York Curiouser to hide special artworks in hidden corners of historic city

By Jeannie Swales | 10 June 2014

Event preview: York Curiouser, various venues, York, June 14 – July 7 2014

A photo of a man and woman in period costume posing by the entrance to a chapel
Dance dramatics in The Workshop of Historical Correction, which will visit the 16th century Fishergate Postern Tower for this month's Curioser festival© Tony Bartholomew / York Curiouser
Ceramic sandwiches so realistic you want to take a bite out of them; an 18th century English quadrille re-imagined by a 1930s Berliner; jewel-like hangings inspired by medieval Guild banners.

This is York Curiouser, a new project which, for three weeks from June 14, will place specially-commissioned new artworks into hidden parts of the historic city.

It’s the creation of Artistic Co-curators Hazel Colquhoun and Lara Goodband. "We wanted to bring a range of unique, high-quality, new art to a city that’s more often associated with tradition and history than with the contemporary,” they explain.

“We’ve matched artists to sites and specialists to artists, and made use of the generosity and knowledge of many partners in the city, such as the two universities, and the friends of York Walls and of the River Foss.

“We’ve asked our artists to fully exploit the possibilities created by York’s unique atmosphere, complex medieval street pattern and hidden architectural gems.

“York Curiouser is going to be full of surprises.”

Those sandwiches, cast from the real thing, are by Karen Thompson, a ceramicist who specialises in multiples.

They’ll be at large around the city for the taking – Karen, who has hand-written both her own and the York Curiouser Twitter address into each, is fascinated to see how people will respond.

The quadrille, choreographed by Lea Anderson, was danced by local volunteers, and filmed by Janet Hodgson for her artwork The Workshop of Historical Correction, which will take place on the upper floor of the 16th century Fishergate Postern Tower.

It examines how forgotten, out-of-date, wrong or misguided histories arise in a community, and sees the Georgian dancers led by Mary Wigman, who choreographed the dance routines for dada nightclub Cabaret Voltaire.

And Sally Greaves-Lord’s vivid fabric banners will flutter in the archways of St Anthony’s Gardens, directly behind St Anthony’s Hall, one of the four York guildhalls which inspired her.

Elsewhere in the city, art-lovers can visit the Red Tower (which, like the Fishergate Postern Tower, punctuates the City Walls) and peer in to see Heinrich and Palmer’s installation of light, water and mirrors play with perspective to dazzle the eye.

Poet John Wedgwood Clarke has written a new collection for the project, In Between, to be published shortly by Valley Press. His poetry will be found in the many snickets, alley and courtyards that lace the city, temporarily inscribed on the ancient walls.

He has also collaborated with sound artist Damian Murphy to produce a soundscape of words laid over the everyday noises of the city, which will be heard in the courtyard at the King’s Manor.

Artist Jacques Nimki is well-known for his work with weeds and wildflowers. He asked York locals to donate up to 300 handbags, which will be installed in and around the beautiful wildflower patch in the lovely gardens of the National Centre for Early Music, each containing an intriguing secret.

Susanne Davies masterfully uses embroidery threads to explore the nature of repetitive labour and its connection to the feminine and domestic. Her intricate and colourful piece will be found in the gardens of the Merchant Adventurer’s Hall.

And on the afternoon of June 28, Matt Hawthorn will colonise the River Foss with miniature umbrellas – you can catch this event for one day only.

The project is supported by a series of artists’ talks, workshops, family events and walking tours. The final weekend coincides with the start of the Tour de France Grand Départ in York, and is part of the 100-day Yorkshire Festival accompanying the tour and the University of York’s annual Festival of Ideas.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

A photo of a woman standing by a series of colourful flags outside stone-walled buildings
Sally Greaves with her boisterous banners© Tony Bartholomew / York Curiouser
A photo of a hand reaching for a sandwich made out of white ceramic on a tablecloth
Solid sandwiches knocked up by Karen Thompson© Tony Bartholomew / York Curiouser
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