Sunday, 24 December 2017

A farewell to arms

Peace is one of the great Christmas cliches. It’s a word that’s scattered across greetings cards like so much glitter. But there is a reason for cliches: they contain a glimmer of truth. To find deep peace within and without can be hardest fight of all. This year we worked with many people who had come through conflicts, either wars, or deep internal strife. Often, the two are linked.


(Translation, from German/Arabic) MIGRATION OF WHALES = MIGRATION OF PEOPLE / BUT WE CANNOT RETURN TO OUR SUMMER HOMES

Phil’s project in Berlin was with a refugee community. He ran several months of artmaking workshops with children. The artworks were made then shown to adults in their community, whose responses became the text of the posters: short, poignant poetic statements, counting the human cost of war, subtle losses including childhood itself.

This exhibition of poster-poems opened in October, at Paul Schneider Hause in Spandau, Berlin. The exhibition proved popular and was extended until the end of December, when we are delighted to say it was awarded a commendation by the mayor of Spandau, on behalf of the city of Berlin.

Meanwhile, Lois led our Armour project in the UK using words and stitches to explore the ways we protect ourselves. It was a collaboration with veterans of armed conflict and with people who have lived experience of homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal "armour", physical and mental. The final textile artworks were inspired by gambesons, the quilted jackets worn under suits of armour, which we made out of rust dyed fabric, embroidered with poems, and other writings. These stitched pieces echoed armour and more subtly alluded to healing, the stitching of wounds.

We would like to offer our thanks to everyone who met us, talked with us, worked with us, laughed with us, helped us over the last year. We wish you respite, safety, happiness. And peace, peace, peace.




Monday, 27 November 2017

Armour poem recordings & poem collection now on-line

Detail of the Armour artwork


I am pleased to share that recordings of poems from the project Armour are now on-line at Soundcloud written and read by veterans and/or people with experience of homelessness. 






Poems, embroideries and other texts made in self-defence
Armour is a project that uses words and stitches to explore the ways we protect ourselves. It is a collaboration with veterans of armed conflict and with people who have lived experience of homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal “armour”, physical and mental. Artworks inspired by gambesons, the quilted jackets worn under suits of armour, were made out of rust dyed fabric and embroidered with poems, and other writings.
Armour artworks on exhibition at The Museum Associations Annual Conference

Many of the poems are also on-line on our poetry collection arthur-and-martha-poems
We would like to thank the many people who participated for their bravery and honesty. We’d also like to thank our guest poet Johnny Woodhams and singer songwriter Matt Hill, The Quiet Loner, for leading some workshops, our wonderful team of volunteers, including Melanie Miller, Marc and Jessie. And finally, we are grateful to the Booth CentreImperial War Museum-North, The Royal Armouries Leeds, Gallery of Costume ManchesterWalking with the Wounded and Tom Harrison House for hosting workshops and the Arts Council England for supporting the project.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The Festival of Change

We are proud to announce will be the first showing of art and poetry from the project Armour at The Festival of Change, which takes place at the Museums Association (MA) Annual Conference and Exhibition in Manchester.  16th and 17th November, 

Poem and artwork Gavin Farquharson, stitching Lois Blackburn


This body of armour that
is the weight and size
of my heart...
(Eliot Hallisey)

Poems, embroideries and other texts made in self-defence

Armour is a project that uses words and stitches to explore the ways we protect ourselves. It is a collaboration with veterans of armed conflict and with people who have lived experience of homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal "armour", physical and mental. Artworks were inspired by gambesons, the quilted jackets worn under suits of armour, were made out of rust dyed fabric and embroidered with poems, and other writings.

Poem Danny Collins, embroidery Peggy Prestley


Many people we met were veterans who have also experienced homelessness. We asked people to describe their personal "armour", physical and mental. And to imagine what might happen if was taken off. That spark of imagining is what gave life to these poems. Out of much heart-searching, during the art and poetry workshops, came many pieces of writing. Some were embroidered, or inscribed on suits of armour made of cloth.


