities welcome), to be exhibited at our exhibition ( see poster). We aim to engage the local Shepton community as much as possible. We are also leading workshops at Whitstone schools and a Shepton home ed group this July, and offering free additional workshops for schools at the prison during Somerset Art Weeks as part of the prison’s educational package. For info on these and special events visit B-Wing Community Events and follow us on our social media channels: instagram, twitter and facebook (@bwing2019) #bwing2019 #artbehindbars .

To book a workshop email: bwingsheptonprison@gmail.com

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For my B-Wing artwork, I have a few ideas on the go and am looking forward to getting cracking during my residency at the prison in August. I will be working on site using the Servery in B-Wing as my Studio. Some of my B-Wing work is going to be quite large, so making part of it on site will make logistics simpler .

I recently discovered Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Tavola VII (The Bridge), from The Imaginary Prisons series, 1745, thanks to a talk by Helene Bremer at Grow Flow symposium, Pound Arts, Wiltshire. The work reinforced ideas I’ve been developing for months around the theme of rickety ladders. Like the game snakes and ladders, humans seem imprisoned in an eternal cycle of striving, greed, pain, suffering and evil. Louise Bourgeois wrote a series of short stories - illustrated as 9 engravings. ‘He disappeared into complete silence’ features skeletal buildings, claustrophobic cells, dysfunctional spaces, human frailty, separation, isolation. Her floating ladders (plate 8) relate to the story of a man who ‘became cut off from part of the world’ through deafness. My large-scale installation for B-Wing will reflect on similar notions.

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Re-Formation

Last week I installed my large sculptural installation Crowns of Thorns for a summer group show Re-Formation at Bishops Palace, Wells, organised by Heritage Courtyard Gallery. It’s made from various re-purposed older works (more than 7), using scrap steel, lead, a hand-woven net made from recycled materials (Canopy, 2016, originally created for RHS Chelsea Flower Show), and glass. The install was a long process, as is often the case with my work, thanks to my son Jack for all his help loading and unloading. I’m so grateful that the weather has allowed me to work outside, as the scale is too large for my increasingly cramped studio. Crown of Thorns investigates ideas about religion and myth, rethinking our belief systems. I’ve really enjoyed working with lead and glass again, playing with their capabilities, both respond so differently to heat and fusion. The materials speak of flux, transformation, contrast, collapse. The exhibition runs from 22nd July - 6 October. Private View 10 August, 6.30-9pm, all welcome!

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Drawing on Dorset

My work Traces is included in a publication and exhibition Drawing on Dorset, currently at Fine Foundation Gallery, Durlston, Swanage - an idyllic setting. Part of Durlston Castle, it overlooks the sea, Studland and Isle of Wight. The Private View was held on a perfect summer evening this week, a packed event, which included a panel discussion about the practice of drawing, led by Anita Taylor. Tania Kovats read her beautiful introduction to the book, which begins ‘Make a mark, leave trace, something against nothing...’ I feel honoured to be a part of the exhibition and publication, alongside some great South West artists. The show runs til 17n July, then tours to the Lighthouse, Poole Centre for the Arts, 6-29 Sept.

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Marks Hall Summer Exhibition

I delivered my Verticals and Giant Nest to Marks Hall Estate, Coggeshall, Essex last week - 9 hours round trip! Pleased to be showing work in such a beautiful landscape.

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Sheds

Due to the nature of my work and my increasingly tight studio space, I’ve spent a few weekends sorting out and fixing 3 old dilapidated sheds in my garden, which will become storage and work spaces. I’m making good progress thanks to the help of Jason Nosworthy and Nick Weaver.

Workshops

I’ve run a range of workshops recently - the furthest was a sculpture workshop using recycled materials at Nottingham High School; a long way to go in a day but what a delightful set of outcomes from 40 Yr 9 students!

For further news of my forthcoming workshops and exhibitions please visit this link.

Happy summer days ahead!




My time inside comes to an end by Fiona

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Cells Residency

May was an exhilarating month for me, dominated by my solo residency/exhibition in the incredible atmospheric Cells, Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge.  My exhibition ‘Offenders’ (9-31 May) was the culmination of an art residency there in April.  Set in historic holding cells for suspected offenders (the grand magistrates court is on the floor above), the show may have offended some, but alludes to a question ‘are we all offenders given the state of our world?’ The work was a response to the site and to the horrors that we are facing - plastic oceans, factory-farming, animal extinctions.  The labour-intensive process of my work - weaving, wrapping, sewing - is a form of suturing, a cathartic attempt to repair in response to world destruction. I created a range of large and small works, installing as I made them.  Ironically, it was such a pleasure to be unrestricted in the cells spaces, free to test out new ideas and take risks.

