Friday, 21 November 2008

Iconic site Newcastle

Yesterday we installed Iconic Site in Newcastle, this siting has been commissioned by Silverlink as an artwork to launch the beginning of the Stephenson Quarter and the future involvement of artists throughout this development.

The switch on by the leader of Newcastle City Council, Councillor John Shipley will take place on monday 24th November at 4pm.
The sign will be visible during the hours of darkness until March 2009. The work can be seen from the from many vantage points in the city or from trains entering and leaving Newcastle train station.

Monday, 17 November 2008

new web site

A new version is needed and we are designing the new Sans façon website. It is taking some time but we're slowly getting there, hopefully ready for the new year.

Last week's talk

Last thursday we gave a presentation as part of What's art got to do with it?, "a one day set-piece event based around a discussion of the purpose, worth, and suitability of art in a housing context. The intention is not simply to laud what has been achieved over the last decade but to use the day as a means of critically examining arts’ role in place shaping and community capacity building". Organised by Bolton at Home’s % for Art Service, the day was very thought provoking and thoroughly enjoyable.
We were in very good company, talking alongside Laurie Peak - Head of Public Art at the Liverpool Biennial -, Wayne Hemingway, and Office for Subversive Architecture.

Monday, 3 November 2008


Walden was selected for Scotland live 2008, an international showcase to highlight the work of Scottish theatre and dance artists. The Federation of Scottish Theatre hosted performances and events across Scotland and Walden was presented in Perth theatre.
The production was created in 2007 by director Nicholas Bone of Magnetic North Theatre and Sans façon and was originally performed in Stills arts gallery in Edinburgh. Developed as part of the company's Rough Mix programme, Walden will be touring Scotland in late Summer 2009.
Following are a few pictures of the performance with an adaptation of the set for Perth Theatre.

Robbie Jack during rehearsal

Robbie Jack during rehearsal

The dress rehearsal

The dress rehearsal

The dress rehearsal

hanging coat hooks for the audience to use, which form part of the set

Iconic site Liverpool

Iconic Site is now on show in Liverpool until 19 Nov.
Commissioned by Places Matter! an Architecture and Built Environment Centre for the Northwest, in collaboration with Cube, (Centre for the Urban Built Environment) in Manchester. The installation is part of the Pool of Light lighting festival taking place in Liverpool this autumn.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Some images from a recent visit to Kentucky.

continental travel

a continental chair - presumably so the maintenance chap can reach.

Pleasant Hill, is a the largest Shaker village in the US, big fans of their craftsmanship and the resulting aesthetic, we visited (and stayed the night) a little sceptical that this original but renovated village might be somewhat 'Disneyfied', the traditional dress of the guides was a little much but the buildings and objects are beautiful.

In sharp contrast was the Louisville craft shop

a picture from a little local shopping trip

a Downtown Louisville fire escape

We were staying as guests at the Bernhiem Arboretum and research forest, just over the road was the Jim Beam Factory, with a number of these lovely sheds.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Home and away

After a short visit to Liverpool to prepare the new installation of Iconic Site, we're finally about to go back to Calgary to get the Visual Language Project started and continue our involvement in the design of Laycock Park.
For the VLP we put together a multi-disciplinary team consisting of:
-Yan Olivares, architect, co founder of Yes architects
-Emlyn Firth, graphic designer
-Matt Baker, an artist with a good knowledge of strategic organisation of art programmes
-Eric Laurier, Social Geographer
-and Bert Van Duin, water engineer extraordinaire

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Back in the studio

After a couple of weeks away we're back in the studio.
The first task is to conclude Odd sympathies. With John Metcalf we've edited a series of miniatures out of the recordings to share the potential of these audio walks. Alongside the miniatures we are also creating a map/score to allow people who missed the performance to follow the composed itinerary. Both will be available from our website and Artes Mundi's as well as a few other ones.

the first version of the score that the conductor followed during the performance"

John Metcalf and Terry Lewis (of Tinderbox Broadcast) during the miniature editing session

The interesting Mobile sound blog kindly did a post on this project

Monday, 14 July 2008

Shopping: National past time

Not that you really have the choice:
in a car park in Birmingham, just in case you forgot what you came to town for.

go through the shop to go to the hospital reception.

and in order of importance, the reasons to choose one city or another

What to do whilst you're waiting for your plane in East Midlands airport, at least they're honest.


Since our work for Cube Gallery, we've been interested in the names used by developers to brand their buildings.
This one in Glasgow wins the medal.
Now you know where to find utopia, it's 2 blocks from the motorway, on the edge of the railway line.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Cultivated wilderness new pictures

Went by the Gorbals last week and took a couple of pictures of the Cultivated wilderness, it's growing nicely and starting to really take over the fence.

