Furtherfield: Art, Technology and Social Change
Written by: Gráinne Regan
Finsbury Park; home to amateur footballers, joggers (with and without the silent “j”), families, power walkers, dogs and deviants. A fairly standard list of characters for a large London park.
Look a little deeper and you’ll uncover something more unusual however. Lurking in the shadows of Lidl and overlooking the boating pond are two inconspicuous brown brick buildings which house Furtherfield Commons and Gallery. Home to a group of artists, activists, creators and innovators, the Commons and Gallery are the nucleus of a wider online community which brings together art, technology and activism in the hopes of inspiring discussion and creativity.
The group was founded in 1996 by Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett in response to the Young British Artists movement that was dominating the art scene in London at the time. Basically, if you weren’t buddies with Charles Saatchi it was a little tricky to get your name out there. Using the Internet in its earliest form, they distributed their work and connected with other likeminded people who were interested in the idea of collaboration and “disrupting the norm”. Since then, the Internet has morphed beyond all recognition into a powerful, #filtered, data hungry beast. But that in itself has fuelled the direction that the project has moved, focusing on the impact that constantly being connected is having on our lives.
Since the project was set up they have hosted a range of exhibitions, workshops and community outreach projects, all of which aim to get participants and visitors talking about something more than the X Factor – not that there’s anything wrong with closely monitoring how high Simon Cowell wears his trousers on a Saturday night – but you get the idea.
The concepts and themes that the group address can appear spookily complex and are often accompanied by lengthy paragraphs of blurb laden with multi-syllabic words, but ultimately they are themes which affect us all in some way and deserve to be discussed.
The current exhibition, Deep Water Web, which has been extended until October 30th, takes global warming and capitalism as its central themes in a collaboration between London based artist Steven Ball and Sydney based John Conomos. Encapsulating all that Furtherfield stands for, this exhibition is the result of a global collaboration facilitated by the Internet, documenting the impact of capitalism on our environment. Apocalyptic images of flooded London streets greet visitors to the gallery and the exhibition: encouraging conversation by presenting a database of real examples linking economic decisions and the world’s ecology. Live streams of the Thames and Sydney Harbour bring the message home as you realise the global impact of damaging our fragile planet. Dark.
John Conomos will be in the Gallery on Saturday 29th October at 2pm to give a talk about the exhibition before it closes, so be sure to head along if this sounds of interest.
Central to the group’s ethos is community engagement. They want to remove the air of exclusivity that may prevent people from getting involved in art. The Gallery is open every Saturday and Sunday during exhibitions and passers-by are encouraged to drop in, with staff members ready and willing to answer any questions you might have.
In addition, there are a number of talks and workshops that Furtherfield host or promote, details of which can be seen by checking out the Events section of their website.
To find out more, head to www.furtherfield.org and sign up to the group’s newsletter. Don’t be put off by the mish mash of content and complicated terminology that litter the site. Get along to one of their events and prepare to get lost, baffled, engaged, amazed and impressed in conversation with people who really care about what they’re discussing!
Photos by Pau Ros
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