Wednesday, 12 November 2014

The Artist and The City - Artist Profiles - Carla Wright

The Artist and The City is a Two-Part collaborative group exhibition at AirSpace Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on- Trent, curated by Jean Milton and Anna Francis.
Between 2014 and 2019 a consortium of art groups, led by B Arts, will be working together to re-imagine Stoke- on-Trent as an ‘Artcity’.

Artcity is a five-year, artist-led programme that aims to:
• Improve the quality of place and life in the city for those who live here
• Create a new story for the city - modelling new ideas for the city’s future.
• Make it easier for artists to access spaces in the city, to make things happen.

The project in particular, sets out Stoke- on-Trent as a place for art and artists to thrive. This two part, two-venue exhibition examines the situation for artists in Stoke-on-Trent, past and present, and examines the efficacy and viability of the notions and themes surrounding Artcity.

Four contemporary artists - Adam James, Carla Wright, David Bethell and Sophie Bard - are exhibiting in both venues - in response to archived artists at The Potteries Museum, and in response to the idea of a future art city at AirSpace Gallery.

Over the next few days we'll be highlighting the artists and their works. The Artist and The city runs until 22nd February, 2015 at The Potteries Museum and until December 13th at AirSpace Gallery

Carla Wright

Carla Wright is an artist living and working in London. Her work examines the built and social environment – planned societies and governed life, and the bureaucracies of urban planning processes, which pay little regard to a our needs and aspirations. Ideas are drawn from unfinished building sites, urban wastelands and unofficial play-spaces, along with examples of alternative housing, self-governed communities and anarchist architecture.

Carla is currently undertaking a project entitled "Make Use" - a public project commissioned by AIR, which highlights an important history of alternative housing, resistance and organisation in the Caledonian area of Islington. Encompassing four stages and three months, Make Use included a group walk, with talks and performances by former Caledonian squatters, artists and activists, a series of screen-printed banners and an artist residency in the local library. The culmination will be a publication and a final event in November.

Showing at AirSpace Gallery
Plan for Playground (2014)
Scaffold netting, paint, scaffolding 
‘unmake’ bits of no-man’s land ‘ (2014) Video

For Carla, an ArtCity is a city where artists have freedom to, and are encouraged to adapt, manipulate and build their physical environment. Interested in the potential of empty and disused open spaces and buildings, she believes that artists could play a vital role in activating these spaces and creating an impact in the city. The work here aims to explore the existence of urban ‘play space’ and the idea of a designated fenced off area for children, usually outside of the city centre, something which Wright believes should be continuously challenged by artists and designers.

The work here is suggestive of a plan or blue print of a future playground but at its simplest state, where the material or shape are provided but the children become the makers, the architects. The work references defiant acts of graffiti and vandalism but not with an urgency so evident in graffiti styles, but with a certain slowness where the artist has been given time, space and freedom to produce.
Alongside the scaffolding piece, the video ‘unmake’ bits of no-man’s land ‘ will be shown depicting a brownfield site near to the gallery which the artist visited the first time she was in Stoke- on-Trent. The site is viewed through blue netting blowing in the wind, and the film is framed within a geometric shape when projected, acting as an example of one the potential play spaces, mentioned earlier.

Showing at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery


The piece selected for Carla Wright to respond to is a small, black and orange teapot, one of Grete Marks’ most recognisable designs, with the double circle handle, and cheerfully upward reaching spout. The teapot looks like something that would appear in an early Mickey Mouse animation. The teapot was particularly selected to connect with Wright’s works involving communal gatherings and get-togethers - which explore social interaction. For ‘The Artist and The City’, Wright has looked into the life of Marks, and has in particular looked at the cutting edge pottery designs which Marks made during her time in Germany, responding to some of the geometric shapes and lines in the work - to create a sculpture which suggests the potential for a social space or moment - a conversation waiting to happen.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

The Artist and The City - Artist Profiles - Adam James

The Artist and The City is a Two-Part collaborative group exhibition at AirSpace Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on- Trent, curated by Jean Milton and Anna Francis.
Between 2014 and 2019 a consortium of art groups, led by B Arts, will be working together to re-imagine Stoke- on-Trent as an ‘Artcity’.

Artcity is a five-year, artist-led programme that aims to:
• Improve the quality of place and life in the city for those who live here
• Create a new story for the city - modelling new ideas for the city’s future.
• Make it easier for artists to access spaces in the city, to make things happen.

