Talking Birds is looking for illustrators and/or print-makers for a small series of planned commissions related to The Nest, which will be the company’s new home and shared making space from 2021.
At this stage, we are looking to create a small pool of interested illustrators and/or printmakers who we will then invite to apply for these commission opportunities.
Talking Birds is particularly interested to hear from illustrators and/or printmakers: – who live and/or work in Coventry or nearby; – who self-identify as belonging to an under-represented or marginalised group; – whose work lends itself to screen printing in one or two colours only.
A bit about you (How to register your interest)
Please email TalkingBirdsCoventry@gmail.com and tell us a bit about yourself, your interests and your work (in roundabout 500 words) & include links to up to 5 representative pieces of your illustration and/or print-making work. From these submissions, we will select a number of artists to whom we will circulate commission briefs when they become available. Please note that the deadline for expressions of interest is December 10th 2020.
A bit about us (Who *are* Talking Birds anyway?)
Coventry-based Talking Birds is well known for its innovative and gently provocative projects which explore, and seek to illuminate, the profound and complex relationships between people and place.
The Nest will be Talking Birds’ new home and shared making space which is due to open next year during Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture. Since 2018, Talking Birds has been running the Nest Residency Programme (which offers time, space and conversations that allow artists to think, experiment and take a punt on one of those ‘What if…?’ ideas) peripatetically while the building work continues.
We are a signatory to the More Than A Moment pledge and, as such, wholeheartedly commit to ensuring equity, investment in, and opportunities with and for Black artists and creatives within our organisation’s culture and work, and in doing so becoming the change we all need to see.
Have you ever thought about the concept of ‘throwing away’? Neither had I, until I had a very interesting Google chat with Dominic of Ludic Rooms (a company based right here in Coventry). The gist of the conversation came from this concept of ‘throwing away’? What does this even mean? Where does all this stuff go? Stuff just moving from one to place to another. To quote Jerry Seinfeld, ‘all things on earth only exist in different stages of becoming garbage’. I pondered this on one of my now regular walks along Coventry’s Canal path. I had not long discovered the small minority in the city who ‘magnet fish’ in the murky waters. What on earth is that, you may ask? I indeed had the same question. The man made canal, built for the purpose of transporting/exchanging goods from county to county and once functioning as an additional life line to the city, has now become somewhat of a dumping ground of antiques and lost treasures but for the most part, a passing place of plastic and takeaway boxes. This bothers, but the silver lining is Coventry’s up and coming rise and it’ll be interesting to witness the Canal’s placement in all these developments.
Having these interesting and dynamic conversations with Dominic about Coventry’s relationship with water formed a unique focal point to explore – as for the most part Coventry is pretty much land locked.
On a not so particular day, I walked out of my front door and realized that I just about walked every direction out from my front door. I then remembered the entry to the canal – bridge number five to be specific. Off I went and set off for a new adventure. It was around about midday that I realized everybody and their mother was outside using their government issued hour – so it was not so much of the solitary walk I’d envisioned, but on that given day that’s exactly what I needed. Like a radio frequency all the bars within me had gone from red then slowly orange/yellow and just like that, green. The spring in my step restored as I gazed upon the boats, whistling with birds, dodging fast paced cyclists in balletic pirouettes as if living some sort of alternate musical reality.
The feeling didn’t last too long as I approached the long and dimly lit tunnel towards Gallagher – did I mention it was long? The solitude I’d initially hoped for somehow became very apparent. Then I saw the light at the end of the tunnel and kept moving. I began to think back about how I discovered the Canal, it was about two years after we’d moved to the city. It’s an easy miss but there’s a life force of its own that runs underneath the city. Back then the waters were clean-ish (well there wasn’t as much rubbish everywhere). Though this first walk was initially relaxing but the rubbish was always drifting in the corner of my mind.
A few months later, my sister and I took a walk in the opposite direction on a sunny day. The clear blue sky reflecting in the man-made waters, ducks in a row flowing in a steady stream and somehow coinciding with the piles of takeaway boxes, plastic bottles, foil paper and blue off licence bags.
One object in particular called out to me the most and I thought it’d be really interesting to explore the Canal for my Talking Birds residency. Particularly the scattered blue bags from off licence shops and Coventry market that have somehow found their way to waters. Blue in association with water usually represents serenity but the murky waters of the Canal were anything but, as the blue drifting around posed a looming threat for all the natural creatures trying to cohabit with the trash in this space.
Walking along and also noticing the reflections and shadows cast in the water inspired me to further explore the Canal’s essence.
