Bath's Annual Fringe Visual Arts Festival
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Love and Death @ Walcot Chapel

Originally a funerary chapel, Walcot Chapel is one of Bath's best loved visual arts venues. Making its bright white interior and surroundings the inspiration for events, performances, displays: serious, inconsequential, sober, hilarious. Presenting a variety of works with words, action and sound as well as visual, with themes of death, loss, decay, also memory, ritual, celebration.
Monday
Apr272015

LOVE & DEATH @ WALCOT CHAPEL - a brief introduction ....... Please go to www.geoffdunlop.wix.com/love-and-death for an overview of the artists and their work 

 

Love and death. Big themes. The stuff of great art. And, of course, tons of pompous or sentimental kitsch. Yet this exhibition, and its associated events, didn't come out of a desire to climb a high conceptual mountain. Instead, it was first conceived as a way of re-engaging with the origins one of  Bath's most treasured visual arts venues. 

For years now Walcot Chapel has cocooned all kinds of imaginative expression within its welcoming white space, filled with light from three graceful, round-arched windows. This year FaB's founding director Arran Hodgson and the artist-curator Geoff Dunlop decided they'd like to give the chapel itself some direct attention, presenting an opportunity to re-establish the venue's own discrete identity.

It was built, close to 200 years ago, as a burial chapel for St Swithin's church, which still looms over it. And it continues to be encircled by the graves of a few hundred of the many thousands of people who were once buried there. So Death becomes the most natural of themes, and Love is introduced to balance the mood of loss and grief. That balance is what many of us attempt to achieve when we remember the dead

These twin themes have inspired artists to submit work to this exhibition that displays a marvellously diverse range of responses: poignant, reflective, provocative, challenging and even funny. But all of the pieces on show, and the performance and events that accompany them, seem to fuse together the two extremes: intense affection and intense suffering. 

 In Love & Death @ Walcot Chapel the air is filled with the sights and sounds of ritual, regret, melancholy, yearning and defiance ... with the essential sprinkling of humour.  Through installation, painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, stained glass, and physical and musical performance more than 30 artists contribute to this rich encounter with the most urgently desired and the most deeply feared of all our shared experiences. 

 

 

 

Wednesday
Dec032014

So what's going on at the Walcot?

 LOVE & DEATH @ Walcot Chapel 

 Visual arts, performance, manifestations, happenings, street art ... and a big parade

 

The Walcot Chapel is one of Bath's best loved venues for the visual arts. During the two weeks of  FaB15 we intend to celebrate the chapel's special contribution to the cultural life of the city by making it the focus -and inspiration- for a whole range of events, performances, manifestations and displays. Some serious, some inconsequential. Some sober, some hilarious. Painters, photographers, sculptors, performers, poets and players - all disciplines (or even indisciplines) are welcome, to populate the bright white chapel interior and the surrounding exteriors as well.  And we wish to encourage artists who work with words, action and sound as well as those whose predominant approach is visual.

As for themes, we are flexible and open to surprises. The starting point for some of the work we shall definitely present is the Walcot's original role as a funerary chapel for St Swithins church, which stands imposingly above it. From Saxon times until the nineteenth century St Swithins was the main parish church of Bath, where thousands of people were baptised and buried - many of them celebrated and still remembered, but most of them anonymous and now forgotten. It is believed that, in the early eighteen-hundreds, there were at least 3,000 bodies buried in the land where the Walcot Chapel now stands. Today there are only 300 headstones, and no-one is certain where the missing bodies have gone. That's anonymity for you.

Such a history will inevitability turn thoughts towards death, loss and decay but also to memory, ritual and celebration. We certainly plan to present work that explores these themes but the title wehave chosen, Love & Death, is a reminder that mortality is the final destination on a journey that hopefully includes laughter, labour, lunacy and, yes, love. We believe that the relationship -and the tension- between these two poles should make for an engrossing and unusual art occasion.

Working closely with the organisers of the Bath Fringe, we are keen to encourage events that actively involve the public. We plan to concentrate these activities over the two weekends of the FaB15 festival. They will reach a climax on the final weekend with a street fair along the length of Walcot Street and a festive parade influenced by the funeral marches of New Orleans, and perhaps some of the spectacular funeral parades of 19th century Bath.

 

We are keen to involve groups as well as individuals, non-specialists as well as professionals. We would be happy to create opportunities in which one set of people cross-fertilise ideas with another. Feel free to open an exploratory  conversation with the initiating curator Geoff Dunlop or send your thoughts, questions or developed proposals to mailto:loveanddeath@fringeartsbath.co.uk  

 

 There is no submission fee to offer up work or events or ideas or surprises to Love & Death @ the Walcot.  However for the individual artists or groups whose work is selected there is a small fee per artist of £15.  This goes towards supporting Fringe Arts Bath, a not-for-profit, volunteer-run community organisation.

 Because this is a volunteer-led, minimal income enterprise, there is no artist's fee nor production budget.    But any income arising from participation -such sale of artworks, or the contents of performers'  hats- goes  directly and entirely to the artists involved. And the attention given by public and specialists to FaB15 has  high value too. Close to 10,000 people attended the 2014 recent festival.

 

 Update on Thursday, December 11, 2014

 

As submissions start to come in I am starting to think that the interior space of the show, the chapel itself, should be quite cool and contemplative, like the sacred place that it once was, a haven - not entirely and not all the time, but predominantly. Whereas outside might be more energised, active, pleasantly surprising or even unpleasantly alarming. Possibly (but this is ultimately controlled by what the contributing artists wish to do) there should more death on the inside and more love on the outside. Like all rules of thumb, this thought could be completely ignored at the arrival of bright but contradictory ideas.

At this stage I also like the idea of striking, bold and possibly soft sculpture in the exterior spaces around the chapel - alongside the gravestones or separate in the neighbouring open area.

I am assuming that most of the performance and event material should be concentrated on the weekends and bank holiday, with a street parade as a climactic event on the final day of FaB15, Sunday. June 7. There should be some funereal or deathly presence in the parade but also celebratory and perhaps disruptive elements, as  I imagine there are at a New Orleans funeral parade or a Day of the Dead event in Mexico - although I have to admit that I have not personally witnessed either. The images from New Orleans and Mexico shown here are not intended to be descriptive of what we might see on the streets of Bath - we certainly don't want imitation or kitsch. They are intended to provoke thought in the minds of potential contributors.

The final day parade is being organised in collaboration with the main Bath Fringe Festival, which presents music, comedy, street theatre, circus and all manner of interventions and surprises - and in 2015 a street festival event the length of Walcot Street. Visual artists who wish to integrate or disintegrate this parade should submit their ideas here. Other kinds of artist are also welcome to make their pitch.