Art Night Midnight Walk

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2 July 2016

Artist-led walks with Miriam Austin, May Hands, Sarah Hardie and Nicole Vinokur, brought together by Bosse & Baum on occasion of Art Night 2016 with ICA

A special midnight artist-led walk around selected Art Night projects on 2 July 2016. Bosse & Baum selected five artists, including Miriam Austin, May Hands, Sarah Hardie and Nicole Vinokur to design the artist-led walks, exploring the nature of walking, the city and performance, through intimate and active engagement with young contemporary artists and their perception of Art Night London, 2016.

Miriam Austin: Domusdei

July 2nd is the mid point of the calendar year; 183 days preceed it, and 183 days follow until the year ends. The walk will operate as a reflection on traditional midsummer rituals performed in Britain around the summer solstice at the end of June. It will also form the first stage in a pilgrimage to Holywell, North Wales, which I will conduct in the following week. The walkers will form a procession, carrying various objects designed for use within a series of rituals that will be performed during the evening. These objects will be made with specific seasonal plants gathered in London, relating to traditional midsummer celebrations: St John’s Wort, Willowherbs, Foxgloves, amoung others. The folklore associated with these plants will be central to the process of devising the ritual forms. Beginning on the Mall, the route moves through St James’s Park and along the Thames towards St Bride’s church, where we will enter the church’s medieval crypt. Within the crypt are the remains of a neolithic well, which is believed to have been used as a focus for ritual activity by the Romans. My pilgrimage route will begin on this site, linking the St Brides well to the Holywell shrine, where a Roman well has been a site of pilgrimage since the eighth century. The well is built around a spring which emerged, according to local folklore, on the site where St Winnefred was beheaded by an attacker, and later brought back to life by the prayers of her uncle. My ideas for the walk have developed through my long term interest in ritual practice and it’s potential to reshape our approach to the environment and daily lives, manifesting within my practice as an attempt to reimagine our relationship with nature and our surrounding environment through ritual, myth and mysticism. During the walk, bodies of water (the lake in St James’s Park, the Thames, the absent water in the remains of the well in St Brides) become a focus for the performance of specific sequences of action, which will draw on the processional objects we will carry with us as a group. We will also carry a fabric structure that will be unfolded at specific sites on the route, functioning as a portable shrine.

