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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.
# 1 [23 March 2011]
Here are a few of Sam West's aims and ambitions:
o to develop sustainable artist networks that function outside traditional economic frameworks,
o to develop models of mutual peer support and provision which bypass the need for government funding,
o to compare and discuss different international models of artist-led organisations and peer-support networks and their relation to existing funding streams,
o to curate collaborative events and exhibitions, that prompt international dialogue and discussion.
# 2 [29 March 2011]
# 3 [26 April 2011]
A busy few weeks here at Spike Island, leading up to Open Studios - which open on Friday 29th April for the whole bank holiday weekend:-
Over the last month, Sam West has presented our research project both to Top Floor Studios and Director Helen Legg at Spike Island - and we've received full support from all parties so far.
This evening, Sam West also attended a talk by Marjolijn Dijkman on her collaborative exchange project, Enough Room for Space.
An inspirational overview, with similar (sustainable) aims that involve collaborating with institutions for support without becoming institutionalised. Almost mentioned as an aside in her talk (yet profoundly pertinent for this exchange) was a cautionary tale about how long it can be before residency schemes can take root. "It's not always possible to do things that are concrete, and with definite outcomes.."
We shall take this with us on our journey!
So we have now booked travel tickets for the first research visit to Helsinki. This will take place from 12th-18th May. And Antti is contacting HIAP in Finland for any support-in-kind they may be able to offer us, before we go out there ...
# 4 [15 May 2011]
We've all been really busy lately, with our own individual projects and practices, but here is our itinerary for the SAM WEST visit to Helsinki and Tallinn
Travel from Bristol to Helsinki
Arrival - meet with Antti (at the Airport)
and Kati at their home
at MUU gallery, Helsinki
with Director Timo Soppela
and meetings with film maker, Ivan Hernandez-Torres and artist Mikko Kuorinki
Private-view at Oksasenkatu11 Gallery
Breakfast with Antti and Kati
Ferry to Tallinn, Estonia
Meeting with John Fail at Ptarmigam (also working with Oksasenkatu11, Helsinki)
Presentation with B Gallery, Turku
Stephen and Matt to travel with John to MoKs, Mooste
Katy and Katie to visit arts centres in Tallinn
Ferry back to Helsinki for more meetings with potential partners in Finland
# 5 [15 May 2011]
Friday 13th May
Arrived in Helsinki late last night, a much more pleasant flight experience than the usual Ryan Air cattle shed. After an all too brief night's sleep we were up again at 7:30 to get to our first appointment with Timo Soppela, director of Galleria Muu http://www.muu.fi/
Muu translates roughly as 'the other' and attracted our attention due to their emphasis on experimental practices: "founded in 1987 to represent and promote new and experimental forms of art. These are such as media art, performance, video, environmental, space and conceptual art, sound and other experimental modes of cultural production".
This focus seemed very fitting for our group, whose work tends to be video, sound or installation based, and our discussion with Timo touched on the relationship between these areas of cultural production and the commercial art world. Part of Muu's programme is an annual art fair coming up in September which explicitly aims to create a market for these media, apparently with some success in terms of video.
It was interesting to hear that in spite of Finland's well earned reputation for excellent government support of the arts, there is no equivalent of the Arts Council's 'Regularly Funded Organisation' status here and that he spends much time redoing the same funding paperwork year on year. Timo was also very helpful in making suggestions of other organisations with whom we should meet.
# 6 [16 May 2011]
Friday 13th May
Private-view at Oksasenkatu11 Gallery
This evening we visited the Private view of Silent Wishes at Oksasenkatu 11, an Art exhibition and silent auction in aid of disaster relief fundraising for Japan.
Oksasenkatu 11 are an artists run collective who rent the former Gallery Leena Kuumola in Helsinki and run the space collectively, putting on either group or solo shows that are self financed.
Talking with Pipsu Isola, a member of the group, she was interested in Sam West's initiative, not only as an idea for sustainable and alternative residencies, but felt that this approach to collectively supporting peers was also what Oksasenkatu 11 had recognized a vital need for, when they formed in 2008. She described how the groups initial focus was to foster collaboration, supporting artists and the content of art without seeking profit. They encourage independent action in the field of art and the society in general. They aim to create space for critical conversation and offer artists an opportunity to react to what’s happening in their environment, thoughts and works that may be less visible in current economic and academic conditions.
Oksasenkatu 11 members inclucde:
Erika Erre, Hanne Granberg, Alma Heikkilä, Pipsu Isola, Jaakko Karhunen, Antti Majava, Taneli Rautiainen, Laura Wesamaa.
Sam West hopes to meet with Oksasenkatu 11 in the next few days to discuss the possibilities of collaboration.
# 7 [16 May 2011]
We have a short but sweet meeting with artist Mikko Kuorinki before we arrive at Oksasenkatu11.
Mikko rented Antti's studio during his residency in Bristol last year. Mikko was leaving for Denmark in the morning but is kindly letting us stay in the apartment he shares with artist Essi Kausalainen for the few remaining days we're in Helsinki...
We brought him a bottle of London's finest gin to say thank you for his hospitality - Kippis!!
We look forward to seeing you in Bristol soon!
# 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.
# 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
# 10 [21 May 2011]
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.