Tuesday, 4 December 2012

SOAPBOX at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts

We were recently invited to deliver a talk at Baltic as part of the programme for The Encampment of Eternal Hope, which is a major new sculptural installation by ZoĆ« Walker & Neil Bromwich. The exhibition 'extends their enquiry into the role of art as an active agent for transformation in society.  Taking apocalyptic predictions for 21 December 2012, the end date for the Mayan Calendar, as an imaginative catalyst, the project envisages a post-apocalyptic utopian community, a kind of ‘garden of earthly delights’.

Our talk was part of Soapbox events where 'diggers, dreamers, survivalists, optimists, pessimists, slackers, thinkers, doers, creatives, philosophisers, alternative life stylers, environmentalists, freeganers..... could step up on The Encampment of Eternal Hope Soap Box and help shape a better world.' People could voice their opinions, demonstrate a survival skill, create an event, speak, sing, perform or meditate to show how can we live in a better way with our environment and our fellow beings.

SO... we decided to talk about the Transporter project and invited people to answer questions to contribute to our research. We also had a discussion with the audience after our presentation which was really interesting and covered subjects which ranged from; guerrilla gardening, the disconnection of man and nature and specifically the waste which artists create when making work and whether pieces/materials should be reused/remade in an effort to be more sustainable. We also discussed up-cycling waste materials and whether it is more interesting to try and recreate something which disguises the materials' former use (such as creating something using plastic bottles which doesn't scream 'plastic bottle sculpture') and also the boundary between a functional object, craft and art.

Here is a copy of our soapbox script! We'd also invite you to comment on the blog post with your answers to the questions at the end...

'We are here today, not because we know much about Mayan culture or that we believe the world will end on the 21st December but that we are interested in the Encampment project and how it is highlighting different, creative ways of living and questioning how connected we feel to the world, Mother Nature and the environment. The idea of being more ‘in tune’ with the world around us and being more resourceful is something that appeals to us and connects to our philosophies we have currently been developing within our own art work.

In 2010 we had a discussion about the fact that, although we called ourselves artists, and sculptors, we hadn’t crafted or made anything with our hands for a very long time. We decided that we wanted to learn more about making, working with materials and being more resourceful. We wanted to learn and improve as artists and share these skills and knowledge with others- the way it used to be in cultures when stories, skills and crafts were passed from one generation to the next. It is this interest in getting back to basics, valuing tradition, learned art forms, being resourceful by working with the environment around us that has led to the development of our TRANSPORTER project.

TRANSPORTER is a multi cultural creative project and involves the exchanging and transporting of creative skills, ideas and crafts. It aims to highlight the idea of sustainable arts practise, looking at people’s relationship to their environment and the value of cultural heritage. As part of our research in 2011 we worked at an eco village in Northern Peru and learn traditional craft and building skills. In 2012 we worked in an art waste resource centre in Berlin and made art using only scrap materials.
At this stage, the Transporter project is covering broad subject matter of sustainability, the environment and traditional skills and knowledge which will be further defined and explored as the project and the artist’s interests develop. Transporter has its own blog and flickr websites as a Knowledge Bank to document the skills, crafts and ideas discovered by the project so far- anyone can access this. Sessions are delivered with universities, groups and other artists as a way to pass on knowledge and skills learnt whilst developing the artists. 

As further research for Transporter we’d like to ask you some questions which will help us gain insight into your point of view on creativity, resourcefulness and waste. It would be great if you could take part by answering the questions on the wall. Maybe the 21st December could mark the beginning of a more sustainable, thoughtful and resourceful era rather than the end of the world!'

How resourceful do you think you are on a scale 1-6?
What have you reused/up-cycled recently instead of throwing out - and what was its new function? What was the last thing you made with your hands and your imagination?
What do you throw away the most of?