It was in Cardiff that Italian exile Guglielmo Marconi – supported by the British Post Office – undertook his experiments into radio communications technology, working with a local engineer to first transmit Morse code and then broadcast the first transatlantic radio transmission.
Taking inspiration from the innovations of these past residents, this year’s Cardiff Contemporary – titled ‘Are You Ready?’ – explores the theme of communication in the broadest sense. Artworks and curated shows appear throughout the city as hoax media happenings, animal ambushes or sites for communal activity.
19th century architect William Burges never lived to see the realisation of his Animal Wall, designed for Cardiff Castle and completed by William Frame after his death. Most recently, Cardiff-born artist Laura Ford has added a contemporary twist to his vision, siting three of her uncanny animal personas as lookouts for her her playful public artwork Keepers of the Wall. With Halloween fresh in our minds, members of the public could be forgiven for momentarily imaging these creatures to be costumed children at play.
Robert Montgomery has recreated his light work All Palaces Are Temporary Palaces atop a multi-storey car park. At night-time the empty parking spots of this open fronted, elementally exposed architecture seem all the more desolate with the 10ft high statement above.
Montgomery’s intention for the work is to talk about migration and European governance; he has already shown this text in different formats and guises in Venice, Paris and Berlin. Sited were it is, the work could also refer to consumerism, materialism and debt. Most imminently it speaks of the changing ideals of urban design – the brutalist Wood Street car park is scheduled for demolition.
The dilapidation of the former Customs and Immigration Building is a fitting backdrop for a group show from tactileBOSCH that appears as a ‘total artwork’, weaving its way thoughout the vast building in a manner sensible to Hieronymus Bosch’s masterpeice the Garden of Earthly Delights, from which the exhibition takes its name.
Mark James thinks he knows the message extra-terrestrial life would tell us were they to communicate with us today. At the festival hub, The Angel on Castle Street, he provides a gold disc, A response, scratched with hieroglyphic messages.
Unlike the 1977 Golden Record that was sent into space by the NASA Voyager spacecraft with a message for other life forms, James’ recording does seem to have garnered results. The item appeared in Cardiff Contemporary at the same time that a supposed meteor, etched with the concerned question ‘What have you done?’, fell to Earth at nearby Penarth Pier. It seems these other life forms aren’t keen to visit any time soon.
Also at The Angel, two figures representing the Egyptian and Greek calendars – the calendar dials on the ‘original computer’ of 2,000 years ago – perform choreographic movements in the sea, symbolically sending messages through their dance.
This video installation by Megan Broadmeadow, Let The Stars Be Set Upon The Board, draws on the discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism, a computing device found on a shipwreck in the Aegean Sea. The impacts of the recovery of this ancient form of communication is being researched at Cardiff’s School of Physics and Astronomy.
The artists Heather and Ivan Morison have developed their first permanent building in the UK at Cardiff Bay. The small structure, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME ALONE, is inspired by Norwegian shingle stave churches and ad hoc beach shacks, circa 1960s West Coast America.
For the duration of Cardiff Contemporary it functions as a socially useful space serving food and drink and hosting a number of communal events. For the closing of the festival on 19 November it will be the venue for a final feast with live music around a fire.
Cardiff Contemporary continues until Saturday 19 November 2016. www.cardiffcontemporary.co.uk
For more images from Cardiff Contemporary, see Bob Gelsthorpe’s Instagram report from the opening weekend of the festival @anartistsinfo
1. Laura Ford, Keepers of the Wall, Cardiff Contemporary, 2016. Photo: Martin Ellard
2. Laura Ford, Keepers of the Wall, Cardiff Contemporary, 2016. Photo: Jamie Woodley
3. Robert Montgomery, All Palaces Are Temporary Palaces, Cardiff Contemporary, 2016. Photo: Jamie Woodley
4. tactileBOSCH, The Garden of Earthly Delights, Cardiff Contemporary, 2016. Photo: Jamie Woodley
5. Mark James, A Response, Cardiff Contemporary, 2016. Photo: Jamie Woodley
6. Megan Broadmeadow, Let The Stars Be Set Upon The Board, Cardiff Contemporary, 2016. Photo: Jamie Woodley
7. Heather and Ivan Morison, LOVE ME OR LEAVE ME ALONE, Cardiff Contemporary, 2016. Photo: Jamie Woodley