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A Shed Of One's Own: Supernormal Takes Art To The Bottom Of The Garden
Robert Barry , August 6th, 2016 07:42

With Supernormal Festival taking place this weekend in Oxfordshire, Craft/Work spoke to Eastville Project Space, Georgia Horgan, Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film, and Matt Copson about their projects for the festival's artist sheds

In November of 2007, a man named Shaun Greenhalgh was arrested for forgery. For over fifteen years, Greenhalgh and his retired parents had been producing masterpieces of art and antiquity – sculptures by Barbara Hepworth and Paul Gauguin, ancient Egyptian statues, an L.S. Lowry pastel, Assyrian marble reliefs, and other works by Man Ray, Otto Dix, and Henry Moore – all of which he claimed to have knocked up in his shed.

Of course, from the Schwitters’ Merz Barn to the garden studio of Nicole Farhi, there’s also a perfectly reputable tradition of art-making in garden sheds. But what about the shed itself?

As Supernormal kicks off this weekend, Craft/Work spoke to some of the artists who have been specially commissioned to create artists’ sheds on the festival grounds.

Eastville Project Space

What can you tell me about what you'll be doing for your artist shed commission at Supernormal this year?

We will present an installation within the actual Pink Shed by Simon Blackmore, who is one of the artists from our micro-residency programme early this year. We are also working with the SuperNormal crew to build a custom made space right next to the shed, it houses a sound/light installation 'The Globe' created by Gavin Morris as well as a programme of workshops, performances and talks in collaboration with different artists and musicians performing at the festival.

What attracted you to the idea of making art in / for / of a shed?

We always like to work in challenging space, so the shed has offered this and now we can't wait for it to happen. We like the idea of creating a big idea beyond a small physical space. There is also a personal story about our link to the pink shed. Our director Stephen (aka Farmer Glitch, Founder of Hacker Farm) had temporary possession of the Pink Shed for a project 3 years ago, however, nothing happened and we returned it to Supernormal. So it is a case of unfinished business for us and an unspoken promise of to do something with it at some point.. We are delighted when we offered the chance at this years festival.

What kind of associations does a shed throw up for you?

A shed is often associated with a private space for storing tools, for dad, a space to escape all the domestic duties in the house or a space to store 'things' that do not fit in the house. We just had this conversation recently about sheds, sparked by our new neighbour at Eastville, an organisation called 'The Yeovil Men Shed', a charity organization offering a place for people meet regularly by sharing practical making skills. So we think this helps us to realise a shed can also be a space for social purposes, in contrast to the norm of a shed in a domestic environment, a space for one person, and often only male in the house. So this is an interesting reading of a shed being a sharing, open, public space for all.

Georgia Horgan

What can you tell me about what you'll be doing for your artist shed commission at Supernormal this year?

I’ve been researching ‘intentional communities’ and different ideas about how knowledge can be produced, with particular focus on women’s movements and mysticism. For the Shed Commissions, I’ve made a reading resource that traces this history from medieval Beguines communities and heretic sects to Braziers Park School of Integrative Social Research. The titles include things like, ‘Cities of Ladies’, a study on 12th century all-female (but non-monastic) Beguine mystic communities, ‘Radical Spirits: Spiritualism and Women’s Rights in Nineteenth Century America’, and 'Teaching as a Subversive Activity’. This will all go alongside Brazier’s research communications, and are intended to bring in to focus a long long history of alternative lifestyles, communities and ways of learning, with particular emphasis on the part women played in this. I suppose this is because I believe that an alternative to capitalism must have it’s foundations in feminism.

Located on the lawn outside of the main house, my shed has had two of it’s walls removed to open it out into a seating area-cum-series of textile works. These works are based on the cloth used for ‘samarras’—the ceremonial robes heretics were forced to wear during trials. These works were originally made for my project for Glasgow International where they were made as a juxtaposition to traditional monuments in a graveyard, but are finding a new home at Braziers Park because of their relevance to the research around communes. Heretics sects were frequently formed around intentional communities and, during the middle ages, gained quite a lot of power due to various environmental and political factors. Their brutal suppression marks a significant moment in the history and consolidation of the power structures present society today.

