The Huntly Review

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An online living museum set in the North East of Scotland for the citizens of Huntly and beyond. Authored by Amy Fung with the support of Deveron Arts.


This is my 100 and final post for The Huntly Review, an original project devised for my six month stint at Deveron Arts as their Visiting Arts Writer and Curator. The intent of the project was to take Deveron Art’s motto, “the town is the venue” to task by conducting an ongoing “review” of Huntly for the duration of my visit. 

Only, after six months in Huntly, it’s pretty clear that the town was never consulted in being nor remaining the venue, as was first made clear on my independent (i.e. unguided) tour of The Town Collection. Greeted with suspicion, if not downright hostility, a viewing of The Town Collection was in fact a search for missing works, damaged works, finding a work left hidden behind a couch, and generally coming across works that were inaccessible on some level from their original placement. 

I have other protestations, but my project is The Huntly Review and not The Deveron Arts Review, which is a major distinction that needs to be made. The summary of my time has been formally submitted as a final report and may be made available upon request.  

Thanks for reading, and you can keep up on my other projects and writings on AmyFung.ca and PrairieArtsters.com  Bye for now!

— 2 years ago
#finale 
A Big Thanks!

Serious acknowledgement and deep appreciation goes out to all the kind folks who hosted this littlest hobo of an arts writer throughout Scotland. Thank you to all for the spare bedrooms, extra beds, sofas, floors, inflatable mattresses, and even caravans that were so greatly appreciated as I hopped across the country. Shout-out to: Anna Vermehren and the McLeods, Kirsteen Macdonald and Dep Downie, Rocca Gutteridge, Craig Hutchison and Kevin McPhee, Anthony Schrag and Iain Gardner, Kirsten Lloyd and Drew Wright, Josee Aubin Ouellette and Adam Waldron-Blain, Imogen Scott and Andy Sim, Abi Watts and co., Erica Eyres and Garnet McCullouch, Kate Martin and co., Julia Rous and co., and of course, Maureen Ross and Moss for being the touchstones to all of the madness.

The Huntly Review and my experience of Scotland in general would not have been the same without you. So thank you kindly one and all. 

— 2 years ago with 1 note
#couch surfing  #kindness of strangers  #art hobo 
Funny thing about the last two Framework events: the last one was a rescheduled workshop by Ellen Blumenstein on the topic of maintaining an “expanded practice” as an independent curator. Only, exhaustion was in the air, mostly due to maintaining an expanded practice, which as a term, I never even bothered to question as it seemed so perfectly natural. Sick and exhausted, I finished my term in Scotland as an independent writer and curator in deep consideration of a contracted practice. Look for a write up on the first set of Framework events forthcoming on Curating.info 

Funny thing about the last two Framework events: the last one was a rescheduled workshop by Ellen Blumenstein on the topic of maintaining an “expanded practice” as an independent curator. Only, exhaustion was in the air, mostly due to maintaining an expanded practice, which as a term, I never even bothered to question as it seemed so perfectly natural. Sick and exhausted, I finished my term in Scotland as an independent writer and curator in deep consideration of a contracted practice. Look for a write up on the first set of Framework events forthcoming on Curating.info 

— 2 years ago with 44 notes
#Framework  #Curating  #exhaustion  #expanded practice 
Who Are We Writing For? recap

Maybe it’s ironic that a writing symposium has left me hardly able to write a word, to literally render my writing invisible, as I attempt to make myself as the writer visible.  What I mean is that this inability to profusely write has been the best thing to happen to me in my nine year span as a freelance writer.  Endlessly producing words and tailored copy for everyone and anyone, my value as a writer varied drastically depending on whom my labour was for. I can churn out words as if my words fell off of some assembly line, with little thought or control to where they would end up and how this mass manufacturing of words has become detrimental to the craft of my writing as practice.


