Category Archives: Metal LAB

5 Days in Liverpool – Day 5

The final day! We each presented our musings to each other during the course of the afternoon. Some have responded to the local area by collecting photographic and audio evidence, others talked to local community groups and thought about re-appropriation of space. There have been artistic interventions using ‘objets trouvés’, a deeply personal communiqué inspired by the week and ongoing, unrelated work which has been progressed within the framework of the LAB. For those that responded to the local area, and I count myself one, a common theme was reclamation/re-appropriation of space and in particular re-designation of ‘liminal’ spaces, ie those in-between areas that have accrued meaning through usage and social signification.

I presented my explorations as described in the previous post and also another idea linked to reclamation of the ‘sheep pens’. I imagine how augmented reality might be used to create a game and/or an event. A free app would enable users to participate.

A game might feature ‘virtual sheep adoption’ and perhaps a time-limited competition with some sheep-related prizes – an inflatable version of the winning sheep? Tending and virtually feeding the sheep by visiting the sheep pens with the largest sheep winning might be a simple approach. Throw in a virtual bogeyman who occasionally steals sheep just to spice things up.

An event appeals to me in terms of blending virtual with real. Perhaps every evening for a week a huge virtual bogeyman appears precisely at sunset to devour a poor sheep resident in one of the pens. Crowds gather in anticipation. A sound system is used to add impact – placid sheep grazing noises are overwhelmed by a blood curdling yell as the bogeyman materializes. Although visual impact would be achieved via augmented reality objects rendered on handheld devices, audio would be heard by all and I wonder if this aural ubiquity coupled with a carefully nurtured sense of anticipation would lead to greater suspension of disbelief?

Although having fun, these ideas are borne out of the serious notion of re-invigorating a desolate area through the transformative power of art.

Many thanks to Metal Culture for inviting me to the LAB, adios Liverpool, see you soon I hope!

5 Days in Liverpool – Day 4

Today was a real contrast from the previous three as we were mainly working on our own. It was good to get some time and space to think through all that I’d seen and heard but there was also a feeling of maybe being out on a limb.

I have been keen to try to build a parallel sequence of camera shots and Street View images in order that I might somehow interpolate between the two. Unfortunately the Street View sequence is essentially incomplete and the image quality not consistent due to the projection technique used to enable 3D control. The difference can be seen in the following ‘contact sheets’.



In my image set (the first one), even the name of the street has been blacked out, adding to a sense that the former (and until recent times) identity of ‘Martensen Street’ has been wiped out.

In the following video sketch I have run my image sequence through a home-spun slit-scan routine created using Quartz Composer. Video processing is real-time which lends itself well to becoming part of an interactive installation or performance.

I’ve long been interested in the axis between definition and abstraction/deconstruction and for me the slit-scan technique is a good way to explore this territory. The purposeful demolition of a street and all its culture leading to the creation of a useless empty space that kids cannot even play football on (because the ground is too soft) is a type of social deconstruction that I’m keen to respond to. Perhaps an audio-visual installation that gives the viewer control over the deconstruction process but implicitly involves them in this brutalist sweep-up, thus provoking reflection and argument? Just an idea, like…

5 Days in Liverpool – Day 3

Day 3 at the LAB and things are cooking! We began the day by taking a look round the ‘Art Turning Left’ exhibition at the Tate Liverpool, which is a real amalgam of protest art, political dogma, social science and general anti-establishment culture across the last couple of hundred years. A shame that it is billed at £7 or so to get in, thus preventing wider enjoyment and in contrast (contradiction, even) to the stance and subject matter of most of the exhibition content! There also seemed to be a tail-off in more recent exhibits considering that the interest period is 1789-2013. No matter, it was still an inspirational and mindful experience.

We congregated as a group round a table in one of the Tate offices to discuss some thoughts, mainly about the role of artist, community and the sometimes troublesome nature of the relationship between the two. Conversation did briefly get quite animated and perhaps still thinking of the Tate exhibition, it did seem that we were on the verge of hammering out some kind of radical manifesto for a brief moment! However, it was not to be as we parted company to develop ideas and perhaps the seed of a response to all the information we had received over the preceding 2.5 days.

I for one returned to Edge Hill and started to look at the difference between some of the surrounding streets where clearances have recently taken place and their portrayal on Google Maps, which still shows many areas as they were before demolition.

In the following screen grab, the streets between Dorothy Drive and Marmaduke Street have all been cleared although you would not know by looking at this map.

In fact all that remains are what Ian Brownbill calls ‘sheep pens’ – thinly grassed expanses of earth too soft to walk across easily or play games on – ie not much use to anyone. Here’s an amalgam of what is shown of Martensen Street on Google Maps Street View and what’s actually there. Actuality vs representation.


5 Days in Liverpool – Day 2

This morning we took a bus tour around the local and wider areas with an illuminating commentary from Ian Brownbill. We were particularly interested in the success and failure of various attempts to regenerate the city and including the Edge Hill/Kensington area local to Metal Liverpool.

In the afternoon we had the pleasure of receiving a presentation from the one and only Lemn Sissay who shared some amazing words and ideas with us in a very performative way! Apart from his obvious and amazing talent, I was particularly impressed by his sheer enthusiasm for his own work and yet ability to stay open to questions and observations from the group.

We are all feeling quite saturated. Some have gone to another presentation this evening but I have chosen to stay in and reflect a little on the last two days, firstly by setting up this blog! More tomorrow…


5 Days in Liverpool – Day 1

I have the pleasure of being an artist in residence at Metal Liverpool Culture LAB. From the Metal website:

"Metal runs a programme of Culture LABS each year that brings together groups of artists and thinkers in exploratory, week-long, intensive residencies around different themes and subjects. Artists come from a variety of disciplines, types of practice and different places around the UK and overseas.​"

There’s a real eclectic mix of artists and artist/curators at different career stages. Myself for one being pretty much at the beginning of the path, having only recently graduated from an MA. The Metal people have shown themselves to be thoroughly positive and supportive, managing to quickly create a comfortable atmosphere where ideas and opinions can be both presented and (sensibly) challenged without fear! Artist, Curator, Consultant and all-round good fellow Simon Poulter is doing a sterling job of facilitating the sessions.

In the first day, each participating artist gave a brief presentation of his/her practice. These included…

Renny O’Shea and Richard Gregory of Quarantine
Maddi Nicolson of Art Gene
Andrew Mottershead of FrenchMottershead
Rachel Rose Reid
Shereen Elizabeth
Hannah Clarke
David Kefford of Aid and Abet

This was followed by an inspirational presentation from Neville Gabie in which he talked about some of the major public art he has created over the last few years including work created as Artist in Residence at the Olympics.

The residency is particularly poignant for me as someone who studied and worked in Liverpool for several years in the late 90’s and early 00’s. Appearances have changed somewhat in places, but the same old city of extreme contrasts remains, welcoming all with her charms.