I have been fortunate to be part of an art project during the Ramsgate carnival. I attend an art club every Thursday called ‘carnival club’ which is paid for by Thanet council to help the community work towards a goal such as the local carnival which was yesterday, 23.7.2017. The leader of this club has been involved with carnivals around the world and has many connections with artists. She has arranged groups of artist to come and get involved with the ramsgate festival which runs from 22-30 July. One group are from Russia ‘Cardboardia‘, they make interactive pieces from cardboard. I was connected with this group via the Facebook page for ramsgate festival and had to fill in a form to apply to be part of the Cardboardia team. Some of the volunteers are from all over England and are already artists working as museum curators and designers of props. They are all sharing a house together for the week and work everyday on making items for the festival, running workshops and participating in events. I was lucky to be invited to work on a project of making 30 fish from cardboard and then painting them and protecting them with varnish. At first I though this was a good way of introducing my painting practice with another project. My plan was soon challenged as the time limit to produce the 30 fish was only a day. I had to work all day and into the night and come back the next morning to varnish them. The working time directive is non existent within the artist in residence role. I had to adapt to the situation so cut out a very simple shape and then decided to use gouache as it was going to be quick to use and dry as I needed to paint both sides of the fish so that’s 60 fish in a few hours. I was not going to be able to paint them with enamel paint and marbleise them as I ORIGINALLY had planed. In the end, due to the lack of light in the hothouse / warehouse which has been temporary hired for this event, I opted for some simple fish bones and scales in black which I found on Pintress. When I came in the next day to varnish, one of the Russian artists were painting over the eyelashes because she thought they looked odd. I was disappointed as she apologised because she was interfering with ‘my art’. I explained that this is hardly ‘my art’ as it has no resemblance to my work as a practicing Artist and that the decorated fish are just that, decorated fish. When I went to varnish them with industrial varnish that the group had, it smeared the paint work and they fish become blurred versions of there former selfs. I left feeling like a compleat waste of space. My work, time and effort were not appreciated and I was unhappy that I may be valued as an artist by these blurred painted decorated fish. I went away questioning a lot about my practice, My age and my lack of experience within these situations of working with other artists. Normally I work on my own work along side others, But this is the first time I was working as a team and I felt very unworthy, a Junior, inexperienced and just not in the same area of expertise. Will this hinder me or make me what to experience and challenge myself more?
On reflection, nothing went to plan on the day of the carnival as the wind bashed us all about and it started to rain so not many people came to participate, lots came to watch as we got blown about and bumped into one another while in the procession. The idea of the carnival is to deliver to the audience a visual statement that will sell them an idea. Ours was to show off our beautiful things we had created at the workshops run by the local arts centre in the hope that others sign up for these workshops. For Cardboardia, the procession was about enticing more people along to events which are being run during the festival. They have sound boxes which were created for carnivals and street promotions. These are hang around your neck and you turn a handle to start the music which is very connected with their work, it sounds traditional. like the cardboard they use which is a traditional material, not a modern material. The music sounds European so is associated with a more liberated audience. This is a niche area around Thanet as around 70% of the 69% of the voters, voted leave in the 2016 referendum. We certainly looked like we were having fun, much more fun than the girls marching for 2 hours. But I don’t think we connect with our audience or the majority of the audience. I don’t think art projects should be associated with these types of carnivals. Theses Carnivals are where each town enters a beauty pageant group and parades them on a float which is covered in netting to stop the pageants being hit by coins which the public would throw at them to show support. The groups are the finalist of girls that have sent pictures to people in a political status (mayors) that have no qualification with determining who is more beautiful than someone else. The Pageant ball is an expensive annual event which the council pays for via tax payers money. I question these pageants events and motives and wonder if we promoted a group of boys to be paraded around like this , if society would deem it appropriate. Do girls need to feel beautiful and Boys Handsome? Do we need to celebrate these qualities in traditional methods such as Beauty shows, Pageants and Carnivals ?
I think this proves my point about how we (in the arts) are not connected to our local community as they exhibit traditional values by supporting these misogynistic events. But how do we connect and encourage the local community to be part of an art group? I feel that the public are negative towards community groups that have no relevance to their lives. For example I can attend a popular school event such as a school camp out on the school field and a school picnic or a School summer fate. These are all popular events because they all share a purpose of engagement with their children with the people that teach them most the time. The Institution of the school has a profound effect upon the family unit. I don’t think the Art community wants to become an Institution, that’s an industry resembling the Large galleries. But I want the art club community not to be such a niche area in Ramsgate. I want it to be accessible, enjoyable and sustainable. I hope we are able to arrange a feed forward meeting after the festival to discuss options for next years festival. I know we will be questioning our participation with the carnival.