Category Archives: Art

Review Performance at The New Theatre by Lois Arcari


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4 Stars4 / 5

 

Director James Williams was placed, alongside the producers at Arts Active Wales, with the admirable but ultimately unenviable task of threading together a week’s worth of workshops, carried out by young people who had never before met, together into a show worthy of the New Theatre.

Despite the insularity that is always a potential threat to any of these types of projects, they always expand outside their form – making it a real shame this performance, perhaps weighed down by the somewhat awkward virtue of its name, wasn’t a tad more well marketed. What the Sherman NT Connections festival did so well with interpreting set theatre pieces this project did for new material.

There were, of course, lots of layers of interweaving. The more complex ideas with the weaker ones, the reasonably large age gap of performers aged 14 – 25, and of course the disciplines of circus, design, dance, art, music and the spoken word. The poetry, overseen by Literature Wales was one of the highlights, although a few themes might’ve meandered, and there were moments where politics seemed a little indelicately transposed onto some performers. Having sat in on the workshop, any chinks in the material were minute distractions against the obvious double edged sword of the time frame, and the integration of every workshopped piece into the whole.

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The ensemble for ‘Performance’ 2016

Community Music Wales where also very active in the show but where better executed and more memorable when used as a backbone for the other artforms. The Art and Design elements were the most sporadically used but well done; a Dali like background to an intense, exhaustive dance piece the most effective example. Impressive puppetry was also used, although the flashy teddy bear, turned Gothic by the lighting, would best be appreciated of those who, unlike this critic, have not been subjected to the ‘wonders’ of FNAF by younger family. No Fit State’s Circus performances showed the two most obvious flavours, a humorous but slight juggling gag to trapeze, but there will be no world in which the mastery of the latter doesn’t inspire some kind of awe.

All the elements worked well together, but Earthfall Dance had a monopoly on the night. Contemporary dance is one of those things all too easy to get wrong, viewed by the general public with cynicism, and even sometimes within the arts with a gentle wryness. In this show, it was stunning, performed by the trained dancers, with natural acting talent alongside passionate energy. It whipped up the most natural commentary and narrative of the night whilst seeming absolutely effortless. As always, simplicity was king and queen alike. Even though others without dance experience were involved, they too seemed totally natural. Whether swift and pulsating or tender and subdued, it was perfectly executed.

Overall, the pieces which were meant to form more of a cohesive story than a thematic connection were too brilliant not to hinder the more standalone pieces which would otherwise be fine if unengaging but it rather accurately depicted the current arts scene, whilst showing plenty of scope for new forms of talent. The difficulty in reviewing this was that any flaws are part of its form and therefore, any commentary can’t seem too constructive, but trying to bring young talent out of its usual spheres and into the general stage is an admirable thing. It was never going to be perfect or show any calculated insight, but it was certainly vibrant and showed plenty of the organic kind. Very much worth keeping an eye out for next year, but keeping it in context is essential for the ride.

Director: James Williams

Producer: Arts active
Assistant producers/collaborators: Literature Wales, No Fit State, Earthfall Dance, Community Music Wales, Criw Celf
Running time: 1 hr 20 mins

 

M.A.D.E. Pick of the Degree Shows – Review

 

M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows: Does what it says on the tin…

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(M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows is a group exhibition of fourteen graduate works from South Wales Universities. As the title suggests, the work that makes up the exhibition was sourced directly from the degree shows of Cardiff School of Art & Design and The University of South Wales, so represents the most current student practice to come out of the capital.

 

The show brought together a collection of promising artists graduating from Welsh Universities this year whose works best demonstrate an affiliation with M.A.D.E’s endeavour to communicate the significance of, ‘self-expression as a crucial human endeavor’. Curators of the show and co-directors at M.A.D.E Zoë Gingell and Josh Leeson selected works that they felt were most ‘strong’, and feel the exhibition ‘stands up to the best of work coming out of Cardiff and its environs’; A tall order, although I would agree that the quality and diversity of the works in the space certainly warrant their inclusion in the gallery’s selection. There’s something to be said about balancing the aim to exhibit as many deserving students’ works as is possible in the space whilst maintaining the critical and physical distance necessary to surround each artwork. In this respect, it is necessary to consider the commitment to make quality artwork visible to audiences who might not have had the opportunity to visit each of the respective Degree Shows.

 

M.A.D.E doesn’t pretend. The space is not the expansive white cube sort we might experience at venues like Chapter’s gallery space; it has a character that calls for tricky display decisions and can account for a more intimate and relatable experience of the work. A proportionately large amount of artworks shown in the limited space of the gallery was surprisingly not to the detriment of the exhibition. Through careful placement of artworks and recognition on the part of the viewer of a few central curatorial motifs, the show remains legible and engaging and the artworks are given conceptual space enough to breathe.

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(Julia Hopkins @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

The artists chosen for the show have all produced works deserving of recognition and I’m pleased to see two of my own ‘picks’ from the CSAD Degree Show, Julia Hopkins and Sam Wall, were part of the M.A.D.E selection. Julia’s miniature compositions implied interconnected movement, balance and reactivity. The structures were made ‘and frequently unmade’ in efforts to find some elusive meaning. Meanwhile, Sam Wall’s drawn works expanded and crawled over the page, a two-dimensional continuation of monster-making which begs, borrows and steals from the fantastic sculptural work presented as part of the artist’s Degree Show exhibition.

(Follow this link to my previous review of the Cardiff School of Art & Design Fine Art Degree Show: http://getthechance.wales/2016/05/27/review-csad-fine-art-degree-show-2016-amelia-seren/)

Novel approaches to storytelling were evident in several of the works. Rachel Lucas presented written descriptions in place of photographic equivalents. The accounts documented the lives of refugees and explored the desensitisation of society to a genre of harrowing images. Mikky Saunby’s ceramic works implied primitive narratives, while George Curzon casted Imogen, the artist’s sister, as the protagonist of Shakespeare’s tale, Cymbeline in a photo series exploring the trials of adolescence. Florence Fung integrated Chinese ceramic techniques into works more outwardly aligned with contemporary Western aesthetics. In Journey the artist referenced the traditional Willow Pattern, and through the craftsmanship of each piece illustrated the ‘inseparable relationship between the present and the past’.

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(Mikky Saunby @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

Another recognisable thread, which linked works in M.A.D.E Pick of the Degree Shows, was an emphasis on personal expression through creativity. James Moore’s diptych video works, Headspace both demonstrated and validated the emotional extremes of anxiety and fear, whilst Melissa Hooper’s series of images, Unsettled explored her relationship to the outside as a sufferer of Agoraphobia. Macarena Costan also used photography as a medium, this time to question the disconnection experienced between our memories and the reality of past experiences after following a visit to her family home in Spain. Aaron Davies’ interest in issues surrounding gender identity was manifest in his ceramic compositional forms. Each piece suggested typically male or female characteristics and potentially endless combinations thereof, eliminating any inclination towards gendered binaries. Mylo Elliot’s painted works employed graffiti writing as a medium to explore language and communication of the self. Symbols and visual motifs made up a personalised hieroglyphic language subject to interpretation. The inclusion of personal experience in all of these works provided a useful entry to the artworks for empathetic viewers, and the reimagining of familiar narratives made for engaging artworks.

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(Florence Fung @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))

Consideration into the limits of specific mediums is evident in the remaining works. A reincarnation of Eloise Barratt’s light installation in the M.A.D.E gallery space made for an ambitious display. Viewers were encouraged to entertain their perception of colour as a legitimate medium by drawing attention to the illusionistic nature of colour and light. Whilst Sarah Barnes’ works explored the limitations of the Camera Obscura technique, set within the context of the custodial teen bedroom. Conor Elliot’s photographic prints undermined the visual language of art history by questioning over-familiar and preconceived ideas of what an artwork should look like. His witty photographs critique the ‘staleness’ of referential and ‘typical’ fine art using its own symbolic medium.