Though scenic for the most part and providing a sense of ease and solace with a gentle movement of current, every so often that is disturbed by litter. Beer bottles, takeaway boxes and strikingly blue off- licence plastic bags (which I found particularly interesting as blue is Coventry’s color and often associated with water.) I explored this further – particularly in how the nature of the canal has adapted to this.
The materials used to create the puppet were a blue off licence bags with a plastic water bottle (magnet) fished from the water to create the bodice, synched in with the cuff of a Culture Coventry uniform.
I then painted a background of hues on foil paper that feature a silhouetted crowd representative of the people of Coventry.
To add to the final layer of the piece- I used a blue marker to draw some of what Coventry is best known for, for example-: the statue of Frank Whittle, the logo for Coventry FC, Lady Godiva’s statue and an Outline of the Coventry Cathedral.
It was crucial to use materials that would cope with being submerged and not affected by the water- much like the litter found in the Canal.
Filmed with a highlighted plastic bottle lens cap to create a filtered effect whilst in a way symbolically filtering Canal waters and revealing the beauty of the city. I hope to further explore this project with the help of the amazing Talking Birds company with the first flight residency and collaborating with Ludic Rooms. My aim is to help clean the canal, magnet fish and create sculptures from what I find in the water and rebuild the art trail. Time to to unclog our cities vessel and clean up the Canal!
“There is just wonder right in front of us, and we don’t spend enough time thinking about it.” — Michael Pollan
My artistic practice heavily involves the exploration of shadows, reflections and silhouettes. I’ve always been draw to these elements because that is the only way we can physically view ourselves. On a bright sunny day your shadowed figure mirrors your movements in synchronicity and is always right behind you. When you look at yourself in the mirror it is merely a reflection of you but somehow we’ve become accustomed to how we view ourselves this way.
As Coventry is formed of different energies, cultures and communities – I began to view the city more like a body and how the canal is a vessel. I began to value its importance and need for it. Spending a lot time around the canal has made me become consciously aware of its unconscious clogging. The level of plastic is suffocating to the environment. To detail my process: I knew I was searching for a solution and there were all these pieces of the puzzle hovering in the air, waiting to be put together. The canal is forgotten. The Art trail is abandoned. Almost as if the pieces of it were drowned in the water.
On a now regular walk along the canal path- I took my scooper and reusable bag and began my first round of magnet fishing. I picked up a lot of treasure – a blue off license bag, a plastic water bottle, foil paper, cling film and many other items but these in particular are the ones I decided to use.
Initially I had aimed to show reflections of the canal on iconic structures in Coventry (and I still might) in hopes of commenting on how, as ‘the body’ of Coventry, we view the city. I then came up with the idea of drawing iconic landmarks and statues of Coventry on cling film as I’d seen a lot of its scrunched presence surrounding the waters. I took a liking to the transparency of it but when I tested the sketches in the water, I realized that it was mainly the base of my tub that was bringing out these images. The practicality of it became unfeasible at this stage because one wouldn’t be able to see the projected images.
It was around about this time the foil paper stuck out to me, I began to think about how this would provide a perfect foreshadowing to the sketches of cling film. I thought about just having the sketches on foil paper and decided against it as the floating, threatening motion of the plastic in water differed from any other material I had found.
What can we do to make the city more ‘green’? In Coventry’s case, it’s more like, what can we do to make the city more ‘blue’? Blue like the sky or water. Blue represents clarity, stability and tranquility. In a city full of wheels and fast motion, the canal represents a break away for its residents or a moment of pause for the locals.
The lens I created from blue and pink highlighters and the bottom of a water bottle helped create the filter used in the final projection. The video itself metaphorically symbolizes the filtration of the waters whilst the sculpture, sketches and foil papered backgrounds represent the sources of materials that can be used to recreate the art trail.
When I first started this projected I’d hoped to run a lot of the tests by the canal but the sun set way late as it was still summertime then. My only other choice was to test these images in my tub – which in a sense follows suit with the man-made essence of the canal. Granted I didn’t have to adjust myself as I would have, testing outdoors but I rather enjoyed the solitary experience of forming my findings of what I had discovered from Coventry’s vessel.
Nest Residency No 1 by Andy Sargent – Contemporary visual artist.
As I write this, I am looking back on four weeks of a residency organised by the wonderful Talking Birds which ended on the 22nd March 2019, that took place at Eaton House in Coventry. The studio space was provided by Coventry Artspace, up on floor 11, which is I think, the highest place I have ever created work!
