Pontio: Syria Art Collaboration

Nov 2018: Update: Unfortunately I was unsuccessful on this occasion, however the panel did pass on this message to me which instilled some hope for the future.

The panel wishes to share the following feedback: Although this artist is early career, it was a strong application outlining a relevant and appropriate approach to the project. However, we received several strong applications which allowed us to explore pairing different artists together, and in the event the panel decided to award the commission to the collaboration they felt would offer the greatest potential.

October 2018: I decided to apply for the Syria Art Collaboration taking place between November 2018 and January 2018 at Pontio.

Proposal for SYRIA.ART + CARN: Wal Wen (White Wall) Commission

For this collaboration I foresee many online discussions using the online tool best for both artists that will enable the proposal for the work to be developed collectively and enable communication for both artists online with Pontio, while the artist in Wales will be able to visit Pontio in person when required. This process will begin with some initial communications that enable the artists to establish a way of working that is appropriate and suitable for both people, taking into consideration the time difference of 2 hours.

A collaborative project between two cultures that has the intention of building bridges between those cultures has the potential to examine the similarities in our every-day lives and the environments and the landscapes that we live in.

The need for a sense of belonging and identity is inherent in all of providing security in knowing who we are and where we came from. As we grow the landscape around us changes, our impression of such and our memories also become fuzzy and altered.

Significantly, massive change in an environment can be brought about through the influence of the governmental decisions of the time. In their wake landscapes are destroyed for the greater good and all that remains are clues that allude to the environment that once was. The way that we view and interpret the landscape and environment around us can provide us with a metaphor that represents our identity and the loss of associated memories through the passing of time and changes made in the name of progress. Our understanding of the history of the land that we inhabit also affects our interpretation of our environment.

In reflecting on the changes in the landscape as an analogy for those memories that might be lost forever, we can reflect on the beauty of what remains and the strength that keeps us in our human experience moving forward in life.

Similarities can also be drawn between collective memory and personal memory in relation to world affairs. Our perceptions of world affairs are likely to be similar but different given our cultural differences and the fact our exposure to media is different. Yet I imagine our perceptions to be not to dissimilar given that we are still two people living a human experience in the world today.

Footage can be gathered from both Syria and the UK and amalgamated to become a cohesive collaborative artistic effort that demonstrates the building of bridges between the two communities.

Digital Media is a constantly expanding industry sector that provides an effective method for visual communication and can be used to represent the shared experiences of communities across the world in the internet age that we live in.

Having successfully used Skype Messenger to communicate with people all over the world and pre-recorded video loaded to YouTube for people in countries where Skype video is not available, this provides the advantage of saved chats in Skype and video content to reflect upon collectively when required.

The following images were also supplied in support of my application:

Below is the supporting information I provided by email.

Currently, I am in the early stages of a Masters in Fine Art Digital at Camberwell College. I completed my Bangor University degree at Coleg Menai in July 2018 with a First Class*. Primarily focussing on photography, video and projection.

Since 2016 I have spent time producing digital artwork that hopefully provides an empathic reflection on diaspora, displacement of community and the reasons for this displacement and the effects on the community as a whole. During this time, I produced work relating to these issues in a variety of contexts; the evacuation of children from Liverpool to Caernarfon in World War 2, the effects of war on the Syrian population and the displacement of a community at Tryweryn in North Wales.

In my own practice, I am currently moving from the subject matter of displacement to reflect on issues of collective memory and personal memory where I am looking at changes in the landscape through building and progression and how these might reflect our inner experience of memory and how these may fade or alter over time, a displacement of an inner kind.

Unfortunately, I am only English speaking – having been taught Welsh to O level many years ago, lack of use has meant that I cannot say I speak Welsh fluently, only a few words. Born in Scotland and raised in Wales has given me the feeling of being Welsh without actually being Welsh. Although I cannot say I speak the Welsh language I am fully supportive of the continuation of Welsh speaking throughout the community.

I have attached a current CV and a proposal for the collaboration project along. Three images are attached and the following links are also provided as part of my supporting visual material.

The following websites all provide examples of my work.

I am aware that being in the early stage of my career you may require a supporting letter. In lieu of this, I can ask my degree tutor to provide a reference if required.

ELAN Valley Artist Residency

July 2018 Update: Unfortunately I was not successful on this occasion and on reflection I do see that I was probably competing against much more experienced artists and that I have little experience in Community Engagement. However the organisers of the Artist Residency will be contacting me directly when the next round of applications opens.

June 2018: I was really keen to apply for the ELAN Valley Artist Residency in 2018, particularly given my recent work on Tryweryn and my desire to continue the theme.

My Application Statement is outlined below along with the supporting images:

Weaving traditional with contemporary, historical with current, I am interested in the integrative nature of digital technology as a way of extending the media used as part of my visual art practice. Particular processes of interest are Printmaking, Sculpture, installation and digital art practices, film and photography.  Possessing a keen sense of attention to detail and a strong research ethic. I have recently focussed my artwork around social and/or cultural issues reflecting on historical events that continue to be of relevance in today’s society. In particular, there are two projects that are relevant to this application.

The first body of work relating to the Elan Valley Project comprises artwork that was completed in Spring 2017 for a student exhibition about Caernarfon at Galeri, Caernarfon. This piece, inspired by Hannah Hoch, explores the historical events associated with the evacuation of children from British inner cities during the Second World War.

Many children were evacuated from Liverpool to towns and villages across the North Wales Coast, including Caernarfon. This story, although historical has relevance today, given the issues of migration and displacement that continue to dominate the media. Historical artefacts were gathered from the time period of World War 2 that related to the theme of the evacuation of children. Primarily a suitcase, a gas mask and a child’s jacket, leaflets and photographs.

