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Up and away July 7, 2008

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kent couch over the Idaho desert

kent couch over the Idaho desert

There’s doing things just because you want to, and doing things for the sheer hell of it. Then there’s art. Somethings may on the surface of it look like random, brainless stunts, but occasionally there’s a little something – an attention to detail, a needless extra, a determination or finely crafted vision. This week saw the launch of ‘Man on Wire‘ – a documentary about a tightrope performance between the twin towers of the World Trade Centre. More than a random stunt, this was a 45 minute performance for the thousands of onlookers 1,500 feet below that was 30 years in the making. However, it was the successful balloon flight over the desert by Kent Couch that took my eye. Not for the sheer lunacy of it, but the uneccessary detail of the deckchair and the stunning chaotic cloud structure of the balloons themselves. It would have been so easy to just get white ones or bind them in a net or securely, but the sight of that multi-coloured cloud flying 200 miles over the desert… that’s FRED.

New Ideas April 7, 2008

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It’s day one of the main project selection panel, and it’s a fascinating process. After over five years working on the project, it shouldn’t be a surprise that we see the same ideas returning from different artists. But with so much potential out there in our vast and varied landscapes and communities, there really shouldn’t be any limits to what artists come up with to play with it. In fact, FRED is not even a new idea – people have been proposing outre schemes and projects for decades. I recently found this list on the Armitt Museum website. It’s from a letter published in the local paper in 1880, proving that artistic anarchy in our rural corner is something of a tradition afterall:

Improvements for Lakeland: The following improvements capable of enhancing the beauty of Lakeland have been suggested by an eminent promoter of the Thirlmere Water Scheme:
1. That the Bowder stone should be broken up to pave High Street: a similar use being made of the Kirkstone, in case material should run short.
2. That Brother’s Water should be drained and an asphalt Skating Rink be erected in its place.
3. That Loughrigg should be adorned by a statue of Bodgers, the late eminent philanthropist.
4. That a People’s Coffee-house be erected on Helvellyn.
5. That Scawfell should be made easily ascendable by means of a hydraulic lift.
6. That a merry-go-round, with fife and drum band, be placed within a convenient distance of Rydal Mount.

The Truth is out there… January 5, 2008

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Should we believe everything we see? Of course not. Fantasy, the distortion of truth and pure fabrication are at the very heart of what makes art art (see rural rebellion post). On the other side of the spectrum there’s the power of the media and our assumption that what we are told has to be the truth. At least that’s what the media want us to believe. So what happens when that trust and honesty in the truth is invaded by artists?

In July 2007, Ztohoven, an artist group in the Czech Republic, tapped into a live broadcast on the state television station and inserted the image of a mushroom cloud in the landscape during a weather forecast. Ztohoven were subsequently  awarded the NG 333 art prize by the Czech National Gallery (a bit like the Turner Prize, with a similar prize fund) for the piece titled ‘Media Reality’. Nice to see art invasions being recognised as serious works somewhere at least. ”This piece—alongside all of the art the group Ztohoven is making – is crossing the border from art into something more social. The artists are trying to escape from the cage of art, and into real life. They would like to influence their own lives, and other people’s lives.”

However, the TV station is taking a rather dim view of it and the artists are facing court charges of “Broadcasting false information”. If proved guilty the artists could face several months in prison.

So just where are the acceptable boundaries of art and truth?  there used to be an adage of “of course it’s not real – it’s Art!”. But when art is constantly striving to challenge the concepts of what is and isn’t real, or even what is and isn’t art, nothing can ever be what it seems.

It’s about process December 17, 2007

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Where would Blogs be without YouTube? Short, instant-hit videos which speak volumes. Someone said to me last week that Land Art was all about making something for people to photograph – creating a memory. Temporary or transient installations need that documentation if only as proof of existence. For pieces which go beyond the surface visual / audio experience, YouTube is a great place to store and catalogue this stuff.

Rural Rebellion December 10, 2007

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Never underestimate the power of rural artists. It seems that Tate St Ives in Cornwall has already made enemies of the local art scene. Bad move. FRED on the other hand takes art out of the gallery to confront its audience head-on. Don’t try this one at home folks…

Eek! It’s an Elk.. November 30, 2007

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One of the great challenges and strengths of FRED is the vastness of the landscape in Cumbria. The lakes and fells here are big. Consequently it takes work of considerable scale to make a big visual impact. It’s the same in the north of Sweden it seems, but they’ve now  got to grips with it and have given planning permission for a 45m high wooden Elk. It’s a lookout post, restaurant and art gallery like no other. Oh, and proof that a lack of daylight in the winter can make you a little unhinged..

Thai Bakers November 16, 2007

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Here’s a guy who really understands the concepts behind FRED – bringing art to the public, by putting it somewhere very public. This semi-rural bakers got over 100 visitors a day to see this. Art really does make bread!

FRED-alike art in Japan October 9, 2007

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I just stumbled across these rice fields which were made in Japan. It’s a pity rice doesn’t grow in Cumbria….

(more here)

Rice field art

Rice field art

Making the News October 1, 2007

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media frenzy at Weather Cube

It’s not taken long for FRED to make its own news. Today the media wereout in force at Gareth Kennedy’s Weather Cube on Ullswater (above). I guess half-naked people using it helped. And that’s not the only one making a splash (see what i did there?). Jenni Danson has got people all hot and bothered in Carlisle with her tea-cosy, while some locals in Ulverston got a bit shocked at some electric lights (there, done it again).

Freerange FRED September 25, 2007

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FRED bread

FRED came out early at the weekend at MIMA in Middlesbrough. Freerange Artists sold art food – or is that food art? – in an art / farmers market devised by Bob & Roberta Smith. There were loaves of FRED bread, XXX eggs, Organ-ic marmalade and currant short of a fruit cakes. All made from organic and fairtrade produce supplied by local producers in Cumbria. More than that, we got to meet loads of other FRED artists and generally had a lovely day in the sunshine. The eggs and bread didn’t last long and only a handful of the other stuff had to come home. If you missed this outing, Freerange Artists will be out and about throughout FRED selling more tasty treats.