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(Macarena Costan @ M.A.D.E (Image by ASR 2016))
Through their programme of events and workshops it is obvious that M.A.D.E possesses an ethos to nurture and support the creative and local communities. Their more recent endeavor to celebrate emerging artists is a welcome venture amongst the student community, and hopefully the general public as well! This opportunity for graduate artists to have exhibited their practice as part of an established platform affords valuable exhibition experience to all of the shows participants. Exhibitions such as this can increase the visibility of very early-career artists, encourage careers in the arts, and forge new relationships between artists graduating from creative university-level courses in South Wales.

The opportunity granted to exhibit these artworks was invaluable, nonetheless it was evident that the works chosen warranted their display, and I look forward to seeing all of the artists involved exhibiting in Cardiff and further afield in the future; A worthy show.


Florence Fung / Rachel Lucas / Julia Hopkins / Aaron Davies / Mikky Saunby / Conor Elliott / James Moore / Mylo Elliot / Eloise Barratt / Sam Wall / George Curzon / Melissa Hooper / Sarah Barnes / Macarena Costan


M.A.D.E is a hub for the arts and contemporary crafts and regularly exhibits a diverse range of artworks as well as performance showcases and pop-up events. Situated on Lochaber Street in Roath, the venue also hosts a small café which offers local and ethical produce.


(All photographs taken by the author on the occasion of the exhibition in question, for official images of works, please visit the artists’ respective websites).

 

 

Creative Cardiff Pop-Up Hub: Reflections on Hub Environments for the Arts

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All images taken from social media linked to the project

In the same week that it was announced that Britain was leaving the EU, free-thinkers in Cardiff were exploring new and innovative ways for arts professionals to work together as part of the Creative Cardiff pop-up hub.

From the 20th-24th June selected creatives occupied a temporary pop-up workspace in the Wales Millennium Centre as part of an initiative organised by Creative Cardiff. Sara Pepper, director of Creative Economies at Cardiff University, was a key organiser of the event having researched existing approaches to creative hubs both within, and outside of Wales. Pepper champions ‘hub’ models as potential centres for innovation within the Cardiff creative economy. Sara Pepper has authored a blog post in which she outlines her research which you can access via the link below:

http://blogs.cardiff.ac.uk/creative-economy/2016/06/16/a-creative-hub-for-cardiff/

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Creative Cardiff is an online network of practicing creatives in the Cardiff area initiated by a team at Cardiff University. The network went live in October 2015 and already currently has a membership of over 550 practitioners.

This form of online network has already proven useful to both my peers and myself, practicing within universities as well as on a freelance basis. Organisations such as EMVAN (The East Midlands Visual Arts Network) provide valuable access to creative opportunities and share relevant events information, thus implementing a meeting of like-minded practicing creatives and audiences alike.

What Creative Cardiff achieved in this recent venture is to demonstrate that the hub environment prompted an acceleration of the outputs of its occupants whilst retaining its supportive values. There are early indications that hubs may prove to be beneficial to the development of creative networks and productivity within the city. That these values could be propagated successfully within the physical space of a hub supports the demand for more dedicated collision spaces for creatives, which could support existing online networks.

“Our network aims to bring together people from across the full breadth of the city’s creative economy – from dancers and marketing professionals to architects and app developers. By collaborating and sharing ideas we want to encourage more innovation and creativity in our city” – Creative Cardiff.

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Reflecting on my own experience of working in the hub, I found the pop-up nature of the arrangement provoked thought and reflection on the nature of the co-operative working arrangement rather than focusing on the development of individual creatives. This differs from the way in which arts students or employees within other creative industries are usually encouraged to practice, and on the surface seems to contradict productivity. Although the arrangement of the short-term hub might have been initially disruptive, established examples have indicated that co-operative working increases productivity – hence Google’s eagerness to provide exciting, open workspaces for their employees to work collaboratively.

I found the group was particularly concerned with how professionals from various creative fields might gather to achieve the aforementioned aims of Creative Cardiff, whilst still continuing to realise autonomous objectives within their own creative practices. Countless discussions were had on the topic, and throughout the week questions were raised regarding the benefits, physical design, core values, social and creative impact of working in this way to name but a few. Issues such as these are often interrogated on occasions where creative practice mingles with academic insight.

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A particularly successful feature of the pop-up hub was the daily ‘Provocation Sessions’ provided in the mornings within the hub space. During these sessions, the hub members were invited to hear professional reflections on the nature of creative spaces and productivity and discussion on these topics was encouraged. We heard from a range of speakers including Prof. Wayne Forster of the Welsh School of Architecture, Clare Reddington and Jo Landsdowne of WATERSHED (Bristol) and Prof. Jonathan Dovey, UWE Professor of Screen Media and director of REACT. Such sessions provided an opportunity for focused learning and interaction amongst the hub members that I believed complimented more casual encounters experienced in the joint space.

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I found Prof. Jonathan Dovey’s insights regarding the hub as a creative eco-system especially informative and motivational. His experience has demonstrated that hubs can provide instances of exchange, impacts and continued mutual support amongst their occupants. Dovey placed particular emphasis on the benefits of shared values within creative hubs, such as generosity, openness, trust and excitement.

It is the presence of these shared values, possessed by the members of the pop-up, which contributed towards the success of the Creative Cardiff hub, and defined the unique and progressive environment that I experienced as a member.

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With the project only spanning over a short week, the conditions of the hub could not be established in the way in which an organically cultivated hub space might. However, many would agree that the potential for development and continuation of the project was evident. Through research carried out by Cardiff University, we can be positive the project has contributed to the development of creative hubs in Cardiff in the future. As well as this, I hope there is recognised potential for such hubs to become part of an interconnected network of creatives spanning Wales, the UK, and even Europe and globally.

Perhaps the potential of a hub network is way in which creatives can demonstrate that, despite established individualist tendencies, we are in fact better together.

To view Amelia’s Creative Cardiff profile, please follow the link below:

http://www.creativecardiff.org.uk/users/amelia-seren-roberts

Twitter: @amelia_seren

 

“Which is why I am writing this” Creatives and critics on the EU referendum

 Creatives and critics from and based in Wales respond to the vote to leave the EU.
Beth House Founder/Creative Producer
Taking Flight Theatre Company
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I have been shocked and dismayed by Thursday’s vote in which just over half of the British public expressed their desire to leave the EU. As a theater maker working with marginalised groups, much of the funding of organisations we come into contact with- organisations, which support the most marginalised and disenfranchised among us-, comes from EU pots.

The aim of Taking a Flight is to provide employment opportunities for Deaf, disabled and sensory impaired performers. Whilst I don’t anticipate that the government of the day would reverse laws and Acts which have already been passed to protect the rights of disabled people, I fear that, with the UK’s poor track record for supporting disabled people and protecting funding and support, that the UK will begin to lag behind Europe in this- and many other areas. This will happen.

My immediate response of panic has been much more personal, as I feel already there has been a paradigm shift in the attitude of many people towards “the other”-I have heard in the street, on social media and on the news, Joe Public using the result of this referendum as an excuse to be overtly, unashamedly and publicly racist. It feels as if this referendum has opened the door for the metaphorical tattooing of the bulldog on the forehead and the waving of the Union Jack in the faces of those who remain supporters of membership of the EU- and those perceived as “other”.

Lastly, I am disappointed at the number of people who appear to have voted “leave” in error- who decided to vote against the government – a protest vote which has cost us- and our children- dearly.