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Tongue, 2019,    330cms (l) x 158cms (h) x 135cms (w)   Recycled and found materials: fabric, old clothes died with avocado pits, foam, sponge, copper wire, steel, wax, twine, blankets, duvets, pillows, cushion, towels, wool, leather, plastic, rubber, thread    Photos by Tchad Findlay

Tongue, 2019, 330cms (l) x 158cms (h) x 135cms (w)
Recycled and found materials: fabric, old clothes died with avocado pits, foam, sponge, copper wire, steel, wax, twine, blankets, duvets, pillows, cushion, towels, wool, leather, plastic, rubber, thread

Photos by Tchad Findlay

My larger works - a body-sized Tongue sculpture (above) and 3 rickety ladders - filled the 3 main cells.  Fragile and exposed, Tongue activated the space. Like a wounded body, its vulnerable softness was juxtaposed against the harsh surroundings, repulsive but seductive. The ladders were precariously balanced, with wrapped soft sculptural entrails made from recycled materials weaving through them, and dangling from cell bars.

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Photos by Tchad Findlay

Photos by Tchad Findlay

Other works became interventions in smaller spaces and in the corridors.  The work included a sound piece - a new direction for me. I made a series of Spiderweb drawings - ancient neglected spider webs captured from dusty corners of the Victorian cells.  To become acquainted with the space I spent time creating a large graphite rubbing of a decaying section of brick wall, and some imprints on fine handmade paper, which I oiled, transforming them into skin-like parchment. In the loo, large stone spheres that have been incongruously left on the floor inspired an installation of interconnected cellular/planetary forms like a constellation. The stone balls remind me of these ancient ones.

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Spiderweb drawings

Spiderweb drawings

Cellular/Planetary structures - installed in the cell loo  Photos by Tchad Findlay

Cellular/Planetary structures - installed in the cell loo

Photos by Tchad Findlay

As part of the residency, I invited various community groups to engage through debate and collaborative making.  I had some great conversations with visitors about the work, which expanded to discussions about human use and abuse of materials and wider issues about the state of our world.  I really appreciate all the visits and am grateful to those who supported me. Towards the end, I engaged the community in make a growing artwork for the exterior fencing outside Town Hall Arts. As a finale, I joined forces with artist Katryn Saqui (also exhibiting at Town Hall Arts) on Saturday 25 May, to create a colourful Street Sculpture ‘Bahuli Entrails’.   It was a wonderful way for members of the public to engage with art while having a bit of fun. All sorts of people dropped by to contribute to the work as a social activity, it attracted more people to enter inside the formal town hall to see the exhibitions, (several who don’t normally go to art exhibitions).  I have grown fond of friendly Trowbridge and was particularly charmed by a man Peter, who spent hours making a long finger knitted woollen piece for the display.


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Workshops

I took part in a spectacular Jack in the Green event organised by The Old Stores Studio, Evercreech. My role was to run a rag cloak-making session, with community help. The event celebrated the release of the spirit of summer.  At Bruton School for Girls, 50 students made cellular/planetary structures with me (based on the work I made in the cells) using recycled copper wire, twine, wool, plastic netting, printed handmade paper and oil.  The ethereal forms link to the 50 year anniversary of the first landing on the moon. Each piece will eventually interconnect with others to become part of a whole room installation at the school, to be exhibited as part of Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2019. At the Holburne Museum I ran a ‘masterclass’ with 11-16 yr olds creating self-portrait paintings - I was so impressed with their outcomes.

I will be running workshops at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge in August making carnival headdresses: 13, 20, 27 August, 10am-1pm. Book here.

Current exhibitions

My piece Accretion has been selected to feature in the Bath Open Art Prize at 44AD, part of Fringe Art Bath. The exhibition runs until 9 June, 11 - 6 daily (until 2pm on last Sunday).  4 Abbey Street Bath BA1 1NN.

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Forthcoming exhibitions

Re-Formation: a summer exhibition at Bishops Palace, Wells, 22 July - 6 October, organised by Heritage Courtyard Gallery.   Private View Saturday 10 August, 6.30-9pm. I am making a large outdoor piece entitled Crown of Thorns, inspired by a mixture of myth and religion, using re-purposed materials.  Re-Formation calls for a new vision.  With our planet at risk, we need to re-think our belief system.

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I am thrilled that Traces has been selected for a book and exhibition: Drawing On Dorset organised by Dorset Visual Arts. The publication features 40 drawings linked to Dorset.  The exhibition will be at Fine Foundation Gallery, Durlston, Swanage 5- 17 July.  I made Traces in 2017 during my MFA. It is made mainly with copper wire on handmade paper, some elements 3d, inspired by whelk egg sacs found on the  Dorset coast.  In the work I was interested in blurring the boundaries between drawing and sculpture, so it expands into an out of form.

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Sculpture at Marks Hall 2019: outdoor exhibition of sculpture throughout the landscape of Marks Hall, Coggeshall, Essex, CO6 1TG, 20 July - 31 August.


