Sheffield Art Crawl – a (bad) testimonial

Editors’ note: This is the piece as it was given to us. No editing was done to it. – xxx Q & M.

Image courtesy of Art Sheffield 2010.

After leaving the Showroom through a ventilation shaft (don’t ask), I found myself inside the Site Gallery. I’m sure there’s a violation of the time/space/physics continuum somewhere in that previous sentence but, like Billy Pilgrim used to say: “so it goes”.

Any ways, I was surrounded by artists, organisers, writers, reviewers and general art fans. It was the Art Crawl for Art Sheffield 2010 and it was my fourth time in the venue. Still liking the exhibit of the “The Ragged trousered philanthropists” book (written by Robert Tressell) and consider taking another Ruth Ewan postcard for the collection (they are real cool).

What’s with the postcards, you say? Well, they use images and text from Robert Tressell and were scattered around the exhibition. Sorta a scavenger hunt but the promise of getting unlimited Jammie Dodgers for a month was just an urban legend. Selah.

After mingling for a few minutes and getting promptly kicked out (I’ll have to go incognito next time, then) I made my way into the oblique, strange exhibition at Persistence Works. I don’t stay long. Felt a bit surrounded, heck, even vulnerable inside. It’s my natural hate of offices, I guess. So I just saw again the small installation, nicked another postcard and made my way to the next stop.

I had a soft spot for SIAD Gallery the first time I went there and I still have it, the videos in there really struck a chord with me. Maud Haya Baviera’s videos are funny and sweet, but it’s the one by Katarina Zdjelar that really made my skin crawl. There’s something about the face of the girl playing the guitar, a sense of longing, sadness and somewhere in the mix, happiness.

Katarina Zdjelar's piece.

I ask a fella that works there, called Tim, about the response the exhibition got. “People have been really positive about the work here and we got nice feedback” says Tim while trying to get a projector to work. “The work down here has been popular. The funny ones, girls miming to songs, that’s been really popular. It’s nice, it’s a neat show!”.

Maud Haya Baviera's "Happy".

Can’t really add anything to that. Agreed. I make Bloc my final destination. The bugbear of my review, as I was completely befuddled and struggled to write about it. I don’t doubt about the artistic merit of it and, to be honest, I don’t dislike the piece, I just didn’t get it.

I dunno if it was the Zeitgeist of that night, the strange hypnotic music (there was a live band at Bloc) or the red wine dissolving the plastic cup, but this time around the installation sort of made more sense. I will make the stupid assumption that Nina Canell’s installation is about the cycle of life. How from destruction (the chemical reaction in the middle of the place), creation is begotten (the volcano like-pile forming in the middle).

Nina Canell's installation

Might be reading too much into it. Suffice to say: I enjoyed it best this time around. So I went for red wine and to give the band outside (Mother of Vinegar) a listen.

Mother of Vinegar

After Mother of Vinegar‘s tripstatic set (I really don’t know what they played, wouldn’t mind listening to it again, specially if wine is involved), I stagger around, fighting off my two editors  (by text) who pester me from their seaside holiday. They insist that I should get a few “man on the street” comments (Monty Python style?) and I scan around. I see a hapless trio by a wall, two girls and one tall geezer.

My English fizzles. Can’t pronounce words for toffee nor can make a grammatically-correct sentence. I’m trying to make an impression here, look the part, but, alas, the well worn Weezer t-shirt gives away my geekness and the words are more something out of bad parody film than anything else. I proceed to ask them about their favourite exhibition. All names withheld by request (coughredwinemademelosenotescough).

Have you been to the galleries before or is today your first time?
Girl with Cool Specs (GwCS): A few times before, yes.
Tall Geezer (TG): Yes, all of the venues before.
Girl in Suave Green Coat (GiSGC): We actually came to this gallery crawl a few weeks ago.
GwCS: We’ve liked it!
GiSGC: We didn’t have the band around.

What do you think about the band?
TG: Positive addition! A bit more interest added.
GiSGC: Yes, Interesting, different concept with the (waves towards the instruments).
GwCS: (giggles)

Any of the galleries or art pieces caught your attention or struck a chord?
GiSGC: I really do like this building, it’s quite sociable. The Millenium Gallery was my favourite on the last Art Crawl, it had the most interesting works.
TG: SIAD Gallery, really liked it.
GwCS: Site Gallery!
Sam: Any particular exhibition?
GwCS: I like the books.
Sam: The one with the workers? “The trouser revolution”?
GwCS: “Ragged Trousered Philanthropists”, that’s the one.

I fumble around with the camera (probably as much as with my English). The conversation goes again about the Millenium Gallery, specifically the Susan Hiller piece (the one with the awesome seaside postcards). I stupidly try to describe it in the best words I can conjure:

Sam: It’s fucking awesome.
GiSGC: I really liked that one.
TG: Uh?
Sam: The curator collected every single postcard she could. You get this really striking images of the sea clashing. It’s really cool. I also like ‘Shoum’, about a guy who can’t speak English and he tries to transcribe Tears for Fears’ ‘Shout’.
All: (puzzled looks – kids today don’t appreciate Tears for Fears).
GiSGC: Did you see the one with the fountain?
Sam: The one with the keyboard? Loved it
GiSGC: It was really interesting.

We describe the piece to TG, since he looks confused.

TG: It’s the interactive stuff for kids?
GiSGC gives him the “daggers from her eyes” look.
TG: Sorry, but the interactive stuff is usually for kids!
GiSGC: It’s not interactive; you don’t do anything, it’s a loop! The water interacts with the keyboard.

Then the conversation turns into a little friendly disagreement between GiSGC and TG. I consider running away but I mention to GwCS that there’s cork in my wine.

Sam: I’ve said something stupid and created a rift between friends!
GwCS: Don’t worry.
Sam: I do. I became my dad!

We keep talking, with the theme going around volunteering for the galleries, my accent and just life in general. I wave goodbye and thank them for their time. I finally run into Jo Nancarrow, who’s helped with the marketing side of Art Sheffield and I ask her about the reception the event has received.

“The Art Crawls have been very well received and people have enjoyed themselves so far” she says while Bloc becomes more and more crowded. She mentions that the Mother of Vinegar set was a last minute addition, but it seemed to be well received and all worries for rain were dissipated by a (mostly) harmless drizzle.

We keep talking a bit more about the general amenities of the place and it dawns into me that Bloc is much livelier than I’ve perceived it before. Like a family gathering (minus the embarrassing pictures), it was a big hootenanny, filled with some interesting characters.

I bid farewell and walk back to the Academy as I’ve got to review ObLONG‘s set (shameless plug: link). I stop by one of the street lamps and take out the collected postcards. The reddish hue of the bulb changes the colours of the postcards and I randomly pick one: “They accepted the present system in the same way as they accepted the alternating seasons”.

Sounds just about right. I walk in the drizzle, whistling away Weezer’s “Keep Fishin’”.

The author would like to thank EVERYONE involved in organising Art Sheffield 2010. You rock. Special thanks to Jo Nancarrow and Ms. Sheila McGregor for their kindness and here’s to the “hapless trio” interviewed at Bloc for not running away.


Want to know about upcoming events for any of the galleries? Check ’em links:


Twitter. Website. Facebook.

Site Gallery

Twitter. Website. Facebook.

Art Sheffield

Twitter. Facebook. Website.

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