A summer of art along the historic coastline of East Anglia

Art and tourism are pooling their collective resources to come up with a fun-packed start to the summer holidays which not only promotes art in the environment but also helps to celebrate the coastal culture of the Haven Ports.

Commissions East, the arts body for the East of England, has engaged a variety of young, artists to create a series of quirky and engaging site specific art projects to be based at a number of venues along the Suffolk and Essex coast.

The idea behind the project, says Cathy Shelbourne, for Commissions East, is to promote our coastline, contemporary art and tourism in a fun and sustainable way. People are being encouraged to visit the various sites by bicycle, public transport, ferry or as part of a walk. One of the events will include a fun cycle ride, featuring decorated “recycled” bikes, which take riders from the Ipswich Waterfront to Landguard Fort, Felixstowe. Among the venues hosting art events throughout July are: HMS Ganges Museum, Shotley, Landguard Fort, Ipswich Town Hall Galleries, Jaywick Martello Tower, Mistley Towers and the Electric palace Cinema, Harwich.

The lead artist behind the project is Gavin Turk, one of Young British Artists, whose work has been promoted and collected by Charles Saatchi and has been displayed by such leading London galleries as White Cube.

His work is renowned for being recycled. Much of his work he describes as a paraphrase of well-known works which incorporates his own disguised image into widely recognised iconic art works. Over the years he has portrayed himself as such revolutionaries or anti-heroes as Sid Vicious, Jean-Paul Marat, Andy Warhol and Che Guevara.

For the Fleet: Art In Haven Ports project, he has been inspired by the work of one of his artistic heroes Andre Cadere, a Polish artist, who spent much of his working life in Paris. Gavin said: “Cadere is probably the most important artist of the 1970s whom you’ve never heard of.”

His work is largely a collection of coloured wooden poles which he used to take around Paris, place them in galleries and other people’s exhibition and then claim to have exhibited there.

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Gavin says that he has taken inspiration from Cadere’s coloured poles when constructing his recycled cycles for the Fleet project

He said that originally he didn’t see himself creating work of his own but rather, as lead artist, commissioning work and enabling other people to create work that was a response to the area but as the project developed he found that he own creative juices were inspired as a means of tackling an unforeseen problem.

“My original intention was to oversee the whole process. But, one of the things that kept coming up, was that the project itself, needed to be sustainable. To be honest that word seemed a little bit airy. It’s a buzz word that people bandy around, but what does it actually mean?

“It seemed to me that a lot of the artists that I was keen on promoting and putting into various sites came from London, so there was going to be a certain amount of travelling. They would be getting trains and cars. The audience would be coming from London, from Norfolk, from Cambridge as well as locally in Suffolk. That worried me because how could we claim that this was sustainable? So towards the end of the commissioning process, we spoke to Sustrans, the body responsible for managing cycle routes.

“They are the leading cycle pressure group. They are the people who protect the rights of cyclists. They are people who you need to talk to when you are riding along in your cycle lane and it just disappears for no apparent reason.

“I thought what I should do, is to actually make a series of bicycles – dare I say it – a fleet of bicycles and have a cycle ride with these bikes with me or whoever stewarding people between destinations. Looking at the landscape it seems to me, it’s very like Holland. It’s a very Dutch looking landscape and I thought what we need is an English version of a Dutch bicycle.”

He said that the process of riding would transform these humble forms on transport into moving works of art. “Art happens by suggestion. You can create art by virtue of a change of context. It’s all about context.”

He said that time pressures and practicalities meant that he has had to adapt and cannibalise existing bikes rather than designing a series of new machines from scratch. “I took the bikes apart and adjusted them and so it looks as if they have been made with Cadere poles. The idea is that we can go on the bike ride and become part of a work of art.”

In addition to Gavin Turk’s Cadere-inspired bicycles, the Fleet: Art in Haven Ports includes a wide variety of events. Landguard Fort will become one of the major focus points for the exhibition. Cedric Christie will be installing two free-standing twisted forms, constructed out of four aluminium strips and will be mounted on the north wall of the fort. The apex will be fixed by a moveable joint. The entire structure will be set into York stone but won’t have any permanent fixings into the ground.

