Sunday, 17 August 2014

AirSpace Gallery Summer Residencies - #2 PARLOUR by Vulpes Vulpes

Following on from Andrew Burton's investigation of the situation of and possibilities for Brownfield, and its associated notions of physical, and architectural emptiness, the second residency was informed by how we noticed a sense of human emptiness in the City Centre.

Often during the day, but especially after 5pm, Stoke City Centre can empty out a little - the night time economy struggles, and there is a definite sense that people don't choose the City Centre as a place to linger.

After a visit to the City last year, Vulpes Vulpes - a group of four artists who produce work collaboratively and have run a project space in London for the last five years, proposed a residency here with us to explore the notion of "Gatherings" - or social/leisure events as a way to suspend notions of class and formality in favour of a better system - non-hierarchical forms of interaction.

Vulpes Vulpes are: Carla Wright, Anna Chrystal Stephens, Laurie Storey, Hadiru Mahdi

Central to their approach is this text from The Science of Society by Stephen Pearl Andrews (1952)

Conversation is continuous, brilliant, and varied. Groups are formed          according to attraction. They are continuously broken up, and re-formed through the operation of the same subtile and all-pervading influence. Mutual deference pervades all classes, and the most perfect harmony, ever yet attained, in complex human relations, prevails under precisely those     circumstances which Legislators and Statesmen dread as the conditions of inevitable anarchy and confusion. If there are laws of etiquette at all, they are mere suggestions of principles admitted into and judged of for himself or herself, by each individual mind.
- - -
Suppose the intercourse of the parlor to be regulated by specific legislation. Let the time which each gentleman shall be allowed to speak to each lady be fixed by law; the position in which they should sit or stand be precisely regulated; the subjects which they shall be allowed to speak of, and the tone of voice and accompanying gestures with which each may be treated,       carefully defined, all under pretext of preventing disorder and encroachment upon each other’s privileges and rights, then can any thing be conceived better calculated or more certain to convert social intercourse into intolerable slavery and hopeless confusion?’ 

photo: Vulpes Vulpes
Over two weeks, there were so many small projects and interventions, meetings and conversations - here are just a few of them.

photo: Vulpes Vulpes
Anna, Carla, Hads and Laurie launched themselves in to the locality - the past and the present - looking at the forgotten fields of Post-Club Rave gatherings - so popular in the City in the 1990's - but now a past memory - Keele Services and Woods, the scene of many a public gathering to prolong a night of clubbing and dancing became an excavation site, as evidence of that inhabitation was sought.

A series of visits to local independent shops produced a brass horn - symbolic of the rally - and a series of conversations with shopholders about the local condition. The broken horn led them to a repairer and further links and conversation.

There was a sports day, exploration of playground, and a children's making workshop - which produced the large multi-media cloud which hung over their presentation, and an outside front-of-gallery free buffet - for passersby to stop awhile and talk about anything.

photo: Vulpes Vulpes

This was an important residency for AirSpace Gallery - we believe in people, and the power of congregation and the social aspect of a city for making a healthy place to live and work. It was great and really instructive to see how VV approached their work, at once serious, critical, political, fraternal and accessible. But moreover, it was the commitment to engagement in, as they are committed to, an all-inclusive way, that really struck.

And on top of that, working with artists who are new to the City, uncoloured by the attitudes learnt from living in it, the perspectives are always fresh. Through the course of their time in Stoke - VV found places, and areas that I was unaware of after a long time living and working here. We can often get stuck in our immediate locales, when there is so much to explore and see, and so many people and businesses to connect with. So, for instance, without this residency, AirSpace wouldn't have become a keen supporter of the local Community Scrap Shack - a valuable local resource indeed.

So, a fitting conclusion to our 2014 residency programme, leaving us excited as to what and who next year's will throw up.

Thanks to Andrew Burton, Anna Chrystal Stephens, Carla Wright, Hadiru Mahdi and Laurie Storey and all the volunteers, and all who came to see the works.

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