AirSpace is pleased to host this returning project with brand new responses, as Andrew Brown, Joanne Lee, Danica Maier & Christine Stevens
revisit Stoke to carry on explorations of the city first started during the Topographies of the Obsolete site-specific exploration of the historic Spode site back in 2012/13.
An ongoing project involving four artists, Andrew Brown, Joanne Lee, Danica Maier and Christine Stevens. Working under the title Returns, the group began with a 2012 residency at the former Spode ceramics factory. Since then it has repeatedly returned to investigate Stoke-on-Trent, its urban landscapes, diverse communities, manufacturing and craft skills, and the material history that has made it so distinctive.
Across the last year the artists have developed new ideas through idiosyncratic fieldwork, walking, looking and listening, each following the threads emerging from their previous research. They have gathered material from archives and conversations; collected objects from antique and charity shops; employed old maps to navigate contemporary places; followed the interlacing routes of road, rail, river and canal, and they have used clay as a medium through which to listen to people from across Stoke-on-Trent, including those who have come here in search of refuge or asylum.
Working with interrelated practices of drawing, photography, ceramics and audio recording, the group’s latest exhibition, re – turning, thinks again about the complexities and energies of this multiple city, presenting a series of works that deliberately trespass on each other within the gallery. The exhibition pays close attention to the overlooked everyday and to the ordinary materials we rarely have time to consider. It thinks too about the interrelationship of nature and culture, about contested ideas of home and belonging, and it engages with the very human processes of touching and making. It is alert to the way surfaces make history visible or efface certain stories, and recognises how specific objects and sites contain complicated memories or provoke imaginative possibility; visitors are invited to share their own experiences through a ‘listening pot’ created in the gallery with local people. re - turning explores familiar surroundings in different ways, reflecting upon the past, present and potential futures of this place, in order to wonder about what is, and what might yet become.
Andrew Brown - OpenCity Stoke
Accessible as a guided walk on the night of the opening, or independently via a downloadable app, OpenCity Stoke is a 30-minute immersive soundwalk beginning and ending outside Airspace Gallery. An exercise in listening, it draws inspiration from old maps and photographs of the Potteries, evoking potential soundscapes along the route of the walk and creating opportunities for personal speculation on place, time and the processes of change. The artist, Andrew Brown, has devised soundwalks in various urban and rural locations, drawing upon the specificities of each and using sound as a means of exploring sites and exposing layers of memory and meaning.
Christine Stevens & Andrew Brown - Hearing Clay, Touching Sound
Christine Stevens and Andrew Brown have collaborated on a series of clay and sound works for the exhibition. The Whispering Pot contains fragments of stories evoked by models created by participants in a series of workshops that took place earlier this year in Stoke-on-Trent and Nottingham. These represent memories of objects made from clay from the participants’ daily lives in their countries of origin. These accounts reflect the dislocation caused by involuntary migration and resettlement in a new country. The exhibition offers opportunities to consider the disruptions on people’s lives caused by the processes of globalisation, relating equally to migration as to the loss of much of the ceramic industry in the Potteries.
Clay has been chosen as a ubiquitous material, both on a domestic and industrial scale. Handling this material and experiencing it through our sense of touch brings the ordinary into the forefront of our awareness.
The large Listening Pot was created in the gallery by 35 local visitors and passers-by over the period of a week in July. Visitors are invited to respond to the exhibits by making their own small clay models and then speaking about them into the Pot, which will record and contain these stories.
Joanne Lee - In the Midst of England
Arnold Bennett once wrote that, “mysterious and unrecognised amongst English counties”, Staffordshire “has everything England has”. It is, he said, “England in little, lost in the midst of England.” Having repeatedly walked and photographed through the Potteries towns, this audio-visual essay attends closely to the middle of England, to an English heartland at odds to the capital and so-called Home Counties. It takes in Staffordshire’s intersecting traditions of non-conformist religion, radical politics and trade unionism; the idealistic projects that took root here like the Worker’s Educational Association and societies promoting the universal language of Esperanto; the escapism of hedonistic club cultures; old myths and new age spirituality; energy and entropy; the names streets are given and what they signify; public transport and good housing; community, refuge and sanctuary. It wonders about attempts to create heaven on earth and the ways people have sought to live better lives.
