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New Geographies announces the artists commissioned to create ten site-responsive art works
David Blandy research images for his New Geographies commission. © and courtesy of the artist.

LONDON.- New Geographies and the East Contemporary Visual Arts Network announced the artists selected to create ten major site-responsive visual arts commissions across the East of England.

New Geographies is a three-year project, funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, to create a new map of the East of England based on personal thoughts, reflections and stories of unexplored or overlooked places, rather than on historic or economical centres. The first phase of the project invited members of the public to nominate locations for the map in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk, over a three-month period in the Summer of 2017.

This resulted in over 270 nominations, including the Petrified Forest of Mundon (Essex), the Concrete Pyramid off Great Yarmouth’s coast (Norfolk), an abandoned Tesco supermarket in Chatteris (Cambridgeshire) and Cardington Airship Hangar Site in Bedford (Bedfordshire).

Via an international open call, artists were then invited to submit proposals for artworks inspired by the nominated locations. The final commissions were selected by a panel made up of ECVAN’s partner organisations.

The artists selected are: Maria Anastassiou, David Blandy, Cooking Sections, Ian Giles, Krijn de Koning, Taylor Le Melle & Zadie Xa, susan pui san lok, Studio Morison, Stuart Whipps and Laura Wilson. Each artist will work closely on the realisation of their work with one of the New Geographies partner institutions.

Maria Anastassiou is an artist and filmmaker working with Art Exchange on a film in response to the Tilbury Station site, historically a point of entry for migrants coming into the UK. Set against the transient landscape of the Thames Estuary, which is laden with the traces of ever-shifting industrial, environmental and global narratives, Anastassiou intends to connect with local refugee and migrant groups to explore what ‘Life in the UK’ (the title of the booklet required to be studied by those seeking UK citizenship) means to them.

David Blandy, working with Focal Point Gallery, has proposed to make a work inspired by the insects and wildlife of Canvey Island. Blandy plans to create a new world within the game ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, working with local gaming communities to create monsters and characters and using roleplay to create a collective story that imagines new ways of living together.

Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe, who together form Cooking Sections, will work with East GalleryNUA on a research-based project that investigates the flash flood risk zone of the East of England, and looks at coastal erosion, climate change and how this impacts food production and diet. Initially focusing on Great Yarmouth, the project will extend to a wider network of coastal towns facing similar environmental, social and economic challenges and will take the form of events, objects and public discussions.

Ian Giles, working with originalprojects; has proposed to establish Queer Rambling clubs around Colchester, Great Yarmouth, Cambridge and Norwich, as a way to connect with LGBTQI+ individuals and groups across the region. Giles is interested in what it means to be queer in a regional setting and the changing status of queer people within society. The project will create rambling walks that span from urban centres out to more rural areas and enable participants to socialise and share both disparate and mutual histories. This will culminate in a film-based work documenting the walks and stories that emerge.

Working with UH Arts, Dutch artist Krijn de Koning’s work interrupts the environment by adding sculptural and architectural constructions to a given location. They are site-specific and work to emphasise the environment by reframing or reinterpreting the place they respond to. He will undertake site visits throughout Hertfordshire to determine the best place for his commission, starting with the nominated site of the tree stump in Verulamium Park, St. Albans. Containing classical references as well as absurdist expressions, de Konings’s structure will become a platform for other events and activities.

Taylor Le Melle & Zadie Xa, working with Kettle’s Yard, will produce a collaborative, multifaceted and site-specific performance that aims to transform and activate dormant beachside spaces that were nominated along the North Norfolk coast. Incorporating costumes, written scripts, music and dance, their proposed work is an opera, with a script written by Le Melle and costumes and sets designed by Xa and collaborator Benito Mayor Vallejo. The work will draw on the artists’ research into their own ancestry, considering how spiritual formations of Korean and African-American shamanistic traditions relate to notions of self across both diasporas.

susan pui san lok will work with Firstsite on a series of works encompassing moving image, sound and sculpture to commemorate the hundreds of individuals (often single and elderly women) persecuted as ‘witches’ in the seventeenth century by the selfstyled ‘Witchfinder General’, Matthew Hopkins. Hopkins himself is buried in Colchester Castle. lok’s project will ‘explore the continuum between the folkloric and [the] historic... [and] how narratives of the magical, mystical and murderous converge – and where wonder and fantasy turn to fear and violence.’

Studio Morison (Heather Peak and Ivan Morison), working with Wysing Arts Centre, plan to build a sculptural structure that can be used by members of the public to sit, contemplate and read or write. The project is inspired by Peak’s childhood memories of visiting the Fens and the Wash, as well as Richard Maybe’s book Nature Cure – in which he recovers from severe depression through walking, watching and writing about the region’s beautiful and unexplored landscapes. The structure will reference local building traditions, materials and architectural vernacular to root the structure in the very landscape it will be a part of. Studio Morison plan to work with local writing, walking and community groups to activate the space, set within the nominated sites of the Fens.

Photographer and filmmaker Stuart Whipps will work with UH Arts on a new film that extends his interest in the design and development of post war New Towns such as Stevenage, Harlow and Basildon – potentially reaching more towns across Hertfordshire. The film will be a ‘chapter’ within a larger body of works that Whipps has been developing in response to the architectural and social histories of these places, and will include a physical intervention in the chosen location.

Laura Wilson, working with Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, will focus on ancient forms of craft through research with archaeologists working on Must Farm, a 3000 year-old Bronze Age settlement near Peterborough. Wilson’s project investigates how the body learns, adapts, responds to and performs manual work, and will take the form of a series of events, a film and objects that connect with the region’s historical collections.

The 10 commissions will be accompanied by an extensive community engagement programme.

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