Aperture: Christopher Sacre & Stuart Bowditch

The pairing of Christopher Sacre, a deaf sculptor, and Stuart Bowditch, a sound artist, could be seen by some as quite a controversial move, but out of the collaboration grew a striking work that highlights accessibility within artworks. Together they created “Aperture”, an object to be used on guided artist walks along the riverside.

“Aperture” was one of three works created as part of the IN-SITE artist commission, delivered by allies FrancisKnight and supported by Unlimited. Six artists were commissioned and paired up to work in collaboration; the resulting duos combined their contrasting practices and mediums to create surprising works in response to the regeneration site and the surrounding area. The project was a huge success and a great example of how local councils can involve artists in the regeneration of their local areas, and in doing so, bring accessible art and culture to new areas and audiences.

Unlimited supported IN-SITE to shape the opportunity in a way that might appeal to disabled artists, helped recruit a disabled artist (Christopher Sacre) to the project and provided access for all three works. Unlimited also provided access support for Chris to make the most of all the training and developmental opportunities available through the whole process.

In addition to “Aperture”, Daisy Farris (dancer and choreographer) and Nicola Flower (visual artist) created “She’s Like a FoRest FiRe”, a performance piece about a local flamboyant character called ‘Bluebell’. Jane Pitt (visual/live art/sound artist) and Caitlin Heffernan (visual artist) created “OOZE”, a text and floor based topographical drawings along the riverside pathway.

The IN-SITE programme, delivered by FrancisKnight on behalf of Medway Council, was a continuous professional development programme for six artists, which resulted in a public art project along Rochester riverside and on Sun Pier in Chatham. From June to August 2015 the waterfront areas of Medway featured a range of events and activities for the public and the final artworks were shared in a creative seminar held on 8 July 2015.

Medway is undergoing a major period of regeneration and Medway Council wanted to ensure that artists have the opportunity to be involved in shaping the landscape and design of the area. Partners Louise Frances and Laura Knight, specialist public art consultants, were appointed to manage the complex task.

The aim of the project was to contribute towards a wider framework of commissioning public art, to ensure that public art is part of the regeneration and future development of Medway. Medway Council is also committed to making their opportunities accessible and open to all, which is why they wanted to ensure that a commission through IN-SITE was offered to a deaf or disabled artist ­- and where Unlimited came in to help!

As artists Chris and Stuart met over the course of 8 months and began their professional development period, they formulated a number series of walks in order to explore the area and discuss local people’s view points on the town. Over this research and development stage they gathered contributions from participants on the sights seen and sounds heard.

Their walks quickly developed into guided tours, with vantage points marked by yellow beacons, and their (cleverly named) final “Aperture” object- an ear trumpet and an eye lens built into a conveniently foldable sheet of paper. The aperture device, with one end for listening and the other for looking through, included an accompanying map. The map indicated 15 locations as marked vantage points, allowing the public to further explore the site and write down their observations at will.

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Christopher and Stuart’s creative approach to this project encouraged participants to fully engage in the riverside development site, as well as contemplate the sights and sounds of their surroundings. By engaging one or the other of the senses, the work was inclusive to both the artists themselves and their visitors. All walks took place along a fully accessible route, and included a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter to help deaf participants pinpoint where sounds were coming from. It wasn’t just “Aperture” that was fully accessible. In engaging a disabled artist, the IN-SITE project also saw its other commissions embed access in to their work and any corresponding events.

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We asked Louise and Laura what their top five tips would be for anyone undertaking a similar project. They told us:

“IN-SITE was an ambitious public art project pairing six diverse artists, unknown to each other, to make new work for the public realm. Working with them throughout the process was an exciting challenge, in both developing their ideas and engaging the public. With support from Unlimited we were able to make the public engagement as inclusive as possible. Our top five tips show that through our learning, and sometimes failing, simple open ideas and exchanges made the whole project unique to people and place and those artists undertaking the commissions.”

Top Five Tips from FrancisKnight:

  1. Don’t overcomplicate ideas – sometimes the smallest thing is the most powerful
  2. Be honest and open about your needs – seek help when a project becomes overwhelming or when communication isn’t working
  3. Be flexible and open with your ideas – just because you haven’t done it before doesn’t mean you can’t do it
  4. Don’t be afraid to come out of your comfort zone – it’s ok to get it wrong
  5. Our differences make us and our ideas unique – embrace them

Image Credits: Christopher Sacre and Stuart Bowditch

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Additional Information about FrancisKnight

FrancisKnight are a contemporary arts practice, commissioning public art projects in the public realm.
They are an independent arts organisation offering a fresh and professional approach to commissioning high quality artwork and community engagement. They support clients with the development of ideas and strategies to commission inspirational public art projects that inspire vibrant communities and places.

Additional Information about IN-SITE and the artists

You can watch a short film on ‘Aperture’ here!

 

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