Image: Roman Signer (left) and symposium guests, Vera Tollmann, Claire Barliant, Matthew Stock, Ross Sinclair, Moira Jeffrey, Charlotte Young, Jennifer Melville

Who Are We Writing For? is a symposium I conceived and then co-produced during my time as Deveron Art’s inaugural arts writer in residence, a residency that began as a very murky writing and curating fellowship. Bringing together twenty writers, artists, curators, educators, and consultants from across the UK , Western Europe, and North America into the town of Huntly for a 24 hour programme of viewings, discussions, presentations, and writing, WAWWF approaches the practice and process of writing from an understanding that this will be a perpetual question.

The aim of designing a symposium by invite only, that was not open to the public, and not recorded, was done so with the intention to not perform, posture, or proliferate a certain style of discourse. All too often conferences and symposiums bring together an electric group of minds with shared values, but performative lectures and show boating are exchanged rather than any genuine expressions. The primary aim of this invite-only format was to engage in directed writing exercises and peer-led group discussions about the state of contemporary art discourse, and I am still shocked and overwhelmed by the generosity of each participant in sharing their vulnerabilities.

What I learned from the writing exercises was that the joy of writing has been constrained by formulas and word count, and I am not alone in enabling this downward spiral of writing as supplementary descriptions, because I haven’t been able to stop treading in this precarious position as a hustler.

But if we look at writing as a creative practice, have I not completely sold out already? And at the same time, be completely disrespected and misunderstood? Writing copy for ads and editing funding proposals for me is on par with asking an artist to paint your house, and of course artists do paint houses, but there is less of a differentiation between their paid labour and their creative practice.  Writing, and I am referring to really good writing, exists in and of itself as a creative form, loaded with historical and social significance in meaning and in its very production, but it is also the singular voice of the writer that carries forward the essence and construction of writing, a voice that is often expected to be as invisible as the labour of writing itself.

And if we really can never get out of language, then we will need to reposition ourselves to not be at the mercy of it. Rather than perpetuate a closed circuit of references that has become the dominant discourse of any specialized topic, including contemporary art, not to mention engineering and molecular biology, where writing is little more than technical writing, my work as a writer is to write with and through language, rather than always bend to its will for professionalized purposes and other forms of systematized frameworks of understanding.

.   .   .

Last week’s by invite symposium brought the obvious question to the forefront, and for me, personally, this question of who are we writing for is stronger than ever intertwined with WHO is paying me to write?

WHO pays me is no less simple than whom I write for, as those who issue me a payment for my precarity are doing so on behalf of an even more amorphous shade than the mythical broad public audience. In this nexus of shape shifters in the form of funders, publishers, and readers, I have had to discover who I am again as the writer: the labourer who remains an integral link in this chain of supply and demand. In terms of arts writing, the writer is always in the supporting role, with the catalogue to be the first on the chopping block if funds are low while reviews are solicited, with little care of the actual words expressed, as it is only preferable that an image accompanies. The idea of a primary text to accompany art exhibitions is neither new nor outrageous, but when stuck on how such a change can ever come about in the state of contemporary art discourse, my response is: set some standards!

And this is why I am paralyzed, as without hustling, I am left to write only for myself, who remains my biggest fan and critic. Disgusted and tired from the regurgitation of language that satisfies box checking and professional affirmations, I will no longer write what people expect me to write, which namely, is name dropping with adjectives. These are the people who pay me, and by a process of negation, I will sort out who I am no longer writing for.

 

 

