Coming together to…
Having been commissioned by YVAN to produce a new artwork, the first port of call for inspiration was the ReROOTed event. ReROOTed was a live and media arts festival that took place at the Humber Street Gallery in Hull and on Humber Street itself in March 2017. It was a festival that looked to reflect on the legacy of the arts collective ‘Hull Time Based Arts (HTBA) alongside interventions, performances and conversations. The weekend celebrated the organisation that “emerged in 1984 from the underground activity of artists, filmmakers, theorists and musicians” (www.timebase.org).
The commission to make a work in response to this festival caught our eye as the perfect opportunity in turbulent times to celebrate the unity of artists and all that can be possible.
As visual artists attending the ReROOTed event we were a little apprehensive, it is not often enough that the visual and live arts mix, a strange divide lies between. A thin line that we have walked a few times, dipping in our toes. Now we were strolling straight into the heart of the roots of live art, an intimidating room to be in alongside hugely influential artists such as Shirley Cameron and Roland Miller, who’s importance we only discovered when we plonked our ignorant bums down next to them to quiz them about their ‘Fanfair for Europe’ project we had herd mentioned in a discussion that weekend.
The festival hosted three main panel discussions: Lineages, Nowhere and Initiate Activate Generate. The first; ‘Lineages: The legacy of live and media art in Hull’ brought together key artists, organisers and educators who worked in the live and media art scene in the UK in the 1980’s and 90’s to reflect on HTBA, looking back at the risks that were taken and the collaborative approaches. It was a discussion filled with nostalgia, passion and positivity. A discussion that looked back on things relevant then and still so relevant toady; entry points for audiences and the quality and depth of work. How can looking back at all that HTBA achieved, their approach and ethics help us to build new paths? It was a celebration.
In stark contrast was the second discussion ‘Nowhere- European cultural collaborations, post-Brexit’. This talk had an overall more disheartening feeling to say the least. This significant point in history seemed to be looming over people like a big dark cloud, all the unknowns, filling people with dread, anxiety and fear. For a city such as Hull that has such strong connections with continental Europe as a result of the shipping trade and the UK arts sector that works often across borders these are without question daunting times of change and this was felt across the room. Nevertheless towards the end of the discussion how we could use this situation as an opportunity to challenge and trigger change was brought up. Leaving us to question how we encourage people to trust alternative narratives?
The final panel discussion of the three ‘Initiate Activate Generate’ featured a panel of representatives from current artist-led initiates who like HTBA seek to disrupt, challenge and effect change, who discussed how contemporary artists are disseminating their work and what responsibility decision makers have to enable the sustainable growth of artist-led organisations.
This was the most inspirational and energised discussion of the three and the perfect talk to culminate with, the first two preparing us to take charge and leap forward into exciting new projects alongside those already doing so, such as Live Art Bistro, Studio Eleven and Steakhouse Live. As always hearing great people, talking about great projects, is the best remedy for fear and uncertainty.
The things we can always be certain of are that artists with or without the support of decision makers will do great and wonderful things. We will challenge the options you think you have and we will offer alternative narratives. What else we can be certain of is that together we are stronger. That we won’t always have the support of decision makers but that we should always have the support of each other.
Over the ReROOTed festival we encouraged attendees to think about words and symbols they felt represented the unity of artists, the things that bring us together and all that we should be proud of. We asked them to stitch these into small cross-stitch patches and have since continued this conversation with other artists. All of this will influence the development of a large fabric work titled ‘Ideas That Unify Us’, indicative of a union banner to be presented at Nourish on the 30th September at Humber Street Gallery. You can view stitch contributions to the project on Instagram under #IdeasThatUnifuUs and upload your own. Alternatively you can see the contributions at our website www.artistyoke.com
— Artist Yoke (Annie Nelson and Chris Woodward)
Image credits: Unamed, Hack and Host, Arran Davison, Mary Duggan, Sewing, Lets Go Filippos Tsitopoulos, Lair Rail Alastair Maclennan, HOI-POLLOI-Leeds-Beckett-Performing-Arts-Students 1, HOI-POLLOI-Leeds-Beckett-Performing-Arts-Students 2, HOI-POLLOI-Leeds-Beckett-Performing-Arts-Students 3, HOI-POLLOI-Leeds-Beckett-Performing-Arts-Students 4, FK-Alexander