Finding space to critique C Words

14 Nov 2009 jane

As one of five C Words Co-Realizers one of my jobs is to reflect on the events which take place in the gallery. Yet, within the walls of Arnolfini I find it hard to find intellectual space or critical distance from the work.

Fortunately, I shan’t be based in Bristol for the whole of our two month run of events. Each time I leave the city – it seems – I can begin to clarify my thoughts on the provocative discussionsfilms and story-telling I have absorbed.

I climb aboard a stopping-train which makes slow, meditative progress through the Wiltshire countryside. Autumn sunshine is a gift to these rolling chalk hills and I cannot help but smile as I take in the view.

If an artist sets themselves the task of creating beautiful objects it is hard to imagine that any human creativity might match the beauty inherent in the ever-changing view from the window of a railway-carriage. A rail journey is a unique screenplay, different each time the film is played.

For the first week of the C Words show a banner hung on the far wall of gallery three at Arnolfini: “The measure of the new days is a love of the surface of the earth like the skin of a lover.”

Just as there are certain curves of a lover’s body which captivate one’s imagination, which form indelible memories, I believe that each of us may love the earth with similar specificity. We need not love the whole less, merely because we find a certain spot captivating. For me, perhaps my greatest love is these chalk hills, an archipelago of downland running variously through Wiltshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and into Kent.

C Words sets out to address the questions “How did you get here, and where are we going.” A pair of questions which may be as banal or as profound as the reader makes them. There is a deliberate geography in these questions, Here and There may be metaphorical but need not be.

PLATFORM’s intention is to catalyse long-term thinking, to address social and environmental concerns over generational time-scales. I believe that a sense of place is important in addressing such questions. A two month residency in Bristol is a departure for PLATFORM, which has – over the past 25 years – rooted the bulk of its work firmly in the Thames valley.

Yet PLATFORM has always been outward-looking, in the 1990s PLATFORM’s Homeland project addressed issues of Home and of identity with expatriate communities in London amid the conflicts which tore apart Yugoslavia. More recently, campaigning has focussed on justice for minoritised communities in Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey as BP has constructed and operated a hydrocarbon corridor through these countries in the form of its Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline. Current PLATFORM projects: Unravelling the Carbon Web and Remember Saro-Wiwa highlight the significance of London as an oil-city while focussing on the needs of oil affected communities in the Canadian province of Alberta and in the Niger Delta in Nigeria.

C Words takes place within this context, less a part of the contemporary art world, more a manifestation in the worlds of political transformation and environmental defence. Perhaps it is this positioning which leaves me unable to digest the content of C Words whilst standing in a gallery. Similarly, we invite our audience less to look at the work, more to talk about the issues it raises. While events in the gallery have given me much to think about, it is autumn sunshine on rolling chalk hills which reminds me of my lover.

C Words Co-Realizer.

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