I wish I could share the “lets make the best of it” attitude- that the best art is inspired by diversity, but I’m afraid that with so many of my friends of European origin already planning to leave, and so many friends speaking of “winding up” all their EU contracts, with the pound at an 31 year low and the threat of further knocks to the industry I love and make my living- such as if us- at, I cannot bring myself to optimism at this point.

James Doyle-Roberts (Co-Artistic Director, Citrus Arts based in Pontypridd)

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On the day of the result I was in a cheap hotel room next to London City Airport. The social housing estate next door is soon to be demolished to make way for yet more tiny 1-bedroom flats which claim to be “luxury” (as they always do), and will temporarily house workers rather than families, until they can’t afford to live there anymore.

This is how economic “growth” works, and is why I’m on the side of the social benefits that the EU delivers in our communities in Wales where it invests in apprenticeships, tourism and communities, so they can keep their shared spaces connected to their sense of self. And yes, that includes people who come from abroad who want to contribute to those communities.

At 6 am that morning, I woke up with the referendum result already in my mind. I checked my phone, and my heart sank into an empty-feeling stomach.

I’d already voted to Remain without a moment of doubt; I still respect some friends who have sound ideological reasons to distrust the EU’s current state, but don’t think their global revolution is coming soon and know a better bet on our current future when I see one.

The last thing I saw on TV the night before was the early Sunderland result declared alongside footage of cheering Leave supporters. This clip was different to the usual election results being declared to a band of victorious party-faithful, this was the kind of cheer we’d all seen in earlier weeks of the violence that accompanied the opening games of Euro 2016, it was cheering with anger and a F**k You attitude– the worst kind of victory cry.

I went downstairs to the breakfast room to see a man in his 50’s cheering loudly every time Johnson or Farage appeared on the TV above the heads of an international mix of fellow guests and staff. He’d clearly been having his own all-night Brexit party, surrounded by empty bottles and was enjoying himself by loudly addressing the staff (mostly non-white), in that particular smirking, dismissive, ‘you-know-what-I-mean’ way that the odious Farage has normalised into our political discourse in the past eight years.

I was being paid a small amount of money to attend Greenwich & Docklands International Festival (GDIF) and the networking events around it. Alongside my thoughts asking “what’s the point of going, now we have the repercussions of this terrible result to deal with?” I was also thinking “and so, here it begins . . .”, as I left Bully-Boy to his ugly antics.

The lump in my throat grew each time I thought of the future of my little boy, 19 months old, growing up in a society where facts and expertise become disposable when pitted against volume and vitriol. What kind of society are we allowing our media to shape where honesty and propriety are represented as just “one side of the argument”?

At the GDIF Marketplace event (where artists can meet programmers from around the world to sell our shows), the atmosphere was how I imagine a wedding party to be where the Bride or Groom have bolted, but the guests decide to stay to consume the food & drink anyway because it’s all been paid for. There was no banquet on offer, just opportunities to build relationships with fellow artists around Europe and the wider world, and chances for us to make the best of the funds we could collectively gather between us if we cooperate.

Speakers welled-up & choked as they tried to contextualise why we were all there. Scottish delegates had confidence that they would go their own way, anyway; I felt like apologising for Wales’ strong vote to leave the EU.

There is still hope for a way out of what looks like an ugly future, but without any current leaders with the integrity to step-up & confront the lies, it is up to us to build it together by talking to each other, our neighbours, the people we randomly meet, and not being afraid of Bully-Boy and his gang.

Rachel Tresize Author and Playwright 

Rachel

I’m absolutely devastated by the referendum results, not least here in my own Rhondda Valley where residents have benefited from so much EU funding in the past. I studied on an Erasmus scheme when I was twenty years old. It was such an inspiring experience to meet and study with so many students from all over the world and inimitable in introducing me to the world outside of my own area. As a writer I travel frequently to EU countries and am translated in Danish, Italian, Croatian and soon Slovenian and I would like young Welsh students and authors to have these same opportunities. I’m worried now that these ties will be severed due to financial and travel restrictions.

 Gemma Louise Treharne-Foose  Get the Chance Critic

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I’ve been a lucky recipient of EU-funded programmes over the years. I had a paid for apprenticeship after University to train as a researcher in TV production because I lived in the valleys. I have been happy to take advantage of the programmes and funding available to me because of my postcode and because people think I need a ‘leg up’ or a head start. But these programmes and funding pools are a sticking plaster for the real problems going on in the valleys. Long term unemployment, dreadful infrastructure and crumbling services. I’ve had lots of conversations with others living here that it’s ridiculous that in 2015/2016 we are still relying on charity handouts – whether they are from Westminster, Cardiff Bay or Brussels.

I think the remain campaign never really addressed this malaise and the deeper frustrations and resentment, unfortunately. I fear for how much worse things will be here now. EU-funded projects were the only thing helping people back to work in many areas in RCT as UK-Govt services (like Job centres) have ceased or been closed down. As much as I agree with the reasons to remain, I have struggled to articulate to friends and colleagues from wealthier and more prosperous communities why people here aren’t jumping up and down and doffing their cap because of handouts from the EU. I think there’ll be some harsher realities coming our way, though.

Sophie McKeand  Welsh Poet Young People’s Laureate Wales 2016-2018

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I’ve chosen to respond to the Brexit debacle by creating blackout/cutup poems every day for thirty days using only that day’s papers using the hashtag #thirtydaysofBrexit. These are protest poems in response to the right-wing media bias we’ve all been subjected to.

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This needs challenging, questioning and changing dramatically. Our media is homogenised and overtly right-wing which is why Jeremy Corbyn is getting such a roasting.

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I personally believe he is, hated by the political and media establishment, the underdog the British public will get behind in the future. We’re sick of cock-swinging politics and many like his quiet socialism, his let’s-have-tea-with-your-nan approach. I think he is someone who could reach out to Plaid Cymru, the SNP and Northern Ireland, creating a united group of countries.

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https://www.instagram.com/sophie_mckeand/

Iwan Bala Visual Artist 

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'Dis-United Kingdom'

Keith Murrell Community Artist 

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I should preface my response by saying that I didn’t vote

I’m not registered at the moment because I have no permanent address – I know there is still an option to register but I don’t feel like sharing my personal circumstances with the bureaucracy. Having said that: I’ve never been overly engaged with the ‘democratic process’ and have very little (none) faith in the political party system – I’ve only voted a couple of times in my life and that was about issues rather ideologies … at the previous general election I voted ‘Green’ not because I thought they could win but in order to show support and help them to keep their deposit. Had I been registered this time around I would have voted to remain: this in itself is more of an instinctive reaction to the politics of those who want to leave, rather than any shining virtues of the EU.

I personally have little regard for ‘national identity’, borders, or flags and I tend to think more in terms of community and the planet. In that respect, I’d find it more plausible to think of myself as a citizen of an actual place (i.e. Europe) than being a subject in some archaic theme park called GB, UK or whatever it might say on the vellum.

In practical terms: I think the EU is of great value with regards to the advancement of things such as Human Rights, Employment Law and Environmental issues, etc. On the other hand, I’m not particularly enamoured about the impact of European funding for ‘socially targeted’ projects. Having worked on several such projects with a total value of several £millions I witnessed most of that money being directed towards vested interests more than improving the communities intended… and at worst Euro funding has been used to disrupt, dis-empower and displace communities… Butetown has had more than £1billion of EU money and where is it now?

Outside of Cardiff – the areas of Wales which receive the most EU funding voted to leave and irrespective of the politics behind the individual votes this must be seen as indictment of the public and voluntary sector in the delivering the EU programme.