— 2 years ago with 52 notes
#writing  #precarity  #language  #Roman Signer  #audience  #readership  #creative practices  #labour value  #primary texts  #art speak  #art discourse  #standards 
The two most consistent lifesavers in Huntly have been the Huntly Harvest Organic Box Scheme (aka. weekly veggie box) and The Huntly Swimming Pool and Fitness Center. And this week, I have said farewell to both.
The veggie deliveries have been running consistently since June where every Thursday an overflowing brown paper bag of locally grown goods arrive, often with a base of potatoes and onions and heavily layered with a rotation of broad beans, sweet peas, carrots, lettuce, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, broccolini, leeks, beets, courgettes, cucumbers, artichokes, parsnips and coming soon, brussel sprouts and chili peppers. The bag varies, and can be altered if you have preferences (I didn’t care much for lettuce with a yard full of rocket), and with half a dozen eggs, the price tops at £10 per bag. Sign up with Lesley to get in for next year, as the scheme only runs summer through fall.  (HuntlyHarvest@aol.com or 01542 870201) 
Meanwhile, the gym and I have gotten to know each other more than just a weekly encounter. With very little else to do in Huntly after 5 p.m., unless hanging around in the square or wandering around the supermarkets count as ways to span time, I have been frequenting the pool and fitness center, which I was told received a major renovation and update this past winter, and yet still has no area to stretch. With a monthly membership at only £20 for the pool and gym, the gym side had a pretty basic set up with brand new equipment, the gym was rarely busy, and when it was, the room appeared to be a social hub for a whole assortment of people of all ages that I do not see anywhere else in town. As I went at all hours of the day, I would see certain people at certain times, but where they came from or where they went after will be forever a mystery as I’ve frequented almost every business in town, and except for a odd familiar face, the gym people materialized in and out of some sort of black hole of existence in and outside of Huntly.
The pool side is also a bit strange, as there is just one “village” change room and shower hall for both men, women and children. While I mostly went just for the steam room and dry sauna (which you had to call ahead 30 minutes for them to turn on), I must admit I stopped going after school was let out for the summer as the village transformed into a nightmare of screaming children and muddy sneakers. But the staff was always really nice and smiling, with some even learning my name, which never ceased to startle me.
I must admit I was rather worried about getting really unhealthy during this six month stint in Scotland, but on the contrary, I have never lived a healthier lifestyle. Besides the veggie box and gym, there has also been a dog for me to walk and run, and seeing and hearing folk regularly drink themselves blind and smoke themselves dry, I have tempered my own intake of drink and cigarettes. Instead, I have never drank more tea in my life nor eaten so plainly and gone to bed at such reasonable hours. I can’t imagine this lasting once I leave, but it’s been good to know it can be done. 

The two most consistent lifesavers in Huntly have been the Huntly Harvest Organic Box Scheme (aka. weekly veggie box) and The Huntly Swimming Pool and Fitness Center. And this week, I have said farewell to both.

The veggie deliveries have been running consistently since June where every Thursday an overflowing brown paper bag of locally grown goods arrive, often with a base of potatoes and onions and heavily layered with a rotation of broad beans, sweet peas, carrots, lettuce, kale, cabbage, kohlrabi, cauliflower, broccoli, broccolini, leeks, beets, courgettes, cucumbers, artichokes, parsnips and coming soon, brussel sprouts and chili peppers. The bag varies, and can be altered if you have preferences (I didn’t care much for lettuce with a yard full of rocket), and with half a dozen eggs, the price tops at £10 per bag. Sign up with Lesley to get in for next year, as the scheme only runs summer through fall.  (HuntlyHarvest@aol.com or 01542 870201

Meanwhile, the gym and I have gotten to know each other more than just a weekly encounter. With very little else to do in Huntly after 5 p.m., unless hanging around in the square or wandering around the supermarkets count as ways to span time, I have been frequenting the pool and fitness center, which I was told received a major renovation and update this past winter, and yet still has no area to stretch. With a monthly membership at only £20 for the pool and gym, the gym side had a pretty basic set up with brand new equipment, the gym was rarely busy, and when it was, the room appeared to be a social hub for a whole assortment of people of all ages that I do not see anywhere else in town. As I went at all hours of the day, I would see certain people at certain times, but where they came from or where they went after will be forever a mystery as I’ve frequented almost every business in town, and except for a odd familiar face, the gym people materialized in and out of some sort of black hole of existence in and outside of Huntly.

The pool side is also a bit strange, as there is just one “village” change room and shower hall for both men, women and children. While I mostly went just for the steam room and dry sauna (which you had to call ahead 30 minutes for them to turn on), I must admit I stopped going after school was let out for the summer as the village transformed into a nightmare of screaming children and muddy sneakers. But the staff was always really nice and smiling, with some even learning my name, which never ceased to startle me.

