The responses quoted below are an edited compilation from the many emails received since the close of the Convention. We should welcome further comments, ideas and suggestions to contribute to evaluation of the Convention and thoughts for the future. Please send responses to [email protected].
Many thanks for the invitation to document the coast-to-coast walk yesterday. It was a wonderful day. I learned so much about our fascinating county and met some lovely people. Special thanks to Billy for organizing such an inspiring journey.
Jane Robinson, photographer
Just a short note to say how much me and Dom enjoyed the Keynote event, and we made it to last night’s event too at CAZ and at Newlyn. We met some great people and really, really had a great time. Looking forward to future events.
Andy Hughes and Dominica Williamson, artists
I just wanted to say thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to stage Lecture on Nesting at the Penzance Convention. It was a privilege to be part of such a tremendous event and my Dad was equally thrilled to be involved. I really enjoyed the trip down the tin mine and would really have liked to stay for the rest of the event, it was a shame we had to move on.
Andy Holden, artist and Peter Holden, ornithologist
Many congratulations on a hugely stimulating, ambitious, convivial and inspiring event. I’m only sorry to have had to miss the field trips, which sounded truly extraordinary.
I hope the Convention will have a lasting effect, constructively nurturing the clearly complex Cornish cultural landscape.
I enjoyed it all so much and look forward to digesting all my experiences – I already have some ideas/plans for new projects and research trips. And all our speakers were such lovely people!
I recently attended the PZ Convention and although I could only come to the Saturday morning / Sunday presentations I felt so enthused that I had to comment. Rather than fill out the form, here are a few points as feed back.
- The presentations from Robin Shail, Hadrian Pigott, Andrew Lanyon, Andrea Schlieker and Miroslaw Balka were excellent as they were informative, thought provoking, entertaining and clearly executed.
- The main venues of the Exchange (and Newlyn Art Gallery ) were great. All the staff involved were welcoming and it was inspiring to see the gallery spaces used and filled in such a way.
- The quantity and variety of the events that were run over the four days were outstanding and had something for everyone.
- A formal introduction at the Exchange, regarding the convention as a whole, before the keynote, would have been useful.
What I think has come out of this more than anything, is the idea that the PZ Convention, hosted by the Exchange and Newlyn Art Gallery, could so easily (with funding ) become a biennial / trienniel event. Looking at the models of the Folkstone Trienniel (and the Munster Skulptur Projekte ) there is a real possibility to develop something along the same lines. To be able to include a whole community, primarily engaging in the arts, and to leave a legacy for generations to come would be fantastic. I really do feel that this could be the start of something .
I wanted to say thank you for bringing the Convention to Penzance and please keep me informed of any developments.
Jessica Cooper, artist
I wanted to thank you for the wonderful experience I had up (down?) in Cornwall this weekend: it is as beautiful of a place as I had imagined and I so much enjoyed my time there.
Billy Wynter’s walk from coast to coast was a treat and really gave me the opportunity to get a good glimpse of the landscape, geology and sociological aspects of the area. Hearing the other field trip reports then allowed me to gain a pretty comprehensive overview.
After the lectures on Saturday I took a little coastal hike in the Lamorna Cove area, which finally sold me on Cornwall. I will for sure be back!
Anna Felten, Associate Director, Outset Contemporary Art Fund
Thank you so much for inviting me along to The Convention – it was truly fantastic! And I can’t believe it’s been a week since we were there in Penzance. It was a completely transformative experience. Finishing up at Tremenheere Gardens, sitting contemplatively in James Turrell’s ‘Tank’, seems to me the perfect metaphor for the weekend. The image was always there and the eye could apparently see it. But it wasn’t until you relaxed, focused your senses and allowed your mind to receive the picture, that you could ‘see’ the image – suddenly things were clear!
Nick Raven, Two
Many thanks for supporting my inclusion in the Penzance Convention. I greatly greatly enjoyed the gathering, from deciphering Iron Age field sites from seemingly random boulders through to the array of extraordinary ideas from the many thinkers who contributed.
I was particularly dazzled by Esther Leslie and her work on the modernist prisms which leapt from the inky blackness of coal tar of all things … More work must be done (as she is embarking on) on the beguiling LCD panel … whose ingredients are pulled toxically from the earth in the furthest reaches and who so seamlessly paper over that very same destruction through vivid depictions of all we have lost … often in the form of wildlife literally leaping from the ‘iris’ frames and inhabiting sterile urban sitting rooms. Mining the Cornish landscape proves rich indeed for looking anew at the present!