With regards to the political campaigns the apparent choice was between buffoons and liars (clowns to left, jokers to the right …) I didn’t hear anything convincing from either side but then again I wasn’t paying much attention.

Regardless, I reckon the high turnout was due to the media hyperbole rather than any actual knowledge of or even interest in the EU … it’s quite bizarre to think that people might be more concerned about the goings on in Brussels than their own Town Hall.

In the event, I was a little surprised – and disappointed – with the result: mainly because it demonstrates the prevalence of such retrogressive attitudes – and might encourage / permit more people to think more along these lines. Then again, it seems that there was a generational factor in the voting with the implication that the younger people think differently and in time they will lead the debate – if losing this referendum mobilise young people then that will be a good thing …

But my Facebook timeline was inundated with angry / fearful posts about the future without the EU – and my response was “it’s actually not that bad” …

The media, pundits, etc have great fondness for using terms like ‘historic’, ‘pivotal’ and ‘once in a lifetime’ because it makes their role in the affair all the more important – every major political, sporting or scientific event is presented this way – and the public buys it because it makes their lives seem less mundane – but in reality nobody is interested in history but historians: you couldn’t go into into your local pub or corner shop and hear about the economic impact of the Versaille Treaty – very few people in Wales were preoccupied with Wales’ history in the European Championships until the TV reminded us and if Wales should actually win it will pale into insignificance in little more than a decade

I don’t claim to know anything about macro-economics (which makes me better informed than most) but I do know that the actual economy has very little to do with elections (although I will also say that every penny earned and spent is a vote cast)

I personally don’t have any property, investments or pension to speak of and I have quite a low maintenance lifestyle – so market shifts mean little to me – but for those that have those concerns I would say that ‘there is many a slip between cup and lip’ so there will always be the potential that they could lose out but similarly there’s about as much chance that the pendulum will swing and at some point they may be ahead – and this has been the case from the Bible to Barings Bank

I don’t have a passport and have never travelled outside of Wales & England – so again the whole notion of passports, visas, etc has little impact on me directly – but I don’t know that I would be too bothered about filling in some forms if I wanted to visit somewhere that badly – and perhaps people should travel around Wales a bit more 🙂

Dr Emily Garside

Dr Emily Garside

I am sad, I am angry, I am disappointed. Above all I am frustrated. Frustrated with the politicians who led us to here, with the media who helped further campaigns fought on little or misinformation. And I’m frustrated with those who say because it was a ‘democratic’ vote we must all sit back and quietly accept the decision. I accept that the vote was democratic, I accept people’s right to vote Leave. I don’t have to be happy about it. Thatcher was elected democratically and I’m still angry with that, and the implications of what she did while in office. And much like what Thatcher’s government did to this country, to the poorest areas and to the arts, I fear that the decision to leave Europe will be felt for generations to come. And much like in Thatcher’s reign, Wales is a place where the hits will be felt hardest.

In Wales you really don’t have to look far to see one of those little signs with the European flag that let you know the building that was repaired, the social space rebuilt or the arts centre allowed to continue is still there because of European funding. So much of Wales has been rebuilt in literal and cultural terms by the EU, and that so many areas, so many voters let xenophobic notions and unfounded immigration fears blind them to that scares me.

I fear for our artists and our art. I fear for the millions in lost funding that the arts in all their forms are reliant on. Wales has always been outward facing in it’s art. We invite the world to share our stages for Eisteddfod every year. We hold festivals that people travel to from the world over. And we collaborate, we share, we create. It’s in our very nature as a nation of artists. And it is this loss of collaboration I fear most. When paperwork halts free movement, when isolationism means the hurdles are too great to overcome to collaborate and yes, when we no longer have access to the funding we do now, because we cut ourselves off.

It seems reductive, gauche even to reduce my fears about arts in Wales to funding and travel, but these are the vital tools that give our arts life. In cutting off the vital lifeline of European funding, and building barriers to ease of travel to share what work we can still create, what then? I think of all the work unmade, the opportunities not shared, and it breaks my heart.

The ‘leave’ campaign seems to be fought and now won on a backward looking attitude, a yearning for a country that in fact never was. If we look at Wales before EU funding we were crumbling, our arts were suffering. There are no ‘good old days’ to go back to. What an open Europe has done is open the doors to collaboration, to inspiration and to forward thinking, forward motion. To quote Tony Kushner ‘The world only spins forward’, and yet we seem to have voted to try and stop.

What now? That’s the question isn’t it. When you (democratically) vote in a government you know roughly what’s coming, for better or worse. You know policies, personalities and in four years you have the hope that they’ll be gone. Europe is a leap in the dark. The fear is real because the answer to the question of ‘what now?’ is ‘nobody knows’.

The most anger I feel is towards those who tell us all to ‘just calm down’ as if this was a bad football score (not that I hope to jinx Wales’ chances, football is about the only ray of hope I can see right now, and I don’t even like the sport!).  But maybe there’s hope in that. In the anger. If there’s one thing the arts does well it’s respond to crisis. And that is where I do have hope. I have hope in the voices of the artists, and will of the arts companies to keep fighting. To keep working however we can.

Yvonne Murphy Omidaze Productions

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The referendum result is not binding. It is advisory. Parliament is not bound to commit itself in that same direction. I do not believe the referendum was managed in a fair and democratic way and since the Leave campaign spoke so highly of sovereignty I wish British Parliament to enact it’s sovereign right in overruling the referendum result in the best interests of Britain and ALL its people and its future generations.

And so I have launched a petition. Here is the wording:

Sovereign British Parliament to debate EU referendum result & vote to overrule.

The British Parliament is sovereign and it is accountable to the people through elections at which we choose those whom we want to represent us, NOT through referendums. MPs are our representatives & are there to decide what, in their judgement, is good for us and the country.

Many Leave voters placed a vote of protest against a range of things not connected to the EU, from austerity cuts, to rising inequality in Britain without actually understanding the facts or the full implication of their vote. This is why we elect MPs in our democratic country to make these decisions. e.g capital punishment was thankfully abolished in the 60’s although a clear majority of the population remained in favour of it. The nearly 50% of the population who voted remain need a hearing.

It takes a few days for a petition to parliament to be processed and approved. So while I wait for that to happen I have written this article/blog. The petition circulating and gathering millions of votes asking for a second referendum (which I signed) was started in May by a Leave campaigner worried that we would get a Remain result! I do not particularly want a second referendum. I want parliament to deal with this.  I didn’t want a referendum in the first place. Nor did at least half the country. So why did we have one?

We had a referendum because David Cameron took a high risk strategy with our country’s future to appease the right wing bullies in his party, to silence UKIP and stop the migration of Tory MPs to that party. He took that risk because he did not for one moment think the country would vote out. Even the man who ran against him (Boris) did not for one moment think we should leave (which is why he is now furiously back peddling) he simply wanted to ‘play the game’ and raise his profile so he could go for leadership next time round. The Co-leader of the Leave campaign Iain Duncan-Smith in a interview on Friday called the result ‘startling’ not once but twice and appeared to be thinking on the hoof of the next steps ‘well I think what we need to do is get together a group of cross party MPs…and maybe some people from outside…some Lawyers…to work out how to progress….’ No way? Great plan. And so the people of Britain were used as pawns in the games of these rich privileged elite Eton boys to further their own careers.

What they had not understood is how angry the British people are. The divide between the rich and the poor and inequality has grown out of all proportion. We are one of the richest countries in the world and yet food banks have become the accepted norm in every town in Britain. When I told colleagues this on a recent trip to India they thought I was joking. They stood dumbfounded that such poverty existed in the UK. And it does. There are parents going without food in order that their children can eat. Today. In modern Britain. It is a disgrace.

