a special screening of selected videos from
"commonwealth" by Katie Davies
"not to scale" by Steve Hawley
"elevation" by Esther Johnson
"xanadu" by Tony Kemplen
"longlife" by no fixed abode
"a perfect circle" by third angel
"adhãn" by Haroon Mirza
"uncalibrated melancholy" by Hondartza Fraga
interview with _no fixed abode_
the screening will be on march 10, 2010
7:30 pm at www.vogesgallery.com
screening starts at 8pm
neumainzerstrasse 1 frankfurt am main
All images copyright the artists and Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum
"xanadu" by Tony Kemplen , 3.40 min
interview with no fixed abode
saul judd: 1# could you please tell us how the no fixed abode come to be?
no fix abode: No Fixed abode started around four years ago now. Shortly after we graduated we were drawn together via a love for folk music and were both taken by what had become a very active dialogue within contemporary art at that time regarding the taxonomy of ‘folk art’. Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane were working on the Folk Archive and many others were producing work on the issue at this time. This became an entry point for us really, something to talk about and to position our different backgrounds alongside. Gradually we started to have similar ideas about what we wanted to do and started to put on music nights in Sheffield with the aim of (most of the time anyway) using spaces that weren’t open to the public for such events. This was partly where No Fixed Abode came from. The idea of negotiating our way around the city and in some way trying to activate some of the huge potential that we could see in the city where spaces weren’t being used. This was a really good place for us to start and to get used to the different aspects of seeing an event through. After a while we both decided that although it had been great fun, putting on music nights was not the long-term direction that we wanted to take. We did a few small public performance works and began to look towards producing our own art events.
sj: 2# how about your project CABAN UNNOS: IT'S NOW-OR-NEVER part of
New life Berlin 2008 in berlin with Tony Broomhead, Environmental
Programme Manager Dan McTiernan and Broadcaster Aled Samuel?
nfa: This project started when reading about the folkloric tradition that, if you could build a house in one night on ‘common’ land, with smoke issuing from the chimney before sunrise, then the house was allowed to remain. Although it has no firm basis in law, this notion is actually recognised throughout the world in the Turkish Gecekondu’s and the slums of the worlds rapidly expanding metropolises. We liked the idea of taking this literally and applying it somewhere, but we wanted to do it with other people. We simply began to, almost rhizomatically, communicate the idea to all of our extended networks and travelled all over to meet people who had something to contribute. Eventually, we approached wooloo.org in Berlin who were keen to have it under their New Life Berlin festival. We also managed to get in touch, through our own searching, with Tony, Dan and Aled, who very quickly formed a core group to work with out in Berlin. Tony Broomhead is an architect based in London who works collaboratively as Amenity Space amenityspace, Dan McTiernan then of Why Waste whywaste.org and now of The Handmade Bakery thehandmadebakery.coop and Aled Samuel of S4TV s4c.co.uk We spent three weeks in Berlin sourcing two-hundred pallets and one-hundred water cooler bottles so as to work to a design suggested by Tony. We managed to convince a company on the outskirts of Berlin to lend us the pallets and borrowed the bottles also. One night, on a slightly discreet area of the green parkland on Alexanderplatz we decided to build. There were around fifty people there throughout the night helping with the build and it was an inspiring occasion. Of course we did not get permission to do this, we thought that it was important that we didn’t and of course the land was not common by law but it was common by designation. At around 04.30 in the morning the structure was built and just as the sun was rising the smoke was bellowing from the chimney. It was however, a few hours later that the police arrived and asked us to remove the structure, so as everyone came back after going home for a little sleep, the structure had gone. It truly was a one night house.
sj: 3# and how about Fuck you Rotterdam! which was a work produced during a
two week residency in Norwich as part of Contemporary Art Norwich
in Norwich 2009. in this work there is a social political activism involved. You
try question UN Climate Change Conference 2009 own statment about the
responsibility of facilitating a juncture between science, politics, activism
and art. why that? what was the results of it? did you got any response.