The project in particular, sets out Stoke- on-Trent as a place for art and artists to thrive. This two part, two-venue exhibition examines the situation for artists in Stoke-on-Trent, past and present, and examines the efficacy and viability of the notions and themes surrounding Artcity.

Four contemporary artists - Adam James, Carla Wright, David Bethell and Sophie Bard - are exhibiting in both venues - in response to archived artists at The Potteries Museum, and in response to the idea of a future art city at AirSpace Gallery.

Over the next few days we'll be highlighting the artists and their works. The Artist and The city runs until 22nd February, 2015 at The Potteries Museum and until December 13th at AirSpace Gallery

Adam James

London artist, Adam James’ practice, working across film and performance, has developed from an on-going interest into ‘outsiderness’, specifically the social and cultural characteristics of outsiders, concentratin on an exploration into the use of role-play (specifically Live Action Role Play or Larping), improvisation and game mechanics as a means to generate choreographic content, with the aim to better understand personal, social and cultural constructs.

Adam James - Wasteland Rituals
Adam has just completed his latest performance, "Wasteland Rituals" in conjunction with Legion TV. Set in Wick Woods, this project seeks to question exclusion through physical interaction with objects and other people.

The participants known as ‘players’ used various forms of communication via sculptural objects. Through this James hopes us to question how collective identity plays a part in social exclusion.

Taking the form of a two part audience based Larp (Live Action Roleplay); this performance merges audience and performers in a shared collaborative fiction. This work expands on the artist’s previous work examining fringe groups and individuals within a games-based context.

Utilising parallels between performance art and LARP, James developed the use of game mechanics as a means to generate choreographic content.

Showing at AirSpace Gallery
The Checkerboard Crew (2014) Video (10')

Pervasive Larps, are a type of game in which the world and all its inhabitants are treated as unwitting players and stages for roaming immersive storytelling. The film presented in this show, is the documentation of an immersive Larp called ‘The Checkerboard Crew’ played in an enclosed brownfield area of Stoke.

Originally conceived as a Larp game to be run in a hip area of East London, it has subsequently taken on a life of its own, having been replayed across Europe. With each new iteration maintaining the core rules and concepts, the characters and fiction are adapted to suit the location. Here, participants seek to imagine what a future city may look like; exploring the city’s unlocked potential through the artistic endeavours of a group of strange silent travellers with the gift of foresight.

The night vision footage depicts players using a variety of improvisational techniques to explore Stoke by Night in a quest to reimagine underused, dormant and derelict spaces. Working collectively, players used characters created in intensive workshops to reinterpret the world around them. Players were tasked with leaving behind marks, physical or embodied, which might serve as beacons to a brighter future.

In order to refrain from overly analytical approaches to the task, play was conducted almost entirely in silence.

The two most important rules of the game were:
1) To transform the quality of ‘the thing’. 2) A collective consensus must always be reached.

Showing at The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery
Some Later Primitives (2014) Video (10 minutes)

For ‘The Artist and The City’ James has investigated the life and work of John Currie, as a starting point for a new Larp. The curators selected one of Currie’s best known paintings ‘Some Later Primitives and Madame Tisceron’ (1910) for artist Adam James to respond to, as this particular painting seems to talk about the life that Currie could have had, as a member of an important group of young and precocious artists and creatives, a number of whom went on to have very successful careers. Many of James’ works explore extreme and unpredictable behaviour in society, and stem from his relationship with a father that he never met. 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Campbell Works: Coming Up For Air Opens Tonight

First Impressions and Sneak Preview

In response to AirSpace Gallery's curatorial open call, Campbell Works have designed and installed a dynamic and intrinsic new show. The public preview starts tonight at 6pm, with the exhibition open for general viewing from 13th September until 18th October.

Campbell Works is the London-based collaborative curatorial partnership between artists Neil Taylor and Harriet Murray. For their one-month residency, Taylor and Murray proposed to create an installation based entirely on the source material found in the building and its immediate surroundings, as well as drawing from their interactions with its inhabitants. By taking an interest in the building's varied historical usage, an awareness of its past and current shifting existence in the city sparked an idea for curating a 'time slice' of AirSpace's developing artistic and curatorial programme. Now, how to visualise this.