And this is why people voted. They simply could not see or understand how it could get any worse. Because they were lied to by the Leave campaign. They were told if we left the UK millions of pounds would suddenly appear in the coffers of the NHS. They were told immigration was the cause of all their woes and the door would be shut. And this was the worst part. This emphasis and blame on immigrants which has opened the door to far right facism, racism and hatred on our streets and in our communities.

And worse still it has opened the door across Europe to Far Right Extremism with the National Front in France calling for France to follow suit and leave the very institution that was formed post World War II to ensure Facism never again gripped Europe and the world.

Shame on you Boris, Gove and particularly Farage. Shame on all of you for dividing our country. For peddling fear and hatred and intolerance. For picking at a scab until it bled. And shame on you for your lies.

Those who voted Leave were told we would get our country back. From whom? From our fellow countrymen? From the EU citizens who lived here, raise their families, contribute to our society, pay our taxes? Our country is now falling apart before our very eyes. They were told it would be an end to EU regulations. Like the ones which mean our children no longer swim in filthy polluted seas as I did as a child? Or the ones that ensure that workers have to be paid a fair wage and have decent working conditions? Or the one that gave us the Human Rights Act? Or the ones that say that the poorer more deprived areas in the EU (the very ones that voted Leave) must have the lions share of funding? Because they have. I remember Wales in 1992 when I first came here. It is a different country now and that is mainly due to being cited a ‘poor country within the EU’ and receiving a shed load of EU investment.

People in this country are not struggling because we are in the EU. They are struggling because we do not share equally the wealth we have at our disposal and the EU is a mechanism which actually helps share that wealth not hinders it. Without EU membership we will be MUCH MUCH worse off. Economically, culturally and spiritually. Many people voted Leave because they felt things couldn’t get any worse and then voted for the very thing that will absolutely ensure that it does.

 “For many millions of people, this was not just a vote about Europe. It was a howl of anger at politicians and institutions who they felt they were out of touch and had let them down…The British people deserve the chance not to be stuck with the appalling consequences of a Leave campaign that stoked that anger with the lies of Farage, Johnson and Gove.” Mr Farron Lib Dems A spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats said people would feel “betrayed” with the outcome of Brexit and suggested the result had been won on a false prospectus.

And so in the words of the Independent

“All that remains is for someone to have the guts to stand up and say that Brexit is unachievable in reality without an enormous amount of pain and destruction, that cannot be borne. And David Cameron has put the onus of making that statement on the heads of the people who led the Brexit campaign.”

 Which is why I am starting the petition.

Which is why I am writing this.

Which is why I cannot quite believe that Labour – at a time when they should be stepping up and holding every Tory MP (on both sides of the campaign) to account who have brought this mess upon us are instead too busy have a row about leadership (again!!!) and allowing the Torys to rewrite history and yet another false narrative. Park your differences for a few months, unite and serve your country and not your own self-interests and do your job which is to OPPOSE not self-combust at a time when we need an opposition most.

And for my colleague who said

“My only question is what would happen with MPs who want to Remain who represent Leave areas? They’d never get re-elected…”

I say well that is a risk all MPs should be prepared to take. They are there to work in our best interests and not their own and sometimes that means taking the very difficult and unusual decision to NOT do what those who have elected them ask them to do. Because they are our representatives. They have the facts. They have the education. They have the time to read the policy documents which we do not. That is their job. And they must now debate in parliament if the result of this referendum is actually in our country’s best interest. And if the majority truly believe it is not then they must overrule it and face the consequences. That is leadership. Leadership is not easy. That is why they are paid the salaries they are paid. And now they must ALL step up and look into their souls and decide.

Barbara Michaels 3rd Act Critic 

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Brexit and the Arts in Wales

Now that the initial furore and panic is over, what is the future for the arts on Wales? As with in other parts of the United Kingdom, we have to wait and see. What is certain, however, is that for a time (and who knows how long that time will last?) everything will be in a state of flux.

Disturbingly, when budgets and funding are up for consideration – some might call it up for grabs – the arts are always in the firing line. In Wales, when the arts scene – and I refer particularly to theatre – is expanding as never before, to cut funding at this stage would be close to criminal. This does not apply only to our capital city, where we are spoilt for choice, but to rural areas – take the prestigious Theatre Clywd, for instance. New talent in both writing and performance are emerging all the time, and being given the chance to explore all manner of genres.

My fervent hope is that our government realise this and will continue to give them support. Many of our young people are dismayed by the result of the referendum. It is up to the powers that be to prove to them, and to all of us, that there is indeed Life After Brexit.

Helen Joy 3rd Act Critic

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An open conversation on Facebook between people who all know me but who don’t necessarily know each other, held in the week of the EU Referendum result.

Each contributor is represented by a different colour text.

 Time for something slightly different: how do you think the vote to leave the EU will affect Arts and Art funding?

The arts economy is marginal at the best of times. I can’t see this having an exaggerated effect on funding. A great deal of Arts Council funding comes from the lottery rather than government revenues.

Some 2yr + bids being wound up where applying for EU funding. Not arts bids.

It’s the cutting of cultural ties I worry about, the Little Britain mentality and the feeling that we can go it alone. I’ve always liked feeling European.

We are used now to a sense of continental culture, the arts seem to benefit from both being carriers of local identity AND being representative of something wider.

If a cultural tie depends on the blessing of a bureaucrat, or still worse funding from one, what is it worth? The ‘cultural economy’ as a whole is huge; it was revealed a few years ago that this country earns more from computer game design than from agriculture. However, it had never asked for or received a penny of government funding, so nobody noticed.’ Culture’ is what people do of their own volition. Start steering it with subsidy, and it becomes something else. That’s how we get the grotesque spectacle of state-funded ‘satirists’ on the BBC.

Sure, to quote Raymond Williams, ‘culture is ordinary’. However, the BBC isn’t the State, that’s a line peddled by James Murdoch.

It’s no longer disputed that the licence fee is a tax (one I don’t pay); the BBC’s establishmentarian bias on many topics is now beyond satire, not least on the referendum issue. It’s notable that two of the best cultural institutions in London, Shakespeare’s Globe and the Handel Festival, don’t ask for or receive state funding.

Maybe I just like the way the BBC presents the bias. In a world completely reliant on private funding or ‘sponsorship’ we’d have a lot less culture and most of it would have to satisfy the paymasters. I’d rather satisfy the Arts Council’s remit than try to please Monsanto.

Culture always has to satisfy the paymasters. I’d prefer those paymasters to be you, me and the people around us! Would you say that our film industry was more dynamic and creative than America’s? Most of the TV I watch now is American-made.

Wouldn’t argue with your first point about culture and who pays for it but if I had to rely on things I could sell I’d be doing something very different. I don’t have anything sensible to say about film and TV. I could happily live without it.

Have they actually had any, or is this part of the current campaign to whistle up hysteria? I’m currently dealing with people on my local FB page, putting up pictures of people they accuse of racist remarks, without any evidence to back it up.

We need to build new structures we need to encourage philanthropy we need to not be scared of making money

Did you know that artists, writers, musicians here (Ireland) pay NO tax? Legacy from Charlie Haughey.

Who decides whether what they do is ‘art’ ?

No idea, presume Arts Council.

I think it’s older than Haughey’s time ; John Huston moved his family to Ireland back in the 60’s, I believe. So the bureaucrats sit in judgment on the artists, who have to meet their criteria? H’m. Curious how there always seem to be salaried posts for arts bureaucrats, but not for artists. A friend once showed me the telephone extension list at the UK Arts Council: more names than the Menin Gate. You’d get more money to artists by summoning them all to Trafalgar Square on a given day and dropping the annual budget in pound coins out of a helicopter.

