Artranspennine 08 Mixes Cyber And Real Worlds To Present New Art

By Richard Moss | 12 June 2008
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a photograph of a rugby ball with writing on it

Jason Minsky, Out of the Ground. © the artist

The largest trans regional art exhibition in the UK has taken on a new and innovative form – thanks to cyber technology and the determination of a small band of artists and curators.

Artranspennine08 is the third incarnation of a major art festival which first appeared in 1998 and reached out from Manchester and Liverpool across the Pennine region taking in Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.

With a £3m budget, the inaugural version was a grand affair that featured works by a range of emerging and major international artists such as Taro Chiezo and Anya Gallacio. However, when it appeared again in 2003 it had a total budget of £533 and the original plan for an event happening every five years to challenge London’s dominance in the contemporary art scene has since been facing an uncertain future.

Now, new web technologies and the social networking scene have rescued the ailing art event and are taking it in a new direction.

This year’s festival, which runs from June 14 and August 15, sees over fifty emerging and established artists placing artworks, staging events, making videos, and hosting exhibitions in cyberspace and in multiple venues and locations throughout the Pennines. From Hull to Liverpool, Sheffield to Manchester artists will be creating fascinating responses to the notion of the Transpennine region first mooted in 1998.

a photograph of a pair of mannequin legs sticking out of a bush

Janet Griffiths presents the further fantasy flying adventures of her alter ego ‘Wendy’. © the artist

“It’s not official in any way, no one has sought proper permission, it’s a kind of guerrilla activity in a way,” explained co-curator Paul Harfleet, who along with Hilary Jack is reinterpreting Artranspennine from a new cultural perspective. “Our curatorial stance is to let the exhibition we have inherited speak for itself - so many of the artists who have participated have commented on that process.”

The result is an art festival that uses both the online and real worlds to present work of a group of emerging artists who are already conversant with cheap and easy ways of promoting their work on the internet.

“I think this kind of thing would not have been so successful five years ago,” added Paul, “we have already got some videos on You Tube which are a part of it, we have a Facebook group and the Transpennine 08 website is essentially a free blog.”

A lot of the artwork is online – every artist has their own page on the blog with text and images that will continue to be curated and added to throughout the exhibition. “There will also be details of locations where work is placed,” added Paul, “a kind of real world meets virtual world.”

In the real world Jason Minsky will be placing rugby balls in fields around Leeds and inviting people to play rugby as per instructions on the balls. Janet Griffiths will be experimenting with a pair of Mannequins legs as a further exploration of her alter ego Wendy.

a photograph of a temporary building on a coastline with the words instant camera on the side

Karen Gaskill will install a camera obscura on the Peninnes. © Karen Gaskill

Other real world interventionists include Becky Boley who is going to take the train from Sheffield to Manchester with a bag of Sheffield soil. At the first stop she will get off the train, dig a hole, replace the soil with the Sheffield soil and repeat the process at every stop to Manchester.

Lisa Penny has made a satirical video about trade in the region during the industrial revolution, which is hosted on You Tube, Karen Gaskill plans to install a blacked out tent at a viewpoint somewhere on the transpennine way and use it as a camera obscura, where passers by can lie down inside and watch the view. She will then run a blog site and encourage people to post images, film clips they have taken on the site.

But whether online, real world or a mixture of the two, the curators are proud of the fact that the whole enterprise revolves around a website that has been built using simple blog technology.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do it if we didn’t have free blogs,” added Paul. “To have a website that has the same capabilities as a normal website and the fact we can activate so many artists has been invaluable - there’s over fifty artists now taking part and it’s growing daily.”

a photograph of a person digging a hole

Becky Bowley, Transmerge. © the artist

“We’ve been able to email each other or contact each other on Facebook and some of the artists have set up separate Facebook groups for some of the work and there are special blogs which have links within our blogs.”

With curators who have embraced cyber activity, using a blog as a central hub and exhibition spaces on Photobucket, Facebook and Youtube, Artranspennine08 points to future strategies to help artists to get together and present their work.

“We have inherited the exhibition for 2008 and the next one in is in 2013 – so another curator somebody else could take it – it’s up for grabs,” added Paul. “But I think it reflects the way that more and more artists have blogs rather than their own websites and it’s a really good way of getting your art out there.”

Artranspennine08 takes place in multiple sites across the transpennine region between June 13 and August 15 2008. See the website for more details.

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