Out of Space

For the last few weeks the derelect AirSpace building has been swarming with the un-dead, we have been hosts for the filming of Out of Space a Zombie film with a difference.

Here's what it's all about:

She takes her last drag of her cigarette…

and sips her wine.

The clay was cold under her fingers.

The darkness encroached.

Silent light echoed through the old abandoned pot bank.

She sleeps.

The living did not foresee the next 23 hours.

No one listened…

The landfills spilled over,

The rubbish mounted up

The mines were filled

And the pollution thickened

CONTAMINATION….. Mankind shall pay

OUTOFSPACE is an artistic approach to an important issue. This zombie horror film with a difference explores an original, down to earth and ‘realistic’ reaction to an environmental disaster.

The films strong environmental message is not about pointing the finger or answering questions. Rather we are using film as an attempt to encourage a discourse, creating a dialogue which forces people from all different backgrounds and ages to ask questions about our attitude to the world, to think outside the box and to take personal responsibility for their consumerist footprint. Therefore empowering individuals to create positive environmental change within their society, as well as raising people’s awareness of the potential impacts we are having on the earth.

The film will be edited as a lost transmission and will explore the complex network of relationships between the media and individuals.

We have recently received funding from the local council for the production of the film. To our surprise the film is escalating in popularity and we have gained local and national recognition from a range of professional bodies. These included our guest director, international award winning film maker Chris Stone and international illustrator and artist Shane Oakley, who is currently working with Labyrinth Arts to create a graphic novel based on the screen play of OUTOFSPACE.

Labyrinth Arts

Labyrinth Arts is a collective of professional artists who are based within the Stoke-on-Trent area. We facilitate a number of creative opportunities and experiences within the local and national community, for the purposes of personal, cultural, environmental, economic and social improvements.

Each member of the not-for-profit group brings different skills to the projects with the aim to share their knowledge and empower other people from the group and within the community to explore, create, celebrate and ‘have a go’ for themselves. For this project our core artists and professional skills/capabilities include:


Aimee Blease-Bourne: Writer, actor, researcher, environmentalist, musical composer and camera person

Pete Brown: Audio-visual technician, lighting designer, set constructer and stunt man

Michael Cartwright: Visual artist, musical sound director, director, stuntman, editor and camera person

Neil Coburn: Actor, musical composer, set designer and constructer, musical and sound designer and stuntman

Andrea Cope: Musician, chemist, researcher, Prince2 Project Practitioner and environmental officer

Katrina Durber: Make-up and Special FX artist and seamstress.

Caroline McCarthy: Musician, psychologist, actress, writer and researcher

Tez Roberts: Visual artist and designer, photographer, actor, Director, special FX artist and costume designer

Sarah Rowlands: Director, writer, choreographer, actor, stunt co-ordinator and camera person


The film is based in Stoke-on-Trent in the West Midlands. As a city whose industry has been so influenced by the special and unique character of the landscape- we think it is time for us as residents to give something back to the Earth and say thanks, because without the clay, coal and iron the Potteries, would not be what it is today. As these industries are fading, we are increasingly becoming a consumerist, plastic and throw-away society, but we need to take personal responsibility for our waste and reduce the footprint that we leave behind on the Earth. Through various community workshops we are also providing local people with the opportunity to get their point of view across in a creative and non-aggressive way and therefore encouraging artists and participants to learn and share skills.



Number 4, Broad Street:

We finally did it!

They haven’t quite signed the dotted line, but we’re one step closer to moving to Broad Street.

Number 4, Broad Street has been being talked about between Stoke’s Creative Development Team and AirSpace since last year. A comprehensive feasibility study has been being drawn up care of New Media Partners, gathering interest from across the city.

It was initially suggested that we would move in March ’07 and with the electricity being cut off in our current building just before Christmas we were eager to get the negotiations on the way. On the 3rd May ’07 planning permission was finally agreed.