So not even arts bureaucrats, but the Revenue Commissioners, are the judge of the artistic merit of your work:

http://www.citizensinformation.ie/…/artists_exemptionArtist’s exemption from income tax. Some income earned by artists, writers, sculptors and painters in Ireland from the sale of their work may be exempt from income tax. How to obtain exemption from income tax if you are an artist and satisfy certain criteria…

No was Haughey who introduced it.

Or just work to a different model – fund public art but let the market decide on everything else, like an accountant or pianist. Arts Council England – radio 4 now – believe arts will solve problems on our streets

Hearing this, a vision comes to me of a fat abbot, standing outside the glorious choir of some great abbey, saying ‘Without us, who would feed gruel to the poor?’

That’s interesting, not such a surprise I suppose. I’d like to know more.

 

Digwyddiadau ar stondin Amgueddfa Cymru, Eisteddfod yr Urdd Fflint 2016/Activities on Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales’s stall, Urdd Eisteddfod 2016

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Menter gymdeithasol wedi’i leoli yn Ne Cymru yw Dyma’ch Cyfle, yn gweithio tuag at greu cyfleoedd i amrywiaeth o bobl sydd am brofi ac ymateb i chwaraeon, celfyddyd, diwylliant a digwyddiadau byw

  • Mae Dyma’ch Cyfle’n arddangos gweithgaredd ar wefan cylchgrawn ar-lein http://getthechance.wales/
  • Mae’r wefan yn cynnwys gweithgreddau gweithdy, adolygiadau, erthyglau golygyddol a llawer mwy
  • Mae’r wefan yn blatfform i’n haelodau i rannu, trafod a gwerthuso eu hymatebion personol gyda’u rhwydweithiau a’r byd ben baladr
  • Dyma’ch Cyfle yw’r gymdeithas sy’n cynrychioli aelodau Beirniaid Ifanc Cymru, Beirniaid Cymunedol Cymru a 3ydd Act

Digwyddiadau ar stondin Amgueddfa Cymru, Eisteddfod yr Urdd Fflint 2016

 Dydd Mercher, 1 Mehefin 11:00 – Gweithdy Beirniadu gydag Aneirin Karadog

Dydd Iau, 2 Mehefin 10:30, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 – Gweithdai Beirniadu Dyma’ch Cyfle

 

Get The Chance is a social enterprise based in South Wales, working to create opportunities for a diverse range of people to experience and respond to sport, arts, culture and live events

  • Get The Chance uses its online magazine website http://getthechance.wales/ to showcase its activity
  • The website content will feature workshop activity and outcomes, reviews, editorial features and much more
  • Our website is a platform for our members to share, discuss and evaluate their personal responses with their networks and the wider world
  • Get the Chance is the host organisation for members of Young Critics Wales, Community Critics Wales and 3rd Act Critics

 Activities on Amgueddfa Cymru-National Museum Wales’s stall, Urdd Eisteddfod 2016

 Wednesday, 1 June 11:00 – Critic Workshop with Aneirin Karadog (Welsh language)

Thursday, 2 June 10:30, 12:00, 14:00, 15:00 – Get a Chance Critic Workshops (Bilingual)

Review CSAD Fine Art Degree Show 2016 by Amelia Seren

Cardiff School of Art and Design Summer Show

Universities all over the UK are currently opening their doors to the public to celebrate the occasion where soon-to-be Fine Art Graduates show the culmination of their three years of study.

Having been previously caught-up arranging my own final exhibition at Loughborough University, I am more than pleased to be offered the chance to explore the Undergraduate Degree Show at Cardiff School of Art & Design 2016.

On entry to the building, I am reminded of one of the reasons I elected to study at CSAD in the first place. Ascending the stairs into the appropriately-named Heart-Space, the invited guests attending Industry Night are treated to a drink at the bar whilst they anticipate the exhibition spaces above. The space is at once open and inviting.

On the third floor, what were formerly studios are now transformed into polished exhibition space. At this stage I’d typically offer an introduction to my first impressions of the general aesthetic, or approach-to-making of the Cardiff show, but there isn’t one. As Olwen Moseley, Dean of the School of the Arts, states in her address, Cardiff’s Arts Undergraduates are really given the choice to apply whatever creative medium that takes their fancy; meaning the university encourages students to adopt a cross-disciplinary approach to the nature of their learning and practice.

Subjects including The Overlooked are addressed by artists Sophie Burrows and Megan Fergusson; Scale is explored, from examples of miniature maquettes to the monumental nature of Ethan Dodd’s crystallised representation of a lightning bolt. A Sense of Home was another concept addressed by Mary Walter-Thomas in ‘Eirianell’, as well as in the works of Megan Fergusson and Zoe Peridakis. The Self and Consciousness are explored in the work of Jade Trollope and Tobiasz Wasyliszyn.

Creative approaches concerned with the Materiality of objects is a topic frequently addressed by the works exhibited at Undergraduate Degree Shows, however, with one of the foremost Ceramics courses in the UK, at Cardiff School of Art & Design, Materiality is done well. One such artist approaching the theme was Nathan Mullis, whose works address how the making process can afford the objects meaning and significance.

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www.nathanmullisartist.co.uk

Further diversifying the nature of display, the Fine Art show includes a darkened exhibition space as well as the typical white-cube environment, showing digital video-works and light-works.

Despite recognising some links in the subjects of the works exhibited, every student has accomplished a distinctive approach. The section below details my picks of works included in the Summer Show that showcase the talents of the soon-to-be recent Graduates of CSAD:

Emily Panizzi’s contribution to the show, an operational marble-run construction, functions as a metaphor for current financial structure and practice. The work is designed to represent economical cash-flows and trickle-down economies, highlighting the eventuality of most currency settling in the pockets of the wealthiest 1%.

Panizzi has expressed an interest in the Japanese concept of Ma, which “explores ideas around a space delivering an experience”, and it is the interactive aspect of the work that I consider most successful.  Whether deliberate or not, occasional system failures -where a marble might stick in the works, or leave the run altogether- serve to support the metaphorical functioning of the piece.

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www.emilypanizzi.com

Lauren Bailey’s abstract micro-compositions appear to populate, or even germinate within their pocket of space inside the CSAD building.
Jovially gathering in this cohesive installation work, the constituent parts of Bailey’s artwork make up a virus of two and three-dimensional things that might threaten to infect the shared exhibition space had they not been contained.

Bailey’s installation incorporates features of the physical environment, growing over foil-covered vents and galvanised pipes. Seemingly improvised forms constitute the ‘real-world’ expression of marks made by digital drawing tools, and the viewer is transported into a three-dimensional drawing of a soft-play centre.
Through playful combination of colour and form, this light-hearted approach to process and materials reads as an ode to the doodle and relieves the viewer from the often-weighty nature of contemporary artworks.

There is joy in the simplicity of Bailey’s compositions.

www.laurenbaileyart.tumblr.com

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Danielle Adair’s contribution to the show appears, on first impressions, both repulsive and intriguing. Atop the rusted and bare innards of a sprung mattress, sits an abject representation of…what exactly? Certainly something of the once internal, made external is at work here. Initially communicated is a callous harshness, an image devoid of comfort. Adair’s Phil questions tensions between the physical and psychological conditions of the body. The pulsing mass of exposed flesh is, to me, a reminder of the incarceration of the psyche within the abject body. The mass of injured latex and rattling motor translates as a physical embodiment of the inevitability of suffering. As in David Lynch’s Eraserhead, the ‘child’ is exposed as skinless and sore, Adair’s Phil is itself an example of a raw, unsettling presence, an acceptance of the limits of the flesh. However gruesome, perhaps Phil has the opposite capacity; to communicate a certain optimism, or triumph of consciousness over the flesh.

