Grizedale Arts

The Grizedale Summit

Thursday 7 June '12
(from The Grizedale Summit)

A Critique from Matthew Hyde

Grizedale 3? (The Coniston Christmas Lights 2011)

Hi Bernadette - thanks for inviting me to the Grizedale summit. I enjoyed it - an interesting set of people, tho I am not entirely at home in an academic talking shop. I wasn't totally convinced by Grizedale Arts, and have pulled no punches in my critique. Be it understood however that this an argument, inviting counter-argument. with all good wishes - Matthew


This strikes me as very experimental. So was the original Grizedale forest sculpture project of 1968.
This project, Grizedale 1 for short, has undoubtedly run its course. Indeed it had a built-in obsolescence since the sculpture used primarily found materials - wind, water, stone, wood, leaf litter - which naturally decay.
Yet what I might call Grizedale 2 seems to define itself in opposition to Grizedale 1, as being everything that Grizedale 1 is not. That was Art to improve the quality of life (or whatever the phrase was), and aimed primarily at visitors. These are disparaged. Grizedale 2 seems to be wary of Art and of any definition of what art is or what it does, to be dubious of the word improvement, and to scorn visitors in favour of villagers.

But art does improve the quality of life, however you define those words. Why be shy about it? And visitors have largely defined the quality of Lake District life since 1750. Why scorn them? Ruskin, Collingwood, Rawnsley, Arthur Ransome, Beatrix Potter, Wainwright - all visitors. It would be interesting to know how many present-day Coniston villagers came here originally as visitors.  

I would like to see the achievement of Grizedale 1 given its due, and to see Grizedale 2 build upon it - in a new direction by all means - rather than set itself up in a separate kingdom in opposition to it. I have seen this happen before, to the detriment of the whole, at Dartington. There the placing of departments into separate kingdoms, each upon its own hill, was highly symbolic of the fragmentation of the college ethos. Do we see the same thing happening here?

Grizedale 2 seems to depend almost entirely on the enterprise and ideas of the director, Adam, who cheerfully acknowledged past failures but given a long rope may well bring off a triumphant success here. But the direction and focus, and even definition of purpose, are not there yet. A negative definition, as I have suggested above, is not enough.

It is interesting that Grizedale 2 is ambitiously international in scope, and yet at the same time intensely local. This duality can be compared with two of the most interesting artists that have fetched up in Cumbria, Kurt Schwitters and Li Yuan Chia. Li in particular created a place and whole environment for others to work creatively, in any medium, and to exhibit their work.

Social Change and Sustainable Development. Good food improves the quality of life. Sustainable development improves the quality of food. Social change is, we hope, in a positive direction i.e. an improvement. Is food production an artistic endeavour? Maybe some redefining of boundaries is called for here - or maybe it is best to get on with it and worry about definitions and boundaries  later.    

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