B-Wing

B-Wing is an arts project I’m co-curating with Luminara Star in Shepton Mallet Prison, for Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2019.

It’s so great to have the support of several sponsors including Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Chrisi & Simon Kennedy, MJW Architects, Kelly O’Brien, Cameron & Daniella Scott, Cranmore Parish Council and 2 anonymous donors. Many thanks to all!  We are waiting on news back from our main funding applications. Meanwhile, we are still fundraising, so if you can contribute to our project that would be wonderful!  Sponsors will be mentioned on social media and our website. Thanks to Mark Adler (Mendip Times) and Giles Adams (Whats On Somerset) for fab features.


Talks

I’m taking part in a Pecha Kucha at Hauser & Wirth Somerset on June 11, part of a professional development day for Artist/Educators. Hauser and Wirth’s current exhibition ‘Unconscious Landscape’ is such a joy, with so many of my favourite women artists featured, including Louise Bourgeois and Eva Hesse.



Farewell to Spring, Hello Summer!



Cells, Prison, Protest by Fiona

Cells

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I’ve started my Cells residency ‘Offenders’ at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge and loving it. I’m using the residency to make new site-responsive work around notions of incarceration, suffering, human exploitation and factory farming.  In contrast, it’s been great to have much needed space, time and freedom to explore ideas in solitude with no constrictions and I’m very grateful for this opportunity. The work culminates with an exhibition in May - Launch Thurs 9 May 6-7.30pm. Come along!

One of the pieces I’m making is based on a tongue form. I’ve been layering and stitching patches of donated fabric onto a large steel and wire structure. Sketches are informing the sculpture.

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As I roam around the cells exploring dark corners, getting familiar with my new surroundings, I’ve felt the need to take imprints of decaying remnants.  I’ve made a large wall rubbing in graphite and have been capturing old black dusty spiderwebs on pasted fine handmade paper.  The tiny woven lines are mesmerising.

Rickety handmade ladders are forming part of the work. Ladders take us to places out of reach, symbols of our desire to escape; our ascension to Heaven. Is there such a thing as freedom? I’m feeling caught up in an endless cycle, an effort to strive, (in a sense escape the present), but disturbed by the mass of destruction and waste we leave around us, there’s an attempt to suture, mend. Thanks to Nick Weaver for his help and use of well equipped wood workshop. Along the lines of ‘Snakes and Ladders’, there will be weblike entrail forms dangling…

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B-Wing 

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Co-curating an arts in prison project ‘B-Wing’ with Luminara Star for September/October, we are currently fundraising and so grateful to those who have kindly pledged their support for B-Wing already: Hauser & Wirth Somerset & Chrisi and Simon Kennedy. Writing an ACE application has taken up a lot of energy and time, so really hope we are successful. Sponsors will be listed on our forthcoming website. Please get in touch if you’d like to know more or wish to offer support.

Shepton Mallet Prison, built in 1610, was the oldest working prison in the UK until its closure in 2013. 8 B-Wing artists will respond to this unique space by researching its architecture, historical narrative and related concepts: incarceration, crime, the ‘other’…

The prison is an ideal site to create art in unexpected places.  Sculptural installations, performance and collaborative mixed media works will transform the spaces, provoking debate and engaging the wider community in participatory activities and events.

The B-Wing team of 8 artists and writers had an inspiring day visiting the prison for an artist research trip.  We were given an official prison tour and an additional pot history from Ian Keys. While the prison is steeped in an oppressive history, the B-Wing space is extraordinary - vast, with incredible light and acoustics.

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Extinction Rebellion, London

Last week I took part in Extinction Rebellion, as I feel so strongly about the destruction of our natural world, death of species and arrival of the sixth mass extinction. There is no greater cause.  It was my first big protest.

I joined an XR Frome group and a few of us teamed up as artivists.  We made huge banners and I ran a headdress making session with the lovely artivists (using discarded & recycled materials).  On Day 1 of XR we went to London, and wore the headdresses at Waterloo Bridge.  It was great to see them in action.  My flamingo headdress strutted its stuff all day, worn by a couple of people and photographed many times.  Let’s hope the amazingly powerful and resilient rebellion, a massive effort and achievement by so many, turns governments’ heads to engage in positive negotiations and outcomes for the good of all. 

Other Exhibitions

I’ve visited London a couple of times to see exhibitions.  I really enjoyed navigating through Phyllida Barlow’s Cul de Sac exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts.  Her work completely inhabits the space and invites active engagement. Dynamic views through doorways, obstructions, sculptural objects sticking out from the wall, verticals & horizontals playfully interact, up through under over round beyond into out. Soft drapes contrast against hard straight structures. Grey with splashes of colour.