I must admit I was rather worried about getting really unhealthy during this six month stint in Scotland, but on the contrary, I have never lived a healthier lifestyle. Besides the veggie box and gym, there has also been a dog for me to walk and run, and seeing and hearing folk regularly drink themselves blind and smoke themselves dry, I have tempered my own intake of drink and cigarettes. Instead, I have never drank more tea in my life nor eaten so plainly and gone to bed at such reasonable hours. I can’t imagine this lasting once I leave, but it’s been good to know it can be done. 

— 2 years ago with 1 note
#organic food  #vegetable box scheme  #Huntly Harvest  #fitness centers  #village change rooms  #health 
 
Checking Out
By Erik Smith

Super glue, lightbulb,
small green lighter and my change.
Beguiling hairdo.

Checking Out

By Erik Smith


Super glue, lightbulb,

small green lighter and my change.

Beguiling hairdo.

— 2 years ago with 2 notes
#Nickle and Dime  #haiku  #hairdo  #Huntly 
A weekend in The Mobile Picture Salon

With each of us wrapping up events in the North East and in desperate need of a break, Rocca Gutteridge and I took her newly refurbished mobile picture salon on the road. 


Inheriting the caravan cinema from Ewan Sinclair and Joanne Smithers, Rocca has fixed it up for The Mela Festival as well as holding screenings for various events and youth workshops. Only, in all honesty, she has had to admit she knows little to zilch about films (read below for a genuine example). Being the complete film nerd that I am, I rented a few films from the Huntly library (including Murnau’s Nosferatu and Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum) and suggested we take the caravan up north and west to hold screenings wherever we land. 

Heading up first to the hippy commune better known as Findhorn, we wandered the grounds and the village, but the giant tourist buses of eco-housing enthusiasts and the overpriced health food store pushed us back on the road within the hour. We then headed towards Nairn as I had heard about this bizarre little film festival spearheaded by Tilda Swinton, and the coastal town was reportedly Charlie Chaplin’s favorite vacation spot, so I thought it’d be a perfect destination for the mobile cinema — except that we didn’t have any of their films — and Rocca actually had no clue who Swinton was.

Driving right through Nairn without even knowing it, we take a random left turn towards a bothy sign, which led us into a small car park opening out to an interesting looking walking path. Desperate for a stretch, we go for a wander trying to figure out where to bunk down as the rain was coming on as well as the night, so Rocca runs up to a group of on comers to ask them if they know of any local places we could plug into. Out of the corner of my eye, I thought the group was just tall and gangly teenagers, but I must have been distracted by their dogs, because when I look up, it’s none other than Tilda Swinton and family listening to Rocca charming them with her story of the mobile picture salon and how we’ve taken it to Nairn, because you know, Tilda Swinton lives around here.

The next little bit is all a bit of a blur, as I’m sure we just started blathering and their puppies were shivering. It was hilarious, but I don’t remember laughing. We walked and talked back towards the caravan, and they gave us a number of a guy who ended up helping us out by referring a nice park where we did screen films all night for ourselves out from beneath the storm of pouring rain. 

The really strange part for me was that I had just heard from an old acquaintance, Kate Rennebohm, who spends the end of each summer working for The Telluride Film Festival The trick with Telluride is that the town is located in a remote location along the southern leg of the Rocky Mountains, and no one knows what will be screened each labour day weekend until opening night. Guesses can be made, but surprises are always in store — which is half the pleasure of making the trek down to the corner of Colorado. Kate had correctly answered a trivia tribute question about Swinton’s film career during the festival and won a free trip to London. I didn’t know exactly when the trip was taking place, but I had joked with Kate that I was just about to hit the Highlands in this mobile picture salon and that if her new pal was around, she should totally come check it out.

