SCIBase: COLONIZE | April 2014
To non-Americans scale will always be an issue when trying to depict the geographical relationships of places in North America. Indeed in my own mind I had trouble comprehending the size of New York State until I actually arrived in Jamestown on the last day of March 2014. I am not going to pontificate here on the subject of travel, an area of knowledge more in tune with the practice of Kimbal Quist Bumstead, of whom more later; but suffice it to say we were located four hours closer to the border of Canada than we were to New York City. The ‘we’ that I speak of here is the SCIBase collective and our reason for being in Jamestown was the occasion of the ‘COLONIZE’ exhibition organised by group member Debra Eck. SCIBase was established in 2012 as a collaborative vehicle for artists associated with SCI (Soup Collective International), based primarily in the Northwest of England and run by Wendy Williams in collaboration with BasementArtsProject Leeds. Initially the collective was convened for the purpose of taking artists work to Sweden for the ‘Stockholm Independent Art Fair Supermarket 2012’. Quickly this came to include the ‘Liverpool Independents Biennial 2012’ and a Divided We Fall related event rounding off the year in Leeds. In March 2013 we were approached by SCIBase exhibitor and Jamestown resident Debra Eck about an opportunity to exhibit as a group again only this time in Jamestown.
Fast forward to 31st March 2014 and I find myself setting off in the early hours of the morning with artist David Cotton and most recent SCIBase member Michael Borkowsky for a month long exhibition in Jamestown. This exhibition would feature twenty-one artists associated with the SCIBase project along with thirty guest artists, picked up en route via the Kickstarter funding campaign that has allowed a handful of us to travel with the work. After a ten hour flight with connections in Paris and Detroit before finally arriving in Buffalo we were met by our host Debra Eck who drove us the two hour journey back to Jamestown. Here we met up with Jean McEwan and Wendy Williams who had arrived two days earlier amidst the polar vortex that has shrouded this part of North America since late last year. Although the snow had mostly gone the great lakes; Huron, Ontario, Superior, Michigan and Erie were still iced over and large piles of snow still lie at the edges of many of the roads. The 2nd April would see the arrival of Kimbal Bumstead, his presence completing this gathering of artists whose mission would be to construct the exhibition across two venues by 4th April.
Whilst the main focus of these exhibitions were the 3rd on 3rd Gallery based at the ‘Reg Lenna Centre for the Arts’ and the Dykeman Young Galleries one block away on East 2nd Street, the sense of community amongst the habitués of Jamestown must not go unmentioned. From the moment of our arrival the superhuman efforts of Len Barry (3rd on 3rd) and Michael Dykeman (Dykeman Young) along with Jonathon Bell of Good City Records to locate the props for the trickier elements of our exhibition cannot be underestimated. Without them these exhibitions would have been a completely different proposition. Along with Debra Eck who provided our accommodation and transport and also negotiated residencies for a number of the artists with Jamestown Community College and Falconer High School, mention must also go to Dusten Rader of the Post-Journal, Jason Sample of WRFA, Patricia Briggs of Jamestown Community College and Ashley Baron and her colleagues for the promotional films put forward through the Dykeman Young Galleries.
Photos: David Cotton
The work of regular SCIBase contributor Kimbal Bumstead began in earnest a month before our arrival and came to its conclusion roughly a month after we had left. Bumstead’s practice is an itinerant one based around chance encounters with strangers that he meets when travelling, and for COLONIZE he began his journey on the West coast of Canada in British Columbia. On the evening of the 2nd April I travel with Shannon Bessette, a professor of anthropology at Jamestown Community College to whom we have been introduced, to a Greyhound bus depot on the shore of Lake Erie to meet him. Over the course of a month spent hopping across the border to America and travelling via other areas within the American rustbelt; Milwaukee, Detroit, Cleveland and such like Bumstead has created a body of work that has resulted in a film piece, put together on the hoof and which is still being edited as he arrives in Jamestown. The Eck household is, for the course of the next two weeks, a hive of activity with people coming and going at all hours, laptops at dawn around the breakfast table as we construct texts, gather together lists and prices of works and organise the itinerary for the next day. The general hubbub that occurs when eight people, some of whom barely know each other, are living under the same roof preparing such an event is simultaneously invigorating and enervating. A Big Brother house for the independent art world. The nights are short but in the few hours between going to bed and waking up all rooms including the study and the living room couch are in use by sleeping bodies.