Urban wildlife

Last week in Newcastle we had another look at the seabird colony on the Tyne bridge, it's growing and the piles of the bridge look more and more like a cliff covered in guano.
Apparently, the bridge's kittiwake (Rissa tridactyla) colony is believed to be the most inland one of seabirds anywhere in the world.
The bridge is now considered an important breeding site for these birds, but their nests are threatened by the complaints of nearby residents who dislike the noise and mess they cause.

Give the city a small piece of the love you give to the countryside
Franz Hessel

You can check the BBC website. Kittiwakes are usually found nesting on precipitous sea cliffs, where large numbers crowd together to nest on narrow ledges. However, the granite "cliffs" of the towers of the Tyne Bridge provide a perfect substitute for Tyneside's kittiwakes.
Last year there were about 150 nests on the bridge and Newcastle City Council has installed information boards about the birds on the Quayside.

Thursday, 3 July 2008


One of the small incidents we enjoy finding in cities, paving or hatches moved for work and replaced wrongly, usually with double yellow lines or other patterns. This one is even better as it's expensively designed and built to match and disappear. Probably a slightly perverse way of enjoying traces of human actions in an environment increasingly designed and standardised.

David in the Gorbals

A rather unusual setting for a copy of David, at the entrance of this tile company in the middle of an industrial estate in the Gorbals. Last year we took pictures of this almost surréalist collage for a magazine (which ended up not being part of the piece), it is still one of our favorite mix of visual languages.

Monday, 30 June 2008

American for the Arts

Last week we went to the Americans for the Arts annual convention in Philadelphia to raise awareness, with our project manager, of the projects happening in Calgary and start developing a network of people interested in involving artists in thinking about urban infrastructures.
With more than 1400 attendee it certainly was an experience, Mostly geared towards arts administrators, little was really said about the potential and role of artists in shaping and questioning our environment. although a great debate was sparked in an open paneled discussion, Manifest Destiny: A Meeting of the minds on the state of public art (following the Public Art Year In Review Presentation in the "liberty Ballroom"). Presenters included Jack Becker, Public Art Review, Mel Chin, Artist, Patricia Philips, writer curator and Professor in Art History at Cornell University amongst others.
It was certainly useful to meet up with people excited about what they do and seeing the value in involving artists in the way Calgary is trying to through their UEP Public Art plan

Blurry picture of one of the organised lunch time

We also took a day to check out Olafur Elisasson exhibition at MOMA and PS1 in New York - highly recommended if it tours somewhere near you.

The reversed waterfall in PS1

I only see things when they move, in Moma

Odd sympathies

Now that the last performances have been completed, we are working with John Metcalf on the next stage: a series of miniatures sound bites of the walks, and a map/score to allow anyone to experience one of the walks.
We also got some pictures of the last performances back from the photographer (Stuart Bunce):

the socks in the trousers are for the sound recording -so is the recordist- not part of the uniform

Friday, 13 June 2008

When it rains in Oxford Street

Just back last night from London, trying not very successfully to sort out our immigration status for the Calgary projects.
We're taking this slight geographical link to mention the text we wrote for Alex Gross' book of new works, Wood Death Architecture, resulting from his residency at Tramway.

Our short essay, When it rains in Oxford Street, the architecture is no more important than the rain (from an Archigram quote) is alongside essays by John Calcutt and Jim Colquhoun, a nice place to be.

We'll upload the essay on our website in the near future, until then you can buy Alex's text in art bookshops and visual art venues in Scotland.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Critics Award for Theatre in Scotland

We are pleased to announce that we have been nominated by the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland for our collaboration on Walden with Nick Bone of Magnetic North and actor Ewan Donald, in the category Best Design.

The collaboration developed over many month, and as Nick says in his blog describing the evolution of Walden, "it was that unusual thing a genuine collaboration: the boundaries between our prescribed roles blurred heavily, but with no preciousness on anyone's part". A very exciting project as we wish they would be more.
It all started during Rough Mix, a unique inter-disciplinary creative development programme organised by Nick, where we worked for two weeks with a theatre director, a composer, a choreographer and two playwright on our own embryonic ideas with a continuous discussion and feed back. An amazing process where we realised how close in their thinking processes different creative practice and where Nick started the discussion on Walden.

The CATS ceremony will on June 15th.

Odd sympathies

We finished the last performances of Odd Sympathies last week-end.
An extract from the press release:
"Imagine attending a concert but instead of sitting or standing, you walk. Imagine the music you listen to captured from sounds that already exist around you as you walk through the concert. Imagine the concert is slightly different each time you experience it because there may be unexpected sounds along the way. Sans façon and composer John Metcalf have collaborated to create Odd Sympathies, three new sonic pieces that capture the sounds of the city of Cardiff and together form what we believe is the first sonic map of the city.
Drawing inspiration from the iconic work 4’33’’ Silence by John Cage, Odd Sympathies is a series of carefully composed sound maps of Cardiff that take in some of the fascinating landmarks in the city and open the ears to a sound world that is in many ways as dense and magical as a rainforest."

and a short interview on Radio Wales Arts Show with Nicola Heywood Thomas available until june 12: