Forest of Dean, artist, libraries, people, books, blogs = Cabinet of Local change

And finally, we get the funding to deliver a project!

Are Community Libraries really more than books? Absolutely!!
Artist in Residence to explore the art of blogging – and teach others how to do the same.

Thanks to being supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas, Flow Contemporary Arts is pleased to begin a pilot ‘Cabinet’ project, working with Gloucester artist Simon Ryder, in the Forest of Dean. The grant is local funding for local activity and we’re really looking forward to meeting people in 2 community libraries in the area. We’ll be at Mitcheldean Community Library at 10.00-12.OOam on Monday 13th May, Monday 3rd June and Monday 17th June, and Newnham on Severn Library the same dates – but from 2-4pm. Don’t worry if you miss the first one, just come and join in on the 3rd June.

Artist Simon Ryder is known for creating multi-disciplinary artworks in response to places and people. Simon and Carolyn have experience of working on projects like this together – most recently for Exploratory Laboratory (, part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad in Dorset.

By meeting with library communities and volunteers, the project will look at change at a local level and how we might explore it creatively. We’re interested in how the new libraries can evolve into community hubs and be ‘more than books’. By commissioning an artist, the project introduces new approaches to how we think about books, libraries, blogs, nature the forest and technology. You can read the whole press release on the website.

Or download a poster: Are Community Libraries more than books? Absolutely!

Flow is looking for partners to commission more cabinets, she has in mind a collection that can tour and change as they go, cross-pollinating audiences and places, stories and artworks.

And as an aside, I recently visited the Diffusion photography festival in cardiff. Don’t miss it, there’s some great work there, see this blog for review!

Here’s an image to tempt you, Strude by Trine Sondergaard

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Flow Contemporary Arts’ first-ever project, in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire with Simon Ryder

Are Community Libraries really more than books?


Artist in Residence Simon Ryder explores the art of blogging and teaches others to do it too. Join us to learn more at the following dates and times:

Mitcheldean Community Library


Monday 13th May, 3rd June and 17th June

Newnham Community Library


Monday 13th May, 3rd June and 17th June


Flow Contemporary Arts is delighted to have been awarded funding from Forest of Dean Local Action, part of the RDPE programme for England, to initiate the ‘Cabinet of Local Change’ project at two community libraries, during May and June this summer.

At the meetings we’ll tell you a bit more about what we’re doing, but more importantly, Simon would like to discover how changes in the nature world of the forest affect you. How did changes in the past affect your life? What current changes in the nature of the forest might affect you in the future? Your answers will help Simon understand more about the forest – the people that live here and what makes it unique.

What you tell Simon will inform the stories he tells about change – not in a book form, but online – as a blog.

And if you fancy having a go at blogging yourself, we’re here to help. We’ll go through the basics and explore how computers can add to the wonderful world of words that Libraries provide!

If you are in the Forest, please download and share poster:  Are Community Libraries really more than books

blog image for flyers

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Supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development: Europe investing in rural areas

important report by ACE evidencing economic value of the arts, please RT

This independent report was commissioned by the Arts Council and conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). It is the first comprehensive analysis to determine this value to the modern economy on a national scale.

The key findings include:

– arts and culture make up 0.4 per cent of GDP – a significant return on the less than 0.1 per cent of government spending invested in the sector
– arts and culture is a sector of significant scale with a turnover of £12.4 billion and a GVA of £5.9 billion in 2011
– arts and culture generate more per pound invested than the health, wholesale and retail, and professional and business services sectors.
– the arts and culture sector provides 0.45 per cent of total UK employment and 0.48 per cent of total employment in England.
– at least £856 million per annum of spending by tourists visiting the UK can be attributed directly to arts and culture
– the economic contribution of the arts and cultural sector has grown since 2008, despite the UK economy as a whole remaining below its output level before the global financial crisis

Diffusion Festival in Cardiff, review of part of symposium – of history and culture bombs and strudes

On Friday 3rd May I attended the Diffusion Symposium in Cardiff. Diffusion Festival is:

A month long festival of exhibitions, discussions, screenings, performances, events and celebrations in both physical and virtual spaces and places.

I found the whole day fascinating for many reasons, which I will touch upon here. The first thing that hit me was the abundance of men attending – and it raised my awareness of how visual arts events are often attended by a majority of women. And I wonder, is there any research anywhere about this? I’d love to read it if anyone could point me to it. My immediate concern was that the symposium would be punctuated by questions about F-stops and aperture settings, phew, what a relief that it wasn’t! (Maybe that’s a slightly sexist remark, for which I am ok to apologise for and don’t wish to offend anyone).