Although we all need protection, sometimes protection becomes the problem. Armour can be extremely heavy, it limits sight, sound, touch - and emotions. In the poem Sir Galahad by Tennyson, the crucial moment comes when the famous warrior realises if he is to let in love, he must remove his armour. But to do so is fearful as well as freeing.

Defences fail and life falls into a dark disarray
Observe yourself when the mind is viciously dismantled...
(Anon)

Imagining the absence of armour was a difficult sometimes frightening exercise. For some, it took tremendous courage to write about it. For others, it brought relief. And for others again, many questions.

"I wonder where it will lead me, this writing...?" (Gavin)

"Poetry, I've never got it before. This is the first time I've even written a poem. Never before. I've enjoyed it, it's been special." (Elliot Hallisey)

How can people who've experienced physical and psychological violence live peacefully with their memories? In our workshops we discussed how we protect our deeper selves and how we heal.
This project was devised to allow emotional/artistic exploration of difficult areas of personal history. The poems come out of the experience of conflict - but our hope is that they might help people to find some peace.

...friends friends linked linked together hand
hands safe safe.

(Peter S)

Embroidery Lois Blackburn, inspired by anon artwork

Saturday, 7 October 2017

HOUSE WITHOUT WALLS - Berlin exhibition


MIGRATION OF WHALES = MIGRATION OF PEOPLE /
BUT WE CANNOT RETURN TO OUR SUMMER HOMES

HOUSE WITHOUT WALLS (EIN ZUHAUSE OHNE WÄNDE)
Press Release

House without Walls is an exhibition of drawings by refugee children in Berlin, made with British visual poet Philip Davenport, from arthur+martha. The exhibition opens 13 October, at Paul-Schneider-Haus in Spandau, Berlin, and continues until 23 November (Mon-Fri 10-6).

The drawings show a child's everyday, but with the sharpness of war punching through. A policeman with a truncheon hides in one corner of 'A normal day'. A mother walks through a field equally divided between trees and explosions. Several of the drawings have been made into "poster poems", with responses from parents and adults in their community incorporated into the designs.

The poster poems, made in collaboration with Syrian designer Deya Nemo, are a gentle, sideways look at the human cost of war, the subtle losses, including childhood itself. The text layers three languages together: Arabic, German and English, a diverse echoing of voices. The naivety of the drawings contrast with the questioning of adults. Sharp and cynical, though still child-like, these conversation pieces between children and adults continually ask: where are we now?

Exhibition poster

Davenport's workshops took place in the busy corridor of the Staakener Strasse asylum seekers' shelter in Spandau, Berlin. He directed weekly sessions, over a period of 6 months, getting the children’s energy down on paper, an act of creation and of release. They attacked the paper on occasions. One boy had such shaky hands that his drawings were almost those of an old man.

Davenport describes the workshops: "A blast of energy, full of delight, mischief - but a certain brittleness too. As I slowly got to know the children I began to understand the cost of the epic life journey they'd taken, to reach safety here in Berlin..."

Davenport also interviewed many older members of the community at Staakener Strasse, weaving their thoughts into the work. The interviews and a diary of the project are at this link

The 21st-century is a time of instability. Political change, climate change, economic change, bring unprecedented human movement. But some of the most sensitive witnesses have not been consulted...

Funded by The British Council/Arts Council England.

Supported by Paul Schneider Haus, Gemeinwesenverein Haselhorst e.V., EFRE, Gemeinschaftsunterkunft Staakener Straße, Spandau, Berlin, arthur+martha U.K. 

Translations by Deya Nemo, Lisa Langer and Aurelie Maurin.  

Thanks to all at Gemeinschaftsunterkunft Staakener Straße, Barbara Caveng and Dachil Sado at Kunstasyl, Wiebke Ehrenstein at Paul-Schneider-Haus, Elke Ritt at The British Council in Berlin, and poets Alistair Noon, Pierre Joris and Habib Tengour.

An arthur+martha international outreach project.