Friday, 23 June 2017

A natural selection - Residency by Rodrigo Arteaga - #1

On the 20th of june I started my residency in AirSpace Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent, it will extend until the 8th of July and will lead to an exhibition next year in the Natural History Museum within the Potteries Museum and also in AirSpace Gallery. The residency consists on one hand in the study and reflection upon Brownfield sites that are related to what was the main Pottery industry production in the UK and that now have been reclaimed by nature. On the other hand it consists in going into the Natural History Museum´s collection and archives with a further exhibition for next year in the Natural History Museum. The invitation is then to respond and work with these specific sites and the institution of the Natural History Museum. My intention is to develop new ways of thinking about my work in relation to these sites, and hopefully make a constellation of actions and interventions both inside and outside the museum. They are both places of active interaction between nature and culture and the residency will be a productive way of delving into the complexity of their relation.    

Studio work

I started working using AirSpace Gallery as a studio which offers a great space to experiment and try out new ideas. I started some work in the AirSpace Yarden for the birds in which I started interacting with spiders through their spider webs. I did this by cutting out a couple of very small illustrations from a book on entomology and placing them in a spider web. I made a series of photographs and a couple of videos in which you see the spider web being shaken by the wind. I left the camera running and after when I was going through the video I noticed that the spider had actually interacted with the illustration. It is for me a complex relationship between the representation of nature, an idealization of nature producing a tension between fiction and reality. And therefore the moment of interaction of the spider with the illustration had a special significance, illustrations originally were very related to capture and can itself be thought as a way of capture. 

On a first visit to the Brownfield Site where the Hanley Stadium used to be I collected some material to bring to the studio and work on it. I did a first test installing dried up leaves collected from the site and placed in the floor of the gallery. There is a violent cut on the edges so what appears to be just a chaotic gathering of leaves is actually very determined and constructed. I am interested in the idea of the Natural History diorama as a snapshot representation of the environment, as a staged and selected fragment of a whole. So the emphasis was placed on the limit which is drawn in doing so by exaggerating this very simple notion to the extreme. 

I also collected fragments of broken glass from the site and have been using the fragments apparently as an accidental shattered glass on the floor but from a closer look you can tell that it actually conforms a very carefully constructed image of the same site. It has to do with a certain notion of order and chance, when it´s repeated it becomes order. The fragments of broken glass also suggest a map, then the fragments could become sites.  

“Mapping always, at some level, involves violence” Tom McCarthy

Spode Factory and Spode Garden

I visited the Spode Factory in Stoke Town, it was a Pottery factory that started in 1762 and stopped operating in 2008. Since then it has been used as a Heritage Centre which includes artist´s studios and is also the site where the British Ceramics Biennial is held. I had a walk around the site and found some very interesting mold deposits, also abandoned places that have now become the home of all sorts of species such as pigeons and many kinds of plants. It is a very interesting state in between human and non-human interaction where you get the chance to see just what happens when we stop preventing other species to get in. 

I also had the chance to visit the Spode Garden that is a project developed by AirSpace Gallery where they have completely regenerated the Factory´s entrance into a flourishing garden for the community to use all year round. It is a quiet garden that offers edible fruits for the public to enjoy as well as readings, classes, among other cultural activities.

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