Posted by admin | Posted in crafting | Posted on 01-06-2012-05-2008
Stroll along Redcliffe Wharf – past the headquarters of the Bristol Classic Boat Company – any time over the next fortnight and you will see what looks a typical enough sight in these surroundings: a team of men building a flat-bottomed wooden boat. what you might not have realised, however, is that this construction process forms one of the key events of Bristol’s first large-scale, citywide arts festival.
‘The Art Boat’, to give it its official title, is a two-week-long process during which sailor/engineer Petter Lofstrand and a team of collaborators will construct a vessel from scratch. Anyone is free to come and watch, and even chip in with suggestions for the design of the boat. The process begins today (Friday 1 June) and ends Saturday 16 June, when the finished boat is launched into the harbour, and so the build runs throughout the brilliant-looking Bristol Biennial arts fortnight.
The inaugural Biennial features over 50 exhibitions and events at venues around the city. Some of its events and shows conform clearly to anyone’s notion of ‘art’, others, like the Art Boat – to which we’ll return in a minute – might stretch your definition of the A-word a little further.
But, as the Biennial’s technical director Darn Thorn explains, all events are linked by a common theme – storytelling – and a common mission to bring good quality, thought-provoking art to the masses.
“We have set out to provide something rather new and different,” explains Darn, a photographic artist born and raised in Ireland, educated in Australia and now happily settled among Bristol’s busy art community.
“We wanted to programme artwork of a high quality, but that also involves participation from the community.
“All too often there tends to be a split between fine art in institutional galleries, and community art that is often seen as being rather folky and not serious. across our programme the quality is high, without it being in any way exclusive or aimed at art-savvy audiences.”
The festival came about through discussions between artists (and co-directors) Catherine Bourne and Lina Lofstrand. Lina is a Stockholm-born artist studying at the University of the West of England, while UK-based Australian artist Catherine has exhibited in galleries and festivals around the world.
“Coming from elsewhere, both artists had a different perspective on things here,” Darn explains. “They saw the incredible amount of artistic talent that flourishes in this city, and how the council’s Empty Shops Initiative (freeing up vacant business units for use by artists and performers) was opening up so many opportunities. but, although there is an awful lot of talent and energy here, there didn’t seem to be a unifying festival that brought it all together.”
Enter, then, the Biennial – an umbrella for all manner of creative exploration, from video art and photography to performances and installations, in venues ranging from a bridge control room in Redcliffe to Bristol Cathedral. Eclecticism may be the watchword here, but that storytelling theme holds everything together. and the aforementioned Art Boat encapsulates this theme, as Darn explains.
“Like folk tales, there is a crafted element to the Art Boat project: something is made with traditional crafts and techniques. but the process itself – the two weeks during which the boat is built, and in which Bristolians can participate – will also develop like a story. The two-week process is itself part of the finished artwork. and I hope that visitors will also see, from this project, how artists work in a variety of different ways, how they interact with communities rather than sitting in some ivory tower.”
“We want to create real crossover between Bristol’s artists, arts institutions and artist-run spaces,” Darn concludes, “and to raise the profile of this city’s art scene, to get the word out that this is a place where things happen.”
Bristol Biennial runs at venues across the city from Fri 1-Sat 16 June. See listings for details or visit www.bristolbiennial.com.