During a recent trip to Slovenia, I visited ‘Circus Terminal’ at Gallery Kud Esko in Piran (17 – 25 May 2014). The artist-led project, an initiative of ‘Uncooked Culture’, is a collaborative travelling art mission, which disregards academic background and aims to celebrate the differences and similarities of all human beings through their creations. Since 2012, the exhibition – which was launched in the UK at The Tabernacle in London in March of that year – has visited eight countries: Spain, France, Thailand, USA, Holland, New Zealand, and Slovenia. It has grown from 41 artists living in 12 different countries to a project exhibiting more than 350 works by over 85 artists. The final stop on the tour will be Suriname in July 2014.
In every country, local artists are invited to participate in the exhibition and other collaborative activities; an indicator of how the project has grown so fruitfully during its lifetime. Once the artist has had work exhibited in their home town, they are invited to put their work in founder and curator Chutima Kerdpitak’s suitcase to be shown on the next legs of the tour. Alongside Chutima (Nok), each regional exhibition has a lead artist –in New Zealand it was Wellington artist Lynn Todd, in London Miranda Sky, and in Spain Gustav Glander – as well as invited artists who exhibit alongside the international collective. The project has had one guest artist; Sue Kreitzman in London.
The exhibition in Piran was sat back just off of the main Venetian-style square of the town. Chalked directions marked the walls in the alleyways: ‘Art Exhibition This Way.’ Through a deserted basement and up a flight of stairs, art work began springing up on the walls. The main room was, in every sense, a white cube. But the difference here was that art washed the walls on all sides, including the pillars in the centre. There was colour, ink, sculpture, photography, intricate models, big pieces, small pieces. Almost too overwhelming at first glance, with works piled from floor to ceiling – though not offensively. It was going to take a few circuits to take everything in.
Some of the highlights of the Piran show were works by Carlo Keshishian, Dan Casado and the graphic works of Jim Meehan; about whom Nok shared an interesting story during my visit. Jim was discovered in Pennsylvania during Circus Terminal USA in 2013. Chris and Paul Czainski (two UK artists) had been offered a residency at Clay on Main in Pennsylvania near Boyertown where Circus Terminal was being held. They came across Jim at a community event they ran, after which he invited them to his house. The next day, the artists told Nok that Jim’s house was covered in thousands of works that had rarely been seen by anyone – let alone exhibited anywhere. Jim then visited Circus Terminal and has been involved with the project ever since.
Back to the show in Piran: outside in the yard, a collaborative graffiti wall. Here, several artists had worked on one canvas; painting, drawing, splashing, spraying, to create a large melting pot that could quite easily have been chopped into several smaller, self-sufficient pieces. This outdoor masterpiece embodied the mission of the project; collaboration, togetherness, and an indifference to academic and personal backgrounds. Here, trained artists worked alongside self-taught artists, ‘outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ rubbed shoulders.
Founder Nok says the initiative’s set up was – somewhat – a response to the dog-eat-dog nature of the mainstream art world: “To rely on the establishment to value our art cannot be justified by any creative individual. Rejection discourages creative passion and inspiration. Most artists wish to show their creations to the eyes of the world, creating our own opportunities BY and FOR artists is a sustainable route to building confidence and as a way of progression as an artist instead of being passive and counting on ready-made opportunities.”
“The particular purpose of Uncooked Culture is inclusion,” Nok continues. “We want to assist artists by encouraging them to either start or continue their passion in creating art without putting personal curatorial judgement on their practice and art educational background. I see the process of curated exhibitions; whether by independent curators, a group of curators, a jury, or an organisation as a judgement made from personal taste, preference, and to fit a theme that is inclusive to the ones that meet the criteria. At the same time, it excludes those individuals who may have created distinctive work, but who do not fall under the specific criteria.”
‘Circus Terminal’ builds a worldwide community of artists using social media to create physical collaborative activities amongst its members at hosted destinations across the globe. The project has showcased works from ‘outsiders’, ‘neo-outsiders’ and ‘insiders’ and is a fine example of how to globally dismiss the labels we have become so used to bandying around. The inclusion of ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders’ – and everything in between – as well as artists from a huge number of countries and cultures, leads to an innovative barrier-breaking project that epitomises collaboration, inspiration and overwhelming creativity.
When the exhibition travels to Suriname, South America, it will be joined by work from the following artists: Dhiradj Ramsamoedj, George Struikelblok, Hanka Wolterstorff, Kenneth Flijders, Kit-Ling Tjon Pian Gie, Kurt Nahar, Reinier Asmoredjo, Roddney Tjon Poen Gie and Sri Irodikromo.
The exhibition will run from 22 – 27 July 2014 at De Hal Muti-Purpose Hall in Paramaribo, Suriname, and will be led by Rinaldo Klas in collaboration with Readytex Gallery.
Click here for information on the beginnings of Circus Terminal