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https://danielleeadair.com/

Julia Hopkins presents a playground of perplexing, small-scale structures, (or are they maquettes of larger works?) Hopkins’ constructions dance the boundary between the functional and non-functional; what should be, and what is. These are structures that appear initially to have a purpose, or function, but on further inspection reveal a uselessness which implies that the value of the objects must lie elsewhere.

Akin to a contemporary-art-MouseTrap, the neo-modernist compositions imply interconnected movement, balance and reactivity. Recognisable in the works is a strong synergy of materials; common threads: timber, plaster, thread itself. Also recognisable are a host of recurrant symbols; the pendant, the tower, the scaffold…but why? Everything about this collection of works suggests a game of sorts, to make sense of the arrangement where perhaps the joke is that there is none. Hopkins perpetuates a state of curiosity, a need to ‘figure-it-out’, where so-often artworks convey strictly determined readings. Thank you for keeping us on our toes.

JuliaHopkins2

www.juliahopkins.co.uk

An ominous mountain of refuse dominates the exhibition space of Sam Wall. It mechanically stutters and screeches towards viewers who might draw closer to investigate.

This awkward stack of regurgitated detritus has been collected by the artist from the urban environment. Objects, or leftovers, spat out by the city and rendered purposeless are collected and absorbed into a creature befitting the grim-reaper of throw-away tat.

Wall’s monster-making, in both his sculptural and two-dimensional works, questions the value of objects to represent a culture deemed obsolete.

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https://www.facebook.com/ekstraternek/

I would like to join Olwen Moseley in wishing this year’s graduates all the best in their futures, be that in pursuing further study or employment in industry. I fully recommend readers to pay a visit to the Fine Art Degree Show 2016, and to check out equally impressive offerings by other departments of the school while you’re there!

Cardiff School of Art & Design’s Degree Show 2016 runs on the Llandaf Campus from 21st – 27th May.

https://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/artanddesign/Pages/summer-show.aspx

Preview Milieu with Rhys Milsom

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Our project coordinator recently spoke to Get the Chance Creative Associate Rhys Milsom about the multi-disciplinary arts event he curates ,Milieu.

Hi Rhys, can you tell us about Milieu?

Sure, Milieu is a quarterly night of literature, art and photography. Always held at Little Man Coffee Co, and always free entry, the events so far have been jam-packed, with barely any standing room left. Milieu is French for ‘middle’ but also stands for ‘social environment’. This is key, as the art exhibitions are held downstairs in Little Man and the literature is held upstairs. Therefore, people meet in the middle as they go from the exhibitions to the readings and create a social environment for themselves doing so! Milieu is all about promoting up-and-coming, and established, writers and artists.

Sounds great! What are your aims with the event?

The aim is to give these writers and artists the chance to showcase their work in an environment that is creative, fun and inclusive to everyone who appreciates the arts. So far, Milieu has seen writers such as Rhian Elizabeth, Dan Tyte, Matthew David Scott and Rhys Milsom read and artists such as Liam Barrett, Pip Barrett and Jaydon Martin exhibiting their work.

Thats a great list of Wales based writers and artists, when is the next event planned?

The next event is June 10th at Little Man and we have Adam Jenkins, Renn, Gary Raymond and David Lllewellyn reading from their work with Liam Barrett exhibiting his art.

Come down and immerse yourself into a creative nucleus of Cardiff!

Thanks for your time Rhys.

https://www.facebook.com/events/1604132006545049/

 

Review Treasures: Adventures in Archaeology by Kirsty Ackland

Young Critics, 3rd Act Critics and Kids in Museums volunteers are working in collaboration with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (ACNMW) http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/ on a new free project focusing on the quality and standards of exhibitions and programming at their sites across Wales. Those involved recently spent a day with the staff at the National Museum, Cardiff. The response below is from Kids in Museums volunteer Kirsty Ackland. Hi name is Kirsty Ackland, and I am a volunteer from Kids in Museums I have been working with Young Critics on this new project with National Musem’s Wales . I am also a first year archaeology student at Cardiff University, and I am well known as a history nerd!

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At first glance, the exhibition seems like a fantastic walk through ‘treasures’ of the past. On entry (after perhaps a slightly overpriced fee, cost adults £7, concessions £5, 16s & under free) all seems well with designs obviously targeted for kids and families. However on closer inspection, it seems that everything is a little too large and impressive, with much of the decoration put up for atmosphere taking away from the actual artefacts on display.

These artefacts, arranged in what appears to be chronological order (although no exact civilisation dates are given), are mostly replicas, which seems odd considering you are paying £7 to see actual archaeology. Much debate with our group afterwards revealed an interesting point about when exactly replicas become historical objects themselves. On the other hand, when museum archives are full of other perfectly acceptable ‘real’ pieces I feel this argument become a little invalid.

Moving on to how the information was displayed, this all seemed a little confusing. Some labels for artefacts were not related to the cases they were displayed in, and on one occasion you actually have to stand at a particular angle to notice it. It is also difficult to determine which of the larger displays relate to a specific cabinet for the story to flow. This all seems indicative of a rushed exhibit, and judging by how much bigger the hall is compared to the space used, I would say it could have been better thought out.

From an archaeological perspective there are some really great aspects within the exhibition. It utilises artefacts from both Wales and abroad, and there is even a real mummified body on central display, complete with its very own CT scan. Exciting, but for the other artefacts, there is little if any explanation of what they may have been used for, and virtually no interactivity based on archaeology at all. There is a nice little video area where you can learn about the history of archaeology and the origins of some of the major discoveries, such as the South American communities; and a display describing the issues with fake artefacts. This is all very interesting, and easy to discover if you have a day to spend simply reading and learning.

Preview-of-new-exhibition-at-National-Museum-CardiffThe real “selling point”, is of course the Indiana Jones section of the exhibit. This is very exciting for adults reliving their childhood, as there are Crystal Skulls and in all its glory the outfit Indie himself wore in the films. During our discussion the question was raised as to how many children these days would be interested in a franchise from the 1980’s, but from the reactions of the children there, perhaps the old costume was working as intended. Again however this raises an issue with me personally. The idea that the museum is paying George Lucas/Lucasfilm to hire a costume that has already made him millions – and I may add will continue to do so-seems strange to me. Usually advertisements work the other way around. What makes this worse is that the museum is already paying to house objects in their archives. Quite honestly this exhibit would be just as good without the Indiana Jones appeal and thus could save the museum a few quid … which could quite easily end up back in the pocket of the general public.

All in all, this exhibit would be quite good as a full day’s exploration to get your money’s worth. The affect of inspiring a generation of budding archaeologists is one that you could certainly feel from this exhibit. Everything had the wow factor that could light up a child’s imagination-or explode it. Much of the exhibition was celebrating archaeology, a subject which is all but glamorous, and had the effect of organised chaos, which from a family perspective, would not be wanted

Review Treasures National Museum Wales by Lois Arcari

Young Critics, 3rd Act Critics and Kids in Museums volunteers are working in collaboration with Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales (ACNMW) http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/ on a new free project focusing on the quality and standards of exhibitions and programming at their sites across Wales. Those involved recently spent a day with the staff at the National Museum, Cardiff. The response below is from Young Critic Lois Arcari.

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Ken Skates The Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism at the launch of Treasures

The debates we have as part of our union with the Welsh National museum always prove that our combined aim – to make museum culture as interactive as possible, is one that only needs to be brought out and shared – our observations and opinions as immediate, magnetic and dynamic as with any other medium, the background stories to the exhibits on display are equally as fascinating.

Promoting museum culture as one that is inclusive, rather than exclusive, and more actively evolving than you may first think, is precisely why we’re part of these regular events.