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Her blocks on stilts resonate with my ideas involving precarious ladders, related to slums and our world on tipping point.  Also visited Bill Viola/Michelangelo: life, death, rebirth.  I found Viola’s videos profound and totally absorbing, even cried a little watching Nantes Triptych. And such beautiful drawings of the human spirit & endeavour by Michelangelo.

More recently, I was inspired by Franz West at Tate Modern for his playful irreverence, participatory sculptures, scale & use of everyday found materials. 

‘Material: Textile’ is also definitely worth a visit at Messums, Wiltshire. The tithe barn is filled with a fabulous installation The Onion Farm, made from carwash brushes, balls, stretchy fabric and lights, by fashion designer/artist Henrik Vibskov.  

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Workshops 

Recent workshops have included one for primary school teachers: Creativity Counts, The Brewhouse, Taunton via Somerset Art Works InspirED programme fusing art and maths. Participants made colourful decorative diatoms linked to Ernst Haeckel using recycled and found materials.

I also ran a twilight sculpture session for teachers, a sculpture workshop for Bruton Art Society and a 3d wire workshop at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge.  The courtroom was packed with participants aged 6+!  I’ve never run a workshop in a courtroom before.

Coming soon:

I'll be running a Jack in the Green cloak-making workshop (free) at Evercreech Village Hall, Sat 4 May, organised by The Old Stores Studio. In the workshop we'll be creating a rag cloak for Evercreech Jack in the Green.  Come along to the Village Hall between 9.30 - 11.30am to get creative. At 11.30 the head and cloak will join the body at The Old Stores Studio for a big procession at midday.

All ages are welcome to join in, so please share this with anyone you think may be interested in having a bit of Spring fun!

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Juggling by Fiona

It’s a common phenomenon for artists to be adept jugglers, managing multiple balls in the air to survive. A book I’m reading ‘The Artist as Cultural Producer’ by Sharon Louden highlights 40 artists who do it very well. It’s been a dizzy time juggling different strands of my practice and feeling excited by opportunities that have come my way.

Carymoor - newt sculpture

I installed my Great Crested Newt sculpture in his new home at Carymoor Environmental Trust. Made from recycled and found materials, he sits on a grassy tussock by an old bomb incineration tank (now pond - home to great crested newts). Here he can oversee his live newt friends who hide underneath the sheet of corrugated steel.

The sculpture was commissioned as a memorial to the founder of the environmental centre Hamish Craig. He loved great crested newts and it was finding these on the old landfill site that sparked the beginnings of Carymoor - now a wonderful wildlife and education centre built over a site full of waste.

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MA graduation ceremony

Earlier this month I officially graduated with an MA in Fine Art at a grand ceremony in the awesome Assembly Rooms, Bath, celebrating with fellow graduates. It was a treat to meet our chancellor Jeremy Irons and I was honoured to be invited to give the valediction speech on behalf of our cohort. I managed to do this without tripping up. It was a lovely sunny day for photos - happy memories!

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Gilbert Bayes Award sessions

Since winning a Gilbert Bayes award from the Royal Society of Sculptors, I’ve been going to London for monthly development sessions. The last with Shelley James focused on writing about our work. The year ends with a group exhibition in London, which tours to Grizedale Arts afterwards - exciting! I try to maximise on my London day trips by visiting exhibitions or museums. I saw Anni Albers at Tate Modern and more recently strolled through the V&A materials and techniques sections, which is mid-blowing.

Outdoor Arts

I have spent 2 weekends on an Outdoor Arts Development Course in Weymouth (delivered by Activate, b-side & Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival). It’s been fun and informative discussing potential art projects, learning tricks of the trade and thinking up new ideas. I’m now working on a pitch for a potential project which will involve collaboration, to present soon for the forthcoming event Dorset Moon this summer (Luke Jerram's international touring project Museum of the Moon). I’ve made a mini rickety ladder as a maquette. If I don’t get selected I will at least have a cute little ladder for posterity. I quite like making small objects despite normally making huge pieces. A bit finickety but addictive!

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Incendiary

The wonderful multi-site exhibition ‘Incendiary’, featuring my work, came and went in full fiery mode. 25 artists responded to the firing up of industrial incinerators - a thought provoking exhibition curated by Patricia Brian. Lou Baker and I held an event ‘Join in the Conversation’ as part of it - we were delighted that we had a room packed with engaged people at Stroud Valleys Artspace, discussing our work in context with waste.

Glut at Incendiary. Photo by Mike Garlick

Glut at Incendiary. Photo by Mike Garlick

Cells residency

For my cells residency ‘Offenders’ at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge (April/May) I’ve made initial sketches, a collage and have started sourcing scrap steel for the skeletal form of a proposed huge Tongue sculpture. Working in the garden on sunny February days has been great. Confrontation with uncomfortable topics related to environmental exploitation will be a characteristic of this residency and exhibition. 