Photos: Bruce Davies
The works are divided up appropriately between the two venues with myself (Bruce), David Cotton, Kimbal Bumstead, Michael Borkowsky, Kelly Cumberland, WalkerHill, Louise Atkinson, Alan Dunn & Martyn Rainford, Phill Hopkins, two works by Andrew Crighton and from the postcard artists Hondartza Fraga, Manya Donaque, Jo Brown, Chris Woodward and Hannah Stacey (via Jon Eland) at 3rd on 3rd. Over at Dykeman Young is work by Wendy Williams, Debra Eck, Jean McEwan, Elena Thomas, Carol Ramsey, Julie Dodd, Andrew Crighton, Jacqueline F Kerr and postcard artists Kaitlin Frisicaro, Bo Jones, Frances Swann, Anna Karin Lillengen, Pamela Sullivan, David Hancock, Iris, Pesky Chloe, John Slemensek, Annie Nelson, Jeni McConnell, Sophie Elmen, Phil Olsen, Carolyn Shepherd, Carol Kochanowski, Richard Shipp, Anastasia Maximova, Susan Leask, Chris P Daniels, Charlotte Victoria Furness, Sharon Hall Shipp, Carole Miles, May Chong and Christine O Reilly Wilson.
The Dykeman Young Galleries, located on East 2nd Street, are on the third floor of a building that is roughly one hundred years old. On the second floor of the building proprietor Michael Dykeman runs a boutique selling vintage clothes and memorabilia, this along with the gallery space seems to be perfectly in sync with the more theatrical elements of the architecture itself such as the hand cranked lift and the chased tin ceilings; each floor features a different repoussé pattern beaten in to tin panels. These types of ceiling are apparently popular in buildings of this age in this area. The hand cranked lift, I discover later on, is very difficult to use, thank heavens for the bellhop at the opening. In the artists work displayed at Dykeman Young there is a perfect balance of delicacy, subtlety and individuality whilst maintaining a sense of coherence throughout this selection of work from across two continents. Julie Dodd’s work based on the cell structure of viruses stretches out across one entire wall. Made from paper and wire this work came packed down in a very compact box, but once opened out to its full size it mirrors the nature of the virus it represents, beginning as a single cell multiplying and spreading until it takes over the corporeal body. Elsewhere the box dioramas by Carol Ramsey contain nostalgic picture postcard images of Jamestown from what appears to be the early 20th Century. The chocolate box nostalgia of Diorama 1 in particular chimes, although somewhat awkwardly, with the small sliver of tree bark containing a miniaturised favela on the other side of the room. Tiny shacks of folded card packed onto a tiny strip jostling for space and attention.
