The Importance of Culture and Making Connections!

Mood of Collapse x 10 at Kekun Studio!

Its almost a month since the MoC x 10 show and I don't think I've had a minute to stop and think about it all. It  came about in a whirlwind and 9 days later it was over. Although we did have some late visitors who managed to get a look before the photos and artworks came down. It was a real pleasure for me to show artwork from such talented friends, most of whom I met through the blog and looking back through a decade of photos and videos really brought back some happy memories. But before getting into the show I really need to jump back to the start.

So 10 years of writing about art and culture in little old, boring Aberdeen, the place where nothing cool ever happens and everyone's just sitting counting their money in granite castles. The fact I've been writing about art, in Aberdeen for 10 years is hopefully a beacon of light to anyone who might believe the above statement to be true. Back in 2007 I was busy doing stencils and paste ups, many in tribute to an old friend who'd sadly passed away that year. Also around this time I'd made some good friends thanks to an ex girlfriend who'd been studying at Grays School of Art. It was these friends who inspired me to start Mood of Collapse in 2008, previously my catch all name for music and art related projects I'd been working on up til that point. It seemed to fit my mood and despite sounding like a bit of a downer I felt MoC could be something positive, the breaking down or collapse of something to make way for a new story. 

And that story really kicked off with Craig Barrowman whom I'd met randomly through another friend and had helped carry some logs up to his flat in Sandilands Drive. Armed with a mountain of cardboard, Craig teamed up with Brian Ross to create a revolving mural which would be painted and rotated over the course of a day in Union Terrace gardens. Armed with my DSLr and MiniDV camera, I spent the day capturing the artwork in progress and its eventual completion. That first day was enough to get me hooked. Other friends were also organising events at the newly minted Project Slogan space in Torry. Again armed with my cameras I set about capturing the artists at work while they transformed the old shop into a gallery, Anita opting to create mural while Katie took on the mammoth task of knitting the entire room! Its was an immensely inspiring time and set the course for the next few years as I embraced all the city had to offer.
 When I went to an event I'd bring my camera and try to get some decent snaps. I hoped to create a better visibility for the artists and their work, because despite cool events happening all the time it didn't seem like anyone was interested, out side of the creative network. Indeed even trying to get key players from the big artist organisations to attend each others events seemed like a task. After a month of organising this show and the Kekun Residencies I can understand why people might have opted to head home on a Friday night instead of going to a little gallery on Victoria Road. And I have to admit, despite my desire to promote all of the great things that were happening I suffered from a lack of confidence, opting to put stuff out there on blogger and hope people would find it. Bearing in mind this is pre facebook pages and instagram there we're fewer platforms to share posts but even as these appeared I still felt restricted.
Even with the arrival of the new fangled social media I preferred to share the occasional post and resisted the urge to create a facebook page. Something about forcing it upon people and perhaps confusing my desire to promote with people thinking I'm seeking validation. Thankfully I got over these stumbling blocks and started to share more of my photos and writing about culture in the city through these channels. But I still tried to stick to my original ideals, don't write long essays and don't share anything negative. Generally speaking if I wasn't into the art or the artist gave off a bad vibe then I wouldn't feature it, after all I was spending my evenings and weekends trying to do this so it has to be worthwhile. Even to this day I can count on one hand the number of times I've been paid for work connected to the blog, usually videos for events which I would have documented anyway. But generally speaking this has given me the freedom to focus on the artists I like and to support the organisations that I think are doing good work. 
That said I can say that with infinite time and resources there could be a whole other blog that captures a much bigger picture of culture in the city. I've always felt like I'm only covering a very small facet of the artists and creatives that work and live in the city. And this aspect fascinates me, indeed it was only after meeting my partner Mary Butterworth that I discovered the incredible paintings of Jo Fann. For such a small city and community I'm always amazed and pleased when I discover a new artist or designer or musician. After all, if I have my finger on the pulse of the local scene and I'm still discovering new artists then how does the wider public find out about this wealth of talent in our city?

Of course certain initiatives and festivals have helped to place art into the lime light and onto the streets of the city. Its quite something to walk down George Street and find a piece by Supermundane or to see two giant murals by Fintan Magee. Ten years on Aberdeen feels like a completely different city in that respect with art gaining more visibility and people coming out in their thousands to see installations, doors and murals. My very first blog post spoke about capturing street art at a time when very little existed or at least was acknowledged. The tags and graffiti fascinated me and my own attempts resulted in a brush with the law which left a very bad taste.
Yet here we are ten years on with an award winning art & design festival, a host of incredible painted doors, huge studio complexes and murals by some of the biggest names in street art. But when I look back on the blog and what I have captured, it appears to be the foundations and many of the people who have made Aberdeen what it is today. Of course too many to mention but artists like Jim Ewen, Craig Barrowman, Kirsty RusselKatie Guthrie and Mary Butterworth have been working hard on their respective careers and on far reaching projects which proved to me Aberdeen was the place to be. Curators and galleries like SMART with Sally & Claire, Newave Gallery, Throwup and Project Slogan have supported and pushed so many local and emerging artists, providing opportunities and experiences beyond measure and investing back into the creative community. And that brings me to the starting point for the MoC x 10 show, the wonderful people of Aberdream!  
The show was comprised a few different parts, firstly the photo archive walls which featured a selection of my favourite snaps of artists and friends. Whittling down 10 years worth to fill the space proved a difficult task. Opting for interesting images, these became a gateway and a reminder of some of the incredible events that had come to pass. For example the time performance artist Peter Mcrae swam across the Limousine Bull car park in 2011, or the first time I saw a screen print being pulled thanks to William Moulding.