In being fortunate enough to grab a sneak preview and chat with Campbell Works' Harriet Murray earlier this week, I was able to observe the project in its final stages. On entering the gallery space a complex medley of copper piping twisting its way around an odd community of found objects and what appeared to be a tilted bowling ramp occupied the gallery's centre stage. Towering water tanks, lowered bleed-taps and carefully joined pipes hinted at a functioning distillery or heating system. After speaking with Murray about the project's intentions and month-long development, I learnt of Campbell Works' open and earnest interpretation of the building and its inhabitants, translating their findings into a pristine selection of elected and sometimes personified objects with their very own heating.
Joining AirSpace after their participation in Shaun Doyle and Mally Mallinson's PIGDOGAND MONKEYMANIFESTOS exhibition in May 2014, Taylor and Murray expressed a keen interest in the warmth, generosity and commitment of AirSpace Gallery in a seemingly ambitious location. As an unpremeditated show, Murray comments that whilst there was a loose proposal, the work produced was a result of their investigations of the immediate environment at 4 Broad Street.
In describing AirSpace as a 'curious' space to be inhabited, Murray reflected on their 'digging' for insight through a series of questionnaires and informal chats with studio holders and directors. The leading sentiment that resounded in their conversations was the juxtaposing matter that whilst AirSpace was a physically cold building with no heating or hot water, it was a metaphorically warm and generous place: the heating in AirSpace is created by the people at AirSpace. With this in mind, the choice of warm-toned and highly conductive copper piping along with the functional aspect of the install, reflects on the metaphorical heat that comforts the building. Or perhaps it is simply Campbell Works' intention to reward AirSpace inhabitants with a little central heating.

Alongside the sense that artistic and human emotions are tangled with the flowing pipe-work, tenderly wrapping its way around and 'incubating' found source material, a strong awareness of Campbell Works' curatorial interest in challenging stereotypical gallery perceptions is gallantly hinted at. Tearing down the boards that once defined the window space, Taylor and Murray seek to open up the gallery space and spread a 'welcome' out to alternative audiences. In an attempt to break down these contextual barriers, the artists are seen provoking the 'notion of the exhibition' through their motion to subtly mock institutional methods of display via a series of angled plinths with exposed stick-like supports. By inviting the viewer to 'peek under the tablecloth', Taylor and Murray aim to countermine formal presentations and expose the structural support beneath. Traces of playfulness continue to litter the length of the room through a set of 10 skittles, animatedly angled and placed to mimic AirSpace inhabitants.

In utilising and altering the gallery space to provide a light-hearted and playful invitation, Campbell Works is seen offering a hand to an influx of diverse audience members, taking them on an industrious journey into the depths of AirSpace. By learning from a series of intrinsic conversations and observing what already exists, Taylor and Murray have created a gurgling power house (or heated room) of ingenuity on how an artist-led space is run and the promising possibilities that lie ahead. If that's not enough to tempt you, there's also a container of Old Dairy Brewery Ale knocking around.

Coming Up For Air - Campbell Works, 13th September - 18th October 2014, Preview 12th September 6pm - 9pm. More information

Selina Oakes.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Bringing the Nordic LARP to Stoke-on-Trent

Adam James: A Nordic LARP, The Checkerboard Crew, Saturday 6th September 2014 

A participant's response

The night owls had a run for their money last Saturday night : Stoke-on-Trent's The Checkerboard Crew were out scampering the depths of one of Hanley's finest brownfield sites attempting an exploratory and slightly strange take on a Nordic Live Action Role Play (LARP). Led by London-based artist Adam James, the LARP will form part of James' response for The Artists and The City collaborative exhibition project organised by Airspace Gallery and The Potteries Museum.

Image courtesy of Adam James

Having little knowledge of what a LARP was, James and members of the group offered an interpretation of a LARP as a 'social contract' : a game with set rules that are introduced in order to explore an alternative culture and/ or character. Straying away from the well-known video-gamer's and fantasy LARPs played worldwide, James' artistic background appeared to steer Saturday's activities towards an abstracted and perhaps less heavily contextualised performance; our vague mission being to set out into the night as a group of strange travellers with the gift of foresight, unlocking the potential of a future city. Aiming to document a Nordic-style LARP, James highlighted that compared to other LARPs, there were no winners in the game. The intent of the Nordic LARP is to play in collaboration, enacting a thrilling and emotionally poignant story together.

