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Patrick Staff – A Factory As It Might Be (Bournville)

Date uploaded: March 25, 2013

International Project Space
Current Exhibition: Patrick Staff – A Factory As It Might Be (Bournville)
19 February–11 May 2013

'A Factory as it Might Be' is an exhibition and ongoing research project conceived by artist Patrick Staff. The project takes William Morris' eponymous 1884 text on the re-imagining of the factory, and Colin Ward's response in 'The Factory We Never Had' (1994), as points of departure for reflexively examining contemporary sites of production, education and social space, and the intersections between industry and leisure, performance and congregation.

Following its first iteration as part of the The Island's programme for the 2012 Whitstable Biennale, 'A Factory as it Might Be (Bournville)' relocates to International Project Space and its home in Bournville, where an art school has existed for over 100 years. The school, built by Cadbury as a day continuation school for its workers, occupies a series of buildings around Bournville Green a short distance from the Cadbury factory established in 1879. Known as 'The Factory in a Garden', Bournville was cited by Morris as exemplifying a positive shift towards re-establishing the factory as a space of both production and sociality at the heart of the community.

The pending relocation of the current art school campus to a new building in the city centre provides the backdrop for this iteration of 'A Factory as it Might Be', a shift that is being undertaken amidst a governmental assault on culture, welfare, education and social equality. The relocation from Bournville's more traditional craft-oriented campus to the office-like environment of the new building typifies the current transformation in the arts and education driven by state aims which will necessitate artists, organisations and universities to employ an increasingly entrepreneurial role within the cultural sector.

Staff has transformed the gallery with an architectural intervention that aims to shift the focus of the space from exhibition towards performance, production and social congregation. The structure is designed to facilitate a more fluid relationship with the surrounding art school, manifested most directly by removing walls from the space and opening up of the entrance between the gallery and the college. The installation features tiered seating and low stage-like areas to create structures for the screening of video and archival works, to house a small library of books and articles assembled for the exhibition as well as to facilitate performances and meetings. Throughout the 12-week run of the project Staff will invite contributions from collaborators, artists and researchers in the form of talks and discussions, screenings and short-term displays of selected works and archival materials that will examine both historical and contemporary modes and moments of collectivity and action. These include materials used from the Cadbury archive. In collaboration with designers 'An Endless Supply', Staff will be producing a series of handmade posters for each event in the programme which will displayed within the installation and distributed throughout the local area.

A twice-monthly study group, made up of students from the art school and other local artists will run concurrently and will be convened by Staff and invited participants. It will constitute a temporary reading group and forum for discussion responding to the themes of the project, issues it raises and the context of the changing landscape of the arts and education in Birmingham.

For 'A Factory as it Might Be (Bournville)' Staff will present two performances: 'Magic, Science, Technique and Willingness' (2012-13) and 'Handcuffs!' (2013), that will repeat monthly throughout the duration of the exhibition. Described by the artist as a couplet of plays, they engage questions surrounding the intersection of artistic production and the representation of the relationship between art, protest and work. Drawing on archival texts from factory strikes, studies of discipline within the workplace and symbolic forms of protest, the performances engage with the history of political theatre and cinema as mediums that create live, social spaces. They question the possibility for 'functional transformation' of archival materials and the re- enactment of social histories. The project continues Staff's interests in the investigation of the political, physical and material implications of social spaces and forms of collectivity emerging from historical alternatives to industrial and late capitalist society.

'A Factory as it Might Be' will be International Project Space's last exhibition in Bournville.

Patrick Staff is the recent recipient of the SPACE / Bloomberg ON annual studio award and Fogo Island Arts Residency. His videos, installations and performances interrogate the political, physical and material implications of social spaces, dissent and the body, forms of collectivity and the historical narration of counter cultural and radical action. Recent projects have taken place at The Tanks, Tate Modern, London; Monte Vista, Los Angeles; Milton Keynes Gallery; The Showroom, London and Wysing Arts Centre. Staff was a LUX Associate Artist 2010/11.

A complete schedule of performances, talks and other events will be posted on the International Project Space website shortly.

Click here for more information on the International Project Space website.