So – 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.
We 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.
I 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
We 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
The printing, upholstering and final result of ‘The Absence of Nature’ chairs. The blue chair, entitled Chair (The Presence of Nature) Or, ‘Life’ is upholstered in a six-colour screenprinted fabric. The white chair, entitled Chair (The Absence of Nature) Or, ‘this should be an empty space on a plinth, though the plinth wouldn’t exist without nature either…’ is upholstered in a single colour screenprinted fabric.
The piece is meant to highlight the beauty, detail and intricacy of nature against the bland, colourless state of the alternative, exploring biodiversity and the loss of nature.
The fabric was developed during my AA2A residency at UCLan in Preston.
Next month, I’ll be completing a residency at Gallery Oldham and creating work in response to one of their upcoming exhibitions ‘Art Forms in Nature’ which opens in mid-October. The exhibition, touring from the Hayward Gallery, features work by Karl Blossfeldt and I am using his images as inspiration for an installation of weird and wonderful plants made out of paper.
For the second part of the residency, I will be offering drop-in workshops to add to the installation – making oversize blooms out of paper, using lots of different techniques such as origami, paper cutting and folding.
The event and workshops, called Nightshade, are also part of the Manchester Science Festival – there’s lots of different things to see and do during the ten day event – have a look at the programme here.
I’ve been doing some test pieces for the installation, concentrating on creating poisonous, carnivorous and parasitic plant forms.
On Saturday 23rd May it was Festival Oldham time again and I delivered a drop-in workshop making Oldham Wish Flags. This involved 28 metres of fabric (I don’t joke) that I had to cut into 6×14 inch rectangles using pinking shears. I even ironed them (and you know its a special occasion when I get the iron out!).
Oldham Arts Development asked me to make some example flags – I had great fun coming up with some wishes and then turning these into little bits of fabric artwork using paint pens, eva foam and some block printing.
We had a great day at the festival (we were part of of the ‘Rooted’ section) outside Gallery Oldham. Tori, a member of the Dovestone Youth Rangers, and her friend Poppy came along to help Richard and myself and they did a marvellous job of prepping all the flags and hanging them on rope once completed. We made over 100 flags in total to add to the ones I’d already completed. They are all going to be displayed in the foyer of Gallery Oldham so come down and have a look – there’s some great wishes. My personal favourites ‘I wish I was a fairy’ and ‘I wish I could teach basic IT to senior citizens of society’ – aaaahhhhh!
On 14th March, Richard Dawson (Arbarus) and myself launched the Abirdabode Exhibition at Gallery Oldham. The exhibition celebrates eight months of hard work by various groups across Oldham to create art bird boxes* and showcases these bird boxes alongside the Art Bird Flock, which was created at public drop-in sessions over the last year. Almost 250 people attended the launch and was a great success – people seem to really love the art bird boxes and we got a lot of great comments and feedback.
All of the bird boxes created have been made to the BTO’s (British Trust for Ornithology) recommended guidelines and following the exhibition, will be installed around Oldham to become the Oldham Art Bird Box Trail.
The groups we worked with included the Dove Stone Youth Rangers, the Barrier Breakers, Grassroots Community Project and Age UK Oldham.
Dove Stone Youth Rangers (DSYR) are a group of young people from Oldham aged 11-19 years and meet every Sunday to plan and participate in activities focused on the environment and the outdoors. The Dove Stone Youth Rangers created their bird boxes from concept right through to finished product, drawing plans, making macquettes, using power tools and bandsaws to create the nest boxes. They also spent several (chilly) sessions in my workshop painting and decorating their bird boxes ready for the exhibition.
The Barrier Breakers are a group of young people supported by Oldham Integrated Youth Service and gives young people the opportunity to have fun with friends whist working on issues that affect children and young people with additional needs. The Barrier Breakers came up with their own ideas and themes then created their bird boxes from kits of parts, using power tools to construct their boxes and also cut out wooden detailing for individual designs.
The Grassroots Community Project is a community orchard and allotment and supports adults with additional needs and young people excluded from education. We worked with Grassroots to create the ‘Andy Abode, a large-scale bird box created from reclaimed and re-purposed materials. The group created the bird box from scratch, constructing the frame, creating the different claddings for each side and also building a sparrow hotel to be installed on the inside. Following the exhibition the ‘Andy Abode will return to Grassroots and will be used as a shed and storage for Andy, who works there.
We also worked with a group from Age UK Oldham to decorate some bird boxes. The group created a ‘terrace’ of boxes with each one representing a redbrick house, complete with windows, doors, chimneys and even a TV aerial. Though they didn’t make the exhibition launch, Age UK Oldham organised a special trip to Gallery Oldham so the artists could see their creations. We met them there to show them round and indulge in a spot of tea and cake at the Naked Bean Cafe.
All in all, a fantastic launch of the Abirdabode Exhibition, which runs from now until 2nd May 2015 at Gallery Oldham. If you’d like to know more about abirdabode have a look at the project website here. We are also asking for people to nominate locations for the bird boxes once the exhibition is completed. The location should ideally be in the Oldham Borough and be a ‘community’ space or organisation, a school, a public park, allotments or gardens for supported housing etc. Please email email@example.com for further information or to nominate a bird box location.
Here’s just a few of the bird boxes made during the project…
Myself and Arbarus (Richard Dawson) have been delivering the Abirdabode Project for the last eight months. Funded by Oldham Arts Development, the project aims to bring art and nature together by building bird boxes using a variety of different creative techniques and skills.
We are currently working with a number of different groups in Oldham including the Dove Stone Youth Rangers, the Barrier Breakers, an Age UK older people’s group and the Grassroots Community Allotment Scheme in Failsworth.
We’re making lots of progress on the bird boxes which is good as deadlines are fast approaching – there’s an exhibition of them at Gallery Oldham in March and April. The exhibition opens on Saturday 14th March and will have all the bird boxes made during the project on show. Once the exhibition finishes, the bird boxes will be distributed to various communities, gardens, allotments and housing schemes around Oldham – get in touch if you’d like one for your community!
Most of these images are from Grassroots where we’ve been building a large-scale bird box for the exhibition!
One more thing… we’re doing a drop-in workshop at RSPB Dove Stone Reservoir on 22nd February. This is to celebrate National Nest Box Week (14th – 21st February) and to kick off the RSPB’s Discovery Sundays for 2015. We’ll be based at Ashway Gap (halfway round from the main car park) between 11am and 3pm – come and see us!