Commencing an insightful and slightly sweaty workshop in a dusty room of the old Telephone Buildings, a group of 10 eager experienced and bewildered novice LARPers were taken through a warm-up and relaxation session of ninja fighting, mock fire drills and several rounds of penguin vs zombie flamingo. As odd as chirping around the top floor of a busy city centre bar sounds, these exercises were intended to unburden our concerns of acting out of place with each other and in a public space. Having had a few preconceptions shaken from us, we were introduced to the communication tools we would use and the abstract characters we would become once let loose in the brownfield compound.
A series of spirals, swirls, circles, geometric boxes, lines, arrows and waves were placed infront of us – symbols that made reference to the American Hobo culture written about in “The American Hoboes” (Riders of the Rails) by Fran DeLorenzo. Without having the knowledge of the past or future intentions of these symbols, we were asked to choose one at random. These were later paired with a hobo name (examples include: Deep Sea Chef, Juble Joo, Grub Box and Dingbat), which gave us the foundations of our imaginary characters. This exercise was followed by instructions on how to understand our new identities through the movement, sound and attitude of each new individual. We were gradually forming the foundations of our collective community, and after sadly loosing two of our members, the workshop was completed by a collective letter-writing exercise and a non-verbal negotiation on how we were going to physically express our six vital commands : Yes, No, Potential, This Way, Look At This and Come to Me.

With the workshop over, we were cast out as futuristic hoboes searching for potential in a barren landscape. We, who started as strangers to both each other and the game, learnt to use the rules of play and acted through the laws of the LARP 'social contract'. Clambering into the dark wasteland (dimly lit by the distant Tesco Extra sign), we began the 1.5 hour experience into our shared derelict theatre-esque space. Counting down from 30 we tried to re-envisage ourselves into our generated characters, before dispersing out from a group huddle. An odd collective incentive to build from discarded objects offered safe initial steps, playing with cast-off tiles, containers and bottles as though they were your everyday building blocks. Later a flower sprung out from a plant pot, a broken 'Madness' record sparked a literal expression of madness, the moon was observed through a makeshift viewfinder, a rickety model home was built and a bathtub was united with a set of traffic cones in an attempt to create a rhythmic band. Without the use of conventional verbal language, it was challenging to understand each other and also perhaps to fully express our characters. Left to use our elected commands (Yes being a slap on an elevated forearm, No being a slap on the thigh and This Way being indicated by pointed elbows), the group collectively began to communicate and share with one another the potentials of decoding and re-assembling the surrounding landscape.

Overall, the moments that were the most exhilarating were those that expressed human emotion. Whilst the concept of the LARP was to find new possibilities in a desolate and abandoned place, it turns out the major players and potential of the event were us as human LARPers. As the evening developed, the group collectively began to care and look-out for each other, seeking comfort from fellow players whilst still remaining inquisitive towards their environment. Fun games were played through copying and mirroring each others suggestive actions, and we began relying progressively more on each other than on the environment around us to generate change. Whilst admittedly we did sound like a choir of space androids beeping away at the moon and there was a severe disagreement on whether to smash open a tape-measure or honour it in a pedestal-like manner, there was some sort of human-like consensus for a bunch of strangers who couldn't speak or act altogether freely. Individual thoughts and ideas became shared through actions or collectively voiced through intermittent one-word storytelling huddles. Strings of words sometimes verbalised observations and at other times shifted into a word repetition or word association game: there were definite attempts to empower the words 'potential' and 'together'.

Although I'm a little unsure whether dancing around a Buddleia shrub or simply finding comfort in holding someone's ankle really count as ground-breaking potential seeking, the LARP we played out on Saturday invited an engaged consideration of how to utilise our shared theatrical playground and newly learnt tools of communication to find a collective consensus on the elements most valued for a brighter future city. The experience offered a willing few the chance to exist beyond customary methods of communication and to observe beyond conventional intepretations of 'place'. Our participation in this new reality opened up an alternative perception of the barren wasteland, and through intuitively responding to situational components and fellow participant's actions, those who were convinced by this radical reality were able to engage with the transformative qualities of collective potential and imagine a new future in a desolate landscape. A highly immersive and exploratory experience of instinct, playfulness, collaboration, communication and physicality.

