Co-curator of ‘back to where we have not quite been’ Aldo Rinaldi writes about a recent visit to London at Fourthland’s studio to see works for their forthcoming show at Arnolfini.
Early last week Tessa Fitzjohn and I took a trip to London to visit Fourthland at their studio. The trip was to view the various new artworks that will be making their way to Bristol this week and to get a flavour of the scale of their forthcoming installation.
The show at Arnolfini traverses three galleries on the first floor and the artists Louise and Eva are making a whole new suite of works which entirely filled their London studio, spilling out into the mews where they are based. In all the show will include over 12 new sculptures and at least two dozen objects.
Fourthland’s studio is situated in a busy part of Camberwell opposite the South London Gallery and Camberwell College of Arts and there is a lot of activity in the area. What struck us right away was the cast away timbers, off cuts, old tree stump and other elements that fill the artists space. The studio has strong overtones of the workshop of a maker or fabricator, with little, if any, white wall space.
Over the course of seven months Eva and Louise have been coming to Bristol for a couple of days each month to carry out a residency, to meet people and to develop a network of contacts, collaborators and indeed friends. The exhibition and event series to be presented at Arnolfini, back to where we have not quite been will feature all of the objects they have made in the last 7 months, including those used to engage with the public during their residency and the events, which they describe as ‘carrier objects’.
Fourthland’s practice appealed to both Tessa and I during the artist selection stage for ‘Resilience Lab’, a curated programme of artist residencies and commissions that back to where we have not quite been forms a part of. Resilience Lab began in 2014 as a response to The European Commission naming Bristol European Green Capital 2015 (the first city in the UK to win this prestigious award) and the Rockefeller Foundation (USA) naming Bristol as a member of its ‘100 Resilient Cities’ Network. Both of these events felt timely and relevant and there has been a steady rise in artists looking at green issues, ecology, and resilience in the arts.
Resilience Lab is a multifaceted programme, which combines artist residencies, public commissions, and a public engagement programme as a means of investigating the role that the arts can play in addressing global environmental change. The notion of a Resilient Community is a key focus which we invite the artists to examine. It has become the basis for knowledge exchange, skill sharing and learning and we have encouraged the fostering of cultural, intellectual and social exchange between the artists, activists, academics, the community and the broader public.
Resilience Lab is open ended in its intent and both Tessa and I are unsure of what the commissioned artists will propose, which is exciting. An important influence for us was the work of the Artist Placement Group (APG) who emerged in London in the 1960s and who actively sought to reposition the role of the artist within a wider social context, including government and commerce, while at the same time playing an important part in the history of conceptual art during the 1960s and 1970s. For resilience our invited artists have all spent time in Bristol in order to develop a ‘proposition’; an entirely open idea or challenge in the form of an artwork that may or may not be developed or made. Fourthland were tasked with developing the Resilience Lab ‘public programme’ a conference to discuss the subject matter involving the various artists involved with contributions from the wider arts community. Interestingly, and in keeping with the Resilience Lab approach, Fourthland proposed to transform the Public Programme into an artwork (a four-day show and event) in which the public will experience their work and discuss resilience with the artists, academics, psychoanalysts and performers. I am looking forward to seeing how the public will react; however that may be.