UP Projects and Flat Time House’s annual artist development programme Constellations is a free programme that allows artists who are interested in exploring socio-political issues, community-oriented practice and/or public contexts, to develop their practice whilst collaborating with others.
This year, nine artists have been selected to come together to refine existing models of best practice or propose new models through self-generated learning. The programme supports artists who are interested in further developing their practice, collaborating with others and accessing new networks.
Participating artists include: Adam Moore, Hussina Raja, Lady Kitt, Mark Bleakley, Niki Colclough, Sophie Seita, Tom Pope, Winnie Herbstein, and Youngsook Choi.
Here we speak to two of the artists – Lady Kitt and Adam Moore – about what first interested them about the programme and what they hope to achieve by taking part, plus highlight the work of the other seven participants.
Lady Kitt is a socially engaged artist and drag king based in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne. Their work is driven by an ‘insatiable curiosity about the social functions of stuff that gets called art’. Kitt uses paper crafting, performance and research to create objects, interactions and events.
Explaining why they applied to take part in the programme, Kitt comments: “I love the ‘us-ness’ of Constellations. I’m really into the idea of us-ness and the collaborative experience and knowledge of everyone, doing a thing, all together. The mutual support we can create through that. The care. The work I get involved in is driven by wanting to be involved in collective opportunities to elicit, exchange, respond, create. All that lovely juicy, grainy collaborative stuff.”
Fellow participant Adam Moore is British-Caribbean artist based in London. He creates work that explores themes of multiculturalism, unity and resilience, applying embodied processes across various disciplines. He investigates emergent transdisciplinary forms and their potential to amplify and transcend meaning.
Using dance, writing, drawing, collage, sculpture, video and sound, Moore explores how transdisciplinary practice entails a deeper understanding and synthesis of experience.
He comments: “I value collaborative artistic practice. I think it’s a very viable and practical way to destabilise and dismantle existing attitudes and perceptions and replace these with something ‘other’ and more beneficial, ways of solution finding not pinned down by status quo interests.”
This year, in response to conditions set by the Covid-19 pandemic, UP Projects and Flat Time House will be using digital platforms to facilitate the delivery of the programme. Workshop leaders include Constellations alumna Beverley Bennett, plus Languid Hands (Imani Robinson and Rabz Lansiquot), Paul Purgas, Stine Marie Jacobsen, and Srećko Horvat.
Moore says he is particularly excited to work with Bennett and Languid Hands. “It is huge. I feel so grateful for their work and voices, that they have a platform and bring a real vitality from black and queer perspectives that remains largely underrepresented in the arts. I’m empowered knowing they’re out there, and privileged I’ll get to learn from their experience. It’s nice having faces I can identify with and see myself in because unfortunately that’s not the norm or my experience of the arts.”
UP Projects has worked in collaboration with Flat Time House, London, on the programme since 2017, drawing on the history of John Latham’s house as a site for experimental art education. The programme builds on the legacy of Latham’s work as a founder member of the Artist Placement Group, a pioneering organisation in the history of socially engaged practice initiated in 1966 by Barbara Steveni.
Kitt comments: “Having access to the archive at Flat Time House is a major benefit of the programme. I’m fascinated by the Artist Placement Group – not so much the actual work the artists did, although that’s interesting too, but more the ways they managed to make the projects happen – the relationships they built to do that, the working practices they developed.
“I feel like there’s a lot to learned from all that, especially stuff that didn’t work out quite as planned and third the opportunity to collaborate on a ‘working together framework’. However, that’s shared, whether it’s informally by each of us participating artists, in the ways we go on to work alongside others, or more formally in a publication.”
Explaining how the programme’s themes of socio-political contexts and community oriented practice inform his work, Moore says: “I’m a British-Caribbean artist living in Newham, London, in 2020. I’ve worked in/for/as part of communities in wide ranging contexts since I was 18. I’ve experienced a lot that it seems many others haven’t: the necessity of multicultural communities to make things ‘work’, those most vulnerable on the margins and their complex needs within a society that privileges certain groups and normative ideals.
“It all informs life, my life at least. I’m mindful of how those experiences are embodied and live in my practice. I’ve got my own ideas about community oriented practice that aren’t informed by art school pedagogy but real life experience, it’s hard to articulate these in relation to those pedagogies and practices visible in the arts now, because they don’t fit neatly in those institutions.”
Kitt adds: “Pretty much everything I do is led by a desire to address inequality with creative tools. Like, with my current commission from DISCONSORTIA ( a consortium of 18 North East based disabled artists), I’m interested in (gently) interrogating the relationship between public art which is perceived to have currency in the contemporary art world(s) and art which has a use value to the people who are involved in making / interacting with it. I’m endlessly curious about the civic, political functions of the things that get called art.”
Amongst the other artists taking part in the programme is Hussina Raja, a British-Kashmiri multidisciplinary artist based in London. Her work explores social-political issues surrounding notions of identity, heritage, belonging and culture through film, photography, installation, writing and performance.