nfa: There is an activism here in a sense although we never really spoke of it that way. We were also speaking of the responsibility of facilitating a juncture between science, politics, activism and art more specifically in terms of what we saw wooloo.org taking on in New Life Copenhagen. The work that we produced was a shipping crate with a logo stating ‘Fuck you Rotterdam!, containing two lifejackets adorned with the same logo. This work was about trying to produce or to influence subjectivity within a certain area which climate change might be partially framed; the logistics of mass consumerism and communication. The reference to Rotterdam came in particular after a research trip there led us to speak to a number of older artists based in the city who were tangibly concerned about the conditions within that city for their children and grandchildren; Rotterdam being on a plain lower than sea level. When climate change is held as an issue which is abstract in its affect, in opposition to the solid guarantee of consumerism, one feels a slight threat in that empathy. That empathy disturbed our relative apathy. Therefore ‘Fuck you Rotterdam’, is a comment upon the notion of rationality which is so distorted within the discussion on climate change. When the package went into the shipping system, we felt that it was active within the hands of the temporary guarantors of our possessions and that this irrationality might permeate the subjectivity of their labour. Furthermore, upon receipt by wooloo.org when the crate was opened there were two lifejackets (as there are two curators that we knew) which we hoped would allude not directly to the potentiality that they may be used but to the position of activist art and that heightened intensity between concept and action into which they were intervening.
As for response we got very little. The initial reaction from wooloo.org was to express their relative anger at thousands of polystyrene balls going everywhere in their office when they opened the crate (ha ha). They really did understand why we set about this undertaking and the subjective transfer if the work. However, we always knew that the affect of this work would be mainly unidentifiable and unquantifiable which was something else which we found interesting.
sj: 4# ARTISTS CAN'T RIDE BIKES! please tell us a little about it. as it is was a
local social-political type of work, is that more difficult to deal with it?
are you direct involved, how that works for you as artists. were you just
conciving the whole action or actually doing it with the participants.
nfa: All of our work looks at socio-political issues. This project was one of our first undertakings. We were aware of the independent motorcycle club scene in Leeds for a number of years before this project, one of us being involved more deeply. We were aware of the fact that Leeds Motorcycle Action Group (MAG), an independent lobbying group formed in the 1960’s to rally outside the houses of parliament for the rights of motorists (initially formed to resist the law that made it illegal not to wear a helmet on a motorcycle), had an annual campaign run around Leeds city centre, and were drawn to it as a spectacle. We were also drawn to the fact that despite the spectacle of the occasion, with as many as 200 motorcycles passing through the inner city loop, there was not a clear collective message that they were hoping to communicate. This became our point of entry and for a few months we attended the Leeds MAG weekly meetings. It was really interesting to hear that despite a few prevalent issues, there was a variety of reasons why each member was there in the first place. Each story was different; everyone was getting something alternative out of being politically involved with their passion for motorcycling. It was not our position to suggest what the collective issues should be with regards to the planning legislation which affected them or certain laws which misrepresented them, but rather it became clear that maybe we could help to refresh individual connection to that community by taking a step back. What formed was a documentary of the annual action run, interspersed with footage from an intensive period of interviews that we had initiated. Therefore, the documentary acted as a way of individualising that huge procession of motorcycles, of people wearing black leather and helmets. This is a very sensitive area to work in as, in this case we approached MAG to see if we could come along, but had no idea what an outcome might be. This is particularly interesting as we both have to try and define what we are and what we might be together as we proceed. This brings contradictions, suspicion and frustration but it also brings about an interesting discussion about ideas, production, history and visibility.
