GATESHEAD.- Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art
will present two exhibitions resulting from a project in partnership with Ctrl.Alt.Shift, a new experimental youth initiative that aims to engage people in global issues, using art as a catalyst for change. British artists Graham Hudson and Matthew Stone make a major new presentation in Baltic street and stairwell and students and graduate participants from Newcastle Universitys LifeWorkArt programme present a group exhibition in Level 5 and Baltic Quay on Level 2.
Embarking on the project in October 2008, twelve students and graduates from Newcastle Universitys LifeWorkArt programme worked with British artist-mentors Matthew Stone and Graham Hudson, Benjamin Wachenje and T-Magic to creatively explore the issue of global conflict with particular focus on Colombia. The four artists alongside Paul Merrick and Alison Unsworth from Baltics freelance artist team mentored the students throughout the creative process. With practical workshops, immersion sessions, discussions and debates they were exposed to details and issues around conflict in Colombia. The students also gained insight from Ctrl-Alt-Shifts Ambassador, David Shrigley who offered them advice and guidance with their works as he explains: I am happy to be an ambassador for the Ctrl.Alt.Shift project. Ive never been asked to do any charitable work other than to donate my artwork, so this project has given me the opportunity to have a greater understanding of the needs of the charity and the different ways in which I might be able to help. More young people need to become aware of conflicts around the world and to investigate the background to these situations. If the project can encourage awareness and prompt young people to help remedy injustice and poverty then it deserves my support.
Talking about making art to the students involved in the exhibition at Baltic has been a pleasure. I hope that the exhibition will provide a point of access to the work of Ctrl.Alt.Shift. for many young people.
The student participants responses to the issue of conflict are various. Presented in the Level 5 viewing box are Peter-Ashley Jacksons ceramic dis-figurines on a metal plinth, Claire Rowlands intricate multi-layered wax panel, Kate Kennedys pulsating stop motion animation, Selina Oakes workshop for teenagers, Olivia Mees painting, Anna Guys collaborative surrender flags, Alastair Rechs mono prints, Lyndsey Bests sonic battle with technology, Gavin Scullions line drawings, Tom Whittys large scale screen prints and William Strongs homemade riot kit. Baltic Quay plays host to Belinda Noels collaborative events programme.
Artist mentors Matthew Stone and Graham Hudson also present new works located in Baltic Street and public stairwell. Matthew Stone is multi-disciplinary artist working in London. His practice centres around creative interactions and community. His collaborations as a formative member of the !WOWOW! art collective, initiator of a weekly artists salon and producer of interview-based blog Interconnected Echoes use a democratic model based on sharing not compromise. For the exhibition at Baltic, Stone has developed his recent interest in interconnected cubes to investigate the invisible shared space between and beneath their surfaces. This space of invisible commonality is key to safely navigating conflict on all levels. Stone argues that suggesting a shared space and common ground for distinct and perhaps oppositional ideas, communities or people, is an important and optimistic image.
Matthew Stone adds: Optimism is the vital force that entangles itself with, and then shapes, the future. The nihilistic cynicism that is a dominant force within culture, leaves no space for useful visions of the future. This is a problem that Ctrl.Alt.Shift can tackle.
It's exciting to be involved in an initiative that aims to facilitate real change in the way that young people think and act as individuals. Its important to realise we are all involved on a level that runs deeper than a forgotten monthly donation. Most people find it hard to imagine change until it happens. But those who can, have a responsibility to act and realise these visions.
Working with the students at Baltic gave me a renewed faith in the intelligence and seriousness of young people. Ctrl.Alt.Shift recognises that the shift from apathy to active engagement is a small but powerful action.
Graham Hudson typically uses materials that might be found in a skip from cardboard to plastic bags. In a teasing of mainstream sensibilities, Hudson chooses somewhat undesirable often discarded materials of the sort that we handle everyday, without a thought to their value. Hudsons large-scale sculptures are at once defiantly monumental, fragile and teetering. At Baltic, in the street he presents a site-specific sculpture. From a distance, the work appears heavy, solid and permanent. But on closer inspection, the sculptures bulk is in fact made up of flimsy throwaway materials - in this case the cardboard wardrobe boxes usually used to transport clothes. The boxes are suspended and balanced by a complex web of tape measures, as if to topple at any moment. In accompaniment, two turntables playing two sides of the same record are interrupted intermittently to create an ever changing score. In the stairwell, Hudson, once again employs a seemingly random score, this time to reflect the vertical nature of the space. The sound is a tragic, disorientating and often funny montage a new orchestra.
Graham Hudson explains further about his involvement as a mentor and artists: The creative act, be it making a painting, writing a song, or shooting a movie is a highly political act. It provides a response, separating the active from the passive, time does not change the world, we do, or we can just shut-up, watch TV and follow someone else's vision.
An artists responsibility is to be independent, to question everything, and not be afraid to upset the 'public', patrons or peers. The proud radical history of the Avant-Garde is the contemporary artists context in a world, which increasingly seeks easy answers and obedience. Myself and the other mentors encouraged the young artists and collaborated on works with them that encouraged them to be free, serious, bold, true to themselves and committed.
Baltics collaboration is part of a wider initiative called Cultural Interventions a series of projects created to harness contemporary culture to stimulate interest amongst youth audiences around issues of global development. Each collaboration will focus on a particular issue in a global development context. Other projects include collaborations with VICE (Gender, Poverty + Power in Asia) and Sadlers Wells (HIV + Stigma in Africa).