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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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Ready Steady Go by Fiona

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Welcome to my new website - it’s had a major makeover, thanks to Dave Meehan!

After an amazing Christmas holiday in Kenya visiting family and canoodling with baby orphaned elephants, I feel refreshed. This January has, naturally, been a month of beginnings. Having pulled together my reserves I’ve begun to take on the wealth of opportunities that have come my way.  I managed to sell a few pieces of work and almost finished a sculpture commission for Carymoor Environmental Trust. It represents a great crested newt using recycled components - deadline end of the month.

In between, I’ve attended the first inspiring weekend session of an Outdoor Arts Development Course, delivered by Arts by the Sea, Activate Performing Arts, B-side and Outdoor Arts UK. It was great to meet other art practitioners working in different disciplines. Most exciting is the fact that I was selected for a Gilbert Bayes Award by the Royal Society of Sculptors, and have been to the first session in London to meet the other selected artists and learn about photographing sculpture from Anne Purkiss. I am so impressed by the strength of work in the group and look forward to exhibiting with them at the end of the year.

In February I am taking part in a multi-site, multi-disciplinary group exhibition ‘Incendiary’, curated by Patricia Brien.   It spans one week, and is packed with all sorts of exciting happenings.   My work ‘Glut’, concerning waste, will feature in the show at Stroud Valley Artspace (SVA), Stroud, 6th - 10th Feb.  Lou Baker and I will be inviting the public to ‘Join in the Conversation’ at SVA - a performative discussion about our work on Saturday 9 February, 11-12.  Come and join in! 


In my new role as part of the education team at the Holburne Museum, I ran a workshop with a mixed age group of schoolchildren. They created Double Portrait drawings linked to Hockney’s Mr & Mrs Clark and Percy, on show at the time. I’m scheduled to run some masterclasses at the Holburne later this year.

Next big project to focus on is a Cells Residency and forthcoming Solo at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge (April/May). I have some ideas to explore more fully in the studio, inspired by Berlinde de Bruyckere’s recent exhibitions at Hauser & Wirth Somerset and Palermo. I’m collecting various recycled materials; if you have any copper wire, wax or red wool, they would be much appreciated! This work will hopefully lead on to a collaborative art project I’m organising with Luminara Star in Shepton Prison later this year. We are about to start funding applications…

Things come in waves and I think I’m on a big one… Ready Steady… Go!

Tentacular by Fiona

At the start of this month, I went to a Somerset Art Weeks Symposium in Taunton ‘Prospecting: new directions and territories for artists’ practice’.  It was an invigorating day, albeit condensed, making connections and thinking laterally.  I particularly enjoyed catching up with SAW artists and meeting new practitioners. One of our tasks to bring to the event was a ‘This is Me’ profile for a group wall display.  Mine (below) reflects on the tentacular nature of my practice:

The talks highlighted inspiring examples of socially engaged practice and collaboration.  In workshops with Kerry Harker and Lydia Catterall we discussed the imperative for resilience, forging artist-led initiatives, and finding interesting spaces to show our work.  With this in mind, I’ve been planning a few interesting ventures for next year.  Two happen to involve prison cells.

I’m excited to be mulling over ideas for a residency culminating in a solo exhibition in the basement cells at Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, in the Spring.  Alongside the show, I'll be delivering some related workshops with the young and elderly.  I am also in early stages of organising a joint art project and exhibition with Luminara Star and the Rubbish Art Project in Shepton Prison (the oldest UK working prison - now vacant until it gets developed into residential homes).  The cells are still in tact.  Both sites are unique, intriguing spaces for site-specific work, full of dark, sad histories, appropriate for creative responses to current society and environmental issues.  On a sunny day, light through the windows, steel bars and grids casts dramatic linear shadows. The prison, now silent, has great acoustics - one can only imagine the sounds of its past. We hope to include other artists, possibly sound, film, performance and installation and will engage the community in the making process.

A recent tweet about a bull elephant being shot because it broke out of its fenced enclosure in South Africa made me fume.  Almost as bad as poaching and trophy hunting.  It turns out they did not maintain the fences adequately, and all he was doing was naturally pushing boundaries, exploring, roaming beyond barriers – human imposed after all.  Why shoot him? Because he wasn’t towing the line we impose for our own humancentric logic.

