Redhouse, Old Town Hall, High Street, Merthyr CF47 8AE
Peak/Copa is pleased to support Enthusiasm
A project by Victoria Donovan and Stefhan Caddick
Enthusiasm is a migration story spanning Merthyr Tydfil and Ukraine; the 1860s to the present day. This innovative, interdisciplinary one-day arts event brings together musicians, members of the community, archivists and historians to take a radical look at a little-known historical episode that links Merthyr and the South Wales Valleys to the Donbas in Ukraine and asks how the legacy of this past continues to resonate in our social, cultural and political landscape today.
In 1869, Welsh industrialist John Hughes founded the mining town of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine, initiating a wave of migration from South Wales to Eastern Europe. 1917 and the approaching Russian Revolution saw the hasty exit of the industrialists who had followed Hughes, fearful of the revolutionary ferment. 100 years later, in the present day, Ukraine and the Donbas are once again at the centre of a violent conflict that has led to the internal displacement of over a million people.
Enthusiasm will bring to life some of the elements of this fascinating and timely story, via film, music, image, food and discussion.
• Performance of a selection of migrant letters by local and diasporan voices.
• Exhibition of historic photographs of Donetsk from the Glamorgan Archives and contemporary images by Ukrainian photographer Alexander Chekmenev
• A programme of workshops and activities
• Screening: Enthusiasm: The Donbass Symphony (1931) by Ukrainian revolutionary film maker Dziga Vertov with a new original score performed live by composer Simon Gore.
Dr Victoria Donovan, originally from Cardiff, is a cultural historian of Russia based at the University of St Andrews. Donovan was selected as one of ten academics in the ‘New Generation Thinker 2016’ scheme. www.ahrc.ac.uk
Stefhan Caddick is a visual artists who works in video, installation and performance. His practice is often a collaborative engagement that sources its materials from institutions, communities and individuals. www.stefhancaddick.co.uk
Artist, Allen Fisher has created a new collection of paintings on y Waen Ddu, the Black Bog – a rare raised peat bog situated on the Craig Y Cilau nature reserve in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Allen is drawn to the cultural associations of peat bogs as sites of Iron Age sacrifice, preservation and divination as well as their ecological importance as rich environments of biodiversity and carbon capture. Peak/Copa, in collaboration with BBC Cymru R&D has produced 360 degree film footage and binaural sound recordings of Allen creating new work on site.
Rebecca Spooner, Creative Director, will host a panel discussion with Allen and two guest speakers:
–Allen Fisher is based in Hereford and is a poet, painter and tutor associated with the British Poetry Revival and the Fluxus movement. His work is represented by Tate gallery. Allen will talk about his attraction to working on site with the ponds of y Waen Ddu and his working process. He will also discuss the enduring need amongst artists to work directly in the landscape, particularly referencing the land art movement of the twentieth century.
– Archaeologist and author, Professor Miranda Aldhouse-Green, will discuss the historical and cultural context of peat bogs. Referring to her critically acclaimed book Bog Bodies Uncovered (Thames & Hudson. 2015) Miranda will tell us more about the remains of prehistoric people who have been revealed in the bogs of northern Europe. In many cases their skin, hair, nails, and marks of injury survive, betraying the violence and ritual that surrounded their deaths. Who were these unfortunate people, and why were they killed
– Geologist Alan Bowring is the Fforest Fawr Geopark Development Officer for the Brecon Beacons National Park Authrority. Alan will talk about the ecological and geological significance of the Criag Y Cilau site and its importance within the National Park. In 2013 Alan discovered a rare example of Bronze Age rock art, more than 4,000 years old in the Brecon Beacons.
Our Digital Manager, Gavin Johnson will discuss the documentation of Allen Fisher’s project in partnerhsip with BBC Cymru and the potential for digital technology in artist projects.
Recordio bywyd ar dyddynnod Canolbarth Cymru Recording life on the smallholdings of mid Wales
Peak/Copa yng Ngŵyl Wanwyn y Sioe Frenhinol: 20 a 21 Mai 2017 Peak/Copa at the Royal Welsh Spring Festival: 20 & 21 May 2017
I don’t like to plan too much.I’m trying to put back the natural wilderness.Oak birch hazel thorn mountain ash ash.
A farm opening its arms wide to change,as the same birds circle there, above,singing their song.And everybody on the farm looks up.
The Peak/Copa team pitched up the Horsebox Studio at the Royal Welsh Spring Festival in Builth Wells, where we presented a mini museum of tools from agricultural life of the 19th and 20th centuries. The objects were selected from the personal collection of historian, author and dry stonewaller, Stuart Fry. Over 230 people visited the Horsebox and we invited farmers and smallholders to talk with us to find out more about their experiences and memories of working on the land.
And now a group of boys there on a bridge,this summer of scything and leisure hours,green, green leaves and lambing,
Summers don’t seem to be summers anymore.It’s a life. It’s a life that’s gone now.
