Incase you missed it, the Bristol Biennial’s launch night was Friday 12th at the Folk House – the winning location of Shaun C Badham’s ‘I’m Staying’ which will be landing on elected buildings over the next two years. The lights are switched on, the artists are ready to exhibit, perform, talk, photograph, co-ordinate… but what’s in store over the next two weeks?
First and foremost, THIS happened this week! The fountains in Bristol city centre were ambushed by an art installation by Uncontrolled Pedestrians. The installation was hundreds of thousands of cranberries (which disappointingly turned out not to be cranberries) in the fountains on the promenade in Bristol.
Passers-by were cncouraged to get stuck in and to walk over the cranberries with the wellies provided. The fountains is a centre stage for events, so this naturally attracted alot of attention at lunchtime when we visited. One passer by even said ‘I’m guessing it must be some crazy art thing’…correct!
Here’s a snap of me looking really happy about this experience… this photo brings back flashbacks of a little 9 year old Olivia beaming at the camera!
Temporary Sculptures for Beijing Apartments
As a Bristol Biennial volunteer I was helping out at the the art installation at St Thomas the Martyr Church – the church round the back of the Fleece. It’s also off Redcliffe Street so if you work in and around the city centre you can go and pop in and check it out. The video installation is setup in the altar in the centre of the church by an artist called Nanna Lysholt Hansen from Denmark, but based in Bristol currently. The videos are of Nanna posing in the corner of an apartment in a pose similar to a Greek statue or Goddess, she’s not alone while she’s being filmed – the occupants of the apartments are also in the same room! Nanna held each pose for an hour or until she was invited to stop the performance – which one uncomfortable resident did after they couldn’t handle her lying there.
Nanna’s work not only looks at the specific feeling of discomfort when the boundaries are crossed and your personal space is interfered with but also identifies a wider social and cultural attitude to letting people into your house. I found myself watching this piece wondering how receptive Japanese residents were when it came to opening their doors to strangers in their homes? I can only associate the notion of ‘open doors’ with wealthy Western world suburban life but in the city space everything becomes much more territorial. Densely populated areas increase insecurities which then lead to closed doors.
As with all artworks in the Bristol Biennial, everything is so well thought out. The installation was setup in a way that complimented it’s religious backdrop, the hexagon shaped seat pointed the viewer to one of the six surrounding flat screen televisions which showed an hour long video on loop. Each video had sound but some had more depending on how many occupants were in the room at the time, one apartment was full of students crowding round a television watching animé while Nanna was in the corner. Another video showed an office full of 4 workers whose chat dipped in between the awkwardness of ‘her’ [Nanna] being in the room to questioning one of the workers about a date, as Nanna pointed out, the occupants become the subjects of the video rather than Nanna. Nanna is a common denominator in each video, her presence prompts a different atmosphere in each apartment but essentially the focus is on how this unnatural presence is a test of our comfort levels within a personal or confined area.
We were lucky to be visited by Nanna who stayed for an hour or so talking to us about the artwork aswell as viewers who recognised her from the artwork.
It felt really great to speak to the artist herself and to get some more insight into the artwork – a luxury we’re not used to having when we look at artwork. It therefore meant that I could go into a bit more detail with onlookers. Working in the church on the same day as the Bristol Open doors day was exhausting as we counted a footfall of up to 160 people. Of those 160 people, we managed to lure in more than half into the details of the exhibition. Nanna’s artwork is a challenging piece for the viewer to take in, it’s awkwardness is confrontational and given how some of the visitors weren’t intending to see artwork everyone seemed really open minded.
The work of the volunteers at the Bristol Biennial has really helped transform the art pieces, they generate a crowd which means the artwork is a bit more inviting and easier to approach. There are some people (including Alex, pictured above with Nanna) who have given days and days of volunteer support which is amazing to see.
You can still get involved…
- Read my post on the 6 must sees at the Bristol Biennial
- Why not catch the Grass Men at St Andrew’s Park and Northern Slopes? Read more here
- Hug is a lovely interactive art piece taking place at Trinity Centre and Grain Barge next weekend (20th/21st September) Find out more here
- Get involved with an outdoor sound installation next Saturday at the Baggator in Easton. Find out more information here
Nanna Lysholt Hansen Website
Find out more about St Thomas the Martyr Church Website