My work often involves sourcing, sorting and stripping wire. I’ve happily received donations of unwanted materials: pink clothes, towels, wire and fruit nets. Still looking for recycled wax, lead and copper wire. Please get in touch if you have any spare.

Forthcoming exhibitions

Other events coming up include a big group show ‘Re-formation’ at the Bishops Palace, Wells, Somerset for Summer 2019, organised by Heritage Courtyard Gallery. I have been developing ideas for this.

Fundraising for Prison Project - B-Wing

I’m currently writing an ACE application for a forthcoming project ‘B-Wing’, an arts event being held in the unique spaces of Shepton Mallet prison. Delivered alongside co-curator Luminara Star and several selected artists, we are making progress. B-Wing will involve 5 artists and 1 writer making site-responsive works leading to an exhibition and performances in the B-Wing section of Shepton Mallet Prison during Somerset Art Weeks Festival ’19. The project promises to be quite special and will be a nice follow on from my Cells residency work. We are looking for funds to engage the local Shepton community, schools and various other groups in the area and from afar. More news to follow.

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Copper bowls

I have made a series of little copper bowls for Fosse Beads and Friends, Black Swan Arts, Frome. Each one is annealed and hand beaten.

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Workshops

I had fun with tinies (Yrs 1 & 2) at Trinity First School, Frome the other day. Around 120 children made sea creatures in a day using recycled plastic and other found/discarded materials.

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I am running a few workshops over the next few months with places available. The next is a 3d wire workshop, Tues 9 April, 10am-1pm, ages 6+; £15 per adult+child; additional children £8 each; includes materials & drink. Town Hall Arts, Market Street, Trowbridge BA14 8EQ. Book: www.townhallarts.co.uk

If you’re interested in more, please visit this link.

Diary of Ingruttati Palermo, Manifesta12 by Fiona

I was delighted to have been selected for the Ingruttati Palermo workshop and exhibition, a collateral 5x5x5 event organised by Hydrocity as part of Manifesta12, the European nomadic arts biennale. Manifesta12 acts as form of ‘urban acupuncture, providing interventions in key city spaces’.  I was kindly supported by Bath Spa University’s Enterprise Showcase Fund.

The aim of our workshop, involving experts and international students in art, architecture and geology, was to work collaboratively, researching the underground qanat (aquaduct) network at territorial and local scales to produce a collective installation and publication. The Manifesta12 theme ‘The Planetary Garden’, a vision where citizens are responsible gardeners caring for their environment, was at the heart of our work.  I was interested in developing the aspect of my practice involving collaborative art projects in the community on an international level.

Palermo’s historical significance (‘gateway between East and West’ leading to numerous invasions, mafia violence, renaissance) and its ancient qanat networks used for garden irrigation make it a fascinating, multicultural city.

DIARY

I made a diary, documenting my research and thought process (now exhibited in the Ingruttati Palermo exhibition):

 19/7/18:  Arrival in Palermo. I was struck by the melange of sights, sounds and smells; wonderful and ironic contrasts of dereliction next to grandeur, the mix of architecture, glimpses of Arabic domes through dark grubby alleys, exotic planting, washing hung out across streets, the heat and humidity. Visited a Manifesta exhibition (tribe ritual film by Yari Antonio in a dark chapel), the splendid Quattro Canti, skirted the seafront of La Cala, and rested in the wonderful gardens of Villa Giulia, surrounded by a cocophany of screeching cicadas.

20/7/18: Introduction at University of Palermo.  Metfellow participants. A series of fascinating talks by specialists revealed the real and symbolic relevance of underground water networksto urban regenerationand community life.  Sara Kamalvand (co-director) explained the qanats’ origins, how they help us understand the city’s archaeology, a potential provision of water in the future. ‘The line can become the figure: a reading device’; I imagined 3-d linear drawings.  Pietro Todaro (geologist, Sicily’s qanat expert) charted the history of qanats, how they spread from Iran. The Conca d’Oro was cultivated with citrus fruits, now overbuilt. Through diagrams and maps he showed us various systems, explaining the physics: water communication, importance of slope and height for energy. Qanats intercept the water table by gravity and hydraulics.  Danisinni farm has been irrigated by the same water for 1000 years.  A narrative of washing and laundry is linked to the area. Fra Mauro (Franciscan priest at Danisinni) described his long term project for Danisinni, an isolated, depressed rural area, his ‘dreams of garden, water flowing all around’.  People didn’t know about Danisinni until recently. Through water, he sees new life, a transformed community.  Fra Mauro’s goals are for art, beauty, engagement, food, peaceful relationships with humans and animals. Danisinni is under threat of being turned into a carpark.He believes this workshop might be important in spreading the word.