She is interested in the impact of diaspora migration and the emergence of subcultures in shaping politics, popular culture and social constructs to-date. Her artistic process is based on research, experimentation and collaboration with artists across disciplines, and community groups, particularly those marginalised by the mainstream. She often uses her personal experiences and encounters as a starting point for creating work.
Mark Bleakley lives and works in Glasgow and graduated from Newcastle University in 2013 with a BA in Fine Art. As an artist and choreographer he presents work in both dance and visual arts contexts.
His work is informed by his continued practice in social dance, in particular the black diasporic dance forms: Bboying (Breakdancing) and House Dance. Bleakley’s practice incorporates contemporary choreographic and improvisational practices while also developing compositions that combine video, the body and text to explore choreographic relations between gesture, context and their affects.
Niki Colclough is an artist and educator based in Manchester. Having undertaken projects and commissions across the UK and internationally, she currently teaches on the MA Socially Engaged Art Practice at the University of Salford and is the Lead Artist on the Youthlab Programme at the Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.
Colclough is interested in processes that support alternative modes of learning and is developing methods for digital engagement alongside the Staffordshire Wildlife Trust & The Turnpike (Associate Artist). In 2019 she worked with Manchester International Festival, Manchester Art Gallery and Tania Bruguera to realise the ambitious ‘School of Integration’.
Sophie Seita is an artist, writer, and educator based in London who works with text, sound, and translation on the page, in performance, and often in collaboration. She has taught at a number of universities in the UK and the US and is committed to a queer-feminist, intersectional, interdisciplinary, and provisional pedagogy.
At the moment, Seita is working on: a book of lyric essays called ‘Lessons of Decal’; a research-based and speculative collaboration with musician Naomi Woo in the form of The Minutes of the Hildegard von Bingen Society for Gardening Companions; and ‘Pearl & Theory Make Compost’, a piece about intergenerational dialogue with the artist Kate Clayton.
Tom Pope lives and works in Hastings and graduated with an MA in Photography from the Royal College of Art in 2011. Upon graduating he won the Deutsche Bank Artist Award for the project Time Bound: a performative project where he travelled from London to Geneva in a hearse and destroyed a grandfather clock at the centre of the Large Hadron Collider, CERN.
Pope’s practice is centred on performance and photography that often takes the form of games where through participants playing them artworks are created. Play is at the core of Pope’s practice. It is both subject matter for the works and embedded in how he utilises the photographic medium.
Winnie Herbstein graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 2014 (Environmental Art). Since then, she has been a Committee Member at Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, studied on the Women in Construction course at the City of Glasgow College and is a member of Slaghammers, a feminist welding group.
Herbstein’s recent work has focused on gendered labour and materials, historical and contemporary forms of community organising, and the architecture and formation of space. These are explored through practice-based research, finding their output in the medium of video, sculpture and textbased works. She is currently researching for a film exploring the histories of Housing and Health in Glasgow.
Youngsook Choi is a London based artist and researcher with a PhD in human geography from King’s College, London. Her practice relates to her subjective position as a woman, mother, and migrant of Korean heritage coming from a working-class background. Choi’s works often develop narratives of ‘non fiction fantasy’, a mixture of research evidence, folk tales, mythologies and performative instructions for audience participation.
Her works have been shown in various institutions such as Barbican Centre, Rich Mix, Milton Keynes Art Centre in the UK and Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz in Berlin. Currently, Choi is taking up residency with Asia Art Activism at Raven Row, exploring the concept of ‘political spirituality’ and intimate aesthetics of community actions.
1. Lady Kitt, This North is my Grand Tour, Lady Kitt as King Kitt, 2019. Credit: Melanie Kyles
2. AAA Lady Kitt. Image credit: Elaine Robertson
3. Adam Moore, Headshot
4. Adam Moore, Maybe there will be stars, Haarlem Artspace Collectivism Residency 2019. Image:
5. Lady Kitt, Conny Is Our Grand Tour, Giant origami boat race by Lady Kitt commissioned by Conny Art Festival, 2019, UK
6. Adam Moore, UNANTHEMIC, Commissioned by Sonic Gaze for Newham Spoken Word Festival 2019. Image: Rob Harris
7. Hussina Raja, ROOTS, short film. Photo credit: Felix Schmilinsky
8. Mark Bleakley, Schema chapter III – UR Prototyping. Performance: Brian Hartley
9. Niki Colclough, Islington Mill Art Academy: urban foraging (group sharing)
10. Sophie Seita, Les Bijoux, SPACE, 2019, photo: LauraCobb
11. Tom Pope, Teeing Off, 2019. Photo Credit: Tom Pope
12. Winnie Herbstein, Brace. Photo: Manuela Barczewski
13. Youngsook Choi, Green Spell, 2020, single channel video