Site Gallery, Sheffield
1 Brown Street
S1 2BS Sheffield
artists & participants
C/O Site Gallery
Conceived as an "exploded" group show, and curated by Martin Clark, Director of Bergen Kunsthall, Art Sheffield 2016 will present a carefully selected programme dedicated entirely to sound and the moving image, exhibited across Sheffield's various galleries, venues, industrial and urban spaces. Highlights will include three new commissions by British artists Steven Claydon, Hannah Sawtell and Richard Sides, who will each produce site-specific work, and a collection of rarely seen "scratch" videos, a short-lived but influential phenomenon that emerged on the underground scene in the mid-1980s. Other works address themes around politics, economics, music, technology and the material reality of the physical world.
The title, Up, Down, Top, Bottom, Strange and Charm is taken from the six flavours (or types) of quark: the elementary particles that make up every atom, and the fundamental building blocks of matter. Through film, video and sound, the fabric of the city itself will be explicitly activated and inhabited by the exhibition, dispersed in and around Sheffield city centre.
Art Sheffield 2016 draws on the various political, social, cultural and material histories of Sheffield in order to address more universal themes. These include the city's prosperous industrial past built around manufacturing, steel and light industry, and its rapid decline in the 1980s; Sheffield's long history of resistance, socialism and independence—from John Ruskin's utopian initiatives for workers in the 19th century, through to its present as one of the UK's longest-standing Labour strongholds; and its proud musical heritage which includes bands such as Cabaret Voltaire, Human League and Pulp. The 1980s were defined by industry decline and the Thatcherite politics that accelerated it, the Cold War, nuclear threat and the boom and bust of burgeoning global capitalism. At this time, new video editing technologies became available at various arts schools, including Sheffield, leading to a number of artists and musicians experimenting with the medium in very politically engaged ways. This led to the development of a new visual language and technique—"scratch video."
Using rapid cuts and repetitions, as well as new digital effects, this work was often screened in clubs or music venues, or made as stage visuals or music videos for bands. Art Sheffield includes a number of these rarely seen "scratch" videos by filmmakers including George Barber, Nick Cope, and Jeffrey Hinton. In the way their work very directly sampled and subverted found footage from TV news, films, advertising and popular culture, they can be seen to have anticipated many of the techniques and visual languages that are now so ubiquitous across the internet, social media and platforms like YouTube. Scratch video is presented in association with LUX and the BFI National Archive, as part of THIS IS NOW: FILM AND VIDEO AFTER PUNK.
The city-wide programme has been developed and delivered in collaboration with Sheffield's leading visual arts venues—Bloc Projects, S1 Artspace, Museums Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University and Site Gallery. In addition, a number of off-site venues have been very specifically selected—including former steel and cutlery works, nightclubs, and the iconic Park Hill, a controversial brutalist housing estate and now the largest listed building in Europe. Shown alongside the scratch videos, the contemporary works and new commissions demonstrate and develop similar ideas and attitudes, still as politically and aesthetically relevant today: from an interest in the sub-atomic reality of the physical world to new economic models and patterns of chance and risk; from virtual and constructed realities to the subversion and distribution of open source digital tools; from the politics of neo-liberal capitalism to communities created through music, labour and resistance.
Throughout Art Sheffield 2016, video, film and sound are explored in their various material forms, on the one hand as a mechanical, digital or virtual medium, but on the other as a kind of collective unconscious or reverie, evoking the past only to reflect on the current state of Britain today and our saturated and fragmentary internet-state-of-mind. In this way the exhibition is both framed by, and assimilated into, the city—a place defined as much by its cultural production as it is by its material industry; by individuals and communities as much as infrastructure and architecture; a construction and a fantasy that is constantly being reproduced and reinvented—projected back out onto itself by the various forces, desires, processes and people that both inhabit and imagine it.
Marie Angeletti, Michel Auder, Charles Atlas, Anna Barham, Steven Claydon, Mark Fell, Beatrice Gibson, Pat Hearn and Shelley Lake, Florian Hecker, Hannah Sawtell, Richard Sides, Paul Sietsema, Jean-Michel Wicker. Scratch video works by George Barber, Nick Cope, Jeffrey Hinton, Duvet Brothers, John Scarlett Davis, Gorilla Tapes, John Maybury, Kim Flitcroft and Sandra Goldbacher