Paradigms is an exhibition of work by emerging artists in Aberdeen and Plymouth, curated by Rachel Grant. Paradigms are systems of ideas, values and practice that constitute a way of viewing reality as such the artists’ works are wide ranging in character, explored through their everyday environments and include multi-media installation, sculpture and photography.
Paradigms can’t be talked about without speaking to the paradigm shift that has been two years. The Covid-19 pandemic has altered the world in unpresented and historic ways, the effects of which have been felt in the world in societies and territories the world over and created new conditions for artists and cultural workers. These continuing shifts are present in the artist’s work which have all been made over the past eighteen months. At times dealt with through concepts of isolation, healing and queer identity in the context of national lockdowns and a ‘new normal’. Through the exhibition others have had the opportunity to realise fully works that were previously adapted for online spaces, newly commissioned works from artists in Aberdeen reflects a tentative opening up as new bodies of work were made during an international residency. The exhibition includes artists; Molly Erin McCarthy, Rhys Morgan, Carly Seller, Phoebe McBride and Abby Beatrice Quick and a newly commissioned text from writer Tilly Craig.
The public programme will host a series of online talks from those involved in the exhibition. It also includes Where do we go from here? a series of conversational events produced by and for those working in the visual arts sector in Aberdeen. The events will be used as a space to gather around issues of diversity, support and politics within the arts ecology and invite contributions on the current conditions and future possibilities for those working in the visual arts sector of Aberdeen.
Saturday 9th October 4.30pm - Online talk
Free event but booking required at this link
Tuesday 26th October 6pm - online talk
Free but booking required at this link
Where do we go from here? is a series of four conversational events that invite contributions, questions and future possibilities for Aberdeen’s Arts Ecology from those working in the sector. In July of 2021 the British Art Show 9 [BAS9], the biggest touring exhibition of contemporary art in the UK arrived to Aberdeen Art Gallery. It was framed as a significant moment for the city and its creative and cultural sector. A significant moment certainly – but under what terms? For who? And for how long? The BAS9 will have no significance beyond the walls of the gallery unless the arts and cultural ecology make it so.
An arts ecology is the many interdependent networks of society and economy that shape the demand for the production of arts and cultural offerings. This includes relationships between the organisations, individual cultural workers, policy makers, as well as wider communities. It can be thought of as the ‘spaces’ in which visual art is produced and shown. It can also be thought of in relation to issues of power, responsibility, support and diversity for example. This constellation sometimes makes articulating and mapping these relationships and the real lived conditions they produce challenging as individuals.
The events use an approach of co-authorship to begin to generate knowledge on the existing conditions that inform Aberdeen’s visual arts sector; the opportunities and challenges. Whilst posing questions to ourselves and each other; What are our needs? What are the future possibilities? and where do we go from here? This focuses on non-hierarchical models of facilitation and is open to all those whose work contributes to the visual arts sector of Aberdeen, who are willing and able to contribute their time.
The programme will open up ways of contributing, for those unable to physically attend through using digital forms such as googledrive. The material generated will be documented and disseminated back into public via online platforms inviting this work to collectively continue beyond the programme itself.
This model reflects there is not one definitive answer to development, arts ecologies at their best are diverse, disagreeable and divergent and operate on multiple levels over time. The programme hopes to be a space to gather and continue the ground work for future possibilities.
In person events - free but booking required, at this link
Wednesday 6th 6-8.30pm
Tuesday 12th 2-4.30pm
Friday 22nd 6-8.30pm
Thursday 28th 2.00-4.30pm
Location: Look Again Project Space, Aberdeen 32 St Andrew Street Aberdeen AB25 1JA
Full details of the programme and ways of participating online can be found in the PDF below.
An exhibition featuring new work from artists and writers Ashanti Harris, Alison Scott and Shane Strachan, curated by Fertile Ground.
CRUDE is an exhibition exploring our complex relationship to crude oil which focuses on the sticky interplays of politics, culture and ecology through newly commissioned works from artists and writers; Ashanti Harris, Alison Scott, and Shane Strachan. The project has situated oil as an agent of transformation and invited the commissioned practitioners to think through the implications of oil’s ability to dominate all political, social and economic life the world over.
Located in Aberdeen, the previously self-proclaimed ‘Oil Capital of Europe’, the exhibition aims to take a critical lens to oil in local, national and international contexts. The works drill down into aspects of oil narratives which are often projected as fluid and creating wealth for all. Instead they operate in the friction, making visible counter narratives and reflecting on the ways on which fossil fuels make identities.
For the duration of the exhibition selected texts and publications will be available providing a further insight into the discourse of crude oil. Including locally produced publications of Aberdeen Peoples Press ‘Oil Over Troubled Water. A Report and Critique of Oil Developments in North East Scotland’ and selected editions of ‘BlowOut’ magazine a publication produced by and for oil workers in the North East.
