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Playces at Art on the Hill 2019

After months of work, it was finally time to leave the studio behind and deliver my first full-scale public outing for my latest interactive project - Playces. The 23rd and 24th of November saw Newport transformed, once again, into the largest community-driven arts festival that the city has seen in recent years - it was time for Art on the Hill 2019. ...and what a weekend it has been!

As part of this wonderful multi-venue event, I would find myself situated at the beautiful Saint Mark's Parish Church in Newport over the course of the Saturday and Sunday, and the public turn out at this venue was incredible! By the end of the weekend, a grand total of 233 individuals visited my exhibition and interacted with the sculptures... and the best bit, in light of one of the core focuses of my ACW application - they were people of all ages. From as young as 3 years old, right the way through to 75 and over, these visitors shared in playful exploration and communal musicking as a result of their combined simultaneous curiosity. What can I say... this image says it all:

I'd like to take a moment to unclench my jaw, relax my shoulders, and exhale deeply now, because it was right here in this very moment that I saw that I had managed to achieve what I initially set out to do - present artworks that didn't appeal to a niche group, but to everyone, and make them interesting enough that people wanted to approach them, but unassuming enough that people felt comfortable getting hands-on with them. This was something I hadn't experienced in projects I had been involved in previously, after all, this was why it made its way into the rationale of my funding application with ACW.

One particularly surprising moment for me was how well The Cave sculpture went down with the general public. Maybe I remained a little too close to these works for the last few months... It had certainly been an intense development period living day to day with them, but I must confess, before this exhibition I wasn't as happy with The Cave as I was with the other sculptures... that is, until this happened:

...and this happened in a church... of all places, and best of all it wasn't just the young ones! When I developed the concept for this piece I had a hunch that the nature of the sculpture would trigger some child-like impulse in some people, one that we've all experienced in our lives whenever we've found ourselves in a real cave - the urge to shout out as loud as we can. On completion of this sculpture, I just couldn't get past the reality behind the illusion of the work; at that moment, it just felt like a glorified mic stand. Personally, this left me unaffected by the illusionary potential of this specific sculpture, because I saw how the sausage was made. However, any final doubt in my mind for the potential magic of this piece was obliterated during this exhibition, within a matter of seconds when one member of the public (who worked as a sound engineer for festivals and events across Wales) asked - "This is great! So... how does it do that?" In a moment of stunned and amused disbelief, and given the nature of their job, I decided I would show them. I lifted the cave up to reveal the microphone that was concealed inside. Then, with the most delicious facepalm I've ever witnessed, they walked out of the church...and I never saw them again. For those of you who were unable to attend the exhibition, here are some neat 'n' tidy demonstration videos that show how each of the sculptures look, function, and sound:

The Shanty Town

The Factory

The Cathedral

Those of you who are still inclined to sit through videos that last longer than the half-life of Nobelium-253 (that's 90 seconds... for anyone who's not a sassy pedant with an interest in science) then very soon I will be sharing a video that documents how this project came to be, what I intended to explore, as well as some lovely ad hoc footage of everyone enjoying the works at Art on the Hill this weekend! Lastly - I would just like to give huuuuuuuge thank you to Kate Mercer (one of the chief coordinators for Art on the Hill) for her incredible support as my project partner for my funding application. I would love to extend my thanks to everyone else who supported me with my funding application, to all of the public who came out on the weekend to see the works, and lastly to the Arts Council of Wales who granted me the funding to make this project possible - I will be forever grateful to each and every one of you for all of your interest, support, and all-round amazingness. Diolch yn fawr you wonderful, wonderful people!, does anyone need any cardboard at all?


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