Although the expectations of a ‘block party’ were way higher than the reality of the function, the quality of the work met them. The joint showcase took place in the creative ‘quarter’, the corner of Newbridge and Pilgrim Street, which houses the majority of Newcastle’s independent creative ventures. Fifteen of those took part in the event - full disclosure: I did not go to all of them. This is going to be more of a holistic look. The sheer volume of projects that exhibited surprised me, with all the secret spaces hidden in door-manned, 1970s blocks. The multimedia, multifaceted nature of the event was nice, but you got an A4 map and nothing else. This competing with the labarynthian plans of the city planner, you couldn’t find shit.
Rather than being a single project/person show, this kind of event endears itself to the exhibition of a scene. And that’s what I’m going to be focusing on rather than getting into each of the specifics of the 15 events that were on that night. Highlights.
I turned up with my friend about an hour after the event started three beers drunk not knowing what state would be okay to go into these places with. The New Bridge projects was the most memorable as it was the primary project space as well as being the most visible and best known. It was split between the DJ set in the bookshop (better than it sounds) with the Grace Denton & Competition: Both Things Are True zine + film, and the late-night opening of the Hidden Civil War exhibition in their space next door.
Hidden Civil War looks at the wider crisis in activist circles, and the lack of effect of civil disobedience due to counter measures by the government. Balloons are really nice, so when an artist gives ones that say things like ‘NO MORE PETITIONS/ABOLISH POLITICIANS’ to people attending shopping centre openings and the Frieze Art Fair, no one really cares. The police will take away your placard but they feel bad taking away your balloon. The Grace Denton and Competition stuff was very solid cross-media content, the zine well laid out and the film and zine’s images a good mix of things like blown-up still lives and gratuitous and satisfying texture shots of velvet.
Mao Kai’s Superior Animals paintings, in her fist show outside China, have a clear surrealist vein running through them. Sometimes the choice of colours reminded me of the safe kind that you see in some places on Etsy but I saw that as more being in touch with popular internet aesthetics rather than as a lack of polish.
Unlike its counter parts in London, the artists did not make anything more important than it was. They were sincere, still, but not in the way that marked themselves as the shit. They didn’t fall back on irony either and I did not see a single pair of Air Max 95s, which was nice. There’s a distinctly shoestring feel about some of the projects but that does not make them bad, it makes them creatively agile.