The project has been supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland’s Open Fund: Sustaining Creative Development and Look Again.
Decommissioning Fictions: After Oil Imaginaries.
What do we mean when we say and think “after oil” and how might cultural work help (or hinder) that process? Talk by researcher Graeme MacDonald.
The event is free however booking is required
Date: Friday 3rd of September 6.30pm - 7.30pm
Location: Look Again project space, 32 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen AB25 1JA, United Kingdom
‘Energy Politics and Just Transition’ A number of speakers brought together with support from Creative Carbon Scotland as part of their Green Tease programme.
The event is free however booking is required
Date: Saturday 4th September 1pm-3pm
Location: Look Again project space, 32 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen AB25 1JA, United Kingdom.
Exhibition opening hours:
Duration: 28th August – 12th September 2021.
Opening night: Friday 27th August 6-7.30pm
Location: Look Again project space, 32 St Andrew Street, Aberdeen AB25 1JA, United Kingdom
Delighted to announce the beginnings of 'Imagining St Fittick's', a series of online conversational events that share stories, experiences and future imaginaries of St Fittick's park, Torry, Aberdeen.
St Fittick’s Park is currently under threat from industrial development in the form of the Energy Transition Zone [ETZ]. Consultation with members of the Hands of our Green Spaces in Torry steering group highlighted a want to think beyond the proposal to imagine the future of St Fitticks, through community engagement,stewardship, arts and educational programmes.
At a time when we’re forced to be socially distant, these online conversations hope to create an informal social space for sharing questions, stories, experiences, and future imaginaries within St Fittick’s park.
The conversational series are free to attend and open to everyone. Specific dates will be updated regularly via social media; visit @fertilegroundarts (Facebook) for more information or contact us through the website.
The conversational events are part of a larger project made possible by the generous support of The Visual Artist and Craft Maker Awards. VACMA Aberdeen Scheme is jointly funded through Creative Scotland and Aberdeen City Council.
The project is part of a new, long term research enquiry considering energy politics and cultural imaginary. The beginnings of which are grounded in the proposed Energy Transition Zone [ETZ] Torry, Aberdeen.
Globally the rapid development of renewable energy infrastructure is often propelled by the same apparatus as oil; the radical simplification of bio/social worlds, the power of private finance applied to the force of public planning, and a disregard for the communities and land that have no value to them. If you are interested in the long term research, please don't hesitate to get in touch via the contact page.
Fertile Ground is delighted to announce a new curatorial project 'CRUDE'. The project explores our complex relationship to crude oil and focuses on the sticky interplays of politics, culture and ecology. Supporting new commissions of work from visual artists Ashanti Harris and Alison Scott and writer Shane Strachan. We'll be drilling down into aspects of cultural identities, material histories, mineral extraction the proximities and narration of oil and much more with a public outcome in 2021.
Since the discovery of oil in the North Sea, oil exploration and development transformed the economic, social and political geography of Scotland in general, and Aberdeen in particular. During the research and development we'll be reaching out to multiple communities, researchers, workers and as such we would welcome conversations with people interested in the projects subject. You can get in touch via Facebook @Fertilegroundarts or through this websites contact from.
The project is supported by Creative Scotland, through the Open Fund: Sustaining Creative Development Programme.
For further information on the work of the artists visit their websites:
Delighted to announce a three day exhibition and event series 'States of Living: Architecture, Objects, Body' with visual artist and performer Alexandra McGregor, and writers/performance artists Hanna Gia Louise and Mae Diansangu.
Architecture reflects states of rapid regeneration and new developments are often a sign of progress for a city. Where the old collides with the new, the preservation of social and cultural histories is often lost or in ruins. This suggests that architecture is far more than simple bricks and water; these structures reveal the histories, hopes, power struggles and culture of the society we live in today. The project has focused on commissioning new works from artists with critical feminist perspectives to investigate the political conditions of architectures in Aberdeen.
The exhibition showcases a new body of work from Alexandra McGregor in response to the Aberdeen comb factory that once stood on Hutcheon Street as a site of the city’s industrial past and the use of comb imagery in Pictish stones embedded in rural North-East landscapes. Through a collection of new drawings, sculpture, film and performance Alexandra takes advantage of slippages in historical truths and North-East folklore to explore female potential historic and present. Channeling the power of a site, body or object, disrupting archives or paying homage to an ancient land goddess venerated by the Picts. The work unearths cultural histories, untangling and questioning to situate allegories of the present and post female.
‘Intersections’ by Hanna Gia Louise and Mae Diansangu is a series of written and visual representations of womxhood, body and urban environment. Through this collaborative process the work explores how two queer bodies intersect with one another, the built environment and heteronormative, patriarchal spaces. It comments on the tension between the narratives which are inscribed on ‘female’ bodies and the personal, subjective narrative of those bodies. A selection of the images were developed in collaboration with Hannah and Mae’s friend Lise Bos, a non-binary analog photographer, based in Aberdeen.