A short article from Jonathan reflecting on the weekend:
It was an enormous privilege to work with visitors to the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society Spring Festival. As I don’t come from a farming background at all, it was fascinating to hear the great variety of experiences which farming generates. The people we interviewed ranged from a woman in her twenties who’d taken to farming despite her fiancé’s lack of enthusiasm, delivering lambs with her engagement ring on, through to people who’d been in farming for sixty years, who’d seen all sorts of changes and talked with pride of passing their experiences on to the new generation.
One farmer we spoke to discussed his childhood in the 1950s, when he skipped school to work on the farm. In a family of butchers, my father had the same experience, skipping school to cart a delivery bike all over the valleys through his teens, so I was really interested in that connection, and the impact of a family business on education and opportunities. As a writer, I was also really struck by the care and delicacy of some of the processes farmers go through in their work. For example, one man discussed how part of his job at the moment involves seeding hedges, and to do so the seed needs to be removed from the berry and the poisonous pith around it. Having tried food blenders and all sorts of different apparatus, the conclusion has been that completing the process by hand is the only option, and that sort of daily process in some ways sums up the passion, patience and tenderness that the people I spoke to bring to their daily lives. Another farmer had developed from scratch a 13,000-tree wood on a piece of land he’d purchased. He spoke of going into his wood, the world he’d made, and spending hours there, the birds, the trees, how it felt protective. In that making of worlds to walk round in, that single-minded passion, there was much as a writer I could relate to.
It’s an enormous responsibility to take the experiences someone has been generous enough to share with you and form them into a piece of writing, to honour the art as well as the person. My favourite part of the weekend was seeing people’s reactions when I read the poems to them, when their lives and stories were given back to them. The gifts I received in return included five Welsh cakes, one pint, one handshake, one hug, nine smiles, one spontaneous round of applause and one offer of a bed if I ever happened to be passing through Cwmdu. Knowing how I might react if anyone ever wrote a poem about me, I’d been practising for weeks my read-and-duck method to avoid any punches, but it was never needed. Because of the quick turnaround, with each piece being written in half an hour or an hour to get to the next person in the queue, these are nascent, infant poems, first drafts, saplings, the sort of sketches my mother might make with a pencil before taking them home and getting the oils or the watercolours out. The material the farmers were kind enough to share with us was incredible, and my hope is that, with apologies for this obvious comparison, like one farmer’s berry or another’s forest, in the coming weeks and months, I can get rid of the places where the poems aren’t up to the job, can make them better, make them bloom and grow.
Cushioned by soil and surrounded by leaf litter and new growth, Woodland by artist duo French & Mottershead is a meditative and deeply affecting audio work that creates a self-portrait of the body after death. Using spoken narrative with insights from forensic anthropologists and ecologists, Woodland is a gentle confrontation of mortality and an invitation to imagine our body’s return to the earth over an epic length of time.
Friday 26th– Monday 29th May, 10:30am – 4:30pm
Special event: Saturday 27th May with an artist talk at 7pm
Peak has been supporting artist Sarah Rhys, based in Mamilhad, Monmouthshire, with her current project Coal Tree Salt Sea. Sarah is preparing for a solo exhibition at Abergavenny Museum from 18th Jan – 1st March 2017.
Coal Tree 2015 Sarah Rhys
Allah Chemia 2016 Sarah Rhys
Ritual Archaeology 2015 Sarah Rhys
Miniature Landscape 2016 Sarah Rhys
Violinist at Coal Tree 2015 Photocredit Frank Menger
Palleg Unearthed 2015 Sarah Rhys
‘Coal Tree Salt Sea began in Ystradgynlais when I met the Josef Herman Art Foundation Cymru. I was interested in archiving work for the Mining Josef Herman Project. Through this initial meeting the Foundation became interested in the way that I working and in particular my approach to ‘place’. This led to an invitation to develop an artist residency in partnership with them for which I was awarded a research and development grant from the Arts Council of Wales.
The early phase of the work was based around Ystradgynlais, but since the project was also influenced by the people I came into contact with, ensuing conversations caused a rhizome of connections and meanings. This led to a research trip to Poland, Josef Herman’s country of origin. There I explored a salt mine as a counterpart to the coalmines in Wales, I subsequently accepted an invitation to meet a group of poets and artists in Prague, known in medieval times as the City of Alchemy.’
The following extract is from a conversation with Dr Iain Biggs, Co- Director of PLaCE International.
Iain Biggs: How did the Coal Tree come about?
Sarah Rhys: ‘I had spent a few days in Budapest in Autumn preceding my residency. In the Jewish Quarter, I was particularly moved by a sculpture in the garden of the Synagogue: a huge silver tree that bore the names of Jews murdered by the Nazis, engraved on its leaves. At the base of the tree were branches representing whole families that had been systematically destroyed It was a very striking image. In the Judaic, Christian and Hermetic tradition of the Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is the central mystical symbol.
