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Arnolfini Podcast: Imagine New Rules - Episode 2

In our second podcast, writer and curator Edson Burton treats us to a reading of his specially commissioned text, 'Imagine New Rules'. He then talks to Claire Doherty about access to the arts, relevance and the importance of exchange across the city.

Imagine New Rules by Edson Burton 

Imagine this building: a story in stone, no longer stood - that brick, glass, and steel, quietly crumbled, and whispered like dust into the wind.

Imagine a cosmos of memories: a bridge lost in fog; wood carved lily pads caressed by water; suture stitches stretched between white walls; whale and slave history writ across giant screens; monster making with plastic limbs; stone trails from tundra journeys; Big Jeff’s blonde curls bouncing; imagine each memory like a star blinking its last.

Imagine the quiet spaces of reflection: conversations in rare journals read and purchased, a nip to the loo; a winter refuge; cafe meetings; chance encounters; a romantic rendezvous – all these intimacies gone.

Imagine, dwarfed by the height and weight of gravitas you never entered. Imagine every assorted memory slipped beyond recollection. All that remains, the echo of a place of unusual gathering that created peculiar communities; a place that offered little to the grinding struggles of survive and thrive yet was precious beyond material promise. Imagine if all that remains of our flickering memory is that here was a place devoted to art. A word evoking laughter, surprise, fear, sorrow, envy, disappointment and, sometimes, awe. 

 Imagine if, now it is gone, you ache and understand its loss. Imagine, if pulled by an irresistible current, you are compelled to build anew. Where would you begin? With what materials? Wood, brick, stone, glass? All, some, or none of the above?

Stunned by the enormity of possibility, perhaps you will dive into history, but retrieving treasure from times past, may swim against the tide of destiny. Nor do our present shrines to art offer easy resource: comfort and climb have muted rebellion; the white-walled gallery bears the mournful silence of long dead asylums; the cult of the few gather with too little surprise; digital diversions unmake our urge to create, and the chance of strange encounters grows distant.

The future calls with urgency. Our city grapples with unruly wonders and soured discontents. For centuries suppressed by old dead masters, new generations clamour to express contrary histories. Through word and action, anger erupts. The empathetic grow uncertain, the intolerant ever more bold. We know that what we are is not enough but we do not know what we are to become. We wade through our impasse.

Imagine if this place gave this city's quarrelling factions, reason to pause. Imagine if in this pause power is lost and shared.

Imagine if in this place the questions of our time might be freshly posed, and together answers sought. In that journey of shared enquiry, WE will at last be born.

Imagine the spirit of this place flowed out like streams into every space, where souls yearn to create, and nurtured new tongues, new forms, new growth. 

But this place will only come into being if all feel embraced, if all see their souls reflected. This will require new rules, that challenge those written and unwritten of former times. 

Imagine it is you, – mind, spirit, sinew – that wrote the new rules.

But write not for permanency as our forebears have done.

Write in water, or write in sand - let new rules last and when new times come and say they are done, let them pass. 

Photo by Mark Cosgrove 

Read the podcast transcribed in full here.

Thank you for listening to Arnolfini Podcast: Imagine New Rules.


It's time for us to reimagine what Arnolfini might be in the future by inventing some new rules.

What would your #newrules be? 

The 'Imagine New Rules' podcast series is recorded by Tom Mercer.

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Wednesday 23 October 2019, 19:30 to 22:00

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