My Inspiration: Annie O’Donnell | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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‘Greening’ by Katy Cole (2019) Collage on lightbox

SIDER brings together two established collaborative groups of Teesside and Tyneside artists: Katy Cole, Annie O’Donnell and Sarah Tulloch, together with David Griffiths, Peter Heselton, Lorraine Smith and Helen Edling. The exhibition examines expanded ideas of what collage can be and includes two free public workshop events where you can make your own collage (date TBC). It takes place at Middlesbrough’s most inclusive art space, Pineapple Black from Saturday 28th September to Saturday 26th October (with a preview on 27th September) 

One of the artists involved in the exhibition is Annie O’Donnell, who draws on her previous spatial experiences as a dancer and examines how specific materials and objects can stand as playful tropes for filiation/affiliation, myth/anecdote and people/place. Here, she gives us the inspiration behind the exhibition.

Sider is an exhibition looking at expanded ideas of what collage can be – from cut and pasted paper to sculptural assemblages, dance and sound interventions, and photographic projections – a whole environment of sidelong, glancing, unexpected paths through the Pineapple Black exhibition site in Middlesbrough. It forms part of the upcoming Middlesbrough Art Weekender and brings together two collaborative groups of Teesside and Tyneside artists: Katy Cole and Sarah Tulloch, together with David Griffiths, Peter Heselton, Lorraine Smith, and me, Annie O’Donnell. For this show, we’ve also asked Swedish artist, Helen Edling to contribute, who makes playful improvisational interventions and who studied at Newcastle University. We all have very diverse ways of working but have found common ground in what we call ‘collage practice’, pulling together elements from movements like Dada, Arte Povera and Costume Performance, and from everyday life: let’s face it that’s pretty drastic at the moment. 

The News
We’re continuing the tradition of collage as a strategy for cultural critique. How can artists comment on and contribute to what happens around us? At the beginning of our collaboration, Sarah and I visited the exhibition of radical collage and photomontage artist, Hannah Höch at the Kunsthalle Mannheim, Germany, which showed just how powerful pulling things apart and putting them back together differently can be – especially during periods of unrest. Höch was like a Dada punk. Some of the artists in Sider, like Sarah, make work that can be seen to directly reference world power balances, others, like Katy, have more oblique dystopian influences, drawing on past and predicted events, but broadly I’d say Sider acts as a satirical marker for the place of the artist in an ever more bizarre political and social future.  

Dance and Sound
Lorraine and I have dance backgrounds, with Lorraine still working actively in this field – her research practice has recently taken her to Russia and Holland to work collaboratively on costumes. My sculptural work is often at body-scale and I have become increasingly obsessed with the idea that these pieces could be worn in some way. As Peter and David make sound work and music, collaboration comes naturally. Basically, we’re all focused on how sound, dance and wearable sculpture can come together and build over the exhibition run for a sharing during the Finissage event. Personally, I’d say that artists from Black Mountain College are an inspiration for me – especially Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg, and John Cage’s work from their years touring – together with the dancers and choreographers experimenting at Judson Church in New York such as Yvonne Rainer and Trisha Brown. All of that still seems very fresh.

For Sider we’re making work that responds to the Pineapple Black site, which is a huge former retail space – we’ve been keen to work on a larger scale for a while. It’s always intriguing to see how the work shrinks or grows, dependant on where it’s placed or is happening. ‘On Longing’ by Susan Stewart is a great resource for thinking about the monumental/unmonumental. David’s photographic practice centres on architecture and the body, and Peter is a curator and a polymath whose work ranges from drawing and painting to projections, so I’m really excited to see and hear how things develop during the collaboration. 

We’ll be holding two free public workshops (see Pineapple Black’s Facebook page for dates and times): Collage is ideal for both children and adults, due to its democratic qualities – anyone can make a collage and so it’s a way to express yourself quickly without stressing. You don’t need to be able to draw (but if you can, that’s fine too). I think it’s particularly interesting to see how people respond creatively when the baggage of technique is lifted. All materials for the workshops are provided or bring something along that you really want to change. 

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