Later on, after I had started my residency, a strong and compelling image came to mind: of coal pouring from a cattle horn and then later from a hollow tree. A sort of inverse geology and cornucopia.
I wanted to make something outside in the landscape and wanted to find a hollow oak tree. Oak felt appropriate, significant: both oak and animal horns feature widely in Celtic culture.
In Welsh, oak is derwen, and druid is derwyddon, which means oak knowledge.
I met Arwel Michael from the Ystradgynlais Heritage and Language Society through the Josef Herman Art Foundation. He took me to a tree on a hill in nearby Cwmgiedd, where he lives. This ancient hollow oak had served as a den for him and his friends in childhood. This oak had all the right qualities.
Arwel had acted in the Humphrey Jennings documentary film The Silent Village (1943) in which he appeared, aged two, sitting on his father’s knee. Humphrey Jennings chose Cwmgiedd as a parallel village to Lidice in the Czech Republic.
Interestingly, Arwel has been active in preserving the Lidice / Cwmgiedd link over the years and plans to import a pear tree graft taken from the sole surviving tree of the Lidice atrocities in WW2. The tree will be planted in Cwmgiedd.’
Copyright – Sarah Rhys. Mamhilad, Monmouthshire, September 2016.
Castle Arcade, Cardiff 22 October – 19th November Tuesday – Saturday 11am-6pm / Sunday 11am-5pm
Limelight is a project developed by collaborative artists Rob Smith and Charles Danby, based in Newcastle. Supported by Peak/Copa and the Canal & River Trust, the project researches and responds to the working landscape of canals, quarries, tramways and kilns that serviced the lime industry of the rural Black Mountains which in turn fed the nation’s heavy industries that roared through South Wales.
For their Cardiff Contemporary commission, the artists have used digital means to bring reflections on this history to urban audiences by streaming live illuminations at nightfall from Llangattock Limekilns in the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park to the Welsh capital and online. The live stream event (on 22nd October) presented multiple perspectives of landscape, combining live with recorded footage, audio and performance in an immersive experience. The illuminations were created with limelight itself, an intense, pure white light generated through heating quicklime at high temperature, used in the 19th century for land survey work and stage lighting. Each live broadcast will lasted as long as it took for the chemical reaction to be exhausted.
Peak/Copa pitched up its Horsebox Studio outside Cardiff Castle during the opening weekend of Cardiff Contemporary (Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd October) which acted as a resource space for members of the public with an intriguing collection of artist films, vintage books, maps and lime materials related to the Limelight project.
Rob and Charles organised a replica limekiln burning at Llangattock during their research week in the Black Mountains in September 2016. The public event introduced the project and facilitated discussion about the lime industry and canal network.
In 2014 Smith and Danby organised Revisiting the Quarry, a symposium in conjunction with the Hayward exhibition Uncommon Ground: Land Art in Britain 1966-79 at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. In 2014 the artists were commissioned as part of Shelter, a project on Lindisfarne, Northumberland. Taking limestone from a quarry on the island they made a small scale lime kiln and produced quicklime that was subsequently used to create new sculptures called Repaired Rocks. These works repaired limestone rocks from the quarry, extending themes of industrial process within the landscape and the nature of post-industrial reparation to a site. www.danbysmith.com
Peak/Copa creates opportunities for contemporary art in the Black Mountains for the benefit of the region’s artists, communities and visitors. The inspiration for Peak lies in an enthusiasm for the exceptional artists working in the Black Mountains and the distinctive, natural landscape of the region as a unique resource. Peak works in partnership with environmental and heritage organisations such as Canal & River Trust, The Landmark Trust and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. These organisations share Peak’s vision for bringing artists, sites and audiences together. Peak/Copa is an Arts Alive Wales initiative. www.peakart.org.uk
Cardiff Contemporary is a citywide festival of contemporary arts, showcasing a programme of exhibitions, events and activities over five weeks. 20 October – 19 November. www.cardiffcontemporary.co.uk
Limelight is part of the Canal & River Trust 2016 Arts on the Waterways programme. The programme offers time and space to artists, producers and curators to make new work and engage new audiences for both the waterways and the arts. www.canalrivertrust.org.uk
Peak is one of five projects currently supported by the Digital Innovation Fund for the Arts in Wales, a strategic partnership between Arts Council of Wales and Nesta. The partnership is helping arts organisations in Wales to experiment with digital technology as a tool to reach new audiences. Peak is working in collaboration with BBC Cymru Wales to research the use of live-streaming digital technology in site-specific locations in the Brecon Beacons National Park. www.innovation.arts.wales
Established in 1995, Ty-Mawr Lime Ltd has made an enormous contribution to resurrecting the use of traditional building materials. Ty-Mawr has gone on to become a market leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of environmentally-friendly building materials and systems, providing a ‘one-stop’ shop for its customers and clients across the UK. www.lime.org.uk