I wanted to use this opportunity to further my ideas on a series of works called “Hidden monster”, which deals with the subject of sudden (and permanent) injury, the impact it has on one’s life, how one deals with having to adjust to it, other peoples perceptions of it, and so on. It deals with the isolation, pain, depression, vulnerability, and struggle that comes with disability. I use the motif of the “Hidden monster”, and through this character I can describe the issues I have faced, and still do, as I have first hand personal experience.
This residency allowed me to expand my ideas, and as I don’t have a personal purpose built studio space, I jumped at the chance to take up this opportunity. Even though I struggle daily with mobility issues, I made sure that I could get into the residency as much as possible, to get full use of the studio space provided. From day one, I started creating lots of charcoal drawings, mapping out and moulding images that could be used for three dimensional and two dimensional works. These ideas then filtered into paintings on either board or canvas, small sculptures, and also two large banners or wall hangings. All these works dealt with a multitude of subjects to do with this over-arching subject of being “the monster”. Some of the work dealt with “who is the monster?”. I had been called a monster after my injury, however I see ignorance and hatred towards the disabled as far more monstrous, than someone who has found him/herself on what has been described to me in the past as “the scrapheap of society”. I cannot, nor could I, speak for all disabled people, however these works represent a collection of outpourings on a subject often swept under the proverbial carpet!
During this residency, Talking Birds were busy contacting various people and organisations they saw as being interested in seeing this work and meeting me. I got to discuss the work, the issues depicted in it and life as an artist with physical limitations. Many ideas were discussed, ways and places to show the work, reactions to seeing this work, how the work could be presented in other forms etc. Certainly, from being an artist who lives on the outskirts of Nuneaton, away from the cultural centres in this country, the residency with Talking Birds provided me with a way to raise my profile, and be noticed by more people, getting the message out that my work exists. One aspect of becoming permanently injured in my case, is that you lose your career/job, and earning money becomes a major issue. So not only does physically getting out to meet people pose a huge problem, but you often can’t afford to go anywhere after you’ve paid your essential bills! So a major part of this residency was meeting other very creative people, and feeling, albeit temporarily, part of an artistic community.
So, on reflection, this Nest Residency has been a fabulous four weeks in which to get work created, meet great folks, plan further ideas and opportunities. I would certainly recommend to any other artists who consider themselves disabled to apply for a Nest Residency. You never know what it may lead to!
(A huge thank you to Phillipa Cross, Janet Vaughan and Derek Nisbet from Taking Birds, and Mindy Chillery at Coventry Artspace for making this residency happen. Also many thanks to all the artists, arts organisations, and arts professionals who came to see my work during my residency)
[Photo gallery pics by Talking Birds, Photos in the text by Andy Sargent]
This time, the Wednesday Recommendations (a day early!) are all about Volgograd – you may have heard the name – we understand there was a football match there last night…
Coventry and Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, it was renamed in 1961) have a lot of history – being the first twin cities in the world and effectively inventing the idea of twinning after WW2. Talking Birds has had a connection with Volgograd for a while now, beginning when we found about the tablecloth in 2004. To mark the 60th anniversary of the twinning, Talking Birds created the ‘Twin 60’ project to explore what the twinning had achieved and what it meant to citizens in the two cities after 60 years, through the creation of a “Virtual Tablecloth“, which you can still find and explore online here.
As we wrote in 2004: Coventry and Volgograd’s…is a friendship that persisted even during the darkest days of the Cold War, and has led to many exchanges between the two cities – whether civic, cultural, educational or personal. It is interesting to ask whether the twinning has made any permanent difference to the thinking and actions of its citizens. And if so, what are they? What do we have in common?
There are issues of regeneration and image that might be explored, as well as the issue of a city’s relationship with its past. We should be careful not to try to make too many direct comparisons between the experiences of the two cities during the war; but we might be inspired by a concept of twinning which cannot be controlled by national governments, and might not even reflect national relations, yet persists and flourishes and has the potential to encourage change on a national level.
What does it mean to be a city of peace and reconciliation?
What does it mean to be a twin?
So, after that bit of background, this week’s Wednesday Recommendations are:
READ (in English or Russian!): About the origin of the link between the two cities, which began in 1943, when Emily Smith, Coventry’s Mayor, and 830 other Coventry women (and some men) signed their names onto a tablecloth. Each one paid sixpence to sign and the money raised went towards medical aid for Stalingrad (now Volgograd). The names were embroidered by Mrs May Adams over the course of the next two years. In 1944 the relationship between Coventry and Volgograd was cemented and the cities became the first to twin.
