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Natural:History (a fable of progress) or, ‘oh no, we’ve killed the last unicorn’

Nat-Hist-02So – a belated post about my three-month exhibition at Gallery Oldham, in which Richard Dawson and myself presented a series of works exploring the era of the Anthropocene, questioning humankind’s impact on, and changing relationship with, the natural world from the 19th Century to the present day.

Currently Climate Change caused by Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) presents an extreme threat to life on our planet and this, combined with loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction and pollution were issues explored in this exhibition.

Nat-Hist-01We each presented a series of artworks that, whilst varied in style and technique, all aimed to highlight these themes, and engage people in thinking about and exploring them further.

Nat-Hist-04I aim to do a post (or at least photos) of each of the pieces I created.  However, the works I was most pleased with were:

The Denial Machine (an ode to lying) Or, ‘are 97% of scientists wrong?’ a vending machine that spat out RIDICULOUS quotes from climate change deniers

Splendour awaits in minute proportions (The Dovestone Doomsday Vault) Or, ‘272 seed specimens displayed by colour’ a seedbank of a local beauty spot

The Greatest Hoax Ever Perpetrated (The Drowned World) / (The Death of Grass) / (Earth Abides) a triptych of dioramas with classic science-fiction titles presented as reality from a dystopian future following climate change

Nat-Hist-03We got some great feedback and a rather lovely review from Robbie di Vito at Corridor 8 that says everything we wanted to say about the exhibition far more eloquently than I ever could – it’s here


Useful information and resources for freelance artists

If you’re looking for advice and information on how to work as an artist and freelancer or you do already and just want a bit of support and reassurance, there are some great resources to be found on t’internet.  Here’s a list of blogs and sites that I think have some really useful stuff on them and make interesting reading…

Freelance Advisor – up to date and UK specific news, information and resources for freelancers.  A really informative site and I like the mix of serious stuff and irreverent comment.  It’s not aimed at creatives, artists or designers but does bring together a huge amount of content from the freelancing world.

Being A Starving Artist Sucks – this is written by a designer in America called Jeremy Tuber.  There’s lots of information about how to deal with clients, how to negotiate and how to price your work; especially based around graphics and design.   What I like most are the rants about working as a freelancer – they’ll make you laugh when you’ve had a bad day.  There’s also a downloadable resource called ‘Verbal Kung-Fu for Freelancers’ which I love.  I’ve got it on my iPhone for meetings with ‘challenging’ clients…!

Freelance Factfile – this is my most recent discovery and is a great resource for both new and existing freelancers.  The blog covers everything from getting started and finding new clients to financial matters, how to stay motivated and keeping said clients.  Much of what’s written may seem obvious but it’s nice to know someone else out there is experiencing similar situations.

Freelance Switch – pretty similar to Freelance Factfile but aimed more towards the Creative Industries.  It also has a Jobs Board and some useful online tools, like an hourly rate calculator etc. but probably more relevant for designers and webby people.

ArtQuest – ok, this isn’t specifically about freelancing but it IS about working as an artist and they help artists to ‘make work, sell work, find work and network’.  Though this site is aimed at artists living and working in London it does have some good information on (there’s a brilliant ‘how to’ section) and is worth a look even if you do live outside the capital.

Compiling this list has raised the question of being an artist versus being a freelance artist – the same thing or two completely different animals? Hmmm…. maybe a question for when I’ve got more time and brain power to dedicate to it.

Quite the Culture Vulture

Fellow Woodend Artist member and artist Pat Baker invited me to the theatre this week.  We trotted off to see ‘Two’ by Jim Cartwright at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester.  Starring (predictably) just two actors, Justin Moorhouse and Victoria Elliot, the play is set in a pub whereby they play  the landlord and landlady and then a variety of characters / couples that come into the pub.  Justin Moorhouse is well known for his role in Phoenix Nights (the guy that spends the whole second series with his face painted as a tiger) amongst many other roles and comedy parts.

I really enjoyed it (for all that I don’t often go to see ‘normal’ acting plays) but was very glad I wasn’t sat on the stage level seating where Moth the smooth ladeez man attempted to try it on with almost every single person.  Very funny for the rest of us, though…

The stage design was very simple except for the chandelier that was created from a few hundred suspended pint glasses and tankards.  Looked great with the lighting and multiple piece suspended artwork is a format that always hits the spot with me.  I can’t find a picture of it but the designer was Amanda Stoodley.  Instead of an image of her work, here’s an image / detail of my suspended artwork…(dodgy connection, I know)

Together We Are Greater - suspended origami artwork by Jacqui Symons

Survivor vs A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Two cultural outings for me last week; one outstanding and inexpensive, one outstandingly awful and outstandingly expensive…

The first offering was a trip to London to see the premiere of Hofesh Shechter and Antony Gormley’s Survivor at the Barbican, a performance piece billed (by the Barbican) as one of the cultural events of the season.  Having seen the last piece Gormley collaborated on with a choreographer (the brilliant Zero Degrees) twice, I was fairly excited about seeing Survivor and paid for top price tickets to ensure good seats.   The opening didn’t disappoint – the Barbican Theatre’s big metal curtains opened first to a eye-wateringly bright beam of light shone onto the audience, closed and then opened again to show a line of people, each barely illuminated from above by a single dim light…

… I’m afraid it went straight downhill from there.  I won’t go into the painful hour and twenty minutes in detail but will mention the awful drummers, the ‘let’s film the audience and project it onto a big screen – won’t it be brilliant’ moments and the ‘here’s some footage of running water’ as being particularly memorable.

One comment has been that Survivor was like an end of year show from the local drama college and to be honest it was.  It even looked like there were enthusiastic parents in the audience clapping wildly at the end.

However, on Saturday I went to see ‘A Winged Victory for the Sullen’ at Manchester Academy.  AWVFTS is a collaboration between a composer called Dustin O’Halloran and Stars of the Lid’s Adam Wiltzie.  I won’t attempt to describe their genre of music but it was incredibly beautiful and atmospheric and I left feeling uplifted and massively in awe of their talent.  Go to Boomkat to listen to some of their tracks and read a review…

So… by the time the dogs had gone into kennels, the car had been filled with diesel, the congestion charge had been paid and we’d had something to eat, Survivor had suddenly cost two people eight times what A Winged Victory for the Sullen cost.  Ho hum…

One more rant…Survivor cost everyone in the arts world a lot more than that, especially those of us that might be considering a grant from the Arts Council.  £95,000 more…