I was awarded an Arts Council
grant, whilst Director of Newlyn Art Gallery, to research the use of new technologies
by contemporary artists with the ultimate objective of curating an exhibition
using digital media. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to continue the
project in my role as a freelance curator and bring the project to fruition.
Susan Collins is an extraordinary artist with an impressive track record of engaging and inspiring work. She has a unique ability to discover the flip side, the curious under-the-surface stuff of everyday life, and delights in revealing the often absurd reality of situations. She enthuses wildly, her imagination generating idea after idea. In this case, I discovered, the unenviable role of curator was the necessity to harness those ideas into something realisable within the constraints of the gallery walls.
Digital technology is daunting to many and somehow at odds with the context of rural Cornwall, yet it is becoming the most accessible form of communication. I wanted to commission an artwork that questioned the popular notion of art as being detached from most peoples everyday reality. My challenge to Susan was to conceive a work that would be engaging and meaningful to people from all walks of life, involving participation from the audience and inspiring thinking about simultaneous time and the larger world in which a gallery exists.
During a number of trips, Susan visited locations all around West Cornwall researching ideas. The Museum of Submarine Telegraphy at Porthcurno, where the first cables were brought ashore linking England with America, proved a strong inspirational source. Linking rural Newlyn to an urban centre simultaneous time in two very different locations became central to the project. We were delighted when Site Gallery in Sheffield enthusiastically agreed to co-host the exhibition. It would be difficult to imagine two more different locations: Newlyn Art Gallery, peacefully overlooking the wide expanse of sea, St Michaels Mount and its little fishing village, and Site Gallery, in the heart of urban Sheffield with all the citys hustle and bustle.
For me, this exhibition is about alerting our consciousness to the present. It encapsulates an awareness of that fleeting sense of simultaneous time. In the same way as, at moments of national and international memorial, time appears to stand still in united silence. Whether in urban New York or rural Cornwall we feel connected with others, part of the same world, reflecting yet sharing that sense of the present.
We are grateful for all the support given by the teams at Newlyn Art Gallery and Site Gallery, Sheffield. Invaluable technical support was given by Head2Head of Truro, Nick Cook (a.k.a. Dr Mac) and Adrian Fogarty. This exhibition would not have been possible without funding from the Arts Councils National Touring Programme and additional support from South West Arts. We are grateful to Peter Ride for his perceptive essay on Susans work and above all, we are grateful to Susan Collins for working with us to realise this new work, extending the bounds of possibility with digital media.