BROWSE: The Twin Story blog, an umbrella for our Volgograd projects, including Coventry-Volgograd Pecha Kucha talks, children’s art exhibition and more!
FURTHER COVENTRY-VOLGOGRAD READING FROM OTHER SOURCES:
Article in The Guardian from 2016 by Trevor Baker “The issue of how to create links between communities and individuals without endorsing political regimes remains problematic. Even so, there are those who still think that twinning agreements can make a difference to life in our cities. This could be even more true in the case of countries that don’t agree on a political level. In 2014, to celebrate the original bond of friendship, Volgograd Children’s Orchestra visited Coventry and performed a piece of music, Twin Song, written by Nisbet. It could have been disastrous timing, as relations between Russia and the west were at the lowest they’d been since the cold war. The orchestra travelled soon after Russia annexed Crimea. “I was a little bit worried about hearing some questions from people about politics. But luckily there was nothing like that,” says orchestra leader Yuri Ilynov. “We only heard nice things about the orchestra.””
Article in The Conversation “I love Volgograd” by Catherine Danks, Senior Lecturer in Russian and Soviet History and Politics, Manchester Metropolitan University (which also mentions our projects!)
Talking Birds needs volunteers to join its street performance The Q on Friday 23rd & Saturday 24th March in Coventry, as part of the Shop Front Festival (the first event in the build up to Coventry UK City of Culture 2021).
The Q is a celebration of the Art of Queuing. In 2011 the Q Corporation was formed in Coventry to campaign for Queuing to be included in the Olympics (therefore ensuring a string of Golds for the UK). Now they return – still dressed in orange – to show why Coventry has the most cultured Queues in the UK, and that it’s high time for our foremost past-time to be recognised as an Artform in its own right.
What do I have to do?
The @Q_Mob is like a Flash-Mob, but slightly more orderly. To join Q_Mob you need to sign up for a 4 hour slot (with ample breaks!) during the Shop Front Festival on Friday 23rd or Saturday 24th March, during which time you will be helping form queues around the City Centre, led by our Q Corp Captains (the elite SAS of queuing).
You will also need to come to a short (1 hour) Q_mob workshop where you can find out more, meet the team and… practice queuing. There are two workshop times to choose from:
Weds 14th March 6.30pm
Friday 16th March 1pm
Both workshops are at Shop Front Theatre 38 City Arcade CV1 3HW (just opposite Argos)
Age requirements: Q_Mob volunteers need to be 18+, younger Q’ers are welcome but need to be accompanied at all times by an also Queuing Parent/Guardian.
There will be FREE CAKE (and other foodstuffs) for volunteers.
Guest post: Vanessa Oakes reflects on her stint on The Cart in the #ThisisCoventry tent (which was curated to launch Coventry’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021) at Godiva Festival last Sunday.
a space… a cart… a place to sit and think… to listen… focus on our past, present and imagined futures… rest, recharge our phones, shut out the festival NOISE and… meditate on a life made up of memorable moments.
needles in… stitch by stitch… cultural moments cross the ring road… pale blue, blue, white threads, births, love affairs and friendships thread through cloth, as conversations flow an observation surfaces sideways:
how artists and arts organisations talk about interacting with the community rather than thinking about themselves as part of the community.*
testing our powers of concentration… conversation… commitment… action stitching our way along roads, across precincts, towards homes… we lament: it’s only two thirty…
children play, climb and hide… nest and then… disappear/lost… and finally, thankfully, found… we return again to the cloth… thread a needle… pin a note, add a thought, learn a stitch… listen… and… hesitate… a place to rest a pint? is he serious? no… thought not… a hasty retreat.
a cart… a place to… sit… perhaps just sit… rest our feet… process our words… and think, then… once again…
we listen… and imagining a future landscape of our stories told on these streets… we stitch.
Nick (playing the Goose), Sam (playing the little match girl), Craig (playing Hans) and Derek (playing piano – bdumtish!) have been squirreled away this week in rehearsals for our hilarious-and-depressing-in-equal-measure festive extravaganza TREVOR GOOSE AND HIS DARK NIGHT OF LIGHTS! The rest of the band arrive soon, and then all we need (Thursday to Saturday) is you and your friends sat around the cabaret tables in EGO’s atmospheric New York garage style indie venue, supping cocktails and having snacks delivered to your table whilst enjoying a bit of “farcical yet strangely thought-provoking” (CET) festive entertainment – with a Danish-themed raffle thrown in for good measure. If you fancy going the whole hog, you’re welcome to come dressed to fit the monochrome Dr Caligari meets 60’s jazz club theme – click here for some inspiration…