We have been patient and it will be worth the wait. Number 4, Broad Street is right in the middle of the Cultural Quarter, across the road from the Potteries Museum and much closer to the centre of town. It has heating, hot water and more importantly electricity! We will have more space for artists and a real office for the MD’s so we can improve on the family atmosphere we have been striving for.

The gallery will be much more accessible for visitors and there is even room for a caf and smaller gallery space for hiring out!

AirSpace are extremely grateful to get permission to move to their new home, and we would like to thank the S-O-T’s Cultural Development Team in-particular for all there hard work and perseverance

So get excited everyone, we’re on the move.


Axis Festival:

Stoke on Trent made a big leap this weekend with their first ever major arts festival.

They got all kinds of great musicians; Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, The Guillemots, The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and organised some fun workshop days, with a Wish Tree, Labyrinth and Costume making!

As the now leading contemporary arts centre we decided to get our audience involved too…

It was a bit of a slow start seeing as we were advertised in the brochure for Friday instead of Saturday; but not to complain as actually the Graffiti artists chickened out and Dan Hopkins had to cancel his projection performance due to good, and therefore bad, lighting. This left resident artist Chris Simcox to down tools for his performance piece, but never fear we will be holding these events on our next show opening instead.

We kept our fingers crossed for the ‘After Party’ planned to start after Get Cape, Wear Cape, Fly. And true AirSpace Style, resident DJ Raskutarnus warmed us up as people began to arrive early. The donations bar was busy straight away and with the addition of interest in the projection showing in the spare room of ‘The Making of Out of Space’, Labyrinth Art’s Zombie Film the atmosphere was building up nicely for the new found local talent of From The Captain. From The Captain are an upbeat rock band, they mix a hint of heavy metal with melodic vocals and bang it out for dancing fun. Then things hotted up with performances from Silhouette, a local Burlesque group revealing their talent for the AirSpace crowd. To finish DJ Raskutarnus wooed the dancers with his funky beats until we drank the bar dry. A brilliant night for all and we just had the cleaning up to do in the morning.





After a hard week of ivy, paint stripper, touring around the Staffordshire Moorlands and good food along with loads of hard work from Paul Macgee, Briony Anderson and the AirSpace Team we finally completed the new works by the artsists AndersonMacgee! Here's what it's all about:

AirSpace Gallery, Stoke on Trent’s new contemporary Art Gallery celebrates it’s first anniversary with a project, the like of which has never been seen in the City before. The curtator/owners David Bethell and Andrew Branscombe set out to challenge our perceptions of what art can be, with a bold and forward looking programme of exhibitions, happenings and installations. As the gallery physically shifts location from just out side the city to 4 Broad Street, a building in the very heart of the Cultural Quarter, thus making itself more visible to the general public, the metaphor of the new positioning resonates more profoundly when seen in context with the next “exhibition” delivered by Briony Anderson and Paul Macgee (AndersonMacgee). This partnership is currently garnering significant national attention and this is their second collaborative work before beginning work for Aberdeen Art Gallery in the Autumn.

ANDERSONMACGEE Two will comprise three new works created specifically for AirSpace – a site-specific permanent intervention, a performance and a publication. The work will be permanent interventions utilising both the gallery space and its surrounding context, the work seeks to raise questions on the nature of existence, specifically through the viewer’s understanding and questioning of the existence and permanence of the work.

The first proposed work will be a site-specific intervention on an embankment opposing the original AirSpace Gallery on Stoke-on-Trent’s main ring-road. This “commemorative” arrangement of flora will be installed prior to the exhibition opening and will consist of evergreen Ivy (Hederas Helix) arranged to form the text ‘LIFE LONG’ or “LONG LIFE” (see image above).

The second piece takes the form of a performance by the artists whereby the audience is invited to view the vestiges of the event which will alter perceptions of the space. This performance will take place in advance of the exhibition opening and will be documented. There will be no public participation in this performance.

