Following Down Stairs’ director Craig Barnes’ participation in the Matt’s Gallery exhibition Revolver II in 2014, we are hosting an informal exhibition and discussion of research that arose through Barnes’ siting of his Futuro house on the gallery roof, and using it to host his Centre for Remote Possibilities. Come along and participate in discussions about how this research might inform future iterations of Down Stairs in Herefordshire.
All are welcome. Refreshments will be served.
Saturday 28th March
12 – 6pm
Great Brampton House
We are pleased to announce the artists participating in our 2014 residency programme. Tom Crawford, Shannon Donovan, Lucy Hopkins, Stair / Slide / Space, Marinette Kaus, Michael Macmanus, Lucy Woodhouse, Jonathan Trayner, Marie Toesland, and Andy Best will each spend approximately 10-14 days at Great Brampton between now and the end of September.
It’s been live in physical reality for a couple of weeks now, but now live, on the internet right here for your viewing and musing pleasure: the latest work by Sparrow + Castice in the grounds of Great Brampton House.
A busy weekend at Great Brampton House. Sorting through applications for our residency programme for 2014, and admiring Sparrow + Castice’s latest work on the lawn Metaphor For Meta. News on successful applicants coming shortly. We can’t wait for spring to spring.
As we awake from our winter hibernation, we bring sad news of the death of Down Stairs’ instigator Martin Miller on Christmas Eve. Words can be cheap, but Martin was truly one of a kind, and we will all miss him greatly.
None the less, Down Stairs carries on, and we are pleased to announce we are accepting applications for our 2014 Residency Programme. Deadline for submitting is the 28th February, so you have around 25 days to work out what you might do with time spent here in the grounds of Great Brampton House, with accommodation in Social Sculpture, and studio and workshops in The Stables.
Full details can be found by downloading this PDF Down Stairs Residency 2014
As winter sets in, it’s time to put Kieren Reed’s Social Sculpture into hibernation until the spring. A touch of anti-freeze in the toilet does the trick nicely. We are currently devising strategies and approaches for 2014′s resident artists. If you would like to be considered for a berth in the cabin and stables, please get in touch with expressions of interest. In the meantime, we’ve updated our list of previous artists in residence to include notes on Jonny Briggs and Elliott Burns.
notes on living in Kieren Reed’s Social Sculpture
Elliott Burns, September 2013
July 4th 1845, Henry David Thoreau begins a two year long living experiment; he takes residence in a cabin in the woods, next to Walden Pond, in Concord, Massachusetts. Nine years later he publishes Walden, a highly polished, condensed account of his experience covering his day to day living, the woods, wildlife and laying out his philosophy on society and life. Thoreau’s cabin is likely one of the most famous cabins of American history, possibly history in general, today there is a replica of his cabin, and the land around is designated a National Reserve.
The concept of a cabin captures the imagination, the ideas surrounding it pre-date Thoreau’s hermitage; a rugged individualism, self sufficiency, an affinity with the wilderness, though it is Thoreau that connects the structure with the idea of intellectual pursuit. This combination of the pioneering spirit and philosophical enquiry fills the cabin with potency, making it a structure and symbol that may be appropriated.
In Kieren Reed’s Social Sculpture the cabin literally becomes a place of exploration, where its functionality is played upon in a variety of manifestations. Previously Reed’s cabin was installed at the Whitstable Biennale 2012 where it took the form of an information centre. Currently it resides in the grounds of Great Brampton House, part of a new residency program with Down Stairs.
The cabin has been extended with a porch and is fitted with a bed, sink, toilet and some simple furniture as well as a radio, wind up torch and a few of Reed’s small sculptural artefacts. The concept is simple that visiting artists will live and work in the cabin, during their residence they will uncover new uses for the space and traces of the usage will be passed onto following artists. On August 10th I was the first artist to take charge of the cabin.
The facilities of the cabin were complimented by access to a converted stable block, where I had a small studio and could use the wood workshop, kitchen and shower. Over my three weeks at Great Brampton House I would split my time between these two buildings and the surrounding grounds.
