Art Interventions In Leominster
I provide a handy perch- a small shopfront to show new ideas, interventions and reactions.
The first show is Pigeon, Naughty or Nice. It's my own work to pilot the space and see how it all works. Future events in the space are intended for other artists to use the space too.
Things have been a bit quiet on the Pigeon Hole front after Christmas. Clare McFarlane's Pigeon Story was taken out of the window ready for the next show at the beginning of January. Unfortunately the next artist due to put work in broke their leg and was unable to commit to the space. Pigeon Hole has been waiting for the fantastical work by Chris Collier and Alex Williams ' You Can See My House From Here'. The work, a castellated city and a cliched rural idyll is now installed. Tapping into a child like fantasy of dolls houses and train sets, the work '…examines the dichotomy between rural and urban space and the way in which we relate to these geographical and cultural constructs; how we mytholgise them and the preconceived notions that surround these definitions.' (Collier, C. & Williams, A.)
We are having a launch next Monday at 8pm with rural cream tea & cakes in the long corridor behind the shop front. I'll have to tidy up the shoes and coats.
Since Clare's work was installed the Pigeon Hole space seems to be gaining momentum. I emailed Clare's intervention around to interested parties to publicise it and asked for others to submit ideas. There seems to have been warm feedback and now I have my next artist lined up for January with two others in the pipe line for Feb and March. It has given me a real buzz discussing the space with other artists and being involved with their ideas and installations of work.
Whilst Clare's work has been installed there have been fascinating responses which I've witnessed from behind the windows of the space. Alot of children who pass the window on the way to school are particularly excited about the work and instantly focus upon the origami pigeons. They have no inhibitions about looking in the windows. Interestingly adults who are with them tend to stop only momentarily or not at all.
Alot of older people have stopped to look in the windows and are intrigued. It may be that they have more time to stop and look or maybe they are visiting the book shop next door? I am enjoying the accessibility of this space wholeheartedly. Part of the initial setting up of Pigeon Hole was to bring art interventions into Leominster, a rural market town on the fringes of many things. There can sometimes be alot of negative images of a rural market town and Leominster seems to have a disproportionate amount of these left at its door. I'm not sure why that is. In this case I see alot of positive things going on in the town and perhaps it needs recognition. It is certainly harder to maintain an arts practice in a rural market town than an urban centre just because you have to go a long way to network and possibly there are fewer connections. However it can offer a less pressured and precious environment to make work.
Doing this Pigeon Hole project has really impressed upon me the importance of presenting work to a whole range of people, some of whom may dislike it or not take notice but some who might really enjoy it and be surprised by that. I like the feeling of a democratic space, where anyone who passes by can view the work.
Maybe I can infiltrate other spaces in town!
I recently met Clare MacFarlane, an artist who has recently graduated in Fine Art, at the ArtSite studios in Hereford. I was excited to learn about a project which Clare had done for her degree, called Pigeon Story. This seemed too good an opportunity to miss. I invited Clare to show the project in the Pigeon Hole space in Leominster which she agreed to do.
The project developed from an old diary which Clare had sourced, from the year 1952. Clare had been inspired to think of a time when life had different values and the year 1952 seemed to resonate.
The diary had a rich source of information in which intrigued her, including a number of addresses. Clare set out in tracking down the original names associated with the addresses, mapping out journeys to unfamilar destinations.
Installing the work with Clare last weekend was fascinating and exciting. I had curated digital media events but never another artist's work in a semi-permanent space. Initially Clare showed me the body of work and we talked about how to display it. Clare had an initimate knowledge of the project and I knew the potential and limits of the space, so a positive dialogue emerged.
I showed Clare the space, unlocked the creaky windows and then left her to negotiate her way around it all. I felt it was important that she has space to think and work it out. I supplied coffee and some feedback but wanted Clare to feel she had the reigns.
Darkness suddenly descended and we had to stop. I thought it was a natural break really and suggested Clare return the next day. Sunday was very wet, but Clare came and carried on installing the work, in the wet and cold. We discussed some final details, shut the windows and stepped onto the saturated pavement to view the work. Fantastic!
Even though the space is a kind of micro gallery, it was interesting how much time it took to get the work installed. In some ways, the unconventional nature of it makes it more of a challenge to install work-and has some hidden surprises.
I haven't updated the blog for a while due to holiday and lots of other activities taking precedent.It's good to be posting another message.
While I was away, I had a handmade postcard put through my letterbox. The writer, Mr. Pigeom expressed an interest in the Pigeon Hole project because he had previously documented pigeons whilst living in a flat above shops in Leominster. There had been alot of pigeon activity around his flat; pigeons visiting the person, a nursing ward for an injured pigeon and sexual relations occuring on the window sills. This person viewed the pigeon as intriguing, intelligent and fascinating.
We began to exchange email messages and experiences of pigeon culture. One of the first Messages said "Appropriately enough I'm sat in the library on the computers and someone just crept up the stairs and whispered 'pigeon…' in my general direction! Yes, I'd be interested ! Is it an ongoing project or and end in itself? As i mentioned on othe facebook message, I had this feeling like Harry Haller stood outside the magic theatre in steppenwolf, steppenpidj more like. "
It was really great to have a spontaneous dialogue with someone in the same town who I'd never met which has come out of this previously empty space. Initially I've not publicised the space because I wanted to see what would happen. That was quite hard because my professional art head said I should but my gut instinct said I shouldn't. The intention was that Pigeon Hole should be a kind of intervention, which can be explored in many different ways. In the first instance I intended it to be installed in the space to see what would happen. Subsequently, it will be open for others to place work in.
The first body of work in the Pigeon Hole space is now installed. The work is titled ' Pigeon – Naughty or Nice'. There are two separate windows divided by the doorway which provides interesting spaces to work in,so for the current work, I have decided to use each window to explore positive and negative aspects of the pigeon.
Window One (Nice) shows the use of pigeons in WW2, focusing on one heroic pigeon called Commando who received a medal for his efforts. He completed several important missions and provided invaluable information about the enemy. I find the whole process of awarding Commando a medal intriguing. The reward and recognition system of human achievement opened upto a pigeon who has no awareness of this at all. I've created a mocked up environment for him with WW2 planes and a podium for Commando to stand upon made of old tins.
The other window (Naughty) is about the pigeon as pest. A box of Happy Family Playing cards, based on World cities provides a random look into the worldwide issue of pigeons as pests. A card is selected and whatever city is on the card, provides a starting point for information about pigeons pest problems in that city. Rio de Janeiro is the first city and research has uncovered pigeons leaving their mess on local churches A prison in the city has inmates training pigeons to bring in drugs and mobile phones. Next stop – Madrid.