Miriam Austin

May Hands: London Flaneur

Bosse & Baum: Could you just start by telling us a bit about your idea for the Midnight Walk you’ll be leading during Art Night London on 2nd July?
May Hands: I shall lead a walk to show participants how I see and respond to my surroundings. It is important to actually do, to demonstrate specific ways of seeing the environment rather than writing or talking about it. This will be a collective experience and through discussion and practical tasks the participants can choose from, they can show each other their own ways of seeing, recording and comprehending various aspects of the environment. There are choices about how to document and record the walk: record with digital and video; observational drawing; making rubbings from surfaces; written responses and collecting objects. Everyone taking part will have something they have created or recorded, creating a reminder of the event, experience and route they took. It may inspire and develop into something further, or remain a memento or sentimental object from this walk. Alternatively, they may wish to discard and put material back into the environment. Whatever the responses, the conclusions are open-ended and are not a test of any kind of practical expertise. Outcomes are more likely to be indicative of individual preferences, possibly building on previous experiences and skills, or, ideally, exploring territory (practical or theoretical) not experienced before. Some of this experience is a part of the way that I create work and it is something that I can share with my walkers.
Bosse & Baum: What do you get out of walking in London in your day-to-day life?
May Hands: I walk a lot. I do not especially distinguish between the normal day-to-day walk, say, to a supermarket or a tube station and a journey I might make with no specific destination but to treat as a kind of treasure hunt. I am not confined exclusively to east London (South London is fantastically inspiring too), but one’s locality is ideal as the normal ‘everyday’ space is the one that is most important. Of course, if I am walking around Bond Street the potential
findings can be very different. However, I especially love the markets, grocery stores and general shops on Roman Road, Bethnal Green Road and Dalston Kingsland.
Bosse & Baum: You have mentioned that this type of walking does enter your work process. What does the act of walking mean for you and how do you consider this concept within your own work?
May Hands: Walking is vital to my practice, it is the main way that I find the ingredients for making my artwork. As I walk my mind can be clear to focus on being engrossed in my surroundings. By taking regular walks in commercial areas I find grocery store debris, colourful and interesting items in hardware stores, street refuse and organic litter, such as dried leaves or blossom (season dependent). Then there are the environmental qualities such as changing light, the ambient sounds of things in the distance or around the corner. I photograph, video record and collect both physical material and make observations. So really, within my working practice, the custom of walking, is a kind of extended studio, and this ties in with ideas about the material ingredients of my work as well as the visual associations that connect with ideas about exchange, beauty and commercialisation. We can all relate to those walks in the countryside, or along the seashore, where someone will stop and say, “look at this” – but this is equally possible in a commercialised, urban space. The material qualities and associations of urban leftovers, such as litter or packaging, can prompt the imagination and kind of magnify the space. For example, the chance encounter of finding fruit peel discarded on the pavement, its organic shape framed within the rectangle of the pavement slab looking like a brush mark, suggests a painting. Or shiny, metallic confetti from a wedding celebration, scattered amongst fallen leaves and a discarded cigarette packet, reflects the sunlight and is blown around by passing cars giving a sense of being alive.
Bosse & Baum: How do you think walking in a group, with others, will impact the concept of the walk you are doing?
May Hands: Seeing through the eyes and interests of others will be interesting. I don’t want to assume anything, but it might inspire new ideas. What I perceive might now be habitual, so what I do not normally pick out or observe – the un-noticed, if you like – is potentially there. But I can only speculate at this point. Maybe I am missing something eventful? I am still learning to notice
things I hadn’t seen before. Maybe the concept will not change, but it could be developed or extended.
Bosse & Baum: How do you see the relationship between performance and the act of walking?
May Hands: They are very similar – but different in intention. When I go into a department store, I will often have a walk around without an intention to buy something I have specifically gone in for. For example, I have collected perfume cards, engaged with the assistants and have been conscious of this as an event – it’s a performance of sorts. If I visit the same store to buy something – maybe it’s a bottle of perfume from Selfridges – I will probably act and behave in the same way, but it’s another category of performance. We could see every journey, purpose and set of social and commercial interactions as a sort of performance. I guess that the difference is one of conscious awareness and ultimate purpose. Of course, the two categories can segue into one: a ‘performance’ and a trip to collect free materials I might choose to make a purchase after all. Another example, ostensibly less glamorous than buying perfume, but just as exotic really, would be to select, buy and carry away fruit and vegetables from the market stall. The ‘everyday’ is actually quite magical and special. Colourful forms and materials in my net bag – so it’s see-through – can be as visually potent as a specially wrapped and expensive item tied with a ribbon. The net-bag is also interesting in itself, with or without contents; it’s easy to fold away and has the potential to fill up with virtually anything. It’s a walking collage of colour-shapes of different materials and textures – rather like an abstract painting, only in 3D.
Bosse & Baum: How do you see this walk? As an event? A performance? A walk? A happening? An experience? Does it have to be classified?
May Hands: This walk will be a performance for each participant, all together we shall be walking and looking around and recording so I suppose it is a group event and a ‘happening’ too, as the unplanned can take place. It doesn’t need to be classified; the important thing is everyone experiences new or enhanced ways of seeing their environment and owning some kind of recorded information by the end of the walk.
Bosse & Baum: What would you say is the relevance of this action with respect to the landscape of contemporary art?
May Hands: The contemporary cultural and physical environment, especially the urban and commercial one, is typically reflected in contemporary art. As a contemporary artist I make my work about my environment – the one I live and work. But contemporary practice is so diverse now – the artist can invent their way of working and producing; and whatever the nature of the interaction with an audience is open to change.

Sarah Hardie: A Journey to the End of Love

Sarah works with voice to interrogate ideas around the (im)possibility of intimacy in our contemporary moment. As a classically trained singer, she often works with the choral form to explore the possibilities of contemporary relationships in her practice. Sarah brings a continued wish to rupture the isolation of the capital through her performative walk for Bosse & Baum and Art Night, in which each audience member will be paired with a performer to walk, talk, and ‘fall in love’. Following the path Sarah walked with a former lover, her walk will play out Winnicott’s idea of transitional phenomena, taking the audience to the end of love.

A recent project that Sarah performed, ‘songs for someone who isn’t there’, as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2015, guided an audience through song around Edinburgh to hear voice works by Crispin Best, Marco Godoy, Ed Atkins and David Austen. She is interested in exploring and rupturing the silence of public spaces in response to John Muse’s idea: ‘public spaces are more than ever becoming sites for communal isolation’. Psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott’s theory of transitional phenomena has been central to Sarah Hardie’s recent work. Winnicott viewed (infants’) singing before sleep as part of the process of becoming an autonomous being, and stated that it is the task of the mother, the one who loves you most, to enable this process of isolation. The city-wide lullabies which comprised ‘songs for someone who isn’t there’ represented the pained isolation of our contemporary age of broken encounters and the lover’s hope materialized in song against the stony silence of public space today.

