Commissioned and curated by Robert Teed & Paula Jackson FRSA of The New School House Gallery
John Newling is an internationally known artist recognised as a pioneer of public art with a social purpose, and he will be based in St Helen’s Square, in the centre of York, throughout July 2014. Newling’s residency is entitled ‘21st Century Eden’, and from a market stall in the square - the artist’s temporary studio for the month - he will interact with the public, asking them the question 'What Do We Really Want?' and researching what a ‘21st Century Eden’ would look like.
In advance of his residency, Newling has created a series of sculptures suggesting Adam and Eve and the Fall, with the figures of Adam and Eve represented by gilded Elastoplasts. 'I want to ask people what they really want', the artist explains. 'Why is it that as a species of 7 billion beings we are intent on knowingly bringing about our own extinction? Why are we so reluctant to address causality, focusing on the symptoms of problems instead?'
John Newling's '21st Century Eden' residency is the first of four long-term artists’ residencies in the centre of York between July and December 2014 that together form PH1: Artists in Place, a major Arts Council-funded project that is curated by the New School House Gallery. PH1: Artists in Place aims to develop and investigate a residency model that is collaborative, interdisciplinary and that will deliver measurable social impact. Off-site residencies located in temporary studio spaces will become hubs of creative activity and experimentation, offering opportunities for collaborative exchanges between artists, educators, researchers and community participants… www.schoolhousegallery.co.uk.
The York Texts – July 28th 2014 in St Helens Square, York.
Read by: Josh Burnell, Julia Davis, Angel Scott, Steve Hughes, Sonja Crisp, and Stephen Pittam.
To witness the reading of 206 texts collected from the people of York in the very space where the conversations happened was a privilege for me.
St Helen’s square is part of a city whose historical geologies, buildings and events, generate a sense of what was and, through that history, what is possible and desired. The 206 read texts in some ways articulated a sense of that desire coming from people who travelled through the square. The texts were of their time and rooted in the now; a kind of contemporary set of distinct voices.
To read such thoughts out loud in the square momentarily charged the air and the square with a tension that people watching the event or simply passing through would have felt. They would also have been slightly unsettled by the words that were spilling into the square.
Such a wobbling of the tacit agreement of place, albeit momentarily, is, for me, part of the ingredients of art.
It felt to me like a reading of desires in a square where people’s voices were allowed to be and were heard. This in and of itself seemed to look back to times where people gave voice thoughts and desires ‘out loud’ in public squares.
I do hope that, on occasion people passing through the space will remember that moment when they saw 6 people, 6 microphones each with a small sculpture at its base in the square where they heard a kind of epic poem that was constructed from the people in York.
Over the coming months I will studying the text in order to try and construct a ‘common’ single text that is a fusion of all the voiced desires as a reflection of repeated desires. This text will then become expressed as art work in some form and will be known as ‘The York text’.