Last week marked the start of another insight into widening public appreciation and interaction, and general museum culture; all hinged upon the new Treasures: Adventures in Archaeology exhibition.

This is the recently erected exhibit promising a bold new direction for the museum, one centred on a family orientated entertainment experience to become an inspiring gateway into museums for those unlikely to normally attend, was the promised fulfilled?

Well, that was the central topic of debate, with many insights and observations thrown into the mix.I feel that ultimately, it was mis-marketed. With unprecedented attention being given to the museum exhibit – an article on Walesonline not generally seen as par for the course – the focus was on the concept of Indiana Jones, on a new trail blazed for a new audience. The exhibit showed symptoms of both how quickly it was made, in relative time, and of the many debates behind the scenes on focus – areas such as participation offset by traditional ideas all very interesting, but not on the minds of families setting foot into the space. Unfocused seemed to be the prescriptive word, with minimal interaction – tentatively promised to be rectified – offset against rather standard pieces. The real highlights of the exhibit – a scan of the entombed mummy, and the stories behind the objects seemed to get lost in an odd traditionalism offset against a brilliantly atmospheric design.

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The objects were all interesting, but there seemed to be minimal coherence – some objects more easily appealing to adults than children, some with minimal information, others with information that was hard to access, hidden in corners, or betrayed by font, for example. Everything seemed almost annoyingly tantalising – this far and no further – emphasized by the size of the exhibition.

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In the meeting afterwards with museum staff and participants, there were many discussions about colonialism and just what the word treasures meant; to the general public, museum staff, parents and children. Whilst there was discussion of introducing an alternative way of thinking about archeology as less moral than we’d first suspect, I think that would be at a rather painful odds with the Indiana Jones theme, and that suggestion towards these ideas, rather than any preaching, would be a great way to make children feel more involved and respected and introduce a different way of thinking. With a different focus the exhibition could be wonderful – but it seems like a forced response rather than an organic commitment to criticism of museum culture, and the marketing focusing on the film seems to be playing it up rather too much, though to its credit the museum itself does seem a lot more balanced with the marketing.

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As it stands, with a discussion into some of the rich and fascinating cultures, and the ethics of archeology, the exhibit could be decent for a young fan of the time period, rather than of the franchise attached. Add in more transparency about the volunteers roles, and a chat with them, and the exhibit will be mined for its worth. With a hefty price tag attached, this seems to be a misconceived remarketing of old ideas and old pieces rather than the new push it promised, and unless a family has prepared for the day out with discussion and research or wants a new angle on a school topic, and is prepared for some hard work getting the most out of the exhibit, it seems a tad misleading.

 

 

 

Young Critic Eifion Ap Cadno Responds to Sanja Iveković’s Women’s House (Sunglasses)

 

 

 

 

 

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Eifion recently participated in the lunchtime series of events as part of this years Artes Mundi exhibition, Eifion performed his response at Ffotogallery,  Penarth.

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I wrote the short story “Look After” in response to Sanja Iveković’s project Women’s House (Sunglasses) in which she has appropriated iconic images of women modelling sunglasses for famous brands including Gucci and Dior. On these, she has superimposed text: names, nationalities, ages and stories of various women who have suffered abuse at the hands of their partner or parents, and have found help and courage in women’s shelters. Personally I found myself either linking the two and seeing the models as the abused women, or, separating the two entirely, they would lie at opposite ends of the spectrum. Models show us things, often explicitly, whereas abuse is all too often covered up.

While I appreciated the use of both image and text, and its presentation as a magazine upon a bare table, the stories themselves prompted me to respond. In one the husband locks his children in a closet and threatens he will “cut their mother’s throat, cut her to pieces, put salt on her, and eat her if they told her about the other women” he brought back to the house. Written mostly devoid of any artistic embellishment, they jar, horrify and amaze; and soon they seem to all follow a pattern. Abuse. Fear. Courage. Change. However, some break this pattern, and the woman is left without the hope for a new beginning.

Domestic abuse tends to be covered up and ignored; it is often too late when it is addressed. My response is simple. An amalgam of a few of the women’s stories, it – hopefully -captures the cry for help and the refusal. The sunglasses are threaded in too: each of the policemen she encounters wears them, symbolising authorities turning a blind eye. Even the “Hand of the Government” is faceless.

While there is some artistic license, “Look After” is a true story. Some of it is distorted or heightened but it happened. I hope it prompts you to visit the Ffotogallery, Turner House in Penarth where Sanja’s work is being shown until February 21st. For a more sensory experience, a brilliant music and video installation by Ragnar Kjartansson and co. is also there until then.

Thank you,

Eifion Ap Cadno

 

Look After

There was a knocking.

Thump, thump.

Nicola leapt up from her chair in the corner, ran past her grinning husband and threw open the door.

‘Thank you so much for coming, please help me’ said Nicola. Two policemen stood at the top of the steps, wearing sunglasses so Nicola couldn’t see the colour of their eyes.

‘Is your husband here, madam?’ said the one on the left.

‘We would like to speak with your husband, madam’ said the other.

‘Yes. No. I mean yes, he is here, but please take me and my daughter away from him’

‘I understand madam. If we could just speak with your husband then I’m sure we can sort this all out.’ They smiled at her, but behind the pitch-black sunglasses their eyes were cold. She turned and looked back into the house. Through the doorway in the hall he could be seen laughing from his armchair; just beyond in the kitchen their daughter stood in the darkness, her white dress and face shimmering as a ghost. “I’ll come back for you, I promise!” cried Nicola, and pushed past the two officers.

Puddles were forming and her feet were sore when she came to a standstill. The streets had seemed empty up until now, so when headlights appeared through the rain she darted into the road, throwing her hands forward. The car stopped. Slowly the driver’s window wound down to reveal two suited officers. Despite the night-time and dark interior of the vehicle they both wore sunglasses that matched their uniforms – sharp and stylish. ‘What can we do you for lady?’ said the driver. ‘You shouldn’t be out at this time of night’ added the passenger, ‘you’ll find trouble, all on your own’.

Nicola stooped down low to the driver’s face, to make her grief seen. ‘Please, help me, my husband is at home with my daughter, he has hurt us both. He has hurt us. Look’, and here she lifted up her arm. Blood ran down her side from a deep cut between her ribs.

‘You should get that seen to lady’ said the driver, ‘someone might think you’re vulnerable and take advantage. There’s a hospitable nearby but why don’t you go home to your family, they’ll look after you.’

The window wound up, the car pulled off, and Nicola was left alone once again, the puddle at her feet incarnadine.

A short while later, the drenched mother, desperate for attention, stumbled into the foyer. Now the unnatural groove in her rib no longer ached, it was the blinding white light she could not stand.

‘Welcome to the Hand of the Government,’ came a recorded and distant voice over the tannoy, ‘here to serve and to punish. Please speak your business now.’

‘I need help’ whimpered Nicola.

‘I’m sorry, please repeat that’

‘Help’

For some time there was no response. Nicola fell to the wall, and slowly slumped into the floor, smearing a trail of blood behind. The tannoy sparked into life once more.

‘We have taken a reading of your person and have matched your official profile and background with your identity. Nicola. Thank you for taking the time to visit us this evening. From your parentage and education we have come to the conclusion that you can look after yourself. We ask you to return home to your family, they will be worried for your safety. Goodbye.’

No sooner had Nicola pulled herself out the doorway when a pair of black boots, meticulously laced, brushed her fingertips softly. Looking up, she saw a large, suited policeman staring back down at her. In his sunglasses her reflection could be seen, a pale representation of a human being.

‘You are under arrest for the murder of your daughter. You have the right to remain silent.’