Palaces & Cabins Review – Lisa Wigham
OSR Projects at Salisbury Arts Centre. 11 April – 18 May 2014
Public involvement, conversation and the sharing of ideas are part of the natural vocabulary of OSR Projects. The work they do from the OSR Project Space in West Coker and further afield, crossing cultures, is a conversation starter; it engages people through its processes of thinking and making, as well as seeking out unexpected ways to have impact.
The origins of Palaces & Cabins is an illustration of this, as the evocative title was born out of a discussion between Simon Lee Dicker (artist/co-founder of OSR Projects, UK), Tim Martin (artist/curator, UK) and Sasha Burlaka (architect, Ukraine) about ‘people’s palaces’ in Kiev and the changing function of buildings as dictated by the social and political upheavals that sometimes occur before our very eyes. This lead into a discussion of ‘the architecture that stands between us and brings us together’, and in the case of this response at Salisbury Arts Centre is amplified by its setting in the former church building that is its base. The exhibition also extends to interventions on the streets of Salisbury as part of their programme of work.
The creative team exploring the intersection of public/private space in this exhibition includes artists: Sam Aldridge, Tom Bayliss, Megan Calver, Simon Lee Dicker and Tim Martin; Salisbury Arts Centre Exhibitions Manager Fiona Cassidy and curators: Leela Clarke & Cara Lockley of ‘Hand in Glove’.
The work includes small interpretations of places and cabins, made in clay in the Art Centre’s ceramics studio, which intermittently occupy corners or small shelves around the Arts Centre space. This is a multi-functional building so there is always a challenge for artists to adapt to the working life of the space.
Within the more formal gallery areas of the Arts Centre, critical concepts arise in neatly made packages, such as board-games produced ‘for town planning’, cultural decision-making, and ‘failed codification’.
The traditions and architecture of the building are explored playfully by the presence of a smoke machine, operated at intervals by the front desk staff. When sunlight shines through the coloured stained glass windows, the smoke is ignited by a rainbow of colour. It is an effective use of the uniqueness of the space; it also sets up a dialogue between the staff and visiting exhibitors, offering a sense of participation and ownership.
The exhibition invites the creative team who author it, as well as members of the public, to consider palaces and cabins as they exist in their memory, imagination and everyday life in a range of formats. As well as asking for submissions of people’s personal palaces and cabins as drawings or photos, which have been made into clay models and placed around the building by the artists, visitors can craft their own palace or cabin in the creative world of ‘Minecraft’ at a desk set up next to the Art Centre’s bar.
Another option is to contribute to the ‘alternative menus’ – an effective intervention in the Arts Centre’s cafeteria. This provides an opportunity to sit and read with the comfort of a chair and table, which are sometimes underestimated as a point of contact for collaboration between artists and host venues. One of OSR’S previous restaurant-based projects was the sharing of art work as food as part of the ‘Under a New Sun’ exhibition in 2011: a collaboration between two disparate communities – diners at The Lanes contemporary hotel and restaurant and Tinkers Bubble, an ecologically focused commune and farm.
The Palaces & Cabins Menu presents a range of responses from people around the world; from people close to home with cabins as building projects they have constructed themselves, to ancient sites of curiosity. They invite us to view a range of portals of existence elsewhere that are all places of shelter. The Menu is also a vehicle for discussing wider social concerns such as the debate on affordable housing in London and the secret city bunker for a person made homeless.
In addition, this project perhaps draws upon and inspires in us another universal theme – the dream of a place to escape to.
Journeyed to Palaces & Cabins April 2014.
Based in Blackpool (UK) Lisa is an artist and founder of The Two am Press. She uses digital or traditional printmaking, such as etching, for the expression of contemporary ideas and explores landscape as an autobiographical equivalence or a mirror for thought and desire.
The Two am press was founded to make and disseminate artists multiples, taking the form of books or editions of prints.