John Gerrard, artist
Early in the Penzance Convention I was walking with others in Zennor, Cornwall, a landscape inhabited since the Bronze Age, and found myself engaged in discussions that reached far beyond ones I might have had in an exhibition, museum or gallery setting. The sites of artistic research are more often than not far from the museum’s walls and the series of Conventions are a means of acknowledging this and fostering a unique exploration and appreciation of the cultural wealth of this region and its peoples. Still there is no disputing that the origins of the Cornwall Conventions lie in discussions about art, exhibitions and artists.
The Invisibles field trip was fascinating – not only the terrific guides (Hadrian, Marcus, Dom, Tony, and others) but also the variety and the locations – it really gave an overview of the importance of mining to Cornwall throughout history. My favourite parts were the Geiger counter, the 3D model, and the mine tour – and the creative and interesting mixture of science and art.
Professor Lora Fleming, Director, European Centre for Environment and Human Health
Thank you very much indeed for convening such a stimulating Convention! As I mentioned to you on the closing day of the Convention, I had some thoughts about the use of concepts and vocabulary associated with extraction in relation to art and curatorial practice. There is much to say, but I have tried to stick to one or two points that are most important to me. I think that probably everything that I mention below, was said at the Convention in one way or another, but I’ve drawn things together to make sense to where I am at the moment.
One of the main outcomes of the convention for me is to question whether/how this concept of ‘extraction’ usefully describes the processes by which, as an artist, I draw meaning from history and site. The process of thinking through these questions is stimulating and productive in terms of helping me to articulate in a more nuanced way where my practice is situated. These are just initial thoughts and I hope to develop them further over the next few months.
One of the stated aims of The Penzance Convention was to ‘reflect on the theme of extraction, with reference both to Cornwall’s extractive industries – mining and fishing in particular – and to the processes by which artists draw meaning from history and site’.
I have been considering what particular social relations are embedded in the historical concept of ‘extraction’. For me, extraction is a concept that usually implies an imbalanced power relation between two or more entities: one entity has the means by which to take from the other (often that which it needs/desires), to expose, lay bare . When the supplementary concepts of ‘mining’ and ‘resources’ are considered alongside ‘extraction’ then, for me, notions of accumulation, commodification, colonisation and even conquest, come to the fore. Unless these concepts are explicitly thought through another (non-capitalist) lens and set of social relations, they usually imply power of one over another. In this sense, as an artist I would hope not to become a resource for another, nor would I want to encounter someone else as a resource. I don’t want to ‘mine’ or ‘excavate’ another person’s knowledge, experience, ways of thinking, nor would I like to be mined or excavated. Rather I would prefer to encounter another person through processes of mutuality. The relationship between ‘scarcity’, ‘profit’ and the amount labour necessary to extract ‘resources’ is also highly relevant here.
In terms of ‘extraction’ as a reference to the processes by which artists draw meaning from history and site, then, the concept is, for me, highly problematic. However, that in itself in not a negative thing. By problematising and politicising the concept of ‘extraction’ the possibility of a very real debate emerging around artistic and curatorial practice in Cornwall and beyond begins to emerge; not least because, for me, the antagonisms of capitalist relations are embedded within the very concept of ‘extraction’ itself.
I have been making work with plants and herbs for a number of years, trying to learn how to grow, harvest, preserve and work with them for potions, dyes, rituals etc. I’ve also been trying to devise organisational forms/structure of production, distribution and encounter that challenge (not always successfully!) existing hierarchical and centralised forms. These new forms however, are equally embedded within capitalist social relations and have to be problematised and critiqued just as rigorously!
In my existing practice I work with (at least) two approaches simultaneously – (1) devising material forms that enact attempts to encounter the world without incorporating, assimilating, accumulating, colonising or rejecting the other and (2) devising material forms that expose intrinsic antagonisms and contradictions within capitalist social relations. My engagement with the Convention has made me realise that perhaps I now need to give more attention to how these two approaches co-exist within a work. The Convention has turned my attention specifically to concepts such as ‘extraction’ that, for me, contain complex/capitalist social relations, as part of what they are. I think it is useful to expose the social relations embedded within processes of extraction, at the same time as attempting to devise ways of encountering metals, minerals, plants, fish, people, without attempting to accumulate, assimilate, incorporate, colonise, conquer and/or reject them.
In thinking through how metaphors of extraction might influence the development of much-needed alternatives to existing curatorial models informing art fairs and biennials (and ways of making art), I believe that through the shared process of problematising and politicising the concept of extraction itself, considering a radical new form of art production, distribution and encounter might emerge.
The Penzance Convention has stimulated my thinking in (for me) very fruitful ways, and for that, I thank you sincerely.
