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By: Sam West
This Blog will chart the activities of Sam West as we research and develop sustainable artist-led activity in the UK and beyond.
Sam West has just received a NAN Futurific! Bursary : which will help us to further develop artist activities between Bristol and Helsinki.
# 17 [6 September 2011]
We're delighted to say that artist Garreth Hughes will soon be on his way to Finland!
He's the first Top Floor artist to take part in the SamWest exchange between Top Floor Studios at Spike and Oksasenkatu 11, Helsinki.
We wish him all the best :D
# 16 [17 August 2011]
We have some exciting news!
Oksasenkatu, the artists group that Sam West met in Helsinki are offering a studio holder from Top Floor a free residency space between the dates of 8th - 23rd September.
The residency space is based on the historical fortress island of Suomenlinna in Helsinki, a Unesco World Heritage site.
This is short notice, but it's because the London based artist who is programmed into that space in September can only use it for one week. Oksasenkatu then very kindly have offered the space to us for the rest of September.
There is an apartment in this space and so the Top Floor Studio holder would only need to pay for their flights and living expenses.
What a fantastic opportunity!
The aims and aspirations of Sam West are not simply dreams after all ...
# 15 [5 August 2011]
Sam West feeds back
Last month Sam West held an informal gathering at Top Floor Studios, where we shared the findings of our research trip to Helsinki and Tallinn to all Top Floor Studio members.
Accompanied by drinks and plentiful foods (yum!) we discussed the viability of the studio exchange programme, and talked artists through the A_N blog, introducing some of the key people and artist groups who we'd met on our journey.
The evening was a resounding success - with much lively discussion and debate - with ideas and suggestions from all quarters of how we can take this artist-led exchange forward.
We're hoping that an artist from Top Floor Studios will be able spend time in Finland over the next few months - ensuring this artist-led exchange programme can develop from strength to strength.
# 14 [28 June 2011]
Sam West meets Oksasenkatu.
On Wednesday 18th May, our final day in Helsinki, we met with Jakko from the artists group Oksasenkatu to discuss the possibilities for studio exchanges between their group and studio holders at Spike Island.
As we talked, we outlined the needs and values of each artists group and the importance of how beneficial these exchanges could be. There was a shared acknowledgement and agreement that this exchange process should not create a structure like a residency program, with all the administration and workload (both professional and artistic) that planning a residency requires.
That this would be counter-productive, producing quite a large job for people involved. Instead, these exchanges are negotiated by the artists involved who have been matched with each other by Jakko and ourselves. There is no fixed time span or way in which the exchanges should work and the idea is that artists swap both studios and accommodation for a time period that suits them both, with little cost to themselves other than travel and subsistence.
Inturn, both Spike studio holders and the artists in Oksasenkatu will welcome and support the visiting artists during their exchange, introducing them to the new cities and helping them establish their practices in a new city and a new context.
What was so great about the meeting was finding that Oksasenkatu were as interested in the idea of exchange as us and that this model fitted the ways in which both British and Finnish artists practices worked. We have kept in contact with Jakko and Oksasenkatu and are in the process of feeding this interest back to Spike Island Studio holders. Once we can see who is interested from Spike and in what capacity, then we will contact Jakko and begin the process of matching studio holders together.
# 12 [22 May 2011]
Kaapeli, Cable Factory
# 11 [21 May 2011]
Presentation by Sam West
at Ptarmigan, Saturday 14th May 2011
As part of our visit to Tallinn, we were invited to make a presentation of our work and the Sam West project at Ptarmigan...
# 10 [21 May 2011]
# 9 [21 May 2011]
Helsinki - Art in Public Spaces
Even when spending a short time in Helsinki, one can't help notice the amazing amount of art in public spaces.
At a distance, as we walked through the city's streets, what seemed to be brightly coloured bunting was revealed to be huge garlands of clothing, flying high overhead.
Similarly, a walk along the harbourside revealed mysterious silver spheres, that glistened in the strong, crisp sunlight.
'Olo no. 22' comprises more than 50 polished steel spheres of various sizes, placed in the area surrounding the harbour basin in Hietalahti, at the western end of Bulevardi.
"Some of the spheres are placed inside businesses and in courtyards, expanding the concept of public art monuments by being open to interpretation and non-monumental. There is no beginning or end to 'Olo no. 22'; instead, it has a continuous presence in the area."
Helsinki City Artmuseum
The Olo Group: artists Pasi Karjula
# 8 [17 May 2011]
Before continuing our journey, we should stop to point out the multiple talents of our host John W. Fail, who in spite of being named John Will Fail, is currently: Director of Ptarmigan, founder of Cenotaph Records Cenotaph Records and one half of improv-concrete duo Lied Music. You can also read about his further achievements here.
After taking part in the Labyrinths and Rings talk on Saturday evening, we strolled into town for a couple of drinks at a local bar where. John offered to drive Matt and Steve for the three hour southerly road trip from Tallinn to Mooste, the small village where MoKS is located. On Sunday morning we all piled into the only Vauxhall in Estonia, and one of the few right hand drive cars with EU plates on the continent, which while it made us feel at home but was not so helpful for overtaking lorries on narrow Estonian "motorways" (read: country lanes).
First port of call was the renowned truck stop 'Windmill' located just outside the town of Adavere. This restaurant is housed in a seven storey windmill, complete with a large collection of historic windmill photos on the upper floors, and twin toilets in each cubicle. The food, served by two waitresses identically styled on Milla Jovovich in Luc Besson's Fifth Element, is delicious in spite of our uncertainty of what we had ordered, due to the language barrier. A highly recommended dining experience, even for vegetarians traveling through Estonia.
Next stop was a flying visit to Patrick McGinley's (aka Murmer and Curator of the radio show Framework) studio in Tartu and convinced him to come with us, eventually winding up at MoKS in the mid-afternoon.
MoKS is a centre for International Artists' Residencies, which has been running for ten years now, thanks to the efforts of Evelyn Müürsepp and John Grzinich. The old manor house in which it is housed has recently been extensively renovated, dramatically increasing the number of studios and living spaces available to accommodate resident artists, as well as installing a state of the art heating system, workshop or exhibition space and even a sauna.
After a tour of the building and meeting with the current residents artists, from Canada and Iceland, we all ventured to the village shop, housed unexpextedly in a first floor flat, to fetch some dinner. The menu tonight being an Estonian classic: Salted Herring with sour cream, blanched onions, boiled eggs and potatoes, all washed down with several bottles of Tommu Hiid, the finest Estonian ale.
After dinner we retired upstairs to the communal area for a 'Show and Tell' of each other's work finished off by a screening of an Estonian Television documentary about MoKS made in 2005. After this we were introduced to the legendary US radio phenomenon Car Talk hosted for the last 33 years by Click and Clack an unmissable cultural experience, even if you don't drive.
Joking aside, MoKS is an incredible achievement of sustaining an artist-run space in a remote rural location, with support from the community as well as an international network of artists. We raise our hats to the commitment and energy that has kept this place running and developing for so long. We hope to continue a working relationship with them in the future.
After a good nights sleep, we woke up with the pitter-patter of raindrops on skylights, which accompanied us almost all the way back to Tallinn.
Sam West is the alias given to a group of artists who met informally in spring 2010 through the Top Floor Studio group at Spike Island, Bristol.
We actively encourage artist-led activity, dialogue and exchange : seeking sustainable solutions outside of traditional economic frameworks : especially apposite in the current climate.