Captain's Blog - star date 180220 - CONTRASTS
Conversations over the last few days have been about sharing ideas and pulling your elbows in (in a sometimes very unsharey cultural sector that can be over competitive – either due to resources poverty, or ‘ownership’ or just simply ego). These conversations came at a rather special and very #european meeting/conference/confluence in Aberdeen organised by the great Curated Place as part of their Spectra Festival. The weather was threatening to blow the house down but it didn’t quite; the journey back through the Borders was a journey through fields as lakes as the rain had fallen with the intensity of the sunshine that only a week ago I had been experiencing in South East Asia; contrasts.
The refreshment of Aberdeen came in large part from the inspirational contributions of participants and hosts and contributors. These included interventions and descriptions of the artists’ fight for the preservation of the historic solidarity shipyard of Gdansk (happy ending), the data led Yannis Kranidiotis, and science engineering art collider Jonas Johansson and the soulful and joyful (and for me deeply moving as she talked of working with people without agenda, the learning disabled and their families) cultural life as a story of Amy Gear from Gaada - the sprung from the ground print workshop on Shetland.
We heard about NATUR from artists who had been commissioned across the Nordic lateral, Chris Paul Daniels and his triptych films of Iceland; from Stavanger; from Aero in Denmark where composer Eyvind Gulbrandsen works and to where the lovely (and flushed) Mancunian artist Sarah Hardacre was due to fly straight after Spectra to react and investigate a small island where people use gossip mirrors to see what the neighbourhood is doing and line up china dogs in windows to indicate surreptitious extra marital availability. These are the things that our neighbours do.
My every day mood that I arrived with was exploded. BOOM went the “I am simply worn out and done with having to daily convince people in strategic positions that culture is relevant”, and BOOM went the “what on earth are you talking about?” inner scream of reading how a local government representative was talking utter nonsense claiming that the local low level investment in culture was somehow (in their head) on a par with proper investment elsewhere. These are the things that wear people like me down.
Being in a room of people talking and sharing and showing projects that are precious and rich and vital and intelligent is monumental, on the scale of reversal of gravity (we were shown how to do this by Seb Lee Delisle using lasers). Artists and cultural cultivators can do this, we can reverse gravity, we can celebrate and give permission to neighbours, cultural activists can walk on water if that is what is necessary to get to the other side.
There was none of the vicious sniping world of the media and social destruction seen daily in our feeds. There was listening rather than grandstanding. In place of the vile and divided there were ghost ships in Kirks and alien like hoverers and lights in churchyards with hour long queues of families patiently waiting together to be experience things that did not try to make sense.
There was none of the vacuous and binary world that we are forced to experience on a daily basis through the ratings driven ravenous media networks and their diet of extremism.
All this served to answer questions that a small group of us were asked in Manchester on Friday at a meeting called by Martin Green as he works out how to pilot a national festival in 2022; his questions being what are the challenges we face, and what role does culture have to play?
The challenges are how we are living… driven along by dreadfulness and binary and trolling and consumerism anyone?
Culture’s role is to encourage and demonstrate that the holding of hands is our only hope, and artist’s and culturalist’s role is to be brave and stupid and reckless and to make no sense – there was a call for hope in Manchester, culture offers hope, though we do have to do more than hope (as someone said at the meeting, “if I am stuck at the bottom of a hole, hoping for a ladder isn’t going to help much”.
Back to Aberdeen. Did I mention the tentacles reaching and waving on top of the buildings? There were those too.
And the homeless man we met in the street with a china pot, if we forget him we forget everything.