Getting to handover humbly……

It is really not enough to  only fulfil the brief you are given when you are working on something like London 2012. The values which define this mega sporting event are about pushing the boundaries – of what is capable of being achieved, what we know has already been done, what lies just in front of us that we can reach, what you not being asked to do.  I can personally can never stick to a brief – I have to move beyond it and extend it. One of  the things I set out to do at the start of my role and work as the North West’s programmer for the Cultural Olympiad was to also go beyond the boundaries of programming for the Cultural Olympiad. It struck me that it would be fun to start programming into the next major event for arts and culture through  the Cultural Olympiad  and  sow the seeds of connection to the next Olympic and Paralympic Games – Rio 2016. This road is London~Derry City of Culture 2013, Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014 and the  Rio 2016 Cultural Olympiad which runs from 2012 – 2016.

Inspired by the concept of the ‘handover’, from major event to major event, rather like a relay, I started work back in 2008 on the development of an international project that would connect the UK to Brazil and enable real time engagement across distance and place through immersive live performance and telepresence art.  The starting point was a collaboration with Vancouver 201o and one of its curators, Malcolm Levy. Four years on, this project has become  a production called The Humble Market – a cross disciplinary production conceived and created by UK and Brazilian artist. Commissioned for the 2012 year of the Cultural Olympic programme, the Humble Market forms part of a trilogy of events  –an exhibition  in Liverpool (Trade Secrets Exhibition), a performance in Preston at WE PLAY Expo (Humble Market Performance) and workshops and experiments in Derry as a trailer to the evolution of a larger scale version of the Humble Market performance which will at the end of this year, consolidate its first year journey and integrate its parts into a touring production that will be seen in Derry in 2013. The ambition of course is that this production keeps growing, expanding and generating links that enable it to form part of Glasgow’s 2014 programme and its ultimate destination of Rio’s Cultural Olympiad.

The  journey of the handover concept to its first stage realisation in Humble Market  is a journey of 4 years which takes the concept to a starting point and tipping point for a further 4 years. It is an example of how major events can talk to each other and connect and co-produce, working in partnership with artists and local communities that exist and lay between them. Connecting the different values, perspectives and needs of artists, producers and major events is no mean feat and it needs an architecture that is fluid, responsive to different needs, locations and sites and most importantly a creative concept which can grow and evolve though the input of artists and partners as they come on board at different points and stages in the journey. There is something remarkable about this – it tells the story of something bigger – the evolution of a sustainable commissioning and producing methodology for major events which is organically grown and community connected. Rather than being either top down or bottoms up in its approach, this is an altogether different structure – something new and built through emergent processes (of producers, artists and major events) and random behaviour and rapid demands within big and small networks.  Capable of supporting a near as integrated network as is possible to achieve, The Humble Market framework is a  ‘body’ oscillating between and connected to multiple  micro structures and macro structures, I would propose this is a model for what 21st century co-production looks like.  Inter-authored by the many, connecting diverse communities and global reach. In a process like this everyone leads and  the direction comes from a shared vision of the values and belief in placing innovation into the mainstream.When major events hold hands and the participants involved in the production come from independent, institutional, micro, small, medium and large scale structures, what you get is the potential for the many to communicate to the one and the one to communicate to the many.

There is along way to go but today I am celebrating a goal achieved – of programming beyond the confines of the Cultural Olympiad and before the Cultural Olympiad is over.

Here are details on the trilogy of Humble Market events happening this year as part of the Cultural Olympiad programme in the North West. All three elements are also London 2012 Festival events – that in itself is something of a success too.

 The Humble Market –  Collaborative International Production

Created by Persis-Jade Maravala, Jorge lopes Ramos, Zecora Ura Theatre Network, Alastair Eilbeck and James Bailey, the Humble Market is a trilogy of events experimenting with digital interfaces and telepresence in an artistic, theatrical and participatory context, connecting the UK and Brazil. What do we value most when faced with the challenges of global consumerism?  Enter the Humble Market to find out.

  • The Humble Market: Trade Secrets – an exhibition at FACT, Liverpool from 22 June – 26 August 2012 as a prelude to the performance in Preston. Embark on a journey of discovery with interactive market stalls.
  • The Humble Market: Immersive live digital performance that brings Brazil to Preston on 7 – 9 September 2012. Oscillating between intense spectacle and intimate encounter, The Humble Market challenges notions of theatre as performers and audiences push the borders of urban life, identity and social ‘under-standing”.
  • The Humble Market – Place at the Clock Tower and Peace Bridge in Derry as a trailer to the performance touring to Derry in 2013. This event showcases experiments and workshops in telepresence by local and international artists and serves as a portal to The Humble Market for audiences in Derry on 7 – 9 September 2012. (181)

Credit – The Humble Market is a co-production between Abandon Normal Devices, FACT and Derry- Londonderry – City of Culture 2013, commissioned by AND, FACT, WE PLAY Expo and Derry- Londonderry – City of Culture 2013 and funded by Legacy Trust UK, Arts Council England and London 2012 Festival.  

This blog is a response to some professional critique I received around the creation of development paths for projects which create mega structure as the ultimate construction – a potential over the top apparatus at a time when there is great need for simplicity of production on the ground?  Surely this is only a negative if the journey works against the ground of practice and engagement  in emergent, collaborative processes. Surely micro-development processes and building infrastructures are not opposites. Personally I am not a fan or advocate for either/or thinking. Building local and international communities of interest simultaneously through bridging structures – big and small – is the modern approach that takes art into the marketplace. I imagine that if you want to keep art in the margins you might well have such a reaction to mixing ecological approaches with  super-structures. What the world needs know is  synergy and mixed approaches founded in 21st Century not 90’s thinking.

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~ by Debbi Lander on April 12, 2012.

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