Danica Maier - Nesting Milker
Scouring through Stoke-on-Trent’s charity, antique and seconds shops Maier has been hunting for ceramics that speak to her. Looking specifically for that which is ornate yet functional: a tureen dish shaped as asparagus; hand painted Falstaff jugs with slight variants; tea cups with wonderfully bonkers patterns; internationally imported honey pot with a bee shaped handle. Drawings are developed from their surface pattern and drawing ‘shards’ are created. The relationship between the ceramic object and drawing oscillates - the drawing acting as plinth and show casing the found ceramic object; a ceramic toast rack holds the drawing fragments.
Andrew Brown is an artist whose concerns include constructions of history and human experience. His formative experiences in lo-fi and DIY cultural marginalia have led him to becoming an exponent of the sound walk, which he uses as a tactical and critical tool in a collective re-imagining of the sonic and human environment. Recent work has been performed at audio art events in Aix-en-Provence, Berlin and Belgrade. He has presented papers and sound walks at conferences in Toronto, Lyon, Bergen and Berlin and has contributed to numerous journals and publications, including Humanities and Dance Theatre Journal. In addition to leading the MFA course at Nottingham Trent he has worked with students in Japan, Hungary, Germany and France.
Joanne Lee is an artist, writer and researcher with a curiosity about daily life and ordinary places. Much of her work develops through a serial publication, the Pam Flett Press, which explores the visual, verbal and temporal possibilities of ‘essaying’ the everyday: the Press has been distributed internationally and has appeared in events such as Pamphlet Day, RADAR, Loughborough; PROGR-Fest, PROGR - Zentrum für Kulturproduktion, Bern, Switzerland; Offprint, Tate Modern and KALEID London, an exhibition showcasing the best books by European-based artists. Other recent projects include Utter Rubbish, SIA Gallery, Sheffield; The good place that is no place, Lightworks, Grimsby; Omspelning. Replay. Uusintaotto. Repetición., Ekenas, Finland and A Seven Year Cycle Happens Every Day, Five Years, London. Lee is Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design at Sheffield Hallam University.
Danica Maier completed an MFA in painting before receiving an MA in Textiles from Goldsmiths College. Her work uses site-specific installations, drawing, and objects to explore expectations, while using subtle slippages to transgress propriety. Selected exhibitions include: Stitch & Peacock (The Collection Museum, Lincoln); Topographies of the Obsolete (Spode) an Intl European partnership, exhibiting in the British Ceramics Biennale; Intraducible (Museo del Barro, Asuncion, Paraguay); co-curated major exhibition of British artist’s Unpicked and Dismantled (Kaunas Art Biennale). She is part of Returns an artist’s research group, and is co-led on artist lead project Bummock: New Artistic Responses to Unseen Parts of Archives. Maier is an Associate Professor in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University, where she runs the Summer Lodge, an annual 2-week artists’ residency.
Christine Stevens PhD is an artist and Gestalt psychotherapist. She works through the medium of clay, exploring the haptic interface between human experience and the environment. From her base at Clay Studio, Nottingham, she engages with individuals and community groups in an experimental material practice that addresses issues of trauma, identity, and relationship. She is an international psychotherapy trainer, working in Slovenia, Lithuania, Czech Republic and Poland, specializing in creative practice, and Editor of The British Gestalt Journal. Recent work includes The Big Pot Project at the Bonington Gallery, Nottingham, and forthcoming work will be exhibited at The Royal Standard, Liverpool, as part of ‘Let your Hands do the Talking’ exhibition February 2019.