Happenstance goes, another guess, another surprise, and while I wasn’t actually shy, I was definitely feeling sheepish as we headed back towards the caravan, but Tilda was rather nice and added at the end her greetings to Kate and to encourage a trip up after London, as the prize was in her name after all, and what’s that without actually visiting Scotland. Also learned that the Cinema of Dreams festival can no longer take place in the ballroom due to new neighbors, Kenneth Anger had once just shown up unannounced, and that her festival had also gone mobile at one point (possibly referring to this).

The next day we continued down and west towards and possibly past Drumnadrochit, driving alongside Loch Ness which I’ve been told by various crackpots that this lake is connected to the Ogopogo Lake in Canada. Some believe the mythical lake beasts of each water source is actually one and the same, as reports of the lake beasts always seem to appear in either location rather than simultaneous sightings. I too could see myself hallucinating if I stared into the loch for much longer, as the light was pure magic.

Onwards and upwards and tucked away behind an old school house and a peaty river, the mobile picture salon eventually made its way up a steep hill where it screened a couple of original short films that dazzled in particular a wee boy of 18 months. That look of utter enchantment on his face, that helpless expression of being enraptured by the moving image on the big screen, I felt like I was witnessing the formative experience of a future cinephile, a feeling I can recall in myself, and the weekend was complete.

As an addendum: I could watch films all day and all night. This is something I haven’t done since those days I bothered making my way to the crevices of Telluride. I go to the cinema when I can, not for particular films so much anymore as for the pleasure of the cinematic experience. Having no cinema in Huntly has been a sore point, as I often like ducking into the movies when it rains, and well, it rains a lot around here. 

— 2 years ago with 5 notes
#Cinema of Dreams  #mobile picture salon  #Tilda Swinton  #Telluride Film Festival  #Nairn  #Charlie Chaplin  #Findhorn  #Ogopogo  #Loch Ness  #cinephilia  #mobile cinema 
Real Life in Huntly, Interview with Ross Sinclair

Image credit: Ross Sinclair, Real Life Huntly (surveyed from the Clashmach), 2011 (courtesy of the artist and Deveron arts; photograph: Anna Vermehren)

Glasgow-based Ross Sinclair has been the Artist in Residence at Deveron Arts for the summer of 2011 researching the history of The Gordon Clan of Huntly and its relationship to present day Real Life in Huntly. From writing songs encapsulating the history of The Gordon Family to marching up and down The Clashmach carrying painted portraits of past dukes and Robert the Bruce, Sinclair has been negotiating the boundaries between being a research-driven studio artist to working in a socially engaged practice through Deveron Art’s “the town is the venue” methodology.

Canada-based Amy Fung is Deveron Art’s Visiting Arts Writer in Residence for 2011.

This is an excerpt from an interview, which took place on September 6, 2011, Huntly, Aberdeenshire.

Amy Fung: Let’s go back to the beginning: what have you been doing in the town of Huntly?

Ross Sinclair: Thinking about  it now, it’s turned out like a 3 months research residency where I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the subject of the Gordons of Huntly, while at the same time constantly questioning myself, thinking about the process and context … a lot of the ideas have woven in quite well into a whole strain of my work, ideas about living in a small damp northern European nation sometimes known as Scotland that touches upon notions of identity, location, history, geography, and what we’re all made up of. Part of that is just where I am myself at the moment, as a lot of that has been a reflection of what does it mean to come to a place like Deveron Arts to be an artist in residence working in a socially engaged method with a maxim of the town is the venue. I think it’s very challenging for all concerned.

For me, to explore the situation where there’s still quite a big constituency is really interesting. We did this event down by Huntly Castle where we called up all the Gordons in the phone book and we invited them to have lunch together. I set up this carnival style tableau facade with a doorway at the bottom and we invited them to all bring mementos of their Gordon heritage.  It was a really lovely day where everyone met each other as they didn’t all know another, and I did this performance of songs that charts 12,000 count ‘em - muthafuckin years of history and we did a photo of all the present day Gordon’s in Huntly with their illustrious forebears in the background and the castle as the backdrop.