Inky the Octopus, a hero in 2016, broke out of his aquarium tank in New Zealand National Aquarium, slid/crawled across the floor and down a drainpipe to the ocean.  Amazing intelligence and agility, but as this article points out, for many reasons beyond our own intelligence. Octopuses are so very different to us – ‘aliens’ apparently.  What’s fascinating is that ‘octopus literature is full of such flights to freedom’. The escape and how he did it remains a mystery. I was in awe watching an octopus in David Attenborough’s Blue Planet (Green Seas episode) trick a shark and escape by very cunningly and swiftly covering itself with a coat of shells. Picasso and his contemporaries were intrigued by ‘The Octopus’, 1928, a film by Jean Painleve, which led to Picasso's octopus-like women.  Octopuses also remind me of the interconnectedness of life:

The tentacular are... fingery beings like humans... squid, jellyfish, neural extravaganzas, fibrous entities, flagellated beings... swelling roots... The tentacular are also nets and networks... Tentacularity is about life lived along lines... a series of interlaced trails’ (Donna Haraway, 2016)

So, this creature – a symbol of our great and mysterious oceans- inspired my design for a giant octopus lantern to lead 2018 Shepton Lantern Parade (see top).  I am making the chicken-wire structure, then working on it with the community and the Rubbish art project in workshops at the Art Bank,Shepton Mallet, using recycled materials, especially plastic.  Workshop dates: Sat 24 Nov 11am-1pm, Mon 26 11-1, Mon 3 Dec 7-9pm, Thur 6 Dec 4-6pm + more... To take part in a workshop email lucy@therubbishartproject.co.uk   The Octopus will be lit by led lights and paraded on 22 December with the Shepton Lantern Parade. Please come along!

Creature and environmental concerns continue to engage me, as does the blurring of boundaries.  My thoughts are currently meandering around concepts of confinement, caged animals/humans, factory farming, obstruction, barriers, walls within walls.. and I'm sure there will be an element of the tentacular.

Other news:

I received the official results of my Masters in Fine Art this week and delighted to have passed with distinction!

In between tidying up my studio so it's fit for purpose, I've started working on a 1 metre Great Crested Newt as a commission for Carymoor Environmental Centre in memory of Hamish Craig, whose amazing contribution to Carymoor was instigated by great crested newts found there.

Last week I ran my first workshop as part of the Holburne Museum education team.  It was an A'Level life-drawing session linked to 'Rodin: rethinking the fragment'. It encouraged me to do some of my own life-drawing beforehand and prep on Rodin's link with the Pantheon sculptures, which all helped.

The class did some fabulous drawings:

Forthcoming exhibitions include: Residency and Solo Exhibiiton (title TBC), The Cells, Town Hall Arts, Trowbridge, April - May; Incendiary, Landsdown Gallery and SVA, Stroud, 4-10 February 2019; Marks Hall Sculpture, Essex, 20 July - 1 September 2019; Reformation, Bishops Palace, Wells, July - October 2019.  More info to follow.

 

If you'd like to receive updates please follow me here or on instagram, where I add regular updates: https://www.instagram.com/fionacampbellartist/   

My website is undergoing a complete rehaul and a much needed paring down.  Watch this space!

 

Time To Move On by Fiona

My intense 2-year MFA course at Bath Spa Uni has now come to a successful end.  I threw myself into it mind and body, so the past few weeks have been a strange time of re-adjustment and reorganising, sadness, but also hope for exciting work ahead.  Time to move on.  Below are some images of the 3 works I presented for the final module and MA Show - thanks to John Taylor for some of these photographs. Through the MA, my practice has undergone a series of shifts; it has developed more integrity, an expansiveness, but also a paring down in approach.  I was happy with the results and delighted with my grade.

Some info about the pieces:

Inspired by reading ‘Planet of Slums’ (Mike Davis) - rich/poor divide, precarious lives, cruelty to humans/animals; watching ‘Our Daily Bread’ (Nikolaus Geyrhalter) – factory farming; ‘A Plastic Ocean’, and grief over the death of my dog, my response is a form of suturing.

Concerned with waste, ‘Glut’ is a set of wrapped, woven and stitched tentacular entrails, viscous hybrids transformed, suturing trash into treasure, both seductive and disgusting. The materials (especially personal items) speak of past lives, loss, textiles, craft. In contrast, the organic forms symbolise death, violence, but also vulnerability and renewal - the duality of horror and tenderness. ‘Accretion’ is an accumulation of many parts. Its evolution, the labour-intensive process of its making is an important element in the work. It is an abject object.  It has connotations of the intestine, a metaphor for waste, excess and recycling, and other tentacular forms.  Like pulling hair out of a plug, it is repulsive, ambiguous.

