Commissions for PAW2020 – press release

‘Jestered not gendered’ Lockdown Tarot, unity on Union Street and demonstrations of care are some of the elements of this year’s Plymouth Art Weekender

The team behind the trailblazing Plymouth Art Weekender (PAW) has today announced its three key commissions for the much-anticipated 2020 event. This year will see an eclectic line-up of key works including John Walter’s Lockdown Tarot, William Luz’s Pavilion for U.S and Harriet Rose Morley’s How did we, How do we and How will we care? Each of the three commissioned artists has a deep-reaching, hard-hitting, topical theme at the heart of their project, and a COVID-19-adjacent element.

Proving that out of adversity comes creativity, the team behind the trailblazing PAW and Visual Arts Plymouth are striding ahead with plans for the 2020 festival. Despite most events nationally and globally being postponed or cancelled, from Friday 25th – Sunday 27th September 2020, venues of all shapes and sizes across Britain’s ‘Ocean City’ will play host to socially distanced exhibitions, events and community-based activity for all types of people. Set to invite dialogue, prompt questions, and drive analysis and contemplation of life and the world as we know it, the artistic projects will be particularly interesting in the Weekender’s sixth year given the unique challenges faced by all. 

John Walter is a visual artist working across a diverse range of media including painting, moving image, installation, virtual reality and curating. He was awarded the 2016 Hayward Curatorial Open for Shonky: The Aesthetics of Awkwardness. The Arts Council Collection and The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool have collected his work. Walter was selected for Visual Arts Plymouth CIC (VAP)’s co-commission with KARST, which called for conversations around art, well being, mental health, disability and visibility to culminate in temporary public artwork for PAW2020. John’s unique Lockdown Tarot is a new fortune-telling performance using a brand-new deck of cards that he drew during lockdown using virtual reality software. This new tarot deck features images from Walter’s repertoire including allusions to art history, popular culture and politics. Lockdown Tarot responds to the current COVID-19 pandemic using Walter’s trademark colour, humour and sheer absurdity. The tarot is an algorithm – a repertoire of 78 images that can be shuffled and arranged into an infinite range of narrative sequences – and an ideal container for Walter’s epic, maximalist aesthetic. Lockdown Tarot demonstrates Walter’s approach to using hospitality as a device for engaging audiences in his ideas and images. The costume that he will wear is a form of drag that is ‘jestered’ as opposed to gendered. Audiences will be empowered to ask him and the tarot anything, leading to memorable, comical and transformative conversations between complete strangers.  

William Luz is a Plymouth-based artist. His work focuses on drawing (in an expanded sense), mainly through works on paper, prints, ceramics and video. He is currently studying for an MA in Drawing at Plymouth College of Art and is one third of Nous Vous, a collective of artists and friends. Luz has exhibited nationally and abroad in numerous solo and group shows, and was selected for VAP’s co-commission with Nudge Community Builders, calling for a temporary public work for PAW2020 that brings colour and joy to Union Street and the surrounding area. This commission was particularly focused on drawing a wider audience on the street, where Nudge prioritise their spending, by engaging with the outdoor environment of Union Street itself – the architecture, objects on the street and the communities based in the area.  Luz’s commissioned artwork is a combination of screen, structure and a union, referencing Victorian decency, more modern illicit indecencies and the current etiquette of distancing. Exploring the notion of union through the built environment of Union Street, A Pavilion for U.S. will be a temporary public artwork. Over the course of the Weekender, through a range of activities, resources and performances, the structure will offer a space to discuss themes around unity; including oneness, togetherness and political forms of coupling.

Harriet Rose Morley is a multi-disciplinary artist, maker, educator and facilitator. She works across the disciplines of public art, sculpture, architectural spaces, furniture design, urban planning, and alternative education. Her work and projects often challenge our ideas of the function and role of art within public space and is often reliant on public interaction and collaboration through workshops, conversations and educational events. Recent projects include re-designing the interior of the Art Institution Hotel Maria Kapel and working with the Turner Prize winning architect collective Assemble on The Transnational Interstate Art Agency at West in The Hague. Morley was selected for VAP’s co-commission with Theatre Royal Plymouth (TRP), which asked for proposals which use the specific context of Plymouth as their site. How did we, How do we and How will we care? is a project that has developed from an understanding of the caring networks that exist within Plymouth and the importance they have held in the past, hold during this current moment and will hold in the future. In light of the current situation, the project has evolved to encompass the urgency and effect of the Covid-19 pandemic as well as to understand how we can work within its limitations.  Harriet’s project will focus on highlighting networks of care within Plymouth, publishing the responses to these three simple but provoking questions across the city in the form of public posters to show and demonstrate how such networks have been integral to supporting communities throughout these turbulent times and for many, before this.

Thanks to a lifeline emergency Covid-19 grant that Visual Arts Plymouth has received from Arts Council England, the survival and sustainability of PAW2020 is secured. And the true grassroots grit and determination typical of the team behind the event will be evident as Plymouth witnesses a plethora of creative work linked to exciting names springing up across the city. This will be a particular cultural focal point this year, especially since much of the planned cultural activity around Mayflower 400 has had to be postponed, with the Weekender fostering co-commissioning partnerships with Nudge Community Builders, Theatre Royal Plymouth and KARST for the Festival.

On behalf of Plymouth Art Weekender Coordinators, Flock South West, Lucy Stella Rollins said, “We are delighted to make this first wave of PAW 2020 announcements, all of which are really unique and intriguing projects. We have plenty more exciting and ambitious artists showcasing their work this year with listings ranging from exhibitions, workshops and other dynamic activity to take place across the city. Expect everything from subtle interventions to public performative moments in this year’s showcase of the city’s creative talent. More announcements from other artists are to follow, so watch this space.” 

Harriet Rose Morley said, “I am really looking forward to the Plymouth Art Weekender and bringing my project to the city at this particularly poignant time. This particular work grows from a place of solidarity with the caring work that has been ongoing continuously in Plymouth’s past, present and future, and aims to explore a wider idea of what care can be and to amplify the voices of care, as well as to shed light on various communities of care and care behind closed doors. I hope to really provoke some thought in this area.” 

Phil Gibby, Area Director South West, Arts Council England, said, “We are delighted to support the 2020 Plymouth Art Weekender (PAW) through our National Lottery Project Grants and Covid-19 Emergency Response Funding programmes, made possible thanks to investment from the National Lottery. It’s encouraging to see how certain cultural activities are starting – where possible – to adapt their offer within social distancing guidelines. We’re really pleased that this three-day celebration will give local creatives more artistic opportunities, give the people of Plymouth the chance to enjoy a remarkable range of fantastic cultural experiences this September, and help to kick start the local economy by attracting more visitors to the Ocean City because of its growing reputation as a Visual Arts destination.”