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Posted 19.10.15

Review: Plymouth Art Weekender – Various Venues

By Andy Cluer

September brought Plymouth's most ambitious home made art festival to date.

Exhibiting 86 events with over 400 local, national and international artists throughout the boundaries of the city, Plymouth Art Weekender saw empty buildings and unusual spaces to the arts transformed into a city wide arts hub exclusively for a three day event.

Following recent funding cuts in the arts, a group of locals artists and enthusiasts merged together to form Visual Arts Plymouth (VAP) working alongside Swansea based coordinator Gordon Dalton to show off and celebrate the rich culture that Plymouth has to offer, even in the harder times.

BA (Hons) Fine Art grad Andy Cluer reviews...

For Now

— Tim Etchells

Plymouth Arts Centre, 25th September - 3rd January

Performance, sound and language artist Tim Etchells brings his text based, For Now exhibition to the Plymouth Arts Centre that sees his concerns over liveness and presence explored through a variation of mediums to capture and relate to the audience’s in the moment experiences.

For Now explores Etchells' interests in the visions of fragments and compositional structures that integrates’ the relations between sense and nonsense. Stand Off, a new sound piece displayed within the intermit space of the downstairs gallery is a prime example of the relation between the actual and the abstruse that engages the audience to become a participant within the exhibition.

Performance by Mo Bottomley & friends, Salon at St Saviours.

The four speakers opposing one another in the centre of the room invite you to enter the space that then greets you with dialogue of unmethodical arbitrary instructions of an aggressive nature – juxtaposing the initial feeling of the space and leaving you suspended within a hostile dystopian place.

The aperture of the building has been explored through Etchells' works, using negative space of unnatural uses to fill the building with the idea of nonsense placed within unconventional areas that only strengthens the theme behind this show, including work hung up high on the outside side of the build that greets you before you access the dimensions of the building.

Mirroring one another, Plymouth Arts Centre is cascaded with neon text displays that move away from the sound language to a literature text based series of work, playing on the colourful assets of the light in relation to the bureaucratic words of ‘Political Confusion, Political Delusion’, for example.

Tim Etchells, 'Ghosts', 2015. Plymouth Arts Centre

The opening night saw the artist himself present, converting the café into a performative stage that brought a 40 minutes long language performance of repetition, calm and aggressive verbal expression and body language engagement with the audience that immediately directed his current practices relation to his other piece Stand Off. This performance was conversed with the instrumental attributes expressed by violinist Aisha Orazbayeva that seemly agreed and understood the nonsenses of Etchells' verbalization.

Even after the complete collapse of civilization there will still be product placement and power ballads

— Back In 5 Minutes Squad

Batter Street Studio at Plymouth Arts Centre, 25th - 27th September 2015

A post-apocalyptic world is a desire we have experienced through modern culture video games and cinematic visuals, allowing us an escapism from the political capitalism lifestyle we are all fed within. Following on from their stand out installation at the Spike Open 2015, the Back In 5 Minutes Squad depicts this post-apocalyptic theory situated within the building of Plymouth Arts Centre through a carefully constructed utopia dystopia room installations – built through sculptural objects, filmography clips, video game visuals and power ballads.

From the moment you climb the old creeping staircase in the loneliness of the silent Batter Street, you get this sense of on edge tension creeping through your body. And though this isn't a part of the work itself – only a pathway to the otherworld experience – it feels very much a part of what you are about to engage with.

Keith Harrison, 'Wreath', 2015. Editions at KARST.

You enter the room through black plastic material, immediately activating your brain's senses through the element of touch that brings you into this darkened future existence escapade encounter. It isn't until you reflect through your optical eye of the light from the monitor screens after a few minutes that you begin to realise that there is more than just the darkness of this uncomfortable exciting space you are graced upon.

The overpowering sound elements and the visual clips from video games such as Halo and Final Fantasy reprinting themselves onto the materials on the objects situated around this room through a simple reflection merge the surrounding elements together, while expressing a glimpse of what you are surrounded by. The overall aesthetics of this installation is hard to not be over excited by, gripping you into their abstract visualisation on a “post-apocalyptic, nihilistic, existential and revolutionary scenario”.


— Featuring Mo Bottomley & Friends, Rosie King, Kate Paxman, Pineapple Falls and Marcy da Silva Saude

St Saviour’s, 26th September 2015

Positioned in the building of St Saviour’s, a historic previously artistic Plymouth library and religious hub, a group of local artists merged together to build on the foundations of the buildings age and knowledge to develop a pop-up exhibition, Salon, that re-imagines its past through contemporary art.

The show – built through sculptural installations, video works, literature and performances alongside the already standing permanent works and features of the building's interior – perceives a modern attitude in contrast to the vintage elements that executes together exceedingly well. Installations held in this show, such as Pineapple Falls' stacked structure built from past everyday objects – storage racks, cabinet units, self made books for the audience to explore, and even home-taken imagery of cats – could easily be envisioned as a permanent feature.

Paul Hillon, 2015. Editions at KARST.

Meanwhile, Marcy Da Silva Saude’s lecture on Richard Cory’s poems that evokes miserablism of the upper-class is described through creatives through inspiration of his poetry and his resulting suicide which brought a more educational speech to the event. And Mo Bottomley & Friends' chaotic performative abstraction, that explores the elements of the building's religious liveliness and the world of Lenkiewicz, saw a cross-dressed burlesque chair dancing routine to a Hugo Ball esq human crab performative section all dressed together with pre-recorded and live musical sound elements.

Salon showed the importance of Plymouth's history within an iconic building that displayed the strengths of what local artists in this region have to offer, very much showing why Plymouth is quickly becoming an important creative hub in the west country through this exhibition that held a strong Elmgreen & Dragset feel.

To Any Body And To Every Body // Editions

— Studio Holders

Pipe Studios // KARST, 26th & 27th September

The Plymouth Art Weekender brought an exciting insight into studio holder spaces within Plymouth, allowing access to the studio areas so often closed to the public and an experience of what the artist’s current practice has to offer.

Pipe Studios, a small narrow multi-studio building in the heart of Plymouth’s Barbican, saw twelve artworks spread throughout this venue to explore the four studio holder's work (in no particular order) that exhibited on the permanent walls, floor and through self-built projection screens.

David Blandy, 'Backgrounds', 2013. Plymouth City Centre Big Screen.

The space – which had been transformed into more of a gallery space than the natural lifestyle of a studio – held bearing to the paintings, the sculptural works of Ryan Curtis, and the video work from Plymouth College of Art’s Fine Art Programme Leader Steven Paige that wouldn’t be out of place if curated within a contemporary gallery space.

KARST opened its studio area to show a range of editions works made specifically for this one-day event, continuing the present successful practices of artists such as Keith Harrison, Carl Slater and Clare Thornton. Although, as Pipe Studios, the space of each artist was inaccessible – although the space and atmosphere of the artist’s studio holder’s area felt very much present and alive.

In summary...

This weekend brought a rich source of arts and culture to Plymouth that included performance art, lectures and talks, public art as well as enclosed gallery exhibitions, collaborations with the Crafts Council and project space showcases.

Overall this pilot event formed an important outsource of art for Plymouth to a new audience of local and afar. The Art Weekender has really put Plymouth on the British map of culture – exposing the huge talent that lays within our own borders and expressing interest to major artists such as David Blandy, Tim Etchells, Gerhard Richter, David Shrigley and Grayson Perry.

Plymouth Art Weekender was held in partnership with Visual Arts Plymouth, Plymouth Council & Arts Council England.

Reviewed by Andy Cluer, BA (Hons) Fine Art grad. See his work at