I was really pleased to be asked to contribute via this post for Artes Mundi 6. After joining the board of a charity called Arts & Business Cymru (who do some amazing work!) a year ago, I had heard of Artes Mundi and was excited to find out more and experience this world class art exhibition & prize, which has been taking place for some time now right on my doorstep!
Being driven around Cardiff for the day seeing and interacting with the various works of artists from all over the world was a fantastic experience. One particular piece of work jumped out at me early on in the day. A piece by Ragnar Kjartansson a young, multi-disciplined, Icelandic artist who already has a reputation on the world stage. Being from a digital design background myself, his work particularly interested me as it crossed boundaries to make the whole piece a physical, as well as emotional, experience.
This particular piece, The Visitors was set on the second floor of Ffotogallery in Penarth. Walking in to a huge dark, silent room which had nine large screens with projectors filling all four walls with feeds from roof mounted projectors.
Each screen came on at different times and had a different artist prepping for a performance. The artists were all setup on their own in amazing, eclectic-looking rooms which were in the same large country house somewhere outside New York.
As the piece starts you listen to the musicians talking and making sure all their kit is working including mic and video streams before they start to perform a slow and moody song composed by Ragnar, which we found out afterwards was partly influenced by the break up with his ex-wife. The song was very rhythmic and grabbed you immediately, it was almost hymn like, and as all the musicians on different screens had conversations with each other or took the limelight for a part of the song, I found myself spinning around on the spot to absorb what was happening around me. This gave a real sense that each artist was almost playing directly to you but also making you feel like you were somehow part of the performance. I guess each audience as a group and as individuals would experience this exhibit in a slightly different way which is really cool!
This particular piece certainly stood out for me due to the use of digital technology and its immersive experience but all of the exhibits that I managed to see were of an outstanding standard and really engaged me. For something of this international standard to be on our doorstep in Cardiff is such an opportunity, I would highly recommend you head along to one of the venues as soon as you can to see what is going on! It is an amazing experience!
Image : Ragnar Kjartannson The Visitors,2012 @ ffotogallery for Artes Mundi 6 2014. Courtesy the artist, image credit: Wales News Service