Monday, 30 July 2018

Returns Residency Day 5 - The radical middle

For 1 week, a group of artists ( Christine Stevens, Andrew Brown, Joanne Lee and Danica Maier) formerly working on a previous project in the city (Topographies of the Obsolete, 2013) based at the Spode factory site - have returned to Stoke to pick up some pieces ahead of a short exhibition with us in Autumn 2018. 

The Radical Middle 

It’s day 5 of the residency. This week I have been reviewing the many hundreds of photographs I’ve made on my previous visits to the area, as well as continuing to walk and take the bus across the Six Towns, exploring areas that are less familiar to me.

I’ve begun to understand what I’m doing now relates to an earlier project, The good place that is no place, which considered ideas of utopia, home and belonging, viewed from the very different perspectives of high rise flats in two towns on the English coast, Brighton and Grimsby.

Having thought about the edge of England, the Returns project in Stoke-on-Trent has allowed me to focus on the view from the middle, and to consider the idea of an English heartland which is definitively not that of the Home Counties. 

As a result, I’ve been exploring Staffordshire’s intersecting traditions of non-conformist religion, radical politics and trade unionism; the idealistic projects that took root here such as the Worker’s Educational Association and societies promoting the universal language of Esperanto; the escapism of hedonistic club cultures; old myths and new age spirituality; energy and entropy; the names streets are given and what they signify; public transport and poor housing; community, refuge and sanctuary. There’s something here about repeated attempts to create a heaven on earth, or at the very least to make lives better lived.

- Joanne Lee


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