Monday, November 29, 2010

Public feedback

I have heard dribs and drabs about how the Wonders of Weston has been recieved in Weston, including having had a couple of newspaper clippings sent to me- but i'd love to hear an update on this blog about what the general feeling seems to be about the project? Whilst googling Wonders of Weston I came accross this blog post by Remap the Map which is also mentioned here, it's interesting to see/hear other people's views on this project and it's impact on the town.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Something Proper

If you stand for long enough and look at something, its more than likely somebody will become curious over what you are doing, and then join you in looking at it too. While we were involved in the Wonders of Weston meetings to research the project from a residents perspective, we ended up near the Silica, and spent some time looking up at it, even taking a few photos. We noticed a woman near us, who decided she was going to take a photo of it too. She was a tourist, and she told us she didn't know why she was taking the photo, but because we were photographing it she decided it must be a landmark worth noting!

I had an echo of that encounter today. I was walking near the Winter Gardens, and decided to take a photograph of Tim Etchells "Winter Piece" as I hadn't yet seen it in darkness. I only had my mobile on me to take the pictures, so I was spending quite a bit of time stood in one spot, trying to get even a half decent photo! I noticed a little old lady, who had stopped near me, and was looking at the artwork, and we got chatting. She told me that she thought it looked quite pretty, and she was intrigued as to the meaning. She said she liked the look of it, despite not really understanding it. When I began to tell her it was a public art project, her demeanor immediately changed. "Well, what a waste of money!" she declared. "They should spend the money on something PROPER".

I felt amused that she quite liked the piece, until she found out that it was actually ART...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

What Next?

The Wonders of Weston launched yesterday.

What next?

A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post about the future of the town, although at the time I wasn't really sure about the questions I was asking, let alone what the answers might be, but perhaps the Wonders of Weston could be part of what I was looking for.

The Sea Change project, which funded the Wonders of Weston, was intended to promote the regeneration of seaside towns by investment in cultural projects. The artists involved, Ruth Claxton, Tim Etchells, Lara Favaretto, Tania Kovats, raumlaborberlin and Wrights & Sites have set us a challenge. They've laid a foundation that we can build on, but how we go about it is up to us, and much will depend on public reactions to their work.

What do you think?

Where do we go from here?
Cross-posted at Random Bloggages

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

...Who's Paying For That Then?

I spent part of this afternoon watching work on Lara Favaretto's Without Earth Under Foot.

I wasn't alone, although a fair proportion of the other watchers were involved in the Wonders of Weston in some way. Most of the rest came, saw and went away again without passing comment.

I did have a brief conversation with one of the audience, however, and it went something like this:-

    Him: What's going on here?

    Me: It's a new artwork.

    Him: Oh, Christ! Who's paying for that then?

He did seem reassured when I told him that the money was coming from the government via CABE rather than from our council tax, but he didn't say much else.

I wasn't particularly surprised by this, as I think most of us are expecting the source of funding for this project to be one of the first things that people will ask about. Once we get past that, how will they react to the artworks themselves? It's not long before we find out.

Sightings of Wonders of Weston at Frieze art fair and in Cornwall...

As some of you know, after six years of living in Weston and working (unpaid) as a curator and on my own art practice it was with wonderful timing that I upped and left town a month before the Wonders of Weston project was due to be launched. Bringing contemporary art to Weston has been something I have tried to do on a much smaller scale at the Uni Gallery, and it has been frustrating to not be around whilst these new works are being installed.

Much has been mentioned, on this blog and amongst us as a group, about the lack of publicity and about how no-one in Weston knows about this project (when we walked around town looking for 'culture' none of the people we talked to had heard of it), but what I wanted to write about is how The Wonders of Weston is known about, and talked about, by people outside of Weston. The week before last I was in London for the Frieze Art Fair- a huge contemporary art fair that draws the 'art world' to London. Many galleries and project spaces time their programming to mean that while Frieze week is happening their new shows are opening- thus maximising potential for selling work and creating the largest audience possible. While I was in London I talked to several people about Wonders of Weston and it turned out that not only had they heard of it, they were planning on coming to the launch. Now admittedly most of the people I spoke to were from Bristol based arts organisations, some may have even been involved with Situations, but I thought it was really interesting how people within the art community in Bristol know more about WOW than a lot of the residents of WsM do.

Down here in Falmouth it's a similar thing- whilst none of my classmates on my MA Curatorial Practice course had heard of it, many of the tutors and arts professionals i've spoken to had. And at least one person in my MA group was considering joining me in making the 4 hour journey from Falmouth to be at the launch. I suppose my interest is not so much in HOW these people know about WOW and the residents don't, but more a question of  'does it matter'?

Is this project about 'bringing art to the people', about educating the poor, uncultured masses of Weston-super-Mare, or is it about bringing exciting contemporary art to a new location and offering practising artists a chance to engage with a pretty unique landscape? Rather than getting wound up about the public not knowing about it, isn't it enough that artists are getting the chance to make major pieces of work without having to scrabble for funding? I think that WOW is just as valid a project in this respect as it is in bringing art to the local community. Opportunities for artists are few and far between, and I think WOW should be celebrated for this, just as much as any regeneration that might come out of it, but then what do I know, i'm only an artist/curator...