What a day! I ticked so many boxes today, the Arts Council will have to add some extras to their outputs forms. It makes you wonder why so much contemporary art ends up being so tedious and shallow. This is installation, performance, satire, activism, particitapery, socially-engaged, community, children, workshop, craft, art, higher-education, urban planning, economics, branding, recycling, consumption & banking. All fueled by tea, cakes, burritos and a rather good homemade Pinot Grigio blush.
My first visitor was a group of Chinese students, Chris, Hao & Viola, wanting to ask me questions about how I thought Orchard Square could be improved. Demolish Meadowhall is the summary of my lengthy responses. I agreed to answer their questions in exchange for making origami butterflies using some of the paper I had painted red in anticipation of making poppies. In China, red is the colour of good luck and it boded well.
They started by asking about public / private spaces but seemed not to know just how much public property has been sneaked into the private sector and they seemed to be a bit shocked when I said our government is corrupt.
I asked them several times which course they were studying but never got to the bottom of it. I can only assume urban design or business studies, or something in between. I worked in the Department of Planning in Rotherham when Meadowhall was in the planning stage and all the professional planners said it would displace shoppers from the outlying centres of Sheffield, Rotherham , Barnsley and Doncaster and that’s exactly what happened. There’s nothing wrong with Orchard Square that would not be improved by more footfall. That is the very reason that workshop 14 is empty and available to host artists-in-residence. I think I gave them more than they bargained for but it was a truly productive cross-cultural exchange.
I had both of my unpaid interns (Gary & Catherine) on-site by now, as well as my wife Stella and then returning takeaway assistant Nicol, with parents Mark and Amy. I taught Nicol how to make six-pointed snowflakes and we started decorating the front windows with them.
Next up was lunch, and another outstanding offering from local eatery Street Food Chef.
After that, superstar Gary went out in the pizza suit and I did a string of children’s workshops that got so intense that I tried to call Gary to tell him to stop sending people up.
Fortunately (for me), he got so cold that he stopped nabbing people and came back to the takeaway for a cuppa. Just as well, I’d run out of Turner Fries.
As I’ve explained to a number of people, I don’t do this kind of work and I have never done workshops with children before, but the spin pizza worked really well for ages three to ten.
After that flurry of activity, I needed a sit down, actually a lie down. Gary really made the pizza suit work and I laid out the graphics so that it wasn’t specific to this occasion of Rick’s, so it will be usable again.
Next, a group of adult friends arrived who had been in All Bar One nearby, and friend Laurence separately, and the vibe completely changed. Not in a bad way, but the next session was very different. I plied them with homemade wine and we talked about consumption, banking fraud and destruction of the environment whilst I gave them a workshop on making origami butterflies out of discarded materials. They left with a few delivery orders.
After that, Laurence and I were left alone for a while and we talked about his work, my work, inequality, homelessness and the existential problems facing mankind. He left a donation, thanks, Laurence.
What a day.