Visit to Manifesta12 Research Studios to see the Augmented Palermo Exhibition - beautifully executed projects by local and international architecture students, led by the Dean of Architecture, Maurizio Carta.  Alively archive of city, imagined and real, past, present and future, inspired by the planetary garden and OMA Atlas. Renzo Lecardane gave us an animated explanation about his students’ projects.  I particularly enjoyed the projects that included an element of play.

21/7/18:  Day visiting Manifesta12 events.  Bought the OMA Atlas - a reference gem on Palermo, covering its history, politics, urbanisation; a ‘tool of mediation between the city and Manifesta’.  I loved Chiesa Santa Maria della Spasimo, a stone church bombed in WW2.  A tall tree grows up through the internal structure of the inner courtyard to the open sky. The roof was never built – one of many unfinished buildings.  In the rear garden, ‘Cooking Sections’ is an open-top brick wall installation, which revisits the Jardinu Pantesco: an ancient open-top dry-stone tower invented as a single-tree citrus garden.  ‘Like the church ruins, lacking a roof enables a microclimate through a passive cooling effect... instead of traditional drystone walls it uses... alveolar blocks to allow air flow.’  Following this concept, in the Giardino dei Giusti vast swathes of yellow netting surround and shade citrus trees, echoing the draping laundry above. Trees recur as a symbol.  At Orto Botanica (such diversity of exotic plants) the extravagant aerial roots of ficus trees struck me.  A limestone corridor depicts photographs of ancient fossilised plant forms unearthed from coal-mining sites (Michael Wang, ‘Carboniferous’, 2018).  They highlight the contrast of inorganic modern materials originally created by organic swampy forests. The patterns imitate trees and ferns still growing in the garden.

In Palazzo Butera’s ‘Wishing Trees’, 2018, stories of 3 trees connect human histories and nature: ‘..through contemporary stories of conflict, migration and feminist anti-mafia activism, the roots of these trees reach into the present’.  Films are used to retell the stories.  Pipes also recur. Rayyane Tabet’s ‘Steel Rings’, (2013–ongoing) depicted rolled, engraved steel pipe rings replicating segments of the original Trans Arabian oil pipeline that crosses 5 borders from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon.  I am fascinated by the remnants of ancient clay pipes embedded in the old citywalls. These once provided drinking water to residents.  With reference to the garbage strewed around Palermo, and its history, collections of objects are explored in Khalil Rabah’s ‘Relocation, Among Other Things’, 2018, ‘an archaelogical site of contemporaneity, ...the trivial... a research into ...Palermo’s poorest material culture’.  Stacks of stuff including utensils, bed frames and cables fill the room, while museum vitrines sit empty.  In another exhibition near Quattro Canti, collected objects are displayed for their value or significance to site. Banners, too, are a strong theme in exhibitions, alongside processions, highlighting use of craft, text, campaign, activism.

Numerous exhibitions are set in the faded elegance of old churches and palaces, providing a rich contrast to contemporary artworks.  After the group dispersed, I made a beeline for Chiesa di Santa Venera to see work by an artist I’ve been studying: Berlinde de Bruyckere.  Hidden away, the church has been restored after a century of abandonment, like many buildings in Palermo.  In the cool interior, after the blazing heat, I was offered a chair to peacefully view Mantel I and II - a homage to Francis of Assisi, referencing Christian symbolism and the core of human existence. Layers of wax built up on torn blankets that form a crucifix pose, with open scars as wounds on a slashed wooden backdrop.  In her work, blankets once represented the genocide in Rwanda. In Mantel I and II, they are deteriorated, worn thin, referring to the habit of San Francesco.  I was given a sample of her work to feel, such a privilege!  It seemed serendipitous that her work references the Fransiscan order, and our local focus was Danisinni, run by a Franciscan priest.

 

In the evening we introduced ourselves and discussed our thoughts for the project.  I’ve been thinking about: vertical/horizontal; communication through sounds; collaboration/public participation; qanat as mycelium, part of nature; Franciscan community; scars; garbage, which reflects an attitude of waste.

22/7/18:  Visit to Danisinni, our local case study, where a wonderful social projectlinking water source,community and sustainable farm has developed under the wing of Fra Mauro, bringing everyone together.  Here, time slows down. Situated just beyond the old city gate, a turning downfrom the busy main road leads you into a basin, where you immediately feel calmer, as though time has done a u-turn.  Local expert Enzo Patti and Pietro Todaro showed us 3 water sources demarcating the journey of water.  2 (now dried) rivers surrounded Palermo - likened to 2 brothers with opposite characters - one fast, prone to flooding, 1 slow, associated with disease and pestilence.  Both gave life and benefits, but also had their dangers.  Danisinni was built in a swamp basin created by an ancientquarry. The laundry industry developed there and as papyrus grew, so did their paper industry.

We discussed keywords: water, life, production, human, urban. Also: narrative/message, poetry, layers, investigation, metaphor/symbolism, washing/laundry, sounds, trees/roots, lines, networks, pipes, flow, fracture, archive, communication, walking.

