Once again, I return from my holiday with a couple of crafty things in my suitcase... and perhaps some other unrelated cool things that I'm shoe-horning in, just a little.
(from the large range in quality of execution it is quite obvious that some of these images are mine and some are official)
To get us all in the holiday mood, here is a picture of the Nefyn peninsula in north Wales. Not only is it beautiful but it’s also a golf course – one assumes they have a lot of lost balls.
A run into Liverpool means a visit to the Bluecoat Display Centre to see Southern Stars, Northern Light a display of jewellers from southern Australia. It’s good to see the gallery settled in its old space after all the renovations of the Bluecoat over the past few years. The exhibition area has been cleared of any extraneous objects, with the wide range of jewellery given space to shine. There a massive range of material and aesthetic on show, from the small geodesic-esque domes of Christian Hall, the sparkly luxury of Kath Inglis’s PVC pieces and the impossibly light styrene work by Catherine Truman. It’s a rare chance to see some work from makers on the other side of the world, Southern Stars, Northern Light continues until 26 September.
To coincide with the exhibition, Sun-Woong Bang took up a residency at the Bluecoat during the summer enabling him to engage with all the north-west has to offer. His work on show at the display centre includes these intricate and delicate pieces, as well as more traditional jewellery forms. Having previously studied biochemistry, his work draws on an interest in minute worlds like complex cellular structures.
Next, a short walk upto FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) to see Bernie Lubell’s A Theory of Entanglement. This is the San Francisco-based artist’s first UK exhibition and forms part of FACT’s UNsustainable programme for 2009.
Lubell presents numerous wooden machines which the viewer is encouraged to interact with. The atrium features a large crocheting machine which is powered by two people pedalling the wooden bicycles. The Conservation of Intimacy, see above, requires one person pedalling to move a roll of paper whilst another person wiggles vigorously on a sprung bench – the movements on the bench twitch three pens on the surface of the roll of paper. The paper falls to the floor and you can see the remnants of previous players. It will take me a while to forget ...and the Synapse Sweetly Singing winding my supine self into a wooden coffin, lying there in the dark listening to the alien noises made by various contraptions on the outside – Lubell made the piece in response to dealing with his mother’s illness and frailty, only able to communicate over long-distance by telephone. I must confess that this wasn’t what I was expecting – its subtleties and thoughtfulness, Lubell’s work is at once humorous, dark and heart-felt.
Heading to Crewe to catch my train to Edinburgh, we nearly crash on the A41 due to the sight of Big Ben made from hundreds of straw bales. Turns out it’s this year’s offering from ice cream manufacturer Snugburys who make a giant straw sculpture every year.
At the Edinburgh Festival there is always too much to choose from: theatre; comedy; art; music; dance; the good; the bad, and the ugly. Always partial to the Fringe and its comedy shows I realise there is little craft to be found here.
Aha! But Mark Watson’s The Hotel can be claimed on crafty grounds. A five-storey townhouse turned into a twisted Fawlty Towers, where you’re invited to open doors, wander around and chat to whoever you may find. All the interiors had been built within a few days before the show opened – there were fake maroon dado rails everywhere, corridors lined with the famous people who had stayed (as well as many who hadn’t), a lost property room with every surface covered in guests’ plastic leftovers amongst which a sweet Welsh boy endlessly attached identification tags and an administration centre in which the interior was part sci-fi computer deck and part prison. The high-point? Probably being locked in a shipping container, a torch shone in my face and challenged to sing as loudly as possible. Safe to say they let me out pretty sharpish.
It was a wonderful and weird way to spend an afternoon, and just one of the many reasons to love the Edinburgh Fringe (even if this year, it all began to feel a little corporate). Stewart Lee, stand-up veteran, explains the Fringe: ‘There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the world. If you said “we’re going to have this thing that’s not curated, where borderline competent people can come and perform, oh, and they don’t have to be vetted by anyone, and it’s in buildings that would not pass a fire inspection normally, and it’s going to be for a month and the city will tolerate it”. You just couldn’t do it, no one would allow you to.’ Hurrah for the Fringe!
Back to some serious craft… a visit to the Scottish Gallery included work by Wendy Ramshaw, David Watkins, gorgeous lapis lazuli jewellery by Michael Becker, and an exhibition of ceramics by Philip Eglin. Popes, Pin-ups and Pooches shows Eglin’s interest in image-making, combining high-culture icons and Madonnas with low-culture Macdonalds logos and David Beckham. With postmodern playfulness the pieces retain an impressive visual sensitivity and sophistication.
The Future Scotland Debates were running at the Scottish Parliament. Germaine Greer, Deyan Sudjic and Peter Clegg (FCB Architects) took part in a debate on sustainable architecture. Germaine Greer highlighted the compelling fantasy of a house for life and called for a radical razing of old housing stock. She asked why new building didn’t focus on fulfilling the needs of specific types – first-time buyers, single occupants, the elderly. The rather strange man sitting next to me seemed to consider heckling an appropriate response and began to shout ‘Rubbish!... where are your numbers?’ I thought it was funny that he seemed to confuse Germaine Greer in the Scottish Parliament for a stand-up gig.
The majority of questions from the floor focused on political agency, particularly local councils and their obligation to maximise profits on land over any ethical consideration. It left me with a definite feeling of helplessness.
Over at the Edinburgh College of Art, Milestone was an arts event that invited 10 international sculptors to carve forms from 1 to 2 tonne blocks of stone. In the open air of the ECA’s quadrangle, there was dust and noise and things being made – and it was lovely.
I also saw a half-naked man in a tutu with flippers, goggles and anchor tattoos as part of the Royal Ballet of Flanders’ incredible Return of Ulysses. I was desperate to include a picture of him here and have searched the depths of my imagination to find some tenuous link to craft but am still looking.