Leading British artists Edwina Ashton, Bob and Roberta Smith and Matt Stokes are preparing to begin work on a major new art project, Independent State, commissioned by Frome-based art organisation Foreground.
Independent State explores how we define social distinctiveness and achieve self-determination as individuals and communities. The new works will take a number of different forms, from eccentric historical celebrations to major collaborative performance that will culminate as floats, performances and demonstrations in the Carnival on 26 September 2009.
Carnival is one of the most distinctive features of Somerset’s cultural identity and generates huge popular audiences to witness its grass roots creativity that range from the spectacular to the eccentrically amateur. As the first carnival in the Somerset Carnival season, Frome Carnival is one of the smallest yet generates an audience of over 20,000 people in a single night.
Edwina Ashton’s videos, performances and drawings create oblique and absurd concoctions of character and narrative. They explore the allure and peculiarity of eccentricity and idiosyncrasy, often through the use of insects and creatures given human attributes to ridicule the perversities of British politeness. Ashton will create one of her most ambitious works to date for Independent State. Collaborating with local naturalists and craft and drama enthusiasts, Ashton will manufacture a small army of bizarre insect costumes for performers, creating an alternative society of insects as parallel residents of Frome who will enter their own float into Carnival.
Bob & Roberta Smith fuse humour and serious politics into an egalitarian art that uses the skills of the sign writer, pop group and workshop leader to cajole his audience into a celebratory but often acerbic campaign for more art and greater democracy in our society. For Independent State, Smith will stage an anarchic celebration of the long forgotten names of fields around Frome. Similar to a protest rally, local people will march with placards, costumes, and whistles to a soundtrack of field names sung by a community choir of local people, ranging from school children to the retired.
Bob & Roberta is everywhere at the moment including the Grey Gallery Edinburgh for This Artist is Deeply Dangerous as part of the Edinburgh Art Festival. You can read all about his new show in the current issue of Aesthetica.
Matt Stokes is a really interesting artist. He creates ‘performance based’ investigations into alternative and informal movements that bind people together. Music subcultures have been central to the development of his recent projects, which have focused on their ability to shape lifestyle, beliefs, and create collectivity. For Independent State, Stokes will work with Frome’s thriving hardcore/metal music scene and Somerset blacksmiths and metalworkers. Drawing on Frome’s industrial heritage (in particular that of Singers, a former foundry in the town), Stokes plans to create a semi-permanent monument to the hardcore/punk/metal community of the town and area, which will be paraded through the Carnival procession, flanked and heralded by bands, musicians and fans of the genre, harking back to statues leaving Singers in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
I can’t help but think about how lucky the residents of Frome are to have such world class artists engaging with the community.
I think it’s important for these types of activities to occur. I have been impressed by Orange’s Rock Core. I think that in our society, we’re not encouraged enough to interact with each other, the concept of benevolence seems to have been thrown out the window. It’s refreshing to see Foreground redressing this.