Adam James will be exhibiting his documented LARP as part of The Artists and The City, a collaborative exhibition between The Potteries Museum & Art Gallery: (Public Preview 3rd Oct 6pm-8pm), 4th October 2014 - 22nd February, 2015 and AirSpace Gallery: (Public Preview 31st Oct, 6pm-9pm), 31st October - 13th December, 2014

Selina Oakes.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Coming Up at AirSpace Gallery

AirSpace Gallery

Autumn / Winter 2014

After a really successful Summer Residency Season, which saw Andrew Burton and Vulpes Vulpes explore ideas around Brownfield and Social Gatherings, we get a sense that Autumn is on its way, and as ever, AirSpace has a packed programme. Here's a taster of what's coming up, with exhibitions, events and opportunities for you to get involved.

We really hope to see you at one, more or ALL of these great events!!


GRADUATE MICRO RESIDENCIES - 2 x £500 awards available to recent Staffordshire University visual arts graduates. DEADLINE September 8th

As part of the ArtCity initiative, a brand new Residency Programme will start this year in Stoke-on-Trent, involving artists Shaun Doyle, Mally Mallinson, Chloe Cooper, Leslie Deere and Leigh Clarke. As yet to be named, the project is intended as an ongoing programme, establishing a residency of national importance utilizing the city’s vacant commercial properties and skill base. We envisage a public facing, communicative, responsive programme that involves a strong education element, building ties to local schools and colleges. READ MORE

  September 6th/7th

As part of the forthcoming AirSpace Gallery / Potteries Museum and Art Gallery exhibition, "The Artist And The City" artist Adam James is running a LARP, here in Stoke-on-Trent. And there are opportunities to be a central part of it! READ MORE and BOOK YOUR PLACE HERE


To mark the final day of the exhibition Coming Up For Air, art world legend and A-N Magazine's soon-to-be-departing Chief, Susan Jones will be the guest speaker at the 5th installment of our Artist Soup Kitchen Series. Drawing on the themes from the exhibition, Susan will present present the case for the importance of artist-led activity and the compelling need for effective advocacy in the area.

There are 10 places available for this not to be missed opportunity for delicious homemade soup, bread and bespoke art-chat. READ MORE and BOOK YOUR PLACE


  BENEATH THE PAVEMENT - The Presentation
  Wednesday 24th September, 2014 4pm-6pm

In July, 2014, Appetite and the City Centre Partnership commissioned AirSpace Gallery to design a consultation and visioning programme designed to work with artists to find spaces and opportunities in the city centre for artists and other creative practitioners to work, put on events and activities, but also to consider how the city might work differently.
The Presentation event will see the unveiling of these exciting, thoughtful and sideways thinking proposals at the launch of the Beneath the Pavement Presentation Event. The launch is set to be an experience in itself, inviting attendees to explore and reimagine the city with us.


We have TWO major exhibitions coming up before the end of the year.

September 12th - October 18th 2014 - PV :September 12th 6pm-9pm
CAMPBELL WORKS re-examine what constitutes an ‘artwork’ and peruses the idea that an artwork is ‘the final manifestation of a multitude of elements drawn together from external sources and re-formatted into new and unexpected configurations’, enabling alternative understandings to be drawn from the original elements. READ MORE

  PMAG - 4th Oct, 2014 - 22nd February. 2015
  AirSpace - 31st October - 13th December, 2014
  Public Preview - PMAG / AirSpace - 31st October, 6pm-9pm

A collaborative exhibition between AirSpace Gallery and The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent, curated by Jean Milton and Anna Francis.
Ahead of Stoke-on-Trent’s Esmee Fairburn funded project, ArtCity , AirSpace Gallery and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery have worked together on an exhibition entitled 'The Artist and The City', exploring the idea that considering Stoke’s history of creative industries and artists working in the city, it is and has always been a Creative City. READ MORE

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Hello Studio 3, by New AirSpace Member Selina Oakes

Studio 3 (exclusive view & imaginary desk !)
Joining AirSpace Gallery after a bumpy but consistently surprising post-uni ride, I'm thrilled to get stuck in with the AirSpace community and its creative endeavours. As a Fine Art graduate from Newcastle University (the Newcastle with the big bridges and the moderately tall angel), I've returned to my home city of Stoke-on-Trent to explore the possibilities of interning for the artist-led organisation as well becoming a studio holder. Hello, I'm in studio 3!