Photos: David Cotton
A vast array of yellow, origami flowers by Wendy Williams that occupy an entire room open a window onto a wartime tragedy, local to both the US and the UK. Here is the story of a section of rapeseed field on the Wirral, preserved by a farm owner in an act of remembrance to those who lost their lives in a US plane, downed towards the back end of WWII. Williams describes the process of installing this delicately gargantuan monument as a process of bringing home the dead; there is no intention that this installation should make its way back across the Atlantic at the end. Threads can be found in this exhibition in ways both literal and metaphorical. In the room adjacent to the rapeseed field is a mannequin wearing a coat from the WWII era. The coat, a style that would have been worn by pilots or commanders in the forces, has been altered by the presence of many hand-stitched dandelion seeds that, in a poetically practical moment, have been blown across the ocean. The execution of this work, already planned for COLONIZE, by Elena Thomas came about as a method of raising the funds to travel with her work to the USA, each dandelion seed being paid for by donors on her website. Necessity, so someone once said, is the mother of invention. Throughout the exhibition glimmers of a narrative can be picked up as each work provokes questions in the context of those around it. Each artist brings with them a very individual take on the title in terms of interpretation yet somehow a very distinct idea is being communicated, that of human habitation and relocation both physical and spiritual. The postcard artworks, despite their potential to feel disparate in such a large body of work, actually pick up threads between other works and start to create a more complex web of ideas. Stylistically this occurs in the use of geometric patterns throughout but they also connect with the geographical patterns in pieces by the likes of Jacqueline F Kerr, whose work regularly addresses the topography of urban living, and the photography of Andrew Crighton. In the past Crighton’s work has utilised images chopped up and reassembled to create new ones but for COLONIZE the work has become single, self contained units placed alongside one another, creating a landscape that whilst becoming rigid and standardised also manages to portray something of the individuality that we expect from the presence of human life.
Over at 3rd on 3rd whilst the exhibition is thematically the same as at Dykeman Young the modus operandi could not be further removed. Here very few works are in their finished state when they arrived and some rely on the ability to source locally the props with which to finish them. Where the Dykeman Young venue addresses colonisation as subject matter over here colonisation is in effect and these works in progress expand to fully occupy the space for which their purpose has been conceived. Eventually when the exhibition is constructed it becomes hard to imagine that all of these works were conceived of in isolation as a response to a title rather than as a collective effort; the spirit of collective thinking and behaviour becomes apparent in the dialogue that occurs between those present about their work and how it sits in relation to those around it. At 3rd on 3rd colonisation is a literal and immersive experience that acknowledges not just the visual but also the aural and olfactory. Walking into 3rd on 3rd the first thing that you are aware of above even the aural chatter of three sound works is the pungent aroma of food. Michael Borkowsky’s work has seen him making paint from locally sourced food. The smell is a heady aroma of turmeric, garlic, cinnamon, blueberries (originally in muffin form from the Labyrinth Coffee House) and various other produce, pungent but not unpleasant. The paints are presented in small jars and also on a chequered board painted in squares that represent each substance, it is this that gives off the aroma. Heading further into the galleries you discover the source of some of the audio work. The sound of a Victorian polyphon, disembodied through a contemporary recording and merged with other ambient noise, plays back ‘I Dreamt That I Dwelt In Marble Halls’. It is this piece that is my contribution to the exhibition, along with three accompanying books and a postcard element. The intention behind this piece was, to use a term coined later on in a panel discussion with Patricia Briggs, a colonisation of the mind. The contents of the books, postcards and recording are all very personal memories from my own life. The work takes on a slightly different perspective during my stay when I discover that we are on the edge of the Seneca Native American Reservation, and I start to consider the idea of the oral tradition and how such cultures pass their history forward to the next generation.
