So today marks 10 years since my first blog post (check it out here). It's been quite a journey and writing about art and culture in Aberdeen has been an interesting trip. I've come to see the blog as an archive of events and art happening but also an diary of my own life. Although I have tried to steer away from sharing personal posts or trying to make the blog about me, there are posts which are incredibly personal and bring me back to some special times. Re reading my run down of the night I went to see M83 in Glasgow with friends actually brought a tear to my eye, one of my favourite trips with Moose who sadly passed away in 2009. But I'm glad to have these reminders and to be able to share some of that journey and to see how far things have come.
With 10 years worth of blog posts, 1071 posts at the last count, its feels impossible to quantify what it all means but there have been many incredible highlights and exhibitions but its been the human connections I've made over this past decade that have kept it going and kept me pushing forward. The first video I made was for friend and artist Anita Stewart for her solo show 'If My Garden Is Bigger, You Live Further Away' at the first Project Slogan space. Project Slogan comes up a lot when looking back as it provided a mutual space for creatives to meet and Sarah had a constant rotation of shows so there was always something new to check out. I really found my feet documenting the shows at Slogan but also met a really special group of people who have all gone on to have successful careers with in the arts. Also artists like Craig Barrowman and Brian Ross were constantly working on new projects like their live painting in Union Terrace Gardens (see my original 20 minute film of the day here) and I also dabbled with my own short film nights to highlight local film makers and the DO IT club nights which brought artists, VJs and DJs together with friends in a small basement bar.
I found lots of creativity happening across the city like the 'Entrails Zines' and their bingo launch night at Under the Hammer and Limousine Bull played host to some great artists and collectives before closing. It really felt like a lot was happening and I'd often find myself going to two or three events in a single night and yet it still felt like this apathy existed about the city and what it had to offer. I guess while those people were complaining on their myspace pages we we're busy painting walls and trying to make things better despite the councils dim view on art and graffiti. Of course the new legal graffiti wall at TX provided some much needed space for the cities graffiti writes to practice their craft and provided space for visiting graff artists and graffiti jams. Although I never really fitted into the graffiti bracket I was actively out trying document tags and making work on the streets with friends like Craig and Stuart before a run in with the police gave me the fear and curtailed my street art career, for a while at least.
One aspect that's been in constant flux is where people can see art in Aberdeen. Project Slogan and Limousine Bull both shut their doors but I have great memories of walking through weird tunnels to see student work in the Academy Shopping Centre and regular lunch stops at the old Earl of Sandwich were always fun. Peacock Visual Arts have been a constant source of inspiration (I have a lot of blog posts about their shows here) and their Seripop show is one that I always come back to. Aberdeen Art Gallery has also really helped me as I've learned about some of the old masters and new contemporaries through their vast collection and the many visiting exhibitions like the Ron Mueck exhibition. SMART hosted lots of exciting shows and have helped build up the cities reputation for showing contemporary art both from Aberdeen and beyond and have gone on to have great success with Look Again Festival which provides opportunities artists and the public to engage with new work in the public realm. Its safe to say there's been no shortage of art on offer but places to make art still pose a problem.
In 2010 I worked with Craig and Jim to set up 26 Collective Studios (check out the first post about it) just off Market Street. It felt like there was a huge gap in Aberdeen with places closing and 26 became a place for us to not only focus on our own work but a space for the community. From group exhibitions to after hours parties and mural projects, we had an open door and made a lot of good memories in the space. A personal highlight was the 2 month mural project where I invited friends and artists to come hang out and paint on the walls. Many new faces took up the offer and we slowly chipped away at the white walls til barely a patch was left. I used red wool to connect all the pieces together, emanating from the heart and eyes of a giant snake skeleton I painted called 'From the Depths Of Your Shallow Heart, Sheshanaag Shall RISE!!'. Since those days Jim has gone on to set up The Anatomy Rooms studios, such a vital and important part of the cities cultural fabric. We could ideally have a few more studio spaces, especially with WASPS being so overly subscribed but its lead me & Mary to set up our own small space Kekun Studio in Rosemount which we hope to be hosting events in soon.
It's been a fast 10 years and so much has changed in that time both in Aberdeen and across the arts. Projects like Painted Doors and Nuart Aberdeen have really blown the doors open for street art and murals in the city and I've been lucky to be involved with them both. Painted Doors showed me that despite my best efforts to meet and engage with artists in the city I'm still only scratching the surface. Nuart Aberdeen has also been massive not just for me but for the city. Through the scale of the work to the walking tours of which I'm lucky to be a tour guide I've seen how both these projects have engaged people and especially people who might not normally engage with art.
And that's been an important point and something I've tried to do since starting the blog although I wouldn't say I've been very successful, certainly ill speak to people and engage with them face to face but I haven't been able to reach out as much as I'd like. Part of that has come down to my own lack of confidence. Not coming from an art school or an academic background has often left me feeling slightly on the outside of certain circles but I've been realising more and more the value that I can add to the city. I've also been trying to use the tools at my disposal like social media to continue building connections with people both makers and spectators and trying to bridge some of those disconnects between audience and artists / organisations. There's a lot of work to do still but I think it'll be a fun ride.
The blog is still something I do on the side as I work full time but I'm hoping to dedicate more time to it and to make more videos, attend more shows, support more artists and to help get folks engaged and discovering how beneficial creativity can be. At a time of great personal loss, art and creativity helped me to take all that negative energy and focus it into something positive and allowed me to help my friends. From filming Katie knitting an entire room to working on the studio with Mary its been good vibes all the way.
So what's next for me? I guess continuing to push art and culture in Aberdeen, trying to help people find access to it all, trying to help promote the incredible wealth of established and emerging talent that we have, making more friends and working towards more connectivity between Aberdeen and other cities and their creatives. I've recently been working on the Creative Abz section of the blog and trying to tie together much of the great artists and organisations that I've covered over the years as well as many that I haven't. I hope to provide a network that really connects the dots and provides a good introduction to culture in Aberdeen and shows that Aberdeen is a city of culture and its broad ranging, far reaching and its for everyone. I'm working more with Nuart Aberdeen and helping where I can and I'm hoping to work on some of my own art again soon. Its way easier for focus on what everyone else is up to instead of pushing my own work but it'll come. I'll be organising a special 10 year event and hope to have details about that soon but til then watch this space.
To everyone who's supported me and the blog I'm humbled and thankful. To everyone who's out pushing things forward keep on pushing. To all the artists and friends I've met along the way thanks for the constant inspiration. I might have called the blog Dancing In The Dark 10 years ago but its anything but now!
|Filming Brian Ross & Craig Barrowman live painting in Union Terrace Gardens 2008|
|DO IT with DIY letters made my Moose & Chris 2009|
|Paste ups by MoC & Craig Barrowman 2009|
|Seripop at Peacock Visual Arts 2009|
|'From the Depths Of Your Shallow Heart, Sheshanaag Shall RISE!!' by MoC 2012|
|Opening weekend Nuart Aberdeen walking tour group 2018|
|The crew from 'Art Hive' at Kekun Studio 2018|
|Stenciling an ass in Helsinki 2009|
|Pages from the 'Street Art Abz' zine, coming soon!|