My emerging practice lies between drawing, photography, sound and video-performance. As this is the first time I've had a studio outside of an institutional environment I'm keen to re-focus my research interests, working in an experimental way over the next few weeks. Prior to AirSpace, my practice focused primarily on body-space interactions – looking at mimicry and movement in relation to natural environments, man-made props and architecture. I have a slow-to-be-updated website here

Some previous works for eager eyes:

Having had a pause in my artistic practice, I'm gearing myself up by reviewing the stack of photographs I've taken over the last year. I'm also eager to work on my contemporary art writing - past interests include body-space production and performativity in photography. Alongside my time as a studio holder, I'm looking forward 
to joining AirSpace as an intern – pitching in with admin jobs, work around the gallery and assisting with artist-led projects. 

As a new member at AirSpace, I've had a great welcome with the Vulpes Vulpes workshop day, as well as a brief encounter with current resident artists Neil and Harriet (Campbell Works). I've settled into studio 3 with a few contemplative scrawlings and successfully managed to lock myself out of the AirSpace building. Whilst my role as an intern might require borrowing a few characteristics from a folklore shapeshifter, part of the interest in working for an artist-led space is that people's roles are in a state of flux - constantly changing in relation to the shifting projects that enter and disperse their way into the building and beyond. I'm looking forward to becoming part of a creative and collaborative hub that seeks to promote the existence of contemporary visual art in Stoke-on-Trent – Glen assures me its not all about making coffee and tea.

Selina Oakes.

AirSpace Gallery Graduate Residents - Alice Walter and Naomi Harwin

The gallery's newest members arrived this week - Alice Walter and Naomi Harwin were selected from a large list for the AirSpace Gallery 2014 Graduate residency programme.

Over the course of the next 6 months, they will have free studio space, regular support meetings and mentoring sessions with Gallery directorate and artist professionals, hand-picked to suit their needs. AND two exhibitions - an interim Window exhibition, halfway through their residency and a Solo Show in January.

It's great to have them both here with us - and here's your chance to meet them.

Alice Walter

I am interested in that of the quiet and the in-between, of things which are independent from strict definition and singular meaning but no less pronounced in their sense of purpose and significance. Each depicted form in my work strives to possess pronounced but ambiguous connotations that echo as amalgamations and regurgitations of past observations, experiences and feelings, but made sensible in some way. Within the composition they attempt to weave themselves into alignment along the periphery of language, like a thought forming, or a weird dream; forms and figures take on a symbolic sense of culmination and importance, despite their vague connotations instead of exact labels and their often quiet scale, tonal range or minimalism. Their vague suggestions and hazy realism in colour— despite nothing to figuratively realise— act as an initial anchors into each painting.

These gateways in attempt to make way for a different perspective where they in themselves become irrelevant; instead it is hoped that a more independent way of understanding and seeing can be reached, that does not rely on a system of a language or outside dictating force. It enters onto a curious, communally personal world, where understanding doesn’t need to be reduced to the monosyllabic in order to be relevant, and that it can be far more so if it isn’t.

Paints stickiness and flatness marks the paradoxical nature of language, where a painting is at once an illusionistic image and an over familiar object, and I find this an ideal metaphor for the restrictions we find our limitless psychologies bound within.

Naomi Harwin

At the core of Naomi Harwin’s practice is a desire to explore and understand the relationship between one’s self, the objects that surround us and the environments we occupy. Most recently, she has been focusing particularly on the processing of visual stimuli, striking up a dialogue between a form and its represented image.

Through playing with materials and employing the aesthetic qualities she finds herself drawn to, the attention of her studies has become the forms of her own construction. Using processes associated with mapping she is able to both generate and assess the forms, her traceries acting as records of her findings from explorations of the surfaces. Amongst these discussions Harwin also considers different methods of displaying her work to create a dynamic and engaging experience of the facets and features of these objects.

Monday, 25 August 2014



'If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear' By Kypros Kyprianou

The Installation and Review By Michelle Rheeston-Humphreys

The second exhibition of the 'In The Window' programme 'If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear' by Kypros Kyprianou, was selected for its curious and unsettling nature. A now constant presence in the public domain it highlights over the next two weeks the modern phenomena of being watched. The concerns of which, has been explored in literature and social theory extensively most notable in George Orwells book '1984'. It is a reminder of the surveillance ever more present and invasive in the contemporary public realm- not in the form of anonymous and now familiar CCTV but a antiquented looming spy or stalker. I am fascinated by the momentary liminal experience that the piece creates; a double take; a puncturing. The reality of the actual figure at second glance is humorous- glowing eyes, flattish form and from the side view the innards are revealed- as wood support and stuffing. The facade and theatrical staging again for me hints towards the structures of political powers who seek to control- peek beneath or behind and the corruption and disorder is unveiled- as is frequently reported in the press.