For the final part of the work AndersonMacgee will produce a book documenting the works made for the exhibition. AndersonMacgee with Dave Beech, Bernice Donszelman, Gavin Morrison and photography by Janet Wilson, with contributions from Jack Mottram and Monika Vykoukal.

Permanence is the key here. Instead of an artifact or object being produced which can be owned, AndersonMacgee’s work is not something one can acquire. This is an engagement of the surroundings to raise questions about the big questions. All of their work has a definite domestic agenda; we’ve all dug the garden and we’ve all scraped paint off a wall. Are we renovating or excavating? Are we planning the future or revealing the past?

If you like your art to challenge, inspire or confound this is the show for you. This is Stoke on Trent coming of age, and through its artists, boldly taking its place in the new century.



Shortcuts Review

AirSpace Gallery

2nd April – 7th April 2007

By Anna Francis

What has been going on in the bowels of the airspace gallery? Shortcuts, the first AirSpace members’ show, seeks to answer this question, giving the viewer a unique insight into the varied investigations being undertaken in the studio space below the gallery. This is an unusual show in a number of ways, not least due to the quick turnaround, from conception stage (let’s have a show) to completion. It is rare that the viewing audience is allowed access to an artist’s work at any stage other than resolution, but Shortcuts opens the dialogue between viewer and artist at varying stages of the respective creative processes. The overriding idea that what is being presented here are selected parts of the studio artists’ continuing practices, when what we often expect to see when visiting an exhibition is the endpoint, by no means diminishes the impact of the work shown.

On entry to the gallery the first thing I was confronted with was Bernard Charnley’s mammoth figurative painting. Charnley describes the works here as ‘interrogations into the iconic attributes of the human figure as sign’ this is wholly supported by the physicality of the 16ft No Standing and the only slightly smaller Parade. This nod towards semiology, provided by the short artist’s statement invites analysis; the human figure is obviously recognisable, but it is not me, the viewer, but something else, somewhere else. This is not a body, a person, but a figure, with no prescribed identity. These are sculptural paintings, putting one in mind of Giacometti’s elongated figures, there is something destitute about these works, like a Holocaust memorial – they are outside of my life’s primary experience, but are still recognisable for what they may represent.

Katie Shipley’s Plato’s Wax is Forgetting demonstrates for the viewer the frustration and loss of identity associated with Alzheimer’s disease – tiny assemblages of photographic materials and personal trinkets embedded in wax, displayed with a looped sound piece. The irony of the doctor’s insistent, relentless questioning were not lost on me, having spent time in the company of sufferers of the disease. Questions form the daily reality for the sufferer, and their carer, as signifiers lose their meaning and faces of loved ones dissolve. The blank labels attached to each disintegrating piece signpost for the viewer the violent destruction of a life, punctuated by the tautological probing of the sound piece.

In New Life Tez Roberts focuses on the cyclical structures of organic life. The suggestion here is that in all things there are possibilities. This is a positive take on the processes of life and inevitable death, suggesting that even in the deconstructive stages there is bound to be something worthy of attention. The piece consists of small containers of moulding matter, these in themselves may solicit disgust in the viewer, but the accompanying microscopic photographs reveal them to be subtly inviting landscapes. Perhaps this is the artist’s way of asking us to view our surroundings differently, in which the pay off may be that we are rewarded by finding beauty where we least expect it. I was expecting to find it in Yu-Chen Wang’s Reconstruction. East-Berlin is an area of frenzied activity, the fall of the Berlin wall has seen developers flood in, and reconstruction sites can be found all across the city. I was expecting Reconstruction to be a poetic account of this regeneration process, and perhaps a portrait of a city in renaissance, but it seemed more of a matter-of-fact document, showing the physical changes being administered to a city. The people moving through the film seem to show their adaptability, being able to negotiate the city, even as barriers spring up in their paths. It did not seem materially important that this was Berlin, it could have been any city anywhere.