We are all of the earth; the earth is flesh and bone. ‘Of Bones’ demonstrates a relational play of human-made and organic materials. The juxtaposition of fragile, translucent parched ‘bones’ against metal and wood sets up dynamic tensions. Cast branches as limb-like forms are playful abstractions. It references Picasso’s Crucifixion series inspired by Matthias Grunewald. Christ’s tortured hand is interpreted from the cast of a found piece of gnarled wood. The work also references Goya’s ‘Disasters of War’ series and Mark Dion’s trees. Regarding humanity, Christ’s words from the cross: ‘they know not what they do’ resonate.

Since re-entering the outside world I have been catching up on loose ends, establishing new connections, working on a commission, running workshops and other bits and bobs.  In a one-day workshop at Beckington First School (via SAW) working with tinies aged 4-9 years old, we made a whale, fish & other sea creatures. Every child in the school took part in making the sculptural artworks using recycled materials, especially plastic as an environmental project highlighting waste.  It was linked to the story of Jonah and the Whale to tie in with the school’s current theme Retell, Reused, Recycled.  After I fixed all the components together, the sculptures were installed in the school grounds for permanent display.

One morning I taught acrylic painting to a group of 17 U3A adults.  They all produced lovely still life paintings - a few illustrated below.

I was commissioned to make a set of copper bird feeders for Horatio’s Garden, Stoke Mandeville. Some commissions are more interesting than others. This one has increased my understanding of copper and the process of annealing.  I love watching the colours change through application of heat. Copper expands when hammered into a sunken mould. For moulds I used found steel objects and carved a couple in wood, thanks to Nick Weaver. Quite a long process but a fascinating transformation.

I am using these copper processes for a range of shop Christmas decorations (Fosse Beads and Friends, Frome).   Next commission is to make a 1 metre Great Crested Newt for Carymoor Environmental Centre using recycled materials.  It has a lovely backstory, which I will relate in another blog soon.

Yesterday I sold a large sculpture made a few years ago to a lovely couple, who I know will give him a great home. ‘Man Models Himself On Earth, Earth On Heaven’ (my longest title to date) will be added to as a site-specific residency, returning to my original plans for him to be more densely woven.

I occasionally invigilate at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.  I am elated that Berlinde de Bruyckere is now showing there with her Stages & Tales exhibition.   During my MA I researched her work, which became a key influence to my practice.  Her new body of work is more abstract: in her powerful series Courtyard Tales, she uses layers of decomposed, torn blankets as a metaphor for bodies, intimacy, decay, shelter, vulnerability, lust and war.  There is a duality of love and suffering.  I burnt my thumb badly with a glue gun the other day, and the scarred fleshy wound reminds me of details in her work.  It was fantastic to have the opportunity to speak to Berlinde at the opening.

There are crossovers between Berlinde de Bruyckere’s work and Takesada Matsutani’s adjoining exhibition ‘A Drop in Time’. It has been mesmerising to watch the stages of transformation since Matsutani performed the piercing of the bag of ink suspended over a wooden ball.  Over time, single droplets fell repeatedly onto the ball causing remarkable splatters of ink, making an eclipse, flowing to the edges in its own way.  The piece has developed over time. I find his work very beautiful.  I love the simple gesture, the aspect of time and timelessness, the gestural hand-made labour-intensive process with graphite pencil marks on paper, canvas and wood.  Like de Bruyckere, the work refers to the ‘endless cycle of life and death’.

I am pleased to now be a small part of the education team at the Holburne Museum, Bath. Next month I will be running a Life Drawing session for A’ Level students linked to the ‘Rodin: re-thinking the fragment’ exhibition.  It may well re-ignite my own life drawing passion from years ago.

I am allowing myself some head space before properly starting new artwork.  Meanwhile this website is being changed (watch this space).

Next exhibition coming soon ‘Line and point’, will be at Centrespace Gallery, Bristol (25 Oct-1 Nov). If you didn’t get to the MA Show, this exhibition features work by a group of MA alumni and final year postgraduate fine artists, including me.  Contemporary practices across installation, drawing, painting, sculpture, mixed media, objects and digital work is tiered with connections relating to the theme ‘line and point’.  My piece ‘Glut’ will be on show: Line and Point, Centrespace Gallery, 6 Leonard Lane, Bristol BS1 1EA.  It runs from Saturday 27th October - Wednesday 31st October, open daily 11am - 6pm.  Preview, Friday 26th October, 6pm - 9pm – all welcome!  http://www.centrespacegallery.com

Hope you can come along!

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!