After my first evening at Great Brampton House I made my way back to my accommodation a little after twelve, finding a route between the barrier of trees that separated my from the rear of the house I approached the cabin slowly using the light from my phone. With a little fiddling I was able to unlock the door, brush my teeth and make ready for bed, except that the key could not lock the door from the inside, I could not angle it in sufficiently. After a few repeat attempts I began to consider alternate methods of fixing the door shut, jamming the key in the lock as best as I could I fixed my belt buckle to the key, pulled the door to and fed my belt up to a series of hooks and secured it by one of the holes. The door was fixed the following morning.
My intention in recalling this incident is not to critic the workmanship of the cabin, but rather to illustrate the manner in which resident artists should approach it, it is not a finished piece, it is a piece to be expanded upon, altered and edited. The potential of the cabin is limited only by the challenges perceived and the ability of the individual to fix them, there were issues that I was not equipped to deal with and there are potential improvements that I would have made if I had the materials. The future residents who will suit the cabin the best are those that embody a creative approach to DIY, can make do with simple supplies and envision their own unique improvements.
The second issue regarding the use of the cabin is the division of labour, not between individuals, rather between places. There are two main spaces to work, the cabin and the stables, one affords the comforts of modern living such as electricity, wifi and a couch, while the other is set up to intentionally minimise the luxuries we have become accustomed to. When I began writing this article I was sitting in the living room of the stables, it would have been a much harder task to pull together this text without the internet and a power supply. However, there is something to be said regarding the affect of a simplified setting on writing.
“I put a piece of paper and a pencil under my pillow, and when I could not sleep I wrote in the dark.” – Henry David Thoreau.
I too have maintained this practice, each evening I returned to the Cabin I set up a few candles and get into bed with a book, notepad and pen, with nowhere for the mind to escape to except onto the page I found my thoughts were afforded more breathing room. I copied lines from books onto post-it notes and stuck those to the walls; the cabin became a thinking space, part studio, part mental retreat. That said it can be a struggle when you are used to a virtual library being at your fingertips, no doubt if I had been born twenty years prior my brain would function in a different manner, not reliant on the instant gratification of the internet.
Over time the cabin will become a palimpsest of small histories, each resident artist leaving traces which feed into the next residency, and slowly a reduction from dependence on the stables and its modern comforts to a full interaction with the simplicity of the Cabin will occur.
This rate of change is dependent on the artists who come to stay in the Cabin; certain artist will mesh better with the intentions of Reed and Down Stairs. As the project moves forward it might be worth appealing to artist who envision a direct interaction with the cabin, to use it as a sculptural framework on which to build. Simple alterations and adaptations would go a long way to developing it towards an artistic ideal. No great feats are needed, only craft with an attention to detail and a communal spirit, though it is a community of people who are passing through and might never meet.
I cannot claim to have made the fullest use of the Cabin, primarily it is where I slept, I have read and written in it, it has been conductive to my thinking and in a manner it has shaped it, I have left traces of my time in it and tried to transform it for the artist who follows me. The progression from a room to live in to a truly creative space will be gradual, but over time the build up of histories will attest to the capability of it as a source of inspiration.
- Elliott Burns
A few days in and the learning curve ever steepens. Many a photo has been taken yet my goodness what an incredible project the treehouse looks to be, so have been helping to make it; admittedly just by cutting 11 pieces of wood. At one moment I stood poised with the chainsaw, and noticed the houses curious chickens slowly moving in, encircling where I stood in a near perfect circle and warbling at me with concerned, strained, clucks. Maybe I’m projecting because I felt concerned and strained myself, but they invite me to question what sparked their curiosity? I’m dauntingly reminded of evidence suggesting birds have descended from dinosaurs as I clutch the chainsaw tighter. Luckily Benjamin rescued me from pecking peril and they soon scattered. There’s something about these birds that make me wonder if they’re all communicating to each other about us humans.
The wood cabin is just the peace and simplicity I need at the moment. Being around nature helps reconnect me with me. I’ve so much time to think and be, and the ideas for the work are becoming ever clearer each day. Ahead this afternoon I’m building a new set for a photograph, which involves cutting logs in intriguing angles. And hopefully some wallpaper I made will be delivered this afternoon too for another photograph. Moreso a photograph of a photograph. The house is an inspiration, so much to take in and a surprise round every corner. So many sheep, so many curiosities, and I can’t ever remember eating so many eggs.