 It was this very simple way to present the Gordon Family here in 2011 and the castle bearing their family name and here’s me as the artist in residence bringing it all together and Deveron arts hosting; looking back it’s interesting to articulate as it was just a really human moment of a really simple exchange and sitting down across the table like this and talking. It really only lives in the memory, but it was quite a rich and dynamic moment. Though at the same time I’m thinking about a meta view of the event where I’m considering whether the Gordons are part of the work, or participants, or viewers as the piece is documented as an artwork.

AF: Do you think that’s the focus of these residencies, that if the town is the people as you say, can you imprint something on people as one could with a venue?

RS: Well this thing in the Mart last weekend where Huntly hosted its farmers’ market on Saturday and then the livestock mart on Sunday hosted all of Huntly life from the bouncy castle to the tractor show to the rare breeds, sheep shearing and rabbit skinning amongst the Guides and Brownies and people selling landscape photos and all sorts of other things, and then in the middle of the livestock mart, there’s this artist in residence too. I brought all the stuff I had been working from the “studio” into the pen, and I was sitting there in the back painting and making music with my back to the audience and for me I really did feel like I was just one of the other exotic zoo animals. But the question after all is whether this idea of culture and art is just another aspect that goes on in the town? I did a project a few years ago called “Studio Real Life” at de Appel in Amsterdam and that was riffing on similar ideas. I had set up this symbolic studio where I was there every day being an artist for 3 months in the public gaze, but as much as anything it was for me - trying to answer: What the fuck goes on in there? What’s my job? What’s my role?

For the full interview, please download the pdf here

— 3 years ago with 2 notes
#Ross Sinclair  #Real Life  #Gordon Clan  #the town is the venue  #socially engaged art 
Maria Fusco writing workshop*

Coming to the end of this inaugural arts writing gig at Deveron Arts, I am more unsure than ever as to what it is I am actually writing. I know I write, but I know little else. I have no idea what it is I am writing, just that I am definitely writing it. Working on the border of cultural commentaries and creative non-fiction, I am tired of looking, if not legitimating what it is I write, rather, I continue to read the writings that have influenced me as a reader and inevitably as a writer. A small handful of these voices appear on my current reading selection for the Art Reader Network  including Gertrude Stein, Deleuze and Guattari, and Serge Deney, all of whom were spectres to my experience of Maria Fusco’s writing workshop yesterday.

Reconfiguring the value and limitations of arts writing as a creative practice that runs alongside, across, in and through the works of visual art our words accompany, Fusco’s approach to arts writing meets at the nexus of experimental poetics, post-structuralist theory, and the sculpting of subjectivity. Shifting art objects, and the history of art itself, as bricks, rather than the keystone, in the arch of understanding and rendering, Fusco pushes us into a minefield of subjective interpretations starting from the first person position of (art) objects.

Encouraging us basically to “re-caress the art object”  — to write and read the object simultaneously —Fusco’s series of writing exercises led us further down the constructive path of subjective reimaginings, and hopefully hit home that writing is a practice that employs creative skill. A quiet, but nevertheless startling realization came during the collaborative exercises, when we had to do pronoun hurdles in small groups, and I was reminded for the first time in a very long time that writing and editing are acquired skills that not many people have grasped. As somebody who compulsively writes and edits, I unfortunately forget before eventually remembering that writing remains one of the most undervalued skills in terms of appreciation and labour value.

Concerns disguised as questions were raised early on as to why one writes if nobody is going to read it? This commonly held position reveals the underlying attitude that writing is supposedly a servant to communicate knowledge, and that knowledge is presupposed, rather than created.  Would anyone ask if a musician would play and sing if there is no audience to hear it? Or if a thought is going to be explored if nobody is ever going to understand it? Eventually somebody comes across the work in some incarnation or another, but the work must begin somewhere.

Having been given an option between production or discussion, I am thrilled the majority voted on production, as that’s at least a positive sign towards a better direction. 

*First written for Framework

— 3 years ago with 18 notes
#Framework  #Maria Fusco  #creative non-fiction  #subjective constructions  #writing  #re-caressing the art object