We The People Are The Work: Major visual arts project set to open in Plymouth

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A major visual arts project that explores ideas of power, protest and the public is set to open across Plymouth on Friday 22 September.

We The People Are The Work brings six internationally acclaimed artists from the UK, Canada, France and Mexico to the city, all of whom have created new artworks inspired by Plymouth’s heritage, its people and their aspirations for the future.

The artists have been visiting Plymouth and working with local participants over the last few months to prepare for what is set to be one of the biggest events on this season’s cultural calendar.

A multi-site exhibition, We The People Are The Work launches to coincide with this year’s Plymouth Art Weekender (22-24 September). It runs until the end of Saturday 18 November at the following city-based venues: The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art, the Council House, KARST, Peninsula Arts at the University of Plymouth and Plymouth Arts Centre.

The exhibition is presented by the Plymouth Visual Arts Programming Group and curated by Simon Morrissey, director of Foreground. It is the first major commissioning project of Horizon, a collaborative two-year programme of contemporary visual art that will strengthen and grow Plymouth’s dynamic arts scene.

Antonio Vega Macotela and Eduardo Thomas’ (Mexico) newly commissioned film, Advice from a Caterpillar will be housed in Peninsula Arts at the University of Plymouth. The film explores notions of representation, identity and visibility by focusing on local residents who appeared as extras in Tim Burton’s 2010 Alice in Wonderland, parts of which were shot near Plymouth.

Matt Stokes’ (UK) multi-screen film, More Than A Pony Show, can be seen in The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art. The piece poignantly explores punk’s legacy of protest and resistance, whilst charting the decline of Plymouth’s live music venues. Stokes has filmed local bands including The Bus Station Loonies, Crazy Arm, Suck My Culture and The Damerals, performing in musically significant locations including the former Van Dike club on Exmouth Road and the site where Woods nightclub used to be (now the Billabong store at Drake Circus mall).

Printmaker Ciara Phillips’ (Canada) Systems for Saying It is a production space that will occupy multiple galleries and social areas at Plymouth Arts Centre. Phillips, who was nominated for the Turner Prize in 2014, has worked collaboratively with groups of women from across the city to produce printed textiles that voice their societal concerns. Participants include Devon WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality), BA (Hons) Painting, Drawing and Printmaking students from Plymouth College of Art, local youth workers and Youth Parliament members.

Peter Liversidge’s (UK) Sign Paintings for Plymouth installation at the Council House, is made up of a series of signs representing ideas from diverse individuals in the city. The signs give significance to voices that often go unheard. Participants include children from Salisbury Road Primary School, members of The Beacon, North Prospect Youth Club, the Pioneers Project at Tamar View Community Resource Centre and residents of George House homeless hostel. The signs will be distributed around the city by the public. They will also be included in a ritual bonfire burning on the Hoe (5 November) led by Plymouth school children. Liversidge will also have an additional public artwork on the flagpoles on the Hoe throughout October and November.

Feminist arts collective Claire Fontaine’s (France) I Am Your Voice is a series of illuminated text works will be displayed at the KARST gallery in Stonehouse. These new works, taken from recent political debates including Brexit and lifting quotes from Donald Trump, tackle questions of morality, agency and freedom of speech and call on the viewer to take a stance.

A wide-ranging programme of events runs alongside We The People Are The Work and features talks, workshops and film screenings, including a special reunion screening of Colin Gregg and Hugh Stoddart’s 1982 film Remembrance. Shot on location in and around Plymouth, this British independent film featured large numbers of local people and young men in the Royal Navy as extras, alongside Timothy Spall and Gary Oldman in their first significant roles.

Other highlights include a free walking tour between the five venues on the opening weekend by curator Simon Morrissey (23 September, 11am-2pm, starting at Peninsula Arts and finishing at KARST), family activities linked to the annual Big Draw, and free Plain Speaking gallery tours led by Take A Part’s Crazy Glue group.

More information about We The People Are The Work and full details about the event programme can be found at www.wethepeoplearethe.work

People can also follow the project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using @wethepeopleplym


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