Kypros Kyprianou is an artist and filmmaker who works across forms. He has worked collaboratively over the last 12 years with Simon Hollington (Hollington and Kyprianou). Originally based in London, Kyprianou is now based in Bristol (a Spike Island studio holder) producing work nationally and internationally. Kyprianou most often works in non-art spaces and outside of the gallery in the form of intervention. The window space offers artists the chance to explore a unique site that straddles the boundary between the pubic realm and art gallery.

Apart from the rain, it was a fairly straight forward and easy install, that was effective from the moment the work entered the window space. After a clean lick of white, a few adjustments and compositional trials, the menacing figure seemed to be at home; secured in place with a couple metal hinges and a few divers weights bought from a car boot. The light was then positioned to create the crucial glowing stare from those pingpong and marker pen eye balls. Albeit for a little rewiring and cable tidying as not to distract from the figure the install was complete with vinyl title and all.

Come and experience it for yourself for 2 weeks only until Saturday 6th September.

For more images and information about the piece from the artist:

In The Window - 'If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear' - Kypros Kyprianou

As you walk past AirSpace Gallery's window over the next few days, you might get a sense that you're being watched. You might not be able to put your finger on it , but you're sure that someone has their eye on you.

Responding to the ever-intrusive government prying into the affairs of everyday citizens, sparked by the Edward Snowdon case, Kypros Kyprianou has installed a comic-book rendering of a bygone surveillance era. The life-size figure, at once peculiarly realistic, but on closer inspection, somewhat ridiculous, as you see the slightly pathetic stuffed construction, with its classroom materials - papier-mâché, ping pong balls and poster paint - suggests a pointlessness and waste of energy in the activity, while reminding us that individual freedoms are hard won, and important to safeguard.

'If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear' runs until September 6th. Don't be spooked!

 If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” is a phrase attributed to everyone from Joseph Goebbels to George Orwell. It was repeated more recently by William Hague to justify the UK’s intelligence agencies harvesting of digital communication - though I am unsure who Hague was quoting from when he repeated it to deliver his reassurance.

In 2009, another student of Orwell, Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old American who had been reading “Nineteen Eighty Four” on his Amazon Kindle for his summer assignment lost all his digital annotations when the file vanished from his device. “They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,” he said.

The irony of Amazon remotely deleting copies of Orwell’s book over a copyright violation was not lost on many commentators - in Orwell’s book government censors destroy news articles embarrassing to Big Brother, sending them down an incineration “memory hole.”

Unless Gawronski was jotting down the overthrow of government in the margins, I doubt he had anything to hide, and the publicity from the incident would surely mean he had nothing to fear over handing in his assignment late.

Transposing this scenario from digital to physical space would entail something along the lines of a company representative breaking into Gawronski’s house, destroying the book and notes, then leaving an explanatory missive.

This scenario would have caused consternation in many sections of the press. Yet, when David Miranda, the partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald was detained at Heathrow airport and made to hand over his laptop and encryption keys, reaction was rather more subdued. Greenwald had been working with Edward Snowden, releasing material on NSA and GCHQ spying activities. The judges presiding over this case accepted the detention was "an indirect interference with press freedom" but was justified by "very pressing" interests of “national security”.

Snowden’s releases in part detailed how national security agents purposefully weaken encryption, the very things that allow someone to purchase an e-book online with some degree of security. Other releases document a total surveillance doctrine, one which allows state actors to read whatever you are reading.

Both corporate and governmental organisations routinely collect vast amounts of data on individuals and therefore the connections between them - echoing another era that attempted to provide total national security through spying on its citizenry.

Wolfgang Schmidt was a former lieutenant colonel in the Stasi – the German Democratic Republic’s secret police during the Cold War. For him, Snowden’s revelations are impressive  - “So much information, on so many people,” he said. “You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true.”

“It is the height of naiveté to think that once collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”

When what we freely choose to read is no longer anonymous, we can no longer freely choose to read. - Kypros Kyprianou

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.