The Atlantic Project 2018
Atl Plymouth Map 06B51B07Fd9Db12Ca090A578957Aecf2

The Atlantic Project: After The Future

28 September – 21 October 2018

Artists: Nilbar Güreş, Tommy Støckel, Liu Chuang, Yan Wang Preston, Hito Steyerl, Vermeir & Heiremans, Kiluanji Kia Henda, Donald Rodney, Shezad Dawood, Postcommodity, Ryoji Ikeda, Carl Slater, SUPERFLEX, Uriel Orlow, Jane Grant & John Matthias, Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll, Chang Jia, Ursula Biemann, Bryony Gillard, Kranemann + Emmett

Curated by Tom Trevor

The Atlantic Project was a pilot for a new international festival of contemporary art in the South West of England, situated in public contexts and unconventional locations across the city of Plymouth. The main curated programme included 20 artists and collectives from 12 different countries, presenting 60 artworks, including 20 site-specific commissions, along with 24 performances and events. Drawing from Plymouth’s past and present in order to reflect upon its uncertain future, artworks were located across the city in fourteen different ‘non-art’ sites, including iconic locations previously inaccessible to the public for a number of years, encouraging exploration of hidden urban contexts and reaching out to audiences who might not usually engage with contemporary art. In addition, the Atlantic Platform was an open platform for artist-led initiatives which presented a further 20 projects across the city. 50 artists in all participated, from 17 different countries.

Artists' Projects

On Armada Way, the main post-war pedestrian thoroughfare, outdoor works by Nilbar Güreş and Tommy Støckel were exhibited in the public domain. In a series of photo-billboards made with local participants, Kurdish artist Güreş playfully explored the experience of being a displaced person in Plymouth (one of five ‘dispersal centres’ for asylum seekers in the UK), along with everyday ‘exoticism’ as reproduced in the city centre. Linking to the trans-Atlantic history of the city, Støckel exhibited a concrete sculpture in Civic Piazza based upon a 3D-scan he made of the Plymouth Rock in Massachusetts. Alongside the sculpture, a mobile app allowed members of the public to imagine the possible future erosion of the rock, that has become an American icon of freedom.

In the main display windows of the House of Fraser department store, Yan Wang Preston displayed photographs and artefacts from her Forest series, documenting the recent phenomenon of transplanting ancient trees into the new cities which are springing up across China. On the fifth floor, Liu Chuang’s project, Buying Everything On You, presented three sets of individual’s personal possessions purchased in a single transaction on the streets of Shenzhen, exhibited as a ‘museum of everyday life’. Alongside this, Liu presented his new video, Special Economic Zone.

In the disused Civic Centre, now being redeveloped by Urban Splash, Hito Steyerl presented a video-work exploring how the contemporary status of citizenship, and the civic, have been affected by the rapid development of global communication technologies. In the same space, Vermeir & Heiremans presented a three-part installation, reflecting on the processes of urban regeneration and gentrification, in relation to art, architecture and the economy. In the Civic Centre basement, Kiluanji Kia Henda, whose work often engages with the colonial past of his home country Angola in a humorous and ironic way, related the experience of Soviet-style modernist buildings in Luanda to the post-war civic architecture in Plymouth.

In the adjoining Council House building, the late Donald Rodney (May 1961–March 1998) was present in absentia in the form of an autonomous wheelchair that he developed as an artwork, Psalms (1997), so as to attend exhibition openings when he was unable to due to Sickle Cell Anaemia.

Looking out across the Plymouth Sound on The Hoe, at The Dome, Shezad Dawood presented a new episode in his epic Leviathan cycle, exploring the relationships between marine welfare, migration and mental health. This site-specific exhibition incorporated a series of films, sculptures, textiles and neon works, organised by local independent curator Ben Borthwick.

The 6.5-acre Drake’s Island in Plymouth Sound, closed to the public since 1993, became the location for a site-specific work by the US-based Indigenous artists’ collective, Postcommodity. Entitled Repellent Eye (Plymouth), the 6-metre tethered ‘scare eye’ balloon aimed to connect ‘Old Europe’ to narratives of cultural self-determination in North America.

In the disused Millennium Building (formerly The Warehouse nightclub) on Union Street, Ryoji Ikeda presented his first major site-specific installation in the UK outside of London. the radar used sound, electronic media and digital data to map the cosmos, creating a sense of sublime abstraction in this vast empty dancehall. Referencing the history of Union Street during the early 1990s, Plymouth-based artist, Carl Slater combined site-specific video archives and new moving image as witness to the mass euphoria of collective and embodied club culture.

Working with RIO, Plymouth City College and local brewers Summerskills, the Danish artists collective, SUPERFLEX collaborated in the development of a community-owned brewery in Devonport. FREE BEER (the Atlantic brew), was the name of three different ‘open-source’ beers made available at venues across the city, including The Clipper, a former 24-hour pub on Union Street, now being renovated by the local community as a social enterprise led by Nudge Community Builders.

At KARST, the largest independent contemporary art venue in Plymouth, a partner group exhibition was presented, curated by New York-based, Katie Cercone. I AM MY OWN PRIMAL PARENT explored lost mythological archetypes and human relations with the Cosmos, including artists, Narcissister, Tommy Lanigan Schmidt, Greem Jellyfish, Melanie Bonajo, Rebecca Goyette, Faith Holland, Adehla Lee, Kamau Amu Patton, Chris Carr, Sol Sax, Go! Push Pops, Laura Weyl, UNDAKOVA, Lotte Karlsen and Jasmine Murrell.