I had a lovely and interesting time. Going underground was the highlight, although the thing I remember most clearly was the keynote speech, which wandered, but I liked it like that, the way he got lost and then got back on track and then got distracted by something interesting, and all with the light fading and the uncomfortable seating and the organist with a rear-view-mirror to check the congregation. The poems he read, he was good. I liked his hat. He was quite Van Morrison.
It was great to see the geology students from St Austell. Seeing them at the school of mines made me think of visiting the Tate and the Serpentine when I was their age.
Anyway, congratulations, I thought it was wonderful.
Once again thank you for wonderful and rich days in Penzance. The energy around the event was amazing. The discussions taking place in the forum and back-stage – inspiring and timely.
Speaking at the conference was a valuable experience and a unique opportunity to present the project to extraordinary public. It also made me and Miroslaw think about the concept once again. I feel that the convention helped me to reach some new layers and dig out some hidden motives.
Thank you again for invitation to Penzance
Penzance before was just a strange name – now it means a lot.
Thank you once again for a brilliant day. We all got so much from the session. Thank you so much for the opportunity.
Gizela Daemi-Rashidi, St Ives School
The aim was to convey a sense that something is happening down there in Cornwall, and that the Convention was a catalytic moment in whatever that’s going to become. It’s always nice to feel one’s taking part in a moment – in the historical sense – and that was what the Convention felt like.
The close connections between the artist and the scientist seemed integral to the Convention and, as a volunteer, I found this particularly exciting to discover. I studied Fine Art at UCF and in this respect the contrast between the approach of the Convention and that of a University course was clear; at UCF there was no attempt to connect to courses and varying disciplines that lie outside of Fine Art. Perhaps this is particularly important to me, regarding my personal practice, but I think that art students as a whole would benefit greatly from learning at BA level how to work with and respond to people in other fields.
I can only speak from my own experiences at UCF, but it seems it is quite easy for BA Fine Art to become introverted and for it to exist within comfortable boundaries, without reference to its surroundings or context. I find it hard to think that so many art students will study here and leave without ever connecting to the place in which they have lived. This seems a shame for both the students and the art community in Cornwall, as both could gain something from the other. Perhaps as the Convention is already aware of the educational role it could have within the community, some connection or conversation could somehow be made with UCF courses, both within and outside of the arts.
Kate Holford, graduate of University College Falmouth, BA Fine Art
Nom de Strip received a bursary through Plymouth Visual Arts Consortium to attend The Penzance Convention. We really enjoyed the three-day conference.
The main reason for attending generally was intrigue – we discovered The Falmouth Convention website a few months prior to the trip, and remember thinking ‘that’s something we would have loved to go to’. We had never been to Penzance before and wondered what life in the deep, deep South West was like. Our current location and its distance from the centre of ‘things’ (especially in the art world) is something we often think and worry about. We were interested in the idea of this seemingly remote and far flung place becoming a temporary centre for artists, thinkers and writers from all over the country. Following the convention that interest remains.
Pamela Peter-Agbia and William Hibberd, Nom de Strip, Plymouth
Thank you for an amazing weekend – it was so cool to see so many faces again and meet many new… to get to spend the day down a Tin Mine, engage in critical thinking, learn a huge amount and be thoroughly inspired and to end strolling the beautiful gardens, laying back and gazing at the sky/or exploring the camera obscura with Turrell was just fantastic. Thank you for all your work to bring us such a great convention.
Hannah Guy, Director of Education, Fotonow
Thank you for the conference, it bought lots up to sift through and re-energised ideas slightly put aside…
Becalelis Brodskis, artist filmmaker
I wondered whether the next convention could take place in St. Ives, and the focus be twofold: the minor & major transnational nature of St. Ives cultural history (past, present and future); the specific conditions out of which an avant-garde arises.
I am a PhD student looking at a particular aspect of the links between St. Ives and Vancouver, and I feel this would be an interesting case study re- minor transnationalism… A key note speaker could be the University of British Columbia’s Scott Watson or perhaps Dieter Roelstraete, who was a curator at MuHKA, Antwerp and who is now at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. He curated an exhibition whilst at MuHKA entitled Intertidal that looked at the conditions out of which, despite its isolation and newness, Vancouver’s avant-garde arose…
Alex Lambley, Researcher, Leach Pottery
Art & Education’s release on The Penzance Convention was circulated on 20 April 2012.
Colin Perry‘s review of The Penzance Convention appears in the Jul-Aug 2012 issue of Art Monthly (subscription or purchase required).
Camborne School of Mines covered The Penzance Convention on their website, 8 June 2012.
Professor Lora Fleming, Director of the European Centre for Environment and Human Health wrote about her participation in The Penzance Convention on the ECEHH website.