This weekend sees the opening of the sixth edition of Supernormal arts and music festival. Set in the picturesque surroundings of Braziers Park, Oxfordshire, the three-day event offers a platform for artists, performers and musicians to work collaboratively.

With a capacity of just 1500 the event is certainly small scale. Nevertheless, it still packs a punch with a programme featuring performance, sound and installation plus workshops, discussions and interventions.

Co-directed by Matilda Strang and Samantha Francis, Strang explains the importance of visual art to the event: “We don’t see art as being merely a visual add-on to a staged (and often predictable) music programme. Supernormal is a place for improvisation and experimentation that allows artists to develop.”

The intimacy of the event, says Strang, is crucial to this happening. “It allows performers, artists and the audience to forge one-off collaborations, unplanned performances and new partnerships. It is a truly alternative festival.”

Research trip

A key component of this year’s event is the Artist Plinth Project, located across the park. The work has been created by Master of Fine Art students from Glasgow School of Art who were selected following an a-n funded research trip to Scotland. The artists are: Uesung Lee, Jamie Russom, Rodrigo Red, Judith Leupi, Katie Schwab and Sam Cook.

Francis explains how the commissions came about: “Earlier this year we were lucky enough to receive a Go and See Bursary from a-n to help widen our networks across the UK. We decided to visit Scotland, heading to Edinburgh and then Glasgow.

“Whilst we were there we visited the MFA interim show. We were impressed by the work and then invited six students from the course to create new work for the Artists Plinth Project.”

Strang adds: “We consider Glasgow to be an exciting city with a vibrant art scene, which is something that we wanted to incorporate within the art programme for Supernormal. We were able to provide the students with a unique opportunity to make new work for an unconventional context, whilst encouraging them to experiment with their practice and test our new ideas.”

In addition to the exhibition, a crit is taking place featuring the artists and led by Gill Ord (co-founder of Braziers International Artist Workshop).

Discussing her selection, artist Katie Schwab says: “It’s exciting for me to be producing work directly on-site at the festival, and also to be responding to the context of Braziers Park, and its history as an experimental residence and community.”

Fellow exhibitor Sam Cook echoes these sentiments. “It has been a good opportunity to step outside the familiarity of my new home in Glasgow, but also work alongside a close group of peers. It’s always good to challenge a comfortable framework and indulge in the possibility of untamed experimentation.”

Francis concludes: “The festival has been born from a place that values the currency of ideas and imagination rather than commercialism and profit. In an era of big business, corporate festivals, Supernormal actively challenges the generic festival format by putting art at the heart of the event. It’s what makes us different.”

Supernormal, 7-9 August 2015, Braziers Park, Oxfordshire. 

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Samantha Francis blogs on her Go and See Bursary