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24 September 2014

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Visual Arts: Feature

Dress by Nicole Neville for Giovanna Maria Casetta
Performance by Giovanna Maria Casetta


by Piers Ford
Norwich is home to a spectacular celebration of international visuals arts this summer. We meet the man behind CAN.05 - an explosion of art in Norfolk's galleries and open spaces that aims to ignite new enthusiams about the place in which we live.

If you're planning to be in Norwich this summer - get caught up in the culture as the city is transformed into a vast, extraordinary multimedia art gallery.

CAN.05 - Contemporary Art Norwich - is a new international art festival, devised by Arts Council England, East and Norwich City Council.

Its aim is to capitalise on the vibrant, historical and modern creative scene in Norwich, uniting existing and specially-commissioned work and exhibitions in an event that will galvanise the senses way beyond the city boundaries.

"CAN.05 is essentially a mesh of individual projects, each very well organised by its own curatorial staff," said director Stephen Snoddy, who has previously run the Milton Keynes Gallery and the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art at Gateshead.

"My task is to make sure they are all co-ordinated, that the entire event becomes greater than the sum of its parts," he added.


The list of organisations involved in the partnership is formidable, with CAN.05 becoming an umbrella for both established and site-specific exhibitions. EASTinternational, for example, Norwich School of Art and Design's annual open exhibition, will run for the 15th time during July and August.

Antarctica Dispatches by Simon Faithfull
EAST '05: Antartica Dispatches

This year, the organisers have secured Gustav Metzger - a key influence on the evolution of public art for industrial societies - as their selector.

The work on show will have particular resonance as the exhibition opened on the same day that the G8 Summit convened in Scotland.

The artists will give multimedia broadcasts of their visions and ideas on economic, political and ethical issues, providing an alternative commentary on the protocols and diplomacy that will probably dominate the headlines.

"In many ways, EASTinternational is the catalyst for CAN.05," said Stephen.

"There was a strong sense that we should build on its achievements while bringing in other venues. We're so lucky to have Gustav Metzger this time. He's made a very individual, tough selection that will explore themes of war and society. It will be a very polemic show, rather different to other years."

One of the aims of CAN.05 is to provoke and stimulate discussion.

Thanks to the efforts of other collaborators, including the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, Outpost and Commission East, Norwich's visitors and residents will encounter the unexpected at every turn.

Focus for the arts

As Stephen points out, this is really nothing new for a city that has long been a focus for the arts.

Mousehold Heath, Norwich - Cotman (detail)
Mousehold Heath, Cotman (detail)

In the 19th century, the Norwich School of Painters drew its inspiration from the landscapes and elements of the wider county. In the 20th century, the University of East Anglia became a literary hothouse.

CAN.05 is simply drawing all these influences together with a contemporary edge that endorses such a rich heritage.

"Norwich is a very individual place," said Stephen.

"It's a bit quirky, a bit hippy and it has strong medieval roots. It's a beautiful place with a truly idiosyncratic air and it's walkable.

"All of this will contribute to the strength of CAN.05 as a brand that gets talked about and makes people want to come. This is really the way forward, for the place to be used as a city for commissioned works in the future," he added.

There is a commercial imperative, too. CAN.05 will make a strong case to future funders for investment in visual arts and the city will be watching very closely for a positive impact on its local economy.

"In terms of Norwich as a tourist destination, the money invested in the project will be repaid through visitors coming to see the work,"' said Stephen.

CAN in the county

The event will ripple out across Norfolk.

East to Seething airfield, near Bungay, where works by artists Dominique Rey and Stephanie Douet will be on show, with performances of poetry by Rupert Mallin and music by Jane Wells.

On the north Norfolk coast, David Ward's contextual work Cromer Prospect is a key element of a seafront regeneration scheme. To the west of the county, Kabir Hussain's bronze Temporal Moments will be shown at the Shakespeare Barn Gallery at the Arts Centre in King's Lynn.

Other installations include Out There at the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts.

Ranjani Shettar installing work for Out There
Ranjani Shettar installing at the UEA

Set in the beautiful parkland at the UEA, the open-air exhibition features a global collection of work with contributions from Nigerian artist El Anatsui, Indian artist Ranjani Shettar and Britain's Chris Drury.

Meanwhile at the Great Eastern Hotel above Liverpool Street Station, STAY - an exhibition of site-specific commissions by 11 artists - will reflect their responses to the hotel's private and public spaces and its relationship with East Anglia.

This will include a performance work by Giovanna Maria Casetta, using an eye-catching pink Christian Dior-inspired dress fabricated by Nicole Neville, so long that it winds round the stairwell at the hotel.

Stephen acknowledges that CAN.05 has bullish aspirations, but he doesn't doubt they'll be scaled. STAY at Liverpool Street sets them out.

"The artists commissioned there are all from Norwich and Norfolk and because it's a London show, it gives CAN.05 real ambition," he said.

"We're learning as we go, but the staff involved at all the venues in Norwich are very experienced and it takes time to build an event like this, but I'm convinced CAN.05 will take its place alongside comparable festivals at other cities.

"It's a very exciting project. The name CAN.05 wasn't chosen because it was some flash tag. There was a lot of discussion about it beforehand. 'Can' is a word that people associate with a positive attitude to change," he added

By the end of September, if the organisers of CAN.05 have their way, attitudes to the arts in Norwich and beyond will have enjoyed their most rigorous work-out yet.

Reproduced with the kind permission of artseast from an article published
in the July '05 edition.

last updated: 08/07/05
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