All events are free, however their are limited places. Please use the links to book a space.
Friday 17th January. Preview night. 6pm – 9pm.
Performance of ‘The Comb Crone’ by Alexandra McGregor 7pm
Saturday 18th January. Opening hours 10 – 5pm.
Talk from Jenny Brown from AAGM on the history of the combworks in Aberdeen. 2-3pm.
Sunday 19th January. Opening hours 10 - 4pm. 2-3.30 pm Public reading group of speculative fiction writer Ursula Le Guin’s ‘The Carrier Bag theory of fiction’
This project has been made possible through Creative funding from Aberdeen city council.
Queen Street, Aberdeen
Alexandra McGregor is a visual artist and performer based in Aberdeen. Her work explores feminine rites and traditions seeking out and questioning the present and post female. The narratives within her practice are embedded in historical material with her performances acting as recording mechanisms that seek to unearth ideas around the contemporary female.
Alexandra graduated in 2017 from Gray’s School of Art and from 2017-18 was Graduate in Residence for the Contemporary Art department. She has exhibited at the RSA New Contemporaries (2018) at the Scottish National Gallery Edinburgh, and ‘Positive Geographies’ as part of the Look Again festival (2018). More recently she has exhibited and performed in group exhibitions organised by Nomad. Alexandra currently works as a volunteer Gallery Assistant for Grampian Hospital Arts Trust at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
Hanna Gia Louise & Mae Diansangu
Hanna Gia Louise is an anthropology student, writer and performer who explores queerness, sexuality, relationships and adversity through autobiographical performance poetry.
Mae Diansangu is a performance artist who uses spoken word and music to explore queerness, gender and race - particularly their intersections and the liminal spaces they produce.
In 2018 Hanna and Mae co-founded the arts collective and performance night Hysteria, which showcases the work of women and non-binary creatives in Aberdeen. They are part of the city’s emerging underground queer performance scene where art and activism merge to elevate queer feminist perspectives.
hysteria instagram: @hysteriaABDN
hanna instagram: @anthr0boi
mae instagram: @maemondo_369
Arrived in Rio de Janeiro to the warmest of welcomes from the staff at Despina; Consuelo Bassanesi, Frederico Pellachin and Pablo Ferretti.
Settling into the rhythm of the city with visits to the Museu de Arte Moderna with exhibitions by Sonia Andrade '...bills', Zanine 100 years - Shape and Strength, and a selection of Films and Video works from the Itaú Cultural Collection.
And to A Gentil Carioca to see 'Yellow Fever' by Vivian Caccuri. The artist uses Yellow Fever (its history of migration and it's fever status on the body), to explore a history of Brazil. Full of generosity and detail to the material the subject of Yellow fever becomes a carrier bag for the history and speculative future of Brazilians's resistance to and protection against this virus.
In company with the work of Apolinário (stylist from São Paulo), who translated Caccuri's speculative fictions into clothing. Both protective and performative clothing.
States of living: Architecture, Body. Object
This month's reading group included "Women vs Feminism: Do We Need Liberating from the Gender Wars?" by Joanna Williams, selected by Louise Foreman and 'Volcano Saga' (1989) by artist Joan Jonas, selected by Zsa Zsa MacGregor.
'Women vs Feminism'
Louise was particularly interested in the relationship of class conflict within feminist dialogue. Given that the project involves practitioners in their twenties, thirties and fifties the discussion allowed an opportunity to position particular questions and critiques of contemporary feminist practice.
Williams positions that feminism's as an ideology is placed beyond criticism and at times, unintentionally promotes an idea of women as vulnerable, and as victims that is often at odds with reality. Through a continuous process of reinvention, citing the #Metoo as it's most recent iteration of fourth - wave feminism. Williamson argues that this movement is taking women away from liberation and increasingly towards an illiberal future. She relates her critique as a movement of feminist practice from the political, to a cultural narrative and in doing so feminism's benefits become for the elite, professional feminist far more than the ordinary woman.
'Volcano Saga' (1989)
Volcano Saga by Joan Jonas was originally performed live, featuring media artist Jonas on stage narrating a thirteenth century Icelandic folktale about a woman named Gudrun whose adventures revolved around four mysterious dreams that required the services of a soothsayer.
Translated into film, Jonas is no longer the narrator of the events as actors fill the roles of Gudrun and the soothsayer. Zsa Zsa was particularly interested in the re- telling of myth, framed by an auto - biographical introduction. Whilst collecting footage for the work in Iceland, Jona's car was blown of the road. The video work allowed for a conversation on the approaches to multi - layered narratives, folk lore and place as well as the role of translation from live work to video.