5# for the work “Longlife” you wrote the material all yourselves?
how come the idea to make that into a video piece or it was all decide from the
For this work we did write all of the material ourselves. Although the idea was one which we had spoken about previously and had existed in other forms, it only came together as a film when we received the commission from Sheffield Contemporary Art Forum. Longlife represents another of the themes that can be seen throughout our work that is the effect of constructed space on the socio-political within imagined community. A quarry can be seen as one of the first rungs of the ladder of this assemblage process, the limestone being the source material for much of our daily needs including fertiliser, bread and toothpaste. This direct and unalienable aspect interested us. We decided upon writing a fictional narrative as this gave us the opportunity to re-imagine the possibilities of our work into new spheres of reference. The narrative is set in the future and records the initial journey of a Brazilian developer to the quarry. Our decision to present a possible future is perhaps indistinguishable in the texture of the scenery, but the uncertainty of foresight becomes marked in the lack of direction afforded to the main protagonist. We found it natural to imagine the future this way, or perhaps more precisely we could not imagine a future any other way echoing the saying that total annihilation is easier to imagine than a world without capital. Instead we created a landscape that was barren as such, and used tools of abstraction such as empathy to illustrate our points. It may be worth noting that Fuck You Rotterdam! came from a similar period of thought and can be seen as the development of Longlife. There was a lot of talk and hype around the notion of climate change at the time which has somewhat faded away of late. That is interesting because the temporary solidity that it gained as a direct result of the Copenhagen Conference, the imagined community that formed around it and the social/economic responsibility of states dissolved as quickly as it was formed: The general consensus of failure that was felt, and the urgency that lent form to the situation, dissipated. Climate change became what it always was, abstract. In this sense Longlife was perhaps pre-empting this situation unfulfilled desire.
sj: 6# in most of your work you show a concern toward the community, how that
really work in the practice as an artist? many people see the artist as the
anti-community beings actually. what is your definition of community today?
nfa: There are many reasons why we turn towards community in our practice. One of the main reasons for doing so is that we have perceived within the formation of relations there is an unalienable notion of agency. This interests us, as from this point you can start to discern paths of urgency, political aspiration, galvanisation and subversion as well as support, negotiation, morality and endeavour. The notion that communality contains all this regardless of whether formed through spatial relation, imagined community, or special interest and is often best conceived through practices of self-organisation, amateur knowledge etc. becomes a strong site for empowerment through knowledge and resistance to dominant modes of production. The potential of the artist within this is the perceived unilateral freedom they possess to have affected upon these nodes.
sj: 7# in you art practice is video a much used tool. was this you first video
work? and what is your basic working tools?
nfa: Longlife was not our first video by any means having produced the one for Artist Can't Ride Bikes! and a number of others in response to certain specific events. Within our practice video has presented itself when it has been seen as the appropriate medium. We would not say that it is what we are known for with work, as with projects such as Caban Unnos: It’s Now-or-Never and We the Others: Marketing Suite. Our most basic tool is dialogue and research. We spend a lot of time reading and surfing and bringing our thoughts to each other. It is often then that we start to build upon each others musings.
sj: 8# is no fixed abode a close group or you intend to expand it
nfa: Our process of working often involves other collaborators, although it is often talked about as just that, collaboration. Indeed we refer to ourselves as collaboration and not a group but that is not to say that we are closed, rather it is to illustrate the importance of the two points that meet, whereas group suggests that there is no definition of constituent parts. This is important to us as difference is an important part of negotiation and understanding. The wanton smooth unity of group may betray a deeper schism of compromise and the suppression of difference. Collaboration goes towards recognising that tension. As for future plans for expansion there are none as yet.
sj: 9# robert and terry you work only as a duo in no fixed abode or as an invidual
artists as well
We have our individual interests and output but have mainly directed these towards each other. As it stands No Fixed Abode has become the best way of directing these although we have been known to produce our own individual works more often or not they find their way back into the whole. As our working practice is based largely on dialogue it tends to go that way.
sj: 10# how you see the future of art in sheffield, is there a good environment to
nfa: For us Sheffield has been the ideal ground from which to start although the majority of our initial opportunities came from outside the city. There are many good spaces in the city in which to operate such as S1 Artspace and BLOC, both of which we are members of. There are plenty of artists in the city but we would say opportunities have been limited for these until recently with a slew of new artist led spaces such as Unit 3b and Bank Street Arts. Sheffield is also lucky to have a bi-annual festival Art Sheffield which brings in a lot of big names and up and coming artists. Support for the local though is again limited.