Asylum gallery opening
Into the light
Asylum gallery have been busy turning a disused building into a warren of small artist spaces, some are in individual rooms and some are more open plan, which are shared spaces. Tonight, was the first time the studios have been open to the public adding to the sense of anticipation.
Each artist had their own studio space open with a wide range of art to see, including photography, sculpture and print, but what stood out was that visitors gravitated to the light like moths around a lamp. The studios which were lit with the usual studio lighting or standard household lighting tended to be passed through, with visitors having a look and then continuing on, where as the studios that were lit with either candle light or special effect lighting not only drew more people in, but kept their attention for longer. Visitors would wonder back through the other rooms, but then return to the spaces that had been lit more creatively
The two defined areas of interest were Caitlin Doherty’s candle lit space, where she had overly sized nudes painted directly onto the wall with clay, the candlelight added a different atmosphere to these paintings, casting strange shadows and highlights. The images seemed more raw and powerful in the low light conditions, they held peoples interests and they lingered in the space
The other space was a studio room of the artist Ewan Johnston, who paints in neon paints, he had also lit his room, there was candle light in one corner and the rest of the room was dimly lit with uv black light, this firstly made his paintings glow and secondly caused anything white that the visitors might be wearing to also glow, this dual effect also captured peoples imagination and they stayed in this studio looking at the many different paintings for much longer than they had in other rooms that had displayed paintings.
Was it the subject matter that had drawn people into both of these spaces or was it the light, the candle light of the one studio was very different to the uv of the other, but they both drew people in and both rooms had the same people returning during the evening, in a way in which the other rooms did not appear to, the light seemed to create an atmosphere that people were drawn too, standing looking at and chatting about the art work that was displayed in these rooms. Whilst this was not an intentional experiment in people’s reaction to light, it seemed to very clear that the light was having an effect on the viewer and how they viewed the work.
Gattis lantern parade
Gattis community lantern parade
an example of Why participation is so important in our communities
Gattis is a community centre in a deprived area on the outskirts of Wolverhampton. The area has many issues as many of these outskirt areas often do, but this area is fighting back. They have a community engagement program that is run from within the community. This place is run on goodwill and participation
In an area such as that Gattis is situated in, it would be easy to bolt the doors of the local community centre and walk away at the first sign of trouble, but Gattis takes a different approach, they are an example of what community centres should be. They have community groups, an affordable café, a surplus food market, hold sessions to upcycle or swap clothing, craft and games sessions and a garden, for both play and growing food.
The area surrounding the community centre, is plagued with petty crime, with substance abuse being a particular problem, this propagates a fear of being out and about in the area, I particularly at night and so the idea of reclaiming their streets through a lantern parade was conceived. Several Workshops were held to make the lanterns from willow canes covered in wax paper, some were large and elaborate, whilst others were small and simple. they were lit with led lights and the larger lanterns were attached to harnesses and carrying poles. A storyteller was recruited, who wove a tail in rhyme and song around the theme of the area, canals and eels.
On the evening of the parade the lanterns were lit before being hoisted into the night sky, to be paraded in a group procession along the route, led by the story teller and his guitar, there was much excitement from all ages as the procession began to wind around the local streets, stopping at various points to sing the theme tune which would signal the next instalment of the story.
There were spectators gathered along the route, some joining in and some looking on from doorways and upstairs windows, I hope that what they could see, wasn’t just a lantern parade, but their community and that the participants were having fun, but also that they had bonded as a tribe, they were sharing in a story and making their own at the same time.
AS the procession snaked its way back to Gattis, a bonfire had been lit and the last part of the tale was told sitting on handmade benches around the fire. The lanterns were placed in the garden for everyone to admire. The evening ended with food and chatter, gathered around the embers and a real feeling of not just warmth from the fire, but of belonging.
It Is This sense of belonging and ownership that Gattis nurtures through the act of participation which strengthens a community, it would not have had the same effect to have watched the procession as to have taken part. The spectators may have been touched for a while at the passing of the lanterns, it may stay in their memories, hopefully it will encourage them to join in with the next project, but the effect it had on the spectators cannot compare with the effects of those who made and carried lanterns, sang the songs, walked the walk and ate the food around the fire.
Card board box city
Cardboard box city
St. Basils sleepout
St. Basils is a charity helping the homeless, with the young on the streets being one of their priorities. This event took place in the churchyard of St. Martens cathedral in Birmingham, this is the same Church that I wrote about previously (the church is beautiful tonight) and have created a piece in response to the church at Christmas But this event was held at the church, but not by the church, the project involved groups or individuals collecting sponsorship to use cardboard boxes to create shelters, where they would then spend the night
The initial atmosphere was competitive, with the participants jostling for the best cardboard, secretly building extra features into their constructions and adding elements that they had previously made. This individualistic spirit lasted for a while, but it didn’t take long for the cold to have its effect, with fingers becoming too cold to build elaborate structures and insulation became more pressing. As the cold grew, so did the community spirit amongst the participants, hot food was given out by the local mosque, which greatly improved peoples spirits and as people ate, they also talked and shared their thoughts and ideas on the issues surrounding homelessness.
But did this strategy work
The event certainly raised money as the participants were sponsored and there were collecting tins used on the night.
What is less calculable is whether the awareness of the plight of the homeless youth was raised in people’s minds, the participants experienced at least some insight into the issue of sleeping rough, but their experience lasted for just one night. There was an effort to raise public awareness by people on the perimeter of the fence giving out information leaflets and talking to passers-by, but how many people put their eyes to the pavement and passed on by, in the same way that they would when passing the homeless on the streets.
Because the cardboard structures were tucked into the shelter of the church walls and far behind the barriers from the pavement onlookers could not get a clear view of the event and so it leaves me wondering if the impact was lost. It is difficult to balance the security of the participants with the need to be accessible to the viewer if the subject is to be engaged with more effectively
I’m not sure that sleepout was the correct term, I think that most of the participants made it until morning, but there was much more talking and sharing of both stories and hot food and drinks, than sleeping, but this also raises the point of how important the sharing of food is, in bringing people together to keep up their spirits and in talking about ideas and issues.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.