Thursday 30 November 2023

Our walk in Stratford

We go to Stratford quite often, drive there, park at the Recreation Ground, then start walking by the river, the Stratford theatre across the water. There are variations to the walk, and sometimes we will go into the town, but most often, we just walk.

There are hundreds of swans on the river, but not so many geese, so seeing one is always a pleasure.

In the last year of so some of the swans have started wandering around or just sitting on this part of the ground

This must be one of the nicest riverside walks

I never tire of it

It's been raining a lot and the river is very high

and it flooded over into the path here

but we manage to continue on the very muddy path

Today we are going to walk along the old railway line so we cross the bridge.

We have left the town behind us now, this is open country

This old railway carriage serves as a coffee bar now, and is often quite busy

it's a nice walk, and we often come across other walkers

We have now reached the race course which is on our right. 

This is on our left and it's not a lake - it's a field that has flooded

We are nearing the old railway bridge

that crosses the river Avon

and here we are. This path goes on for miles so we decide to retrace our steps here

and head back into town.

The Holy Trinity church which is on the other side of the river from where we started from

the path in the church grounds

the park by the river

across the water is the path that we walked on earlier

I have no idea what this building is even though I must have passed it hundreds of times over the years - the photographs are scenes from plays staged at the theatre

the back of the building

across the park we can see the Other Place, part of the Shakespeare Theatre where plays are also staged

gorgeous reflections on the water

'Please, sir, we are hungry, sir'

We are approaching the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

such a mix of architectural styles

We continue along the river

The swans are here

and some geese too.

The bridge that we will cross in a minute to get across to where we started from - full circle

But, first, the new bridge which was constructed by men from Wormwood scrubs and Birmingham prison

more swans are coming towards us as we cross the new bridge

Then over the old bridge, and we're back to where we started from.


Tuesday 28 November 2023

British Ceramics Biennial - Social Substance by William Cobbing

British Ceramics Biennial - Social Substance by William Cobbing

at Airspace, Stoke-on-Trent.

This was great fun. A series of video, sculpture and performance, exploring a playful and ambiguous interaction between people immersed in mounds of formless clay. 

For the past 20 years Cobbing has created surreal performative pieces that show the protagonists engaging in repetitive, almost compulsive and absurd cycles of manipulating formless clay surfaces. His work gives a definitive blurring of the boundaries between the body and landscape.

The videos were by far the best and so much fun. Jotted all around the gallery in between the videos were small ceramic plaques which re-inforced the themes of the videos: clay, the lead performer, the centre of what was going on in the gallery; hands - hands that shape and manipulate the clay:  and eyes - vision, of both the artist who creates, but also, our eyes, the viewer. The whole exhibition was an interaction between these three elements, culminating in the last video.

Obsidian Tomb, 2023

Headspace, 2023

A video played on a loop here, and we could access it through the eyes of the sculpture.

Screensaver,  2023

In order to access this, to see this, you had to put your head in the hole

hands manipulating clay, and emerging through it

Social Substance Cycle, 2023

This was the climax of the exhibition, in a room all on its own, and it started slowly, with one performer, manipulating the clay that is covering their head, and then it developed on and on with more performers joining in.

The raw clay connects the performers, extending body boundaries and merging individual identities as they make and remake themselves. The figures are caught in an endless transitional moment, as if in limbo, repeating the same apparently aimless grasping and prodding the material. These earth-clad people are caught in a loop of transforming themselves.

The clay is a character in itself, being an equal player rather than a passive subject to the creative process. Conversely, the performers often adopt a languid or deadpan demeanour, allowing the material to assert its agency over them. The state of plasticity of the clay as a slimy material allows for this drama to unfold. It sticks to the performers' head and hands, disrupting the sense of body boundaries.

More hands joining in

and then suddenly, we have more heads

and now we see more of the performers

this was unexpected

more and more clay. Where will this end?

I think you might have guessed...

We had such fun watching this, and so much laughter... in the end we became quite silly.