FEATURE: The Caravan Gallery | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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The little yellow van that can is coming back to the North East for an unexpected and fascinating view of our lives. Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale came up with a genius concept in 2000: housing a mobile photographic gallery in a funky 1969 mustard coloured caravan. The venerable tourer has since travelled thousands of miles up and down the length and breadth of our funny little island, bringing contemporary art to unexpected locations and tens of thousands of unsuspecting citizens.

Williams and Teasdale use photography to document what they call the “reality and surreality” of the everyday. Shying away from showing the tourist board aspects of the places they visit, the exhibitions focus on the spaces, places and people often bypassed by image conscious marketeers. The de-rigueur smiley faces, gorgeous cityscapes and loved up couples are off the map here; snaps of anonymous graffiti and scruffy urban humour populate the landscape.

the exhibitions focus on the spaces, places and people often bypassed by image conscious marketeers

Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art in Sunderland features on the itinerary for this year’s touring project, and they’ll be visiting Middlesbrough’s mima next year. The artists will spend a six week residency in each city, undertaking research into what people imagine defines them and where they live and how far their sense of place creates their sense of self. The Pride of Place Project will offer the public the chance to work directly with the artists to teach them about secret parts of their city. As Williams and Teasdale explain, “Pride of Place asks city dwellers to share in this project: to look again at their shared habitat, across its beauty and brutality, and at the improbable, imaginative and intransigent behaviours that we invent when forced to share space in cities. We ask: how do we live together? What do we invest our time and energy in collectively – or when no-one is looking? Just what is it that makes us different or distinctive?

“During April 2015 a participatory exhibition hub in Sunderland will invite visitors to define where they live – and how they live – in the twenty-first century, through research conducted in the spirit of Mass Observation; a competition to find the most illuminating image of urban life; an alternative map of little-known places of interest, by which people can share their understanding of the city; and a wall of public observations of city life – and new ideas of what could yet transform our experience of it.”

The Caravan Gallery will also be packing a major new exhibition of highlights from the past fifteen years of travel. extra{ordinary} is a collection of over fifty photographs showing the ordinary in an unexpected new light and which is, in itself, a surprising and fascinating record of change since the turn of the millennium. To rehash an old cliché, a photograph is worth a thousand words and this may be your opportunity to take the artists to that street corner with the funny story or the place where you draw quiet moments of strength in the middle of the clamour, and let them capture it for posterity.

extra{ordinary}: Photographs of Britain by The Caravan Gallery is at NGCA, Sunderland from Friday 6th March until Friday 1st May. Join in the participatory projects throughout the city in April and watch out for the mobile tour throughout March. The project visits mima in Middlesbrough in 2016.

Photograph by: Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale

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