Sarah Hardie (b.1988) is a Scottish artist living and working in London. She graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with an MA in Fine Art and with an MA History of Art from the  Courtauld Institute of Art, London. Hardie considers ideas surrounding the human voice, currently in terms of what she reads as the amourous politics of the voice, espoused by Roland Barthes. Most recently she staged an artist’s project, songs for someone who isn’t there, as part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2015, presenting David Austen, Ed Atkins, Crispin Best and Marco Godoy, with her own choral work forming a guiding principal for the production. Previous shows and performances include: the stars sang last Tuesday, Inspace New Media Scotland, Edinburgh; Solar Pavilion, Edinburgh Art Festival 2011; This Is Now, curated by Pat Fisher, Principal Curator of the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh; AHM State of Play Symposium, National Gallery of Scotland, at which she performed her artist’s manifesto; Royal Scottish Academy New Contemporaries 2012, for which she was awarded the RSA Stuart Prize. Hardie was commissioned to perform as part of Mercy’s Electronic Voice Phenomena, Unbound Series in Edinburgh International Book Festival. This is her first solo presentation in London, with a further major commission, her opera, before sleep at the end of love (description of a lullaby), presented later in 2016.

Nicole Vinokur: By Leaves or Play of Sunlight

“Ideas are to be found in the same way that you find wild mushrooms in the forest, by just looking”; you can’t just come upon them directly, they “come to you as things hidden.” John Cage. Nicole Vinokur is interested in walking as a contemplative/meditative practice; as something which allows the eye to both wander and observe. She is interested in the act of slowing down, of fixing the gaze and of being open to chance encounters: “walking allows me all these things while exploring and thinking about ideas, it is a vital part of my everyday and gives me the opportunity to use the body as a vehicle for process. “Looking” is something which I return to over and over again in my practice as  a physical, mystical and metaphorical act.” Nicole’s walk will draw on the approaches of John Cage’s mushroom hunting and John Ruskin’s walks dedicated to observing geology, architecture and natural history. Both artists walked in parallel to their practices and interests with observing and looking at the centre of their excursions. The structure of the walk will be organic and meandering with an emphasis on looking and locating. The route will take in community and public gardens in central London as well as the verges, hedgerows and pathways in and around the Art Night London project sites. By Leaves or Play of Sunlight, taken from one of Cage’s poems in Mushroom Book (1972), will be a performative botanical exploration drawing on historical, herbal and folklore features rather than the pure taxonomy of botany. It will focus on the space of encounter and discovery. As plants and specifically weeds grow on the periphery of most sites we will walk in accordance to their occurrence, taking in their position and proliferation. Working with the notion of ‘the verge’, the walk will reflect not just on the trees and plants themselves but also on their bearing and relationship to their surrounding. The process of walking amplifies the opportunity for discussion and sharing information; participants will be asked to record, draw, write or respond to the material that they encounter. As the light fades it will become more difficult to “see” and Nicole encourages alternative sensory faculties as way of perception. “The idea of the amateur botanist has always captured my imagination too. A long fascination with natural history, botanical and folk lore; knowing plants; their names and their uses have seemed important and necessary. Their sites, histories and shifting identities persist in my research, with weeds and trees in particular being repeatedly present. I am also interested in their position and usefulness, how they designate space, boundaries and duties of care, how they subtly and aggressively impact on a landscape and how they become designators of value and shape economy. In a way there were two paths: botany and art.”

Nicole Vinokur (b.1978) is a South African artist whose interdisciplinary practice oscillates between the rational and the mystical exploring rearrangement, imitation, cultivation, historicity, fiction and the gaze. Vinokur graduated from the Royal College of Art, with an MA Sculpture in 2015. She is the recipient of the Red Mansion Prize (2015), Artist/Curator Fellowship with Grizedale Arts (2014), shortlisted for Cowley Manor Art Prize (2014), Young Vision Award (2005) and support by National Arts Council South Africa. Recent exhibitions include Gardeners and Astronomers, Caustic Coastal, Manchester (2016). Her work has been shown internationally including Camden Arts Centre (UK), 50th Venice Biennale (IT), Modern Art Projects (ZA), Favela Pavilion (MX), Museum of Africa (ZA) Godart Gallery (ZA), London Print Studio (UK), Henry Moore Gallery (UK). Vinokur is currently working on a long term project with Grizedale Arts recreating Ruskin’s Road in the village of Coniston, Cumbria. Upcoming shows in 2016 include Paridayda at Tintype Gallery, London from 27 June until 23 July 2016 and Shucky, Hintut? The Hostry, Norwich Cathedral in August 2016.