Visited bell tower and caves of Beati Paoli - grim!

In the evening, co-director Paulo Cascone (Co Design Lab) gave a talk about his sustainable design projects.  In Mali, a building made of adobe became part of the landscape.  Each year the rain destroys it so the people get together and reconstruct it, in favour of a permanent building - the community gathering is important to them. Fabrizio Vatieri showed his archive cabinet idea for our fabrication.  He suggested we give each other tasks to open up the collective dialogue.  My thoughts: water is the source of life; soil is also a critical resource. Clay could be dug up from3 levels, systematically comparing them, linked to terracotta pipes.  Possibly combine with paper (papyrus).  The blockage of the qanat is a metaphor for the severage of links with the natural world. The precariousness of Danisinni reminds me of a book I’ve read ‘Planet of Slums’, by Mike Davis.

We sensed that some residents, understandably, are resentful of us.  A bottle of water was thrown at us as we left Danisinni by a lad on a bike. This later became a prompt for my final idea.

23/7/18:  Fieldwork/research trip to the Timpone di Sirocco mountains and Gabriele qanat in a convoy of cars to see water sources that flow from the mountains.  Fabulous views across Palermo, nestling between mountains and Conca d’Oro (now mostly covered by poorly planned concrete urban expansion) and the sea.  It was awesome to climb inside the Gabriele underground cavern and see pure water bubbling up from the ground.  Outside the Gabriele water source are examples of different widths of terracotta pipes used inmedieval households. At the water plant, pipes and papyrus seem an interesting poetic contrast. Water is extracted from an electric pump.  I collected specimens of rock, silt (from qanat), an abandoned nest made from papyrus, a plastic pipe.  Mapping with found objects linked to site.  Are all my collected objects about decay?  Trying to retain the concept of collaborative work but the project seems to be veering towards individual projects.  Visited the Capuccino Catacombs, where I had time to sit and draw.

24/7/18: Love the free bus, saves my aching feet. Group session indexing with keywords to devise categories.  My words: linear networks, roots, cycle, pipes, community.  After discussion, I went in search of a vessel on wheels for my work.  I was hoping to use found and recycled objects. I found a man who offered me his home-made wooden trolley for 10 euros!  Found string and wire to pull the trolley and some trashed old books, one with incredible human anatomical illustrations, the topological layers of veins and organs reminded me of qanat networks.  Did a rubbing on the pavement of an amazing crack (it looked like Palermo set between the 2 old rivers).  Final idea: to pull my trolley around Danisinni neighbourhood, collecting discarded plastic water bottles.  Then fill them up at top water source (filmed), take them (in a crate) to residents (communication network) and offer to them for watering their plants/gardens (aka Planetary Garden).  Also, make collection of objects from significant sites.  We visited an exhibition High Series & Walls and Experimental Jetset at Ore 18 Gallery space.  A thoughtfully conceived presentation of the art of typeface alongside prints and photographs.

25/7/18:  Some visited the Scribene qanat and Sirocco room, while a few of us remained at Danisinni to work on our project.  Renzo suggested we look at the church crypt as a possible venue for our exhibition.  It’s perfect - a beautiful, atmospheric space, with a highly relevant backstory.   Clay relics and mosaics are displayed, and human skeletons found in the ground are kept in a carefully dug out cavity under the centre of the crypt floor.  You can look down onto them through a glass window!  Legend has it that a young girl fell into the swamp.  The whole community prayed in anguish to the holy family for her life. As she was resurrected from the water, a pillar was erected at that exact place to honour the miracle. Life revealed through water.  I performed the first half of my ‘Gift of Water’ piece, with Nick filming. Deadlines are upon us and a panic has taken hold.

Ended up in the depths of the Gesuitico di Casa Micciulla qanat, out of the city, with Karolina, Pierangelo, Renzo, Lucas, Lisa Wade from Manifesta and others.  Clad in wellies, waterproof jackets, trousers and helmet with head torch we descended a vertical shaft ladder about 15ms into a horizontal qanat. Water was calf height, the sound of pouring water overpowering.  Wonderful limestone/sandstone formations.  Some sandstone blocks carved to fit together as arches. Built around 16thC. Amazing to walk through underground watertunnelsmade by man.  Imagining the people who spent endless hours, days, weeks, months, years in the dark digging these out.  How did they navigate in the dark underground, how did they know which way to go and dig such a gently ever-decreasing slope down?  Families passed on skills/knowledge generation to generation.  We walked for a long time through narrow, winding tunnels, water dripping, gigantic mosquitos, shell fossils and clay.  Saw vertical wells, rectangular (for water wheel) and circular (for collecting debris). Climbed down into a lower well, water level up to knees/thighs, got very wet!  Terracotta pipes carry water and there’s an upper level.  Evidence of digging marks on the ceiling. Thanks to Renzo Lecardane for the car lifts.  Finished 9.45pm - long day!