Evacuee Assemblage 2

To provide some clarity to the research, I decided to assemble a mood board. This provided the impetus to produce an assemblage of historical artefacts, photographs and leaflets from the time. This was all stitched together in the form of a map of the UK, with the stitching closely resembling train tracks. I also produced an accompanying book and video that reflected on an unaccompanied child’s journey from Liverpool to Caernarfon. After reading many personal accounts of these events. I devised a collection on bi-lingual statements that appear to reflect the general sentiment felt by the evacuees, their families and their prospective foster communities. These were subsequently used in both the video and the book.

Determining a theme that linked the historical events of the Second World War with current situations piqued a new found research interest. Honouring our heritage by remembering historical events that continue to be of relevance today. These events often determine the future, however progression is sometimes slow and similar situations or events continue to arise.

The next body of work of pertinence to the Elan Valley Residency comprises the artwork I completed during the Spring of 2018. A site-specific piece about the construction of the reservoir Llyn Celyn, flooding the Tryweryn Valley and demolishing the village of Capel Celyn in the process. This piece represents a continuation of an ongoing theme relating to displacement. In this case, the passing of the Tryweryn Bill that lead to the displacement of the village residents to provide water to Liverpool. Approximately 70 years earlier an Act of Parliament had been passed to provide water to Birmingham from the Elan Valley.

Initial focus for this project was on the effects of this controversial scheme on the local community. Of particular interest were the protests and rallies that took place against the Tryweryn Dam project that ultimately led to calls for devolution in Wales.

Inspired by the artist Tim Davis, who uses film, photography and installation to respond to and represent specific sites of interest. Davis also produced a piece called Capel Celyn. He cast 5000 wax nails based on a rusty nail found on the bed of Llyn Celyn during a period of drought.

Many visits to Llyn Celyn were undertaken so that the current aspect of this piece of work was a response to the site itself. Found Objects of note were taken to the site and photographed to create a record of site-specific intervention and response. This is a line of research that I intend to continue.

Two Visual Boards were created using original media photographs to describe the sense of emotion that the project had provoked in the local community. These mood boards were then photographed, and the photographs used in a 5-metre Digital Collage that seeks to remember the protests that took place at the time. Additional Banners were also printed as an accompaniment.

Celyn Collage

The essence of the work I have created for the Tryweryn work has formed the basis for the ideas presented for the proposed community engagement for the Elan Valley Project. The proposed programme of events I would create for the Elan Valley Project could become a template that can be used in the future for other site specific works with community engagement.

I first became aware the Elan Valley Project when researching the construction of the dams in the Elan Valley and was immediately interested. The Elan Valley Project would give me the opportunity and experience of working external agencies in an artistic capacity.

Having recently been awarded a First Class BA (Hons) Fine Art, I am eager to develop my skills and a practising Fine Artist and the experience of being an Artist in Residence for the Elan Valley Project will help me to achieve this. I am really excited at the thought that I might be able work as an Artist in Residence for this project, achieving a personal goal in the process.

I anticipate that it presents many opportunities for personal growth, development and collaboration particularly with my desire to work further with site specific art and the creation of temporary interventions for the purposes of photography, video and printmaking – extending the media beyond traditional artistic processes.

In my Technical career of some 20 plus years I have worked as a Software Trainer providing training and workshops. I also trained as a Yoga Teacher during this time and taught Yoga for a period of 10 years delivering classes and workshops. Moving forward, I am keen to begin developing workshops and events as an Artist in my local area, improving my Community Engagement Skills and Curatorial Skills.

I was also asked to “outline ideas of how you may engage with local communities and the legacy of your time in the Elan Valley”

Below are my initial thoughts on a programme of community involvement in my proposed residency at the Elan Valley Project.

I anticipate that over the six months I would stay in the area on approximately 10 occasions to develop art work and run interaction with the local schools and community centres in the form of a community project that culminates in an exhibition of digital fabric banners. The artistic purpose of the project would be to create a greater awareness of the integration of digital technology with more traditional artistic processes.

A programme of events and workshops would be developed to run in the local school community and the local adult community consecutively. The intention of the workshops would be to develop a collection of community artwork that could be included in the digital fabric banners.

A series of workshops where people can create vision boards reflecting the Elan Links goals and the intention of the Elan Valley Project a given theme throughout the programme of workshops. The overall intention of this programme is to create an exhibition of banners that reflect the community response to the given theme. The community will be encouraged to take photographs and create drawings and paintings of the area in between sessions that they can use as part of the visual boards.

Once the workshops come to an end, I envisage photographing each of the boards individually to create the digital imagery to be displayed as banners.

I can provide peer to peer mentoring at the community centre for those interested in improving their digital skills or those who need help and assistance with their digital technology. This is an important way that I can share my digital knowledge on to fellow artists, members of the local community and visitors to the area.

Ongoing throughout the project, I would hope to have access to a wall in the community centre that could be the focus of the project where ongoing work could be displayed.

To bring the project to a culmination, I would create a collection of digital collages that can then be printed on fabric.

A competition would be run for the best three visual boards for both the schools and the local community groups; these would then be printed as individual fabric banners and included in the exhibition.

A Social Media campaign will also be run throughout the project with regular posts on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter along with a weekly blog post.

Stiwdio Maelor/Helfa Gelf Residency

Update June 2018: Unfortunately on this occasion I was not accepted for this residency.

May 2018: Completed my application for the Stiwdio Maelor/Helfa Gelf Residency. Below is my application. Below is the Artist Statement I submitted along with the images.Michelle_Wright_Project-Proposal-001