Taken loosely the subject of colonization is approached from many angles across the two venues, some literal others more of a sideways glance. In the work of Phill Hopkins a new landscape is created through the repetitive images of radio masts and towers, the ubiquitous symbols of contemporary human communication, printed onto the pages of interior décor magazines and colour charts; elsewhere the photography of Andrew Crighton subjects nature to such similarly repetitious treatment. Despite having never met in person the work of Kelly Cumberland chimes with that of Michael Borkowsky looking at biological aspects of the human experience derived, as Cumberland’s work is, from microscope imagery. Alongside this, under the moniker of WalkerHill, the collaborative pairing of Michael Walker and Martyn Hill produce works that employ lo-fi forms of geometric abstraction to produce simple, hand crafted multiple units that can expand to inhabit spaces of any scale. On the opposing wall the work of Hondartza Fraga takes the more rational structures of WalkerHill and Andrew Crighton as a starting point before dismantling them with her Doiligraphs. Throughout the 3rd on 3rd exhibition the effects of time and place are explored through histories both personal and collective. Taking as a starting point an ancient Babylonian map of the world, David Cotton applies processes that distort the transfer of information and create ever-changing imagery. As ever Kimbal Quist Bumstead travels, gathering stories through chance encounters on a journey hitch hiking along the USA/Canada border from the Pacific coast. He has created work that documents the intimate histories of those he meets and his personal experiences of them. The sound works of Alan Dunn and Martyn Rainford take fragments of experience and work them into musical pieces. Over time the record has been sent to others to be remixed, removing and changing elements of the original until it is a new piece; COLONIZE features the 3rd and 4th versions of Noumenon. Similarly the work of Sean Kaye and Jenny West is a literal exchange of ideas via sets of instructions sent back and forth between the artists, creating a continually shifting sequence of works. On the opening night a performance piece by Swedish artist Susanne Törstenson creates a physical link between the two venues beginning at 3rd on 3rd before moving to Dykeman Young and finishing in a spot just near her visual work.
Throughout April various artists from the collective would stay in Jamestown as guests of Debra Eck, many engaging at various points in residencies, workshops, discussions and other events. Jean McEwan, Wendy Williams and Kimbal Bumstead would spend time relating their experiences and leading workshops at Falconer High School, whilst David Cotton spent the best part of a month in the science department at Jamestown Community College, developing a new strand of artworks under the microscope. As the last of the initial team are leaving to return to the routines of daily life artist Elena Thomas is arriving. She would spend the last week of the exhibition giving a talk at the Dykeman Young Gallery and running a workshop at The Weeks Gallery, Jamestown Community College. Jamestown has proved an instructive and productive exercise for all involved, whether it is those involved in sending work across or those troops on the ground that ensured that the exhibitions happened. Big thanks go to Debra, Len and Michael as our attention is turned to whatever may come next . . .
Photos: Bruce Davies
SCIBase is a collaborative project between BasementArtsProject, Leeds and the SCI collective based in the Northwest of England. At the core of this project are artists Wendy Williams (SCI) and Bruce Davies (BasementArtsProject) who have been responsible for putting together the ad hoc groupings that constitute SCIBase exhibitions. This group has so far exhibited at the Stockholm Independent Art Fair 2012, the Liverpool Independents Biennial 2012 and Divided We Fall, Leeds also in 2012.
The SCIBase collective is a vehicle for collaboration that aims to open up networks and dialogue between artists in different situations and areas of the globe. The collective includes members not only from Leeds and Merseyside, but also Sheffield, the Midlands, Sweden and Jamestown, New York, USA. The COLONIZE exhibition represents the culmination of a year’s worth of planning and takes a sideways look at different aspects of colonization
SCIBase would like to thank the following people and organisations for their invaluable support and faith in our project, we hope that you enjoyed the fruits of our labour as much as we enjoyed the process of constructing this exhibition.
Len Barry (3rd on 3rd Gallery, Reg Lenna Centre for the Arts)
Jonathan Bell(Good City Records)
Patricia Briggs (Director and Curator at Weeks Gallery)
Michael Dykeman (Dykeman / Young Emporium & Galleries)
Debra Eck (along with Glen for hosting so many of us and putting up with our madness)
Dusten Rader (The Post Journal)
Jason Sample (WRFA Radio Station)
Photographs throughout by Bruce Davies & David Cotton
And via the Kickstarter campaign
Charlotte Victoria Furness
Sharon Hall Shipp
Christine O Reilly Wilson
Jennifer Lyn Crawford
Jacqueline F Kerr
Robert A Sharples
Vicky Ann Smith
Zierle & Carter
Jodi Renee Gronborg
Anna Maria Pinaka
N Quist Mars
Michael James Thomas
Sille Don Heltoft
East Street Arts
Jamestown Up Close
Anna Maria Crighton
Hester Van Kruijsen