26/7/18:  Met at 9am to finish performing/filming my piece 'A Gift of Water' (see stills below). Enrica (translator) and Nick (filming) collaborated with me.  We explained the concept and offered them a bottle of water for their plants. Loved the way they engaged, played along, appreciating the manner in which it was intended.  Enrica’s charming manner really helped.  It was a success, we gave away most of the bottles and managed to reach different demographics in age and gender, some at work, some at home. Karolina did a great job patiently editing the film. Difficult as it was taken in both landscape and portrait format. Late dinner in city. Looking forward to the Opening!

I was pleased with the film, apart from the poor sound quality (should have used mic).  The homemade style adds to its charm as a spontaneous social gesture.

27/7/18:  The exhibition came together after some hairy moments when we realised we had no working TV or cables for the project.  Nick Weaver (friend) helped with sanding, sawing and signage.  I used part of a reclaimed trashed wood bed for my shelf of found objects and diary, sanded and fitted into one of the crypt enclaves matching the other exhibits.

Other works by fellow participants include a video of water, stamps and banner, conceptual and underworld mapping, library of waters, curtain of video stills, booklet, study of commons, playful study of cracks.  Together, these balance research with strong creative concepts.

7.30pm: ‘Ingruttati Palermo’ opened in the Crypt of Chiesa Parrocchiale SantaAgnese, Piazza Danisinni, 90134 Palermo, Sicily with a feast from the biblical garden (thanks to the Danisinni community) and a full red moon.  It was a wonderful evening celebrating our intensive workshop,a good reception to our show, a huge success after some wobbly moments in the week.  My film made people smile.

The show runs throughout Manifesta12, 27 July - 4 November 2018

28/7/18  Morning off to explore Palermo.  Visited Ballaro market, Palatino Chapel, Palazzo Reale and Royal Gardens. The chapel is awesome, never seen anything like it. An overwhelming palette of glistening gold Byzantine mosaics fill the flamboyant space depicting biblical stories, fused with an immensely intricate Arabic carved ceiling. Floor and wall panels inlaid with marble and mosaic. Carved totem pillars.  Exceptional example of the cultural synthesis between Norman, Byzantine and Islamic cultures.

Later we compiled documentation for our website, going live soon.

In the evening we visited a Manifesta12 collateral event Soundwalk Collective, an otherworldlyexperience consisting of overlaid echoing soundsfrom 8 speakers with UV light casting the church in a blue/purple glow, based on Ulysses. Recordings, slices of conversations, menacing voices, seemingly disembodied.  Also came across an installation by Roberta Baraja outside Chiesa di Santa Catarina d’Alessandria, using fabric and wrapping to suggest fertility and abundance of plant life- right up my street!

29/7/18:  After a clear up in Danisinni, we all went for a fancy lunch in central Palermo and then dispersed.  Went up Chiesa di Santa Catarina d’Alessandria, amazing view of Palermo, domes, roofs, mountains, and drew. Best view of the city!  Our final goodbyes were on the beach later that evening - the end of a shared adventure!

It’s been fantastic working with the other participants: Karolina Majewska, Enrica Consiglio, Pierangelo Scravaglieri, Andreas Mallouris, Mariana Mañon Sepulveda, Manolo Larrosa, Félix de Rosen, Elke Reinhuber, Lucas Bartholl, Deborah Westmancoat, Anne Arnbjerg, Dario Annolino, Chiara Buscemi, Sefy Calcaterra, Rosy Marino, Gabriele Lupo and Sara Kamalvand, director of HydroCity who initiated the project.  Many thanks also to Pietro Todaro and Renzo Lecardane for their enthusiastic sharing of expert knowledge, the invaluable translations by fellow Italian students, the artistic input from Paulo Cascone and Fabrizio Vatieri, and support from Nick Weaver.

To produce an exhibition of new work in 10 days in a foreign city with strangers on a relatively unknown topic was an exciting challenge. The project was about so much more than an outcome.  Working collectively alongside participants from across the globe and from different disciplines, broadened my experience, outlook and methodology. It was helpful to discuss ideas with experienced professionals in art and architecture.  I gained an insight into alternative ways of viewing, researching, gathering, debating, mapping, sharing and displaying.  We learnt from each other, a generous way of creating a collective intelligence.

My work took an unexpected turn.  From my natural leaning towards 3d work, it became time-based and interactive. My interest in public participation and concerns over waste led me to explore the nature of gesture as a way to connect with local Danisinni residents.  ’A Gift of Water’ is a performative piece, documented as a short film, using locally sourced recycled objects and water from the Danisinni source. It evolved into a collaboration between me, other participants and some of the Danisinni community.

Palermo is an enthralling city; I would love to return, even work there again!