How has working in / for a shed affected your working process? What particular challenges does a site like that throw up, as opposed to a traditional white cube type gallery space?

I think in terms of how the shed has affected my working process I was always trying to get past the shed in a lot of ways. It’s very functional for what I’ve made, an outdoor mini library for the texts. I supposed I’ve tried to over come it’s 'shed-ness’? I sound like some of parody modernist sculptor now or something….

I haven’t done a show in a white cube in ages so things being a bit rough round the edges doesn’t particularly bother me. I suppose the main challenge has just been thinking about trying to respond to the context, as I’ve always tried to do that with projects in the past. In lots of ways, the shed feels like a bit of a barrier between the work and the context proper, which is Braziers and Supernormal. I guess that’s why I’ve chosen to physically open the shed out to it’s surroundings, instead of it being a microcosm in the festival.

Bristol Experimental and Expanded Film

What can you tell me about what you'll be doing for your artist shed commission at Supernormal this year?

Bristol Experimental & Expanded Film (BEEF) collective will be using the Supernormal Shed commission to launch a collaborative project called CEPHALOPOD. We'll be turning a ramshackle shed in the woods into a CEPHALOPOD, a striking dazzle decorated shed with a stage, projection booth and screen. Once the darkness of the evening descends BEEF presents a series of screenings and performances from members and friends including a visual-audio feast from Bristol band Salting and Vancouver based artist and musician Ian Craig Williams. Come daytime, the CEPHALOPOD will turn into a make-shift darkroom; Saturday there will be a Cyanotype workshop and Sunday demonstrations in photochemical filmmaking techniques.

In what ways will this work differ from or continue to pursue the themes and interests of your previous work up to this point?

It's an extension of the sort of things we have been doing at BEEF since we started up in 2015. We are a collective working in experimental film and sound, in the past we have been running a 16mm darkroom, workshops and events programme out of a temporary space in Bristol. As usual we have worked collectively on the programme. BEEF was a collective born out of need for independent space in which to work and make things happen. Our group is expansive and features a whole spectrum of ages and professional-levels.

What attracted you to the idea of making art in / for / of a shed?

BEEF’s DIY resourcefulness means we are quite adept at being inventive with unusual space. We once ran a 16mm b&w processing workshop from a tent inside the G39 gallery space in Cardiff. It was great fun teaching people how to process b&w 16mm film with household ingredients such as tea and vitamin c.

BEEF’s idea of making art is about galvanising a collective energy to get things going! Saltings, the band we’ve invited to perform have just finished producing a mirco festival which was held in a disused Edwardian public toilets! Unusual spaces are very characterful and great at creating unique atmospheres.

What kind of associations does a shed throw up for you? I mean, when you think ‘shed’, what comes to mind?

I suppose there is a romantic idea of sheds being spaces that are ateliers of the enthusiastic, diy, amateur inventors. Hobbyist who potter about in their leisure time. It’s perhaps a bit of an outmoded view in today’s climate. I like to think that our shed is a CEPHALOPOD; a fun, temporary and shared collective space, adaptive to whatever imagination and utility is thrown at it.

Matt Copson

What can you tell me about what you'll be doing for your artist shed commission at Supernormal this year?

I’m making a birdhouse/peepshow.

In what ways will this work differ from or continue to pursue the themes and interests of your previous work up to this point?

It’s all one and the same. Life, death, animals.

What kind of associations does a shed throw up for you? I mean, when you think 'shed', what comes to mind? And how have those associations affected your working process?

Perverted fathers. Those associations have weighed me down.

What particular challenges does a shed throw up, as opposed to, say, a traditional white cube?


Do you have a shed at home? (or did your parents, maybe? Or some other relative?) And if so, what do you (or what did your parents/relative) use it for? Are there other shed-related memories that spring to mind?

I grew up in a woodland just outside of Oxford. We had a shed, far away from our house in which my mother and father conducted seances with various ancestors. My father’s side of the family were originally jewellers and he believed that they knew the location of a nearby goldmine. My father’s insatiable thirst for gold eventually led to the destruction of my nuclear family and so my shed-related memories are all tainted with my hatred of greed and the falsities of “loving” Christian monogamy.

Supernormal Festival is taking place this weekend at Braziers Park, Oxfordshire

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