Some photos go deeper, the cardboard DO IT letters being held aloft in Cellar 35, handily made by our beloved friend Moose, sadly missed since passing in 2009. Its a fact that much of what I do, the energy I put into the blog has been a result of quite deep personal pain and loss. There have been times when its overwhelmed and floored me but I try to use it and the experiences as a way to push forward, to work hard and to capture as much as I can while I can. 
Along with photographs we showed a selection of videos documenting numerous projects and artists along with some unseen archive footage of early street interventions. These proved useful when trying to explain to visitors how Craig made a giant kaleyedoscope eyeball and wheeled it into the city centre or how much time and effort goes into the lino prints of Ade Adesina. It's interesting to compare some of the videos I've made over the years which form part of my reference for why Aberdeen is a creative city with other peoples experiences, and to see fresh reactions to events which happened years ago.

Each video brings with it a host of memories like helping Laura McGlinchey lift her giant paintings off the floor as she filled the backs with expanding foam, getting to break the rules at Aberdeen Art Gallery by skateboarding around for their closing event and some highlighted just how far we've come with Craig, Brian and Colin having to paint on cardboard as Limousine Bull didn't want them to paint on the walls. It feels like we've come a long way since those days but its nice to have a record of such events, wildly progressive back then and pioneering when seen now. 
And I'm glad that many of those pioneering artists had work on show at MoC x 10. Trying to pull together artwork for the show was a difficult task due to the sheer number of artists I wanted to include but space restrictions meant I could only fit 11. I wanted to show diverse work that represents my tastes but would also be interesting for someone stumbling across the show or the blog for the first time and I think the show achieved this with a mix of traditional painting, abstract work, print and street art, albeit tamed for indoors.

Laura McGlinchey brought up two stunning 3D pieces from Glasgow which perfectly showed of her unique approach with bits of crust slowly crumbling off and collecting on the floor. KMG showed a different side to her street character Ken, rendered in oil stick as apposed to spray paint and finding itself in a rather awkward situation. Craig Barrowman showed a few of his new carved head pieces, fascinating to see them in real life, each chisel mark hinting at the time and effort that went into their creation. Along with old friends I wanted to showcase new artists like David Iain Brown who's use of shape and colour has peaked my interest since his degree show a few years back. Also print maker Jo McIntosh, who's work I discovered last year thanks to a chance visit to Parx Café and now a firm favourite was an important inclusion as she provided a timely reminder that there's so much more happening in the city beyond our immediate field of vision, that's why its important to break out of the norms and to explore the city and its cultural offerings.
Continuing the show we have Caitlin Hynes, another favourite from Grays showed a stunning circular piece showcasing her distinctive style, a nice reminder of her special talent. Neil Corall, another old friend and supporter showcased a stunning set of Riso prints depicting local brutalist landmarks, each one heightened by a blue skyline. Friend and mentor Dax Osborne showed one of his beautiful geometric paintings, created as a result of a near death experience in 2016. Neil and Dax helped me to tie up a few ideas about who can make art and the boundaries we often set ourselves with Neil coming from a catering background and Dax, a time served builder and tradesman, yet both revel in the creative arts and I'd say can hold their own in any gallery. 

Indeed having no formal art background beyond higher art, I put in a piece to mark the show with a geometric mirror, an extension of the street mirrors I've previously placed around the city. The show was rounded out by my exceptionally talented friend Jazz Up Your Lizard aka Steve Murison. One of my most prized pieces of art came as a gift from Steve many years ago, a street artist who's been carving his own creative path for more than 10 years and a true pioneer of street art in Aberdeen. Finally, I get to speak about my love Mary Butterworth. Its often easy to overlook those closest to you and this is the first time I've properly featured Mary on the blog. With no formal art background, Mary is not only a highly accomplished painter but has been behind some of the most far reaching art projects in the city in recent years and is always trying to promote the best that Aberdeen has to offer. She is my world and MoC x 10 wouldn't have happened without her!
And whats the point if nobody comes? I'm glad to say we had lots of visitors with lots of friends dropping in but also people who spotted the sign out on the street or had seen it on the Kekun instagram page. Its one of the great aspects I'm coming to appreciate about social media in that you even though people might not physically make it to your event you can still include them through live videos or even just simple photo up dates. The likes and shares for the show really did have an impact and I think provides a new key to unlocking culture in the city. I mean imagine if everyone shared a post from a local artist or creative, even once a week, the spread and reach for them would be huge! It comes back to my original intention for starting the mood of collapse blog, to promote and share all the fantastic creatives we have in the city. It might only be my take on it, but hopefully it makes a difference and based on the kind words from visitors and friends, I can say I'm happy with what I've achieved. And especially in light of recent developments and budget cuts to creative orgs, there's a lot more work to be done!

The MoC x 10 show was made possible thanks to funding from Aberdeen City Council and with help from Mary Butterworth & Jenny Hood.

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