Also in the fort Elizabeth Wright will be having fun with the word shooting. It’s a word which conjures up images of cannons and guns which used to be part of the life of Landguard Fort. But, shooting also represents photography. Elizabeth a photographer will be staging a photographic shoot-out at the fort on Monday and will form part of a composite reportage.

“On July 5, six professional photographers will stage a shoot out at the fort where they will be asked to use their cameras as a gun, to capture each other.

“The professional photographers will then be asked to shoot their own equipment, to take an image of their current camera with another camera, again using their second cameras as if it were a gun, shooting their own apparatus. These images will form a second reportage of shot arsenal.”

Visitors to the fort and the exhibition will be encouraged to use their cameras, as if they are guns to capture images of the Felixstowe landmark and then send them off to a Shoot at Landguard website.

Elsewhere, former American artist Mary Lemley, who now lives and works in Hackney, has created two video films to be screened at HMS Ganges Museum at Shotley. In the first of these ex-Ganges boy George Barnham will read from the book The Boys Training Establishment at HMS Ganges which will be set against the images of the 2000 trainees who went through the shore-based training establishment.

The second film, which will be shown alongside the first movie, is a visual tour of locations taken from a spiral drawn on an Ordinance Survey map. The Ganges museum forms the centre of the spiral. The narration is drawn from the artist’s notes made during her residency.

At Mistley Towers Julian Meredith will be erecting an installation Augury which comprises of a 16 by 18 foot textile printed with a series of monoprints relating to migration. Meanwhile at Jaywick Martello Tower, Sarah Dobai will be artist in residence and will be undertaking a portrait-based film project which develops a portrait of the local people and their relationship with the Martello Tower.

Sarah said: “A portrait is always about the relationship between the subject, the camera and the viewer.” She said that people in public spaces are used to being looked at and looking at others. The Martello Towers were built expressly to look out to sea to guard our coastline. Now that function has ceased, their position looking out at the world is now more abstract and reflective in nature.

Also working at Jaywick’s Martello Tower is French photographer Fabien Rigobert who has been looking back at the effect of the 1953 floods. “This disaster of 1953 caused the deaths of 35 people in Jaywick alone. Everyone from the milkman to the police helped the rescuers to find the bodies. I am making a work about it, not a reconstitution but something that reminds us of the Pompeii disaster, a surprise where nobody could do anything. It’s a powerful example of the forces of nature that we are not able to control.”

Back up the coast at Felixstowe’s Landguard Fort, artist Tod Hanson will be creating an installation which takes its cue from the work going on in the Port of Felixstowe, just yards away from the fort itself. His installation is called Containerisation which will be presented as a fairground mausoleum with an ark-ship-like casket is breached which allows those who see it to consider the effects of war and trade.

Tod said: “I’m interested in a world over-amplfied and speeded up, the telescoping of industry, consumerism, technology, celebration, waste and war through time. My current work can also be seen as a fusion of past experience gained through producing large scale graphic works with Greenpeace UK and painting nightclub interiors. I combine this with my interest in the history and function of architecture, interior design and decorative arts.”

The main focus of the Fleet: Arts in the Haven Ports runs from July 3-30.

Lead artist Gavin Turk, however, will be curating an exhibition at the Ipswich Town Hall Galleries, Bun Voyagi, which has been selected from the FRAC Collection at the Nord Pas de Calais. Fleet is part of the Face2Face art programme which links art on the east coast with Nord Pas de Calais in France. The gallery exhibition which will include gavin Turk’s bicycles, Andre Cadere’ poles and a variety of works from the French collection will be on display from July 17 to August 28.

French film-maker Ariane Michel will be screening her film Les Hommes tonight at the Electric Palace Cinema in Harwich. Les Hommes is based upon her experiences aboard the ice yacht Tara V which took part in a scientific survey of Greenland.

There will also be two bike rides for those wanting to explore the Suffolk-Essex coastline and see Gavin Turk’s bicycles in action. The first is today from Jaywick to Harwich starting from the Martello Tower at 10.30 am. The second is on July 17 from St Mary’s at the Quay on Ipswich Waterfront to Landguard Fort, starting at 2pm.

n Further details for all events can be found online at www.fleet-art.org

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