Enter Dialogues with Natalie Hughes

My Five New Friends private view and talk at The Royal Standard will be one of the focal points on Saturday, March 3 – the second day of the NorthWest Visual Arts Open 2012.

The event starts at 2pm and promises discussion around the highlights of the exhibition – the loneliness and isolation created by social networking sites – and on artist Oliver Braid’s general studio practice. Audience participation will also play a role – the aim is to get “as much input as possible” while promoting a vivid bilateral discussion. Present will be artist Oliver Braid; writer Stephen O’Toole, who will be giving a live reading of his interpretation on the exhibition’s texts; and an art-psychotherapist, who will contribute with conceptual background for the discussion.

We got in touch with Natalie Hughes, one of The Royal Standard’s directors, who tells us more about the private view and talk, and also shares her expressed concerns and positive thoughts on the North West region’s arts scene.

What should visitors expect from the Talk?

Braid’s talk for Critical Mass / Dialogues will begin with a short talk outlining his general studio practice and research followed by a more specific introduction to the exhibition itself.

Braid has been working with Stephen O’Toole, one of the writers who guest edited the online version of My Five New Friends (www.myfivenewfriends.com). He will be bringing him to the presentation to give a live reading of his interpretation of the website texts. Braid has also invited an art-psychotherapist to give a live reading of the entire project. The art-psychotherapist has already been granted access to the exhibition and online archive in preparation for her ‘assessment’ of the situation, which will be delivered to Braid, ‘live’, in front of the audience.

Considering that this will be the final day of My Five New Friends, what is your opinion on the public response to the overall exhibition?

I think that the exhibition has divided opinion somewhat. Braid’s ethics and working methods have been called into question by some, but this is what I feel makes the show so interesting. In the age of Facebook, where anyone and everyone who is part of its extensive network can be found, stalked, contacted, or not contacted, ‘added’, ‘unfriended’, admired from a far, have their photos used without their knowledge etc, My Five New Friends makes us ask the questions we often avoid when considering social media. It highlights the loneliness and isolation created by social networking sites as well as examining what it means to put yourself on show for all the world to see.

What role does this initiative play in the NorthWest Visual Arts Open?

Oliver’s Braid’s talk on Saturday 3rd March is a free event, open to the public. Along with the Reactor Micro-Project, happening at the Bluecoat on the same day, it will mark the start of The Royal Standard’s new ‘Dialogues’ programme. This is a year-long artists’ professional development programme, which will provide opportunities for the Northwest’s Creative community to discuss, develop and examine their artistic practice through a series of talks, workshops, seminars, open forums and commissioned works. This programme has been developed in response to the professional needs of practicing artists in the area. It has been designed to be open, rather than didactic, by offering opportunities after each event to discuss ways to further develop the themes explored. Dialogues has been designed to allow its audience as much input as possible, letting them shape the programme’s direction.

So where does Braid’s talk, Reactor Micro Projects and Dialogues fit in with the Northwest Visual Arts Open? Well, on one level it offers the public an insight into the creative practices of young, contemporary artists in the UK and on another level it offers people the opportunity to get more directly involved by contributing to Dialogues and be part of a regional art-scene that is continuing to grow in significance and ambition.

In your opinion what is the relevance of an event like the NorthWest Open?

It is an opportunity for the region to become better integrated. Improving links between the creative individuals and organisations is very important. There’s so much going on in the region but I feel that there is little communication between its art-scenes, and all the good stuff that happens rarely comes close to reaching its potential audience, this needs to be improved.

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