Brian Holdcroft’s Path delivered the viewer out of the city, to a barely formed landscape. The fragments making up Path give suggestions of a journey to be embarked upon, a series of broken clues which ultimately frustrate the viewers sense of place. It was with this piece that I was reminded that this show was not about end-points but rather possibilities for future enquiry. It will be interesting to see how Holdcroft’s investigations resolve themselves in future practice.

In Play Christopher Simcox has embraced the speculatory feel of the show, allowing the abandoned factory’s personality to reveal itself. This is an attempt to connect with the architecture of the space and the objects/remnants which remain from the Gallery’s previous incarnation as Pottery factory. Simcox describes the opportunity to work intuitively with the space as a liberating chance to explore materials and their potential, without the sometimes suffocating weight of conceptual reasoning. The assemblage using light, built structures, treacle and unidentified hydraulic parts culminates in an unobtrusive intervention, working with what is given and suggesting alternative realities or improvements for the space.

Andrew Branscombe is also working in sculptural assemblage, but this time with Analyser mk II the viewer’s participation is imperative to understand the function of the machine. Branscombe’s machine consists of a stone wheel attached to a handle, operated by the viewer, which when turned creates a sound picked up by a biscuit tin featuring a friendly dog, this primitive amplification device is then fed through to a computer, which displays the effect of the viewer’s intervention through sound. This complicated system results in little more than a blip on the computer’s monitor, leaving the viewer wondering why, and what exactly is the point. This, it seems, is exactly what was intended for Analyser mk II, which is a commentary on complex scientific equipment.

If Branscombe’s sculpture can be seen as an exercise in futility then David Bethell’s Absence might be viewed as an answer to the riddle of disenfranchised activity. Absence is the swansong of the creative mind, trapped in a prison of pointless or unfulfilling employment. Anyone who has experienced the joyless treadmill that is working in a thankless job may recognise the devices employed here, to make what is intolerable, bearable. What is presented here is the desk of some unnamed proletariat; the wall is plastered with the protagonist’s inane doodlings, fashioned perhaps in the attempt to appear productive. The double-bind here is that the alternatives offered are just as fruitless. A replica of the same space is being beamed to the desks monitor, from a filmed model found in the desk drawer, where the sense of resigned inactivity is amplified to infinity.

This sense of time standing still is echoed in All the time keep feeling the need to destroy, the video offering from Vikki Brown and Richard Brammer. The video presents us with a mundane world, inhabited by a couple from an unfathomable period. They are engaged in everyday activities around the home, taking tea, reading, building model aeroplanes but generally getting under each others feet, while thinly disguising their disdain for one another. The film had the feeling of a sketch, not yet finished – two-dimensional characters waiting to be fleshed out through purpose or dialogue. As a viewer it was difficult to care about or truly believe in either character, although the proposed notions for investigation are present, it is not yet clear whether we are viewing an art film or a pastiche of a dramatic production.

Finally, with Tilda Swinton Matt Roberts provides barely a hint of what his practice might be about. We are told that Roberts has invited Tilda Swinton “muse to artists such as Cornelia Parker and Hussein Chalayan” to the shows opening, with the intention that she will not attend. The viewer is left unsure about the intended purpose of the proposal, and Tilda Swinton remains inconspicuous in her absence.

Shortcuts, on the whole, has provided a long awaited introduction to the very broad-ranging practices of the Airspace Team. It has shown that while some artists thrive under the conditions of producing an exhibitable piece quickly, others clearly require a more considered approach. Despite the lack of an overriding theme for the show (which can be seen, perhaps, as a burden lifted) there are still common concerns which can be identified, and the show comes together in perhaps surprising and previously unconsidered ways. The quick turnaround may have provided an opportunity for some of the artists to investigate an area which may have been left unexplored if given more time. These conditions can often throw up exciting and surprising results. Shortcuts offers a real sense that the team is able to deliver interesting, thought-provoking lines of enquiry and raises the question of what could be possible with further investment. I, for one, will certainly be watching this space.