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Title: Festival as process : art, territory, assemblage and mobility in North East England 2003-2012
Authors: Merrington, Peter John
Issue Date: 2016
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis examines the geographies of a new festival of contemporary art, film and music in North East England between 2003 and 2012. As a hybrid process of cultural production, renewal and consumption, the arts festival offers an important site to examine how cultural encounters are produced and performed through a set of entwined place based imaginaries. Using the curatorial practice of AV Festival as a case study, the thesis assembles histories of art, curating, cultural policy and regional geography to evaluate how the organisation sought to advocate a progressive sense of place. The thesis addresses how AV Festival was situated within its locality in three ways. Firstly, analysing the ecology of relations that created AV Festival demonstrates how the artistic ethos of a new cultural organisation was shaped to mediate the perceived demands of the regional cultural economy of North East England. In doing so, the thesis makes an important contribution to regional cultural history with a particular emphasis on how festival was deployed as a strategy towards economic and social regeneration, a subject that is underrepresented in scholarly work. Secondly, two significant artwork commissions are examined in order to show how AV Festival developed a particular practice of situated artistic commissioning. Drawing on the concepts of territorialisation and mediation, analysis of the YoHa project, Coal Fired Computers (2010) shows how curatorial and artistic practice can intervene in ideas of locational identity. Building on this, the discussion of the recreation of John Cage’s 1966 performance, Variations VII in 2008 in Gateshead demonstrates how the hybridity of AV Festival was performed as an assemblage of proximate and distant social, material and cultural relationships, the scale of which did not necessarily converge neatly around territories or temporalities. Finally, the thesis emphasises mobility as a critical concept for understanding the arts festival. Examining AV Festival as a mobility system shows how festivals privilege corporeal and material co-presence. Through tracing the movements of people and objects in AV Festival, the thesis explores the concepts of slowness and friction and demonstrates how the process of festival can intervene and disrupt normative spatial rhythms. Set against the pluralisation of arts festivals, including visual art biennials, in Europe and beyond, over recent decades and a broader festivalisation of cultural institutions, this thesis makes a significant contribution to the field in offering a reconceptualisation of festival. The thesis reimagines festival as a relational process, showing how festival necessitates a continual assembly and dispersal within the production, renewal and consumption of public culture. The study provides theoretical support to those interested in the intersections between art, festival and place in the twenty-first century.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Arts and Cultures

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