This months reading group was hosted at the home of Rachel Grant, with homemade lentil dahl and naan breads.
About Joanna Williams
Williams is Senior Lecturer in Higher Education at the University of Kent and Education Editor at Spiked, the online current affairs magazine. She speaks and writes regularly in the media on higher education, schools, gender, feminism, children, and families.
Women versus feminism
About Joan Jonas
Born in 1936 in New York, Joan Jonas is a pioneer of performance and video art. Jonas works in video, installation, sculpture and drawing and often collaborates with musicians and dancers.
Fertile Ground is delighted to announce a residency on the island of Unst, Britain's most northerly, inhabited island.
The project is hosted by artist Tony Humbleyard at Shorestation, a residency space on the island and is one of a series of residencies over the course of the summer months. 'Walking the spaces' explores issues of sustainability, transition and the challenges of the climate emergency for remote island communities.
The project's research is framed by the Plantie Crubs on the island. These are traditional structures for planting food communally however they are currently vacant. The Plantie Crubs become a site for investigating land ownership, social history and current land use practices on the island.
The project includes: Artist Tony Humbleyard, Dancer/Choreographer Kathryn Spence, Filmaker/editor Keiba Clubb and Landscape architect Sarah Long. An archive of the work will be presented to the community heritage centre, Shetland museum and archives and through an online platform.
Many thanks to the Sponsors of this project, NorthLink Ferries.
States of living: Architecture, Object Body
It's been a busy few weeks on the project so far, with the artists Zsa Zsa McGregor and Louise Foreman meeting for the first time. The session was framed by responses to collectively reading “The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction”, from “Dancing at the Edge of the World” by Ursula Le Guin, whilst creating space to share the development of work with each other.
Le Guin's text presents the theory that the first tool used by humans was a carrier bag for food rather than a weapon. Le Guin draws connections between the story of origins and the writing of fiction. That contrary of stories of the hero in battle the novel is a feminine form, because it opposes this notion. Le Guin maintains that, “the natural, proper, fitting shape of the novel might be that of a sack, a bag...holding things in particular, powerful relation to one another and to us.”(p.152)
The text offered a platform to consider applications of this theory in arts practice as one of holding 'things' in tension. Within arts practice, how is attention given to the people, stories, theories and materials the are worked with: What's in your carrier bag? The text also situated tensions in the use of historical/archival material within the research, through questioning authorship and the role of archivists as gatekeepers.
Zsa Zsa's work uses a comb factory on Hutcheon street, Aberdeen to situate connections between the Pictish stones in Aberdeenshire, where symbols of combs and mirrors were used regularly. She took an opportunity to visit the Picardy and The Maiden Stone, North West of Inverurie.
...Stone body meets flesh body medieval structure meets present structure. The Pictish stones hold remnants and residues of the past culture. My body this interacts with this residue channeling the past and questioning present and future. Channelling a communication through performance.
A choreographed visual language between my hands and the carved symbols...(Zsa Zsa McGregor)
The soap factory ‘Soapy Ogstens’ as it was known, once stood on the Gallowgate and is the point of encounter for Louise’s work. The research is following the trail of traditional processes of soap making, through the processing of kelp or 'sea ware' as it is more generally referred to. This method was used in Scotland and also Ireland.
Later industrialisation in printing techniques also allowed the packaging of the soap bar to become a site of religious, political and at times utopian messaging. Dr. Bronners Peppermint 18-in-1 Pure Castile Soap and All-One-God-Faith soap was first produced in the 1960's. 'Absolute cleanliness is godliness!'*, is one tagline used. These rambling, semi - religious, semi - fictional narratives covering Bronners soap juxtapose the sites of washing. In domestic spaces or the body. What might be deemed an intimate and private space, is infiltrated with the moral guidelines of the maker.
Louise has also visited a family owned soap making company, to develop an understanding of the process. Mary Jean is family run business and uses traditional soap making processes and is based in Fochabers, we thank you Mary Jean for sharing your knowledge and hospitality!
*See pdf for details
The project will support the development of new work, showcased in Aberdeen in January 2020. This project was made possible through funding from the Aberdeen City Council’s ‘Creative Funding Award.’
Fertile Ground is delighted to announce an up and coming residency with Despina, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil October 2019.
Despina is an independent space committed to develop platforms for research, production and exchange in the fields of art and cultural activism. It has been working since 2013, and in 2015 it was established as a non-profit association. The space offers artists studios, and an international residency program for artist and curators. The team also program exhibitions, workshops, courses, performances and talks among other activities.
The organisations approaches include; strengthening connections between art and activism, widening access to contemporary art and fostering the participation and visibility of historically marginalised agents.
Fertile ground is the curatorial platform for Rachel Grant. A curator based in Aberdeen, in the North East of Scotland. This blog is kept up to date with selected project activity and research.