After a wonderful day out in Cardiff City Center, admiring the work set out in the name of Cardiff Contemporary Festival 2014, I am happy to share my thoughts and views of the day with you. As you will recognize in this and many of my future posts I don’t hold the best of sight when it comes to the contemporary art scene, however I can acknowledge its quality and form when I encounter it. As the day unfolded I was impressed with the evidence of time and thought that had gone into the festival and the work it encompasses.
First a comment about the festival! This is the third year that the festival has been carried out in the city and has thirty specially commissioned projects and three residencies as well as the gallery and museum exhibitions to be admired. All information required to enjoy your outing can be found on their website or on via social media on Twitter and Facebook. I also found an article in the local press recommending 11 sites not to miss.
I have to admit that the day was both rewarding and disappointing to me at the same time. I was inspired by the thought and delivery of the artwork, however disappointed by the difficulty to navigate the festival through the city streets!
My disappointments were both on behalf of the artists involved and for the visitor to the festival. I was armed with map and information booklet deliberately in the city for the festival and still was unsure whether I was at the right location or if it was the piece of work I wanted to see. While standing near a display on one of the streets in the center of the city, I stood and noticed that passers-by were not taking any notice of the display, ignorant or uninformed that there was a festival going on at all! At Cardiff Castle I was absorbing the work of Richard Woods and his work piece representing his vision on the history of the castle, I could not help but notice that again tourists were walking past his exhibit unaware its presence, or that it was part of a festival going on through the city! It was not until wondering why I was taking notice of it that they acknowledged it. Maybe this could draw me into a discussion of the meaning of art and whether it needs to be viewed in order to exist, however I feel this argument is a subject matter for a future post all on its own. In my view any work that an artists or festival puts on display has a need of viewing, as well as having their names associated with it for recognition! Cities also work with the principle of recognition, activities that happen in it both good and bad represent that city, therefore there is a need to highlighting all the good that is happening as and when it occurs which in turn would benefit everyone concerned, as in my view this collection of work was something that needed to be highlighted as good!
A major frustration regarding this festival was signage. Even though I felt a lot of time, money and effort had gone into its production, simple signage or banners defining the exhibits would be advisable, markers of the presence of something happening, notices highlighting the exhibits and of the festivals presence. I can accept that if you asked someone who was embedded with a piece of work, what was happening and what else was available they would be able to inform you, however not everyone likes to ask and not all had someone present!
There was an impressive quality to the exhibits on display, as well as the appreciation of the time and effort that had to be endured to complete the work for this festival. I thought that the exhibits that had people present with them both as caretaker and curator were more suited to me, as the meaning and thought put into many of the pieces of works were of a deeper level of understanding than I could muster. I did feel that this was a necessity with most of the work as many people who would have encountered them would have needed some level of assistance.
The variety and suitability of the different locations was also appreciated, with a sense of consideration and deliberation on each site for the piece of work it was to display. I liked the idea of the work being spread over the city as it gave a sense of play and interaction with the festival, being part of the experience through a game of hide and seek with the artwork, even though there was the frustration of locating each piece.
I have to acknowledge that the biggest and best thing that I admired about this festival is the simple fact that it was happening at all! It was a creative use of a wonderful stage that needs to be utilized more often. It is a simple yet potentially rewarding opportunity to highlight pieces of work, with the addition of the recognition for both the artist and the city.
Despite the issues highlighted above I would like to congratulate all involved with the Cardiff Contemporary Festival 2014, as on the whole it was well worth the visit. It seemed to be a living experience, as everything could be viewed differently under different conditions/light/timing as more than enough going on over the city to ensure everyone’s enjoyment, maybe planning additional visits to the city to experience different aspects at particular times is in order, for in whole this festival needs and deserves to be enjoyed.