The first speaker was Richard Wentworth “I don’t do the internet – the wiki about me is probably all wrong” – always a delight and never talking in a straight line – a bit like Eddie Izard with a visual arts bias. Wonderful. And quite a jolt really for a symposium that was about photography, as we would find out later. Indeed I feel that Richard’s narrative that he wove so eloquently at the start was the thread that bound the following speakers in a playful and lyrical way.

A few gems that Richard came up with:

Photography – a history bomb

Photography – sad, always in the past, a memory vessel

Photography – it is ambiguity in photography that makes it art

A baby = a culture bomb

A question: “Is the sky the last nature we have left?” (This is a great one in relation to Next Nature)

Daniel Blaufuks talked about his work, which was deeply concerned with photography as a process, possibly even a nostalgia and yearning for the photographic methods of the past bound up in using digital technology to conserve them, or to raise dialogue about them. His images are certainly memory vessels, which Richard had referred to. Daniel’s comment that stays in my mind is:

The role of photography is to think – not click

The reason it stuck is because it is the opposite of what Richard had said about the way he used photography. He basically clicks and explores them later, finding relationships. Neither right nor wrong, just an interesting rub for the mind.

Next up was Trine Sondergaard, a Danish photographer. The opening images were form her “How to Hunt’ collection, huge, sublime images of hunters, seductive and mesmerising. But my favourites were asset of images entitled ‘Strude’. A set of close up portraits of women and girls wearing a traditional costume from an island:

I’m interested in what lies beyond the direct gaze, in what happens when we can’t look people in the eye.  My focus is the introversion and mental space that lies beyond the image.  And time or duration in the coexistence of different times in consciousness. In Strude this is reflected in the inclusion of different elements of the past and the present, but also in the duration of the gaze itself – the mechanisms of reading or decoding the image. Especially in a contemporary Western context, where the controlling power of surveillance and scrutiny are highly present in the polemics of burqa debates and mask bans.

Here the covered faces and tightly buttoned dresses in Strude are highly resonant. The ‘strude’ clearly delineates what is hidden and raises the question of what is exposed in the image. What is said and unsaid. Just as the codes of the dresses remain an island secret for the uninitiated, I wanted to explore what happens when the meeting between the gaze of the subject and the viewer is deflected and denied. (See website for more)

Trine’s work certainly fits Richard’s comment about ambiguity well.


Then Gideon Koppel, a photographer that makes films. Which is, in my mind, entirely acceptable, as they are so closely related. I saw his film later, showing at Chapter, well worth seeing. It is a linear portrait of a place, Borth, a row of houses built with their backs to the sea. Desolate and abandoned during the winter months, the camera pans along the row, slightly slower than walking pace. I made a list of things I saw in the film:

  • A TV arial that looked like a fish skeleton
  • Flapping rubbish that looks like a lame seagull
  • Very little life
  • Rarely do people appear
  • Glimpses of cars appeared between the houses, on the other side (they faced the road, not the sea)
  • Empty hammocks, ragged
  • A picture of a chicken in a shed window
  • Dereliction
  • Emptiness
  • Occasionally a voice was heard, but mostly the roar of the sea
  • Lack of colour, sometimes a flash of red, startling

The video player wasn’t working but you can see more about Gideon in an interview.

I’m only reflecting on the photographers from the morning session here. There is a lot to see in Cardiff at present and I highly recommend you try and get there to enjoy the Diffusion Festival across the city. Don’t miss The Brothers by Elin Hoyland in the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay. Or the Time Machine by Edgar Martins at Ffotogallery.

Just go!!!!

lovely new publication out today, images and texts and comments about ExLab from last year, free download

Projects like ExLab in Dorset take a while to reflect upon. As always, with art projects that are research led and installed at the last minute into their exhibition location, documenting them prior to launch is impossible. (I mention that on my home page and illustrate it with a series of slides from Dialogue Project of 2013). With the scattered sites, on beaches, in cottages and on cliff tops  we decided to produce a pre-show catalogue giving the backstory to the research and release  a later one that would share lots of lovely images, alongside comments from artists, visitors  stewards and others involved. It’s been set free today and I’m very pleased to be able to share it with you here, as a download. It’s always good to know the context of work as it makes the experience even richer on reflection.

As a growing story I think you will see how a has developed over the years, it’s a brilliant project. For good measure, and so that you can see the “Big Picture” – after all, it was Big Picture that commissioned ExLab, I’ve also made available the other 2 handbooks. See below for links.

ExLab 1 handbook 2010-2011

ExLab 2 handbook 2011-2012

ExLab 2 documentation  2012

Overlay by Mat Chivers

new links to things that I think about a lot lately, technospheres, nature and flow

So many things have inspired my work, it’s difficult to find the space for them all!

Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi asks, “What makes a life worth living?” Noting that money cannot make us happy, he looks to those who find pleasure and lasting satisfaction in activities that bring about a state of “flow.” raises some good questions about nature and technology in a non-judgemental way. I like that, no preaching.

This website will radically shift your notion of nature. Our image of nature as static, balanced and harmonic is naive and up for reconsideration. Where technology and nature are traditionally seen as opposed, they now appear to merge or even trade places.

On the nextnature app I found the film Pimp my Planet by Studio Smack. A true inspiration! I find it very powerful – some find it scary, some depressing, but I find it thought provoking. Do we really believe that humans are all powerful? If the planet is badly damaged by us, are we the right people to fix it? Are the countries shifting politically, or maybe physically, as they did when the tectonic plates slipped around? Or during the Ice Age? Are we so detached from the place we live in, that it is no more than a virtual concept? Have we forgotten what it feels like to put our hands in soil, in the ocean, or gaze at the clouds? And importantly, can art in unusual places help us to re-consider the thing we call nature and think of these things in a different way?

Can nature still bring about a state of flow?

And then there’s Technobiophilia by Sue Thomas.

The New Natural Symposium
SemiconductorProf. Sue Thomas and Squidsoup
Saturday 25th May 10.30am-5pm
SVA, 4 John St, Stroud GL5 2HA
Installation Friday 24th-Sunday 26th May 11am-4pm Goods Shed, Stroud GL5 3AP

Modern technology and the natural world are often seen in opposition, the former perceived as either destroying or at least disconnecting us from the latter. So what of a new relationship, a new approach towards the natural world that reconnects us in ways only possible through the use of technology? The New Natural will bring together three people whose work explores different aspects of this question. A day of presentations at 4 John Street, a film installation in the Brunel Goods Shed, interwoven with good food and finishing with an open discussion led by Rob la Frenais of The Arts Catalyst.

The New Natural is presented by Heart of Wonder in collaboration with SVA, and supported by Alias.

Tickets £12 including lunch and refreshments £20 for weekend inclusive of evening events. Booking is essential as places are limited 01453 751440 or email


In response to the need, Flow now offers support for artists with their online presence

So many people say they struggle with creating an online presence, I thought I’d do something about it. So as part of my Flow Advice, I’m open to enquiries about setting up a blog and linking with social media.

Through the mentoring I do, is evident that one of the difficulties for many artists is how to create an online presence. Read marketing books and they will encourage you to use banners and sell sell sell. Techies will suggest expensive Flash sites, animations and costly gadgetry. Whilst they are great, they are not necessarily what artists need. Artists need something that reflects them and their work, that tells their story. They need help setting up something that is free (or at least cheap) and that they can maintain themselves in the future.

Having a website linked with social media is important. A website without the add-ons is like shouting into a void. It’s like  a printer with no cartridges, or pen with no ink – you have no way of getting the word out there.

For some this is a daunting prospect – setting up a blog and how to link it with social media can be the last thing on your to do list, constantly dropping to the bottom. I can help – I’ve always had a penchant for technology and used to make art with and about it. I now commission art that explores it. Enjoying writing helps – but I understand not everybody does – so exploring other ways of working can be a creative process, even enjoyable!

And this may sound a little odd, until you do it, but sorting out in your mind what you need on your website can help you sort out your practice and priorities. If you want to discuss how, contact me and we can arrange to have a chat about it.

one year ago I blogged about an idea to create something – Flow is the something

On 4th April 2012 I blogged the following:

Very interesting post by Michael Echols of RSA.

The old corporate cliché that ‘our people are our greatest asset’ is based on a fundamental truth. Michael Echols FRSA argues that the way we evaluate economic success and the impact of investment in people needs to reflect this.

In a knowledge-driven economy, organisations depend on the intelligence, talents, skills and expertise of their employees to create value.

The problem is that our macroeconomic theories, standard accounting protocols, evaluation tools and decision-making structures do not allow us to properly recognise, value and invest in these seemingly intangible, yet vital, assets.

The benefits of social networks are now recognised more as having value, people are important, communications are vital – especially when working with multiple partners. I am not sure whether these strengths can be simulated or learnt on a course – they are slow to acquire – like good friends in life are. I’m researching setting up an agency that will act as a conduit for networks and communications – a system that provides a two-directional flow. And delivers arts projects. Exchange – not leading from the front – mutuality, not power – partnership and joint-thinking, not competition.

As Echols states:

But the challenge is to make such intangible value more tangible, and therefore suitable for investment-based approaches to human capital development. This will require specific, executable actions that policy makers and executive decision-makers can take to create value for individuals, organisations and nations.

I’ve always liked a challenge and delivering executable actions.



TODAY’S RESPONSE: Is it really only a year?