Ovid’s fundamental point in his poem Metamorphoses, expressed through the philosopher Pythagoras, is that transformations, rather than constancy, define existence itself.
This talk explores the provocation that COVID posed to two long-term projects that I had initiated before the first lockdown in March 2020. Come Hell or High Water began on the winter solstice 2019. The first invitation said ‘join our pocket of resistance on the banks of the River Thames by Canary Wharf, a place that exists between water and land, private and public space, wealth and poverty, past and present, and an unknowable future. Where the tide slowly recedes, and a small foreshore is temporarily exposed, there will be a series of monthly performances.’ The April 2020 invitation stated ‘Artists are also key workers, they find other kinds of locks and open them. This Come Hell or High Water event upholds Imagination as an act of revolution, of connection, of recognition, of vision, of expansion, of happening and of strength.‘
We continued throughout 2020, keeping a spirited physical presence on the foreshore on all the intended yearlong dates, inspired, rather than deterred, by observing varying government restrictions. The other project, African Incidentalism relates to John Latham, the British conceptual artist, born on 23rd February 1921, in Livingstone, Zambia. He coined the phrase 'Incidental Person,' an artist who engages in wider contexts such as industry, politics and education and is 'a resource and an instrument of change ... for future societies everywhere.'
I was also born in Livingstone. For several years I harboured plans to stay in the town for a few months at the time of the hundredth anniversary of Latham’s birth, with the notion of the 'incidental person' as a catalyst to ignite ideas. With the Covid pandemic worsening, the idea of travelling to Zambia seemed unrealistic, so I began making online connections. I met the Livingstone artist, Agness Yombwe, engaging with her on many video chats.
In a radical response to the devastating pandemic that threatened many livelihoods in Livingstone, Agness approached Senior Chief Mukuni to ask for land, to activate the 'Creatives Village.' This inventive project, aiming at integrating artist initiatives with planting crops and trees, training opportunities and employment, is now evolving. I recognised that I had met the 'incidental person' in Agness Yombwe. I decided that instead of travelling, I would organize a live public zoom event on the anniversary, with Zambian artists, UK artists and the Latham family, hosted in Zambia.
In my zoom presentation, I pondered if Latham's proposal of a cosmology defined by time, not space, links to our birthplace. I dissected the word Livingstone, first as ‘Living stone,’ triggered by him saying that a rock was an event in time, arguing that all forms exist as 'events' of different duration, a theory he called 'Event Structure.' Secondly, as ‘Livings tone;’ ‘the tone of the living.’ Latham saw an artist’s practice as using intuitions that tap into information from long time-based events. Artists, for Latham, are agents of transformation. This presentation will explore both these projects as COVID positives.
Anne Bean has shown works in numerous galleries and venues worldwide. Galleries in London that have presented her work include Tate, Hayward, Whitechapel, Serpentine, ICA and Royal Academy. She has received several large-scale awards such as a British Council Creative Collaborations fund, leading to international work with women from countries of conflict. A Tate research/LADA Thinker in Residence Award resulted in an ambitious work, TAPS, involving over 80 artists engaged in improvisatory experimental practice. She was artist in residence at many institutions including Franklin Furnace, New York and Whitechapel Gallery, London. Matt’s Gallery, London have presented several solo shows of hers, including Radiant Fields, resulting from an ICA/Toshiba New Technologies award and Autobituary, which included a publication of the same name.
Recently she has shown work in three exhibitions at Cooper Gallery, Dundee as well as a major commission from them with Richard Wilson, Great Noises that Fill the Air, 2018 and in 2020, a commissioned online audio work. England & Co, London, invited her to do a solo show How Things used to be Now, 2018 and in 2019 and 2020, she was part of group exhibitions with them, including at Paris Photo and Photo London. Her sound performances, solo and collaborative, have been programmed at numerous venues, more recently London Contemporary Music Festival, Resonant Frequencies Summit, DRAF, Humber St. Gallery, Hull, South London Gallery, and several times at Café OTO, London as well as at Latitude, Hong Kong, Tasmania, Sidney, Auckland and Wellington Festivals. She has been a visiting lecturer at many institutions including Goldsmiths, Central St Martins, Queen Mary University, Chelsea and Royal College of Art.
In a recently launched monograph on her work, Self Etc., the writer Dominic Johnson wrote: Anne Bean is a noted international figure who has been working actively since the 1960s. The art of Anne Bean makes strange our sense of time, memory, language, the body, and identity, particularly through solo and collaborative performances along a vital continuum between art and life.