Three artists’ projects were shown in the The Melville building at Royal William Yard, formerly the Royal Navy’s victualling yard for 150 years, now being redeveloped by Urban Splash. Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll created Cook’s New Clothes, 250 years after James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific, taking an Oceanic perspective on the departure of HMS Endeavour from Plymouth in 1768. Uriel Orlow’s film, The Mussels’ Perspective, used his research into the history of mining in the Tamar Valley and its continued impact on the local environment. Chang Jia’s Heavenly, Corrupted Landscapes, comprising a video and a series of large hanging photographs, referenced the Four Major Rivers Project in Korea, and the pollution of the waterways that resulted.

In the disused Devil’s Point Reservoir, at the mouth of the River Tamar, Plymouth-based artists, Jane Grant and John Matthias presented Fathom (Atlantic), a large-scale sound installation which mixed underwater recordings with live acoustic transmissions from Plymouth Sound, enabling the audience to ‘climb through the fathom’ six feet above the ground.

The National Marine Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the UK, was the location for works by Ursula Biemann and Bryony Gillard. Biemann’s commission, Acoustic Ocean, filmed on the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway, set out to explore the sonic ecology of marine life in the cold North Atlantic, with the central figure of a Sami biologist-diver. Cornish artist, Gillard’s video A cap like water, fluid yet with definite body, took the work of female modernist poet, Hilda “H.D.” Doolittle, and her retreat to the Isles of Scilly in 1919, as a starting point to explore relationships between seascape, women’s writing, jellyfish and subjectivity.

In the Immersive Vision Theatre at University of Plymouth, the interdisciplinary artists’ duo Kranemann + Emmett presented Space Interface, an immersive 3D video-work, crossing the lines between contemporary art, sound, performance and architecture.

Performances and Events

Over the course of the three-and-a-half weeks of the project, 24 performances, lectures and special events were presented in 9 different unconventional locations. As part of the opening weekend, The Atlantic Project was launched in close collaboration with the Plymouth Art Weekender, with a series of special events and performances taking place across the city.

On Friday 28 September, the first talk was by Yan Wang Preston in-conversation with Jem Southam at House of Fraser, followed by a book-signing. The Atlantic Project’s opening event at Plymouth Guildhall then began with speeches and the premier of Plymouth Art Weekender commission, Hydrosapien, by Laura Denning. This was followed by a series of Cafe Concrete sound and video commissions, produced in response to the post-war architecture of the Guildhall. These included live performances by ELM-K, Oddstep Deployment Unit, HiP.P and The Unreal Doctor McCoy. The headline event of the evening was the leading Japanese electronic composer Ryoji Ikeda who performed the sound and video piece, supercodex [live set]. The evening ended with an after-party at The Dome, with DJ Verdi’s Cultural Vibes.

After the launch of I AM MY OWN PRIMAL PARENT on Saturday 29th at KARST, the final day of the opening weekend began with the Union Street Party. At lunchtime on Sunday 28th, Shannon Watson & Imperfect Orchestra coordinated a mass participation project on The Hoe, with hundreds of wild swimmers and a scratch guitar orchestra. Then, at Royal William Yard, Jessyca Hutchens and Tamara Murdock’s performance lecture, Stubb’s Dingo, was followed by a large processional performance around the Devil’s Point peninsula, Cook’s New Clothes, led by Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll and Keren Ruki, including Simon Layton, Nikolaus Gansterer, Kirill Burlov, Mo’ong and participating members of the public.

A series of performance lectures in the Council House took place every Friday evening throughout the project, starting with Ayesha Hameed’s Black Atlantis, focusing on the history of migration and the Atlantic Ocean. Subsequent lectures were given by Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll on Museo-piracy, during which the audience voted to ask Carroll to coordinate a group of indigenous Pacific artists to advise The Box on its collection in relation to James Cook, and Vermeir & Heiremans who presented A Modest Proposal setting out a strategy to benefit artists by ‘financialising’ museum collections, including The Cottonian Collection at The Box.

On the two middle weekends of the project, community engagement performances along Armada Way were coordinated by Gemma Smith, including a family-oriented event by Devon Rocks and Stones and a physical response to the brutalist architecture of the city centre by Spindrift Dance, who were joined by youth dance groups, schools and local community groups.

The launch of FREE BEER and a community share offer in the newly formed Billy Ruffian Brewing Company, led by RIO in partnership with The Atlantic Project and SUPERFLEX, took place on Saturday 13 October at the Devonport Guildhall, as part of Social Saturday, the nationwide campaigning event coordinated by Social Enterprise UK.

Finally, as part of The Atlantic Project’s closing event at the Millennium Building (formerly the Gaumont Palace cinema), Imperfect Cinema commissioned a series of films, marking the sites of seven lost cinemas on Union Street. On the centenary of the end of WWI, Charlie Chaplin’s film, Shoulder Arms, was presented, marking the 100th anniversary of its UK premier at the Gaumont Palace, with a live soundtrack by WestFordNeedles. The spectacular finale was provided by Kranemann + Emmett with a sound and video performance entitled CHARLES DARWIN.