Up, Down, Top, Bottom, Strange and Charm, the title of the city-wide Art Sheffield 2016 festival, is a direct reference to flavours of quarks; the building blocks of matter that make the material reality of the world. Curated by Bergen Kunsthall director Martin Clark, it’s a group show of singular presentations across the city. The scale and relationships between works, site and space, echo macro and micro points of action and inaction – reminiscent of Charles and Ray Eames’s articulation of our position in the universe in their work, Powers of Ten.
Occupying established gallery spaces (S1 Artspace, Bloc Projects, Sheffield Institute of the Arts Gallery) and newer venues (creative co-op Roco, film-video workspace 156 Arundel St, Dina gallery), the festival also takes in sites with resonant histories: Park Hill’s infamous Link Pub, Portland Works (the birthplace of stainless steel), warehouses, office blocks and the Moore Street electricity substation.
Clark brings a focused understanding of AV and sonic works shaped by the city, using this to construct a space in which historic practices are placed alongside those formed in the accelerated aesthetics of the present. Drawing from transitions and flux, Art Sheffield manifests the dormant and hidden histories made in opposition to the dominant political culture of the 1980s and 1990s.
Scratch videos by George Barber, Nick Cope, Jeffrey Hinton, Duvet Brothers, John Scarlett Davis, Gorilla Tapes, John Maybury, Kim Flitcroft and Sandra Goldbacher are presented at 156 Arundel St in association with LUX. These experimentally edited films become energised through their curation in the festival with works made in the present.
The city is an active component of the exhibition. Sheffield’s industrial heritage, Brutalist monuments and the shift in the axis of the city to a post-manufacturing era, become subjects layered with the socialist ideology of Sheffield City Council, which in the Thatcherite 1980s gave South Yorkshire an uncanny independence. Commissions of new work by Steven Claydon, Hannah Sawtell and Richard Sides articulate respectively atomic materiality and matter; the communities that are forged through new forms of economic exchange; and how the collaging of language, sculpture and documentation form the dominant environment of the 21st century.
Steven Claydon’s work is presented at monumental scale, sited on the top floor of the Brutalist Grade II listed Moore Street electricity substation designed by Jefferson Sheard in 1968. This part of the building has remained unused since its construction, which coincided with the terminal decline of industrial manufacturing in the city.
Claydon’s Infra-idol Assembly reanimates the site with a totemic figure developed from IBM’s research into the technological applications afforded by the movement of atoms. A section from IBM’s film, A Boy and his Atom, is re-presented, the resulting work testing the borders of our present understanding; encrypted and unknowable, the boy blinks back at us. Throughout the space, the sound of atoms moving and early IBM computer communication are amplified through a large-scale reverb unit manufactured from plate steel made in the city. The elements of sound and image fuse together with Moore Street’s structure to evoke an industrial future that never happened.
At Site Gallery, Hannah Sawtell presents @dividend_plus, a decentralized people’s cryptocurrency that runs live throughout the exhibition. Shares of coins can be accessed at http://dividend.plus, the exchanges of its community documented and validated by a global network of servers that grow through human interaction. The open system of currency exists externally to the gallery yet directly informs the work within it. In one room a strobe light pulses slowly; in the main gallery a percussive beat emanates from a speaker – both are made for the exhibition in collaboration with a specialist manufacturer.
Sound and light form a mesmeric environment, one that shifts in flux with your perception as you watch algorithms of exchange and accumulation. Images of dividend coins trickle down one side of a screen, with the other switching through external stimuli between a Tardigrade (a micro-animal that can resist blight for 30 years) and a bare knuckle fighting grandmother – both subjects resilient and independent.
Richard Sides presents INFINITE WAR at Eyre Street, a work that collages a dilapidated three-storey warehouse, with sculpture, objects and film. You move through the warehouse skirting dormant bodies hidden under blankets lit by a drowsy sodium light. In a bunker, a video plays; a series of characters articulate subjects from David Cassidy to electronic mysticism. Music and environment collide together: tanks, grime, romance, geodesic domes and home taping. Monuments and sites are accessed and suburban sites stalked – the place you occupy is referenced as the work loops. On the journey out of the space you encounter three neatly wrapped illicit packages, a tongue-in-cheek joke on the building’s previous life.
Sides’ works echo back to the experimentation and independence of scratch video, and explore its ongoing influence on the language of cutting and mixing in the post-internet age. Also featuring presentations by ten more artists, including Michel Auder, Charles Atlas, Anna Barham and Mark Fell, Art Sheffield 2016 is an elegant provocation for the city that gives residents and visitors an experience that reverberates past the return home.
Art Sheffield 2016 continues until 8 May 2016 at venues across the city. www.artsheffield.org/2016
1. Installation view. Richard Sides at 121 Eyre Street, Art Sheffield 2016. Courtesy Art Sheffield . Photo: Jules Lister
2. Installation view. Mark Fell at The Link Pub, Park Hill. Courtesy Art Sheffield. Photo: Jules Lister
3. Installation view. Steven Claydon at Moore Street Electricity Substation. Courtesy Art Sheffield. Photo: Jules Lister
4. Installation view. Richard Sides at 121 Eyre Street. Courtesy Art Sheffield. Photo: Jules Lister