Over the past week we've been transforming a store room at the Royal Academy into Urbania's Red room. We've built tables, a toilet and brought in many of the objects created during our residency at Parkamoor in the Lake District this july.

The red room will be the focal point for our activity for the next 3 months leading to Urbania's Soup Night on 8th January 2009.

I personally like to thank Grizedale Arts, Martino Gamper and Michael Smythe for there support in the development of the project thus far.

Please feel free to pop in to the Red Room.



Gotta love the red room - viewed from the outside as arresting and intriguing, it draws you away from the singular contemplation that precedes its discovery. Immediately being confronted with people is intimidating yet exciting and ultimately rewarding as interaction provides a key-hole insight into the workings of a collective. Once within and beyond the key-hole you shift from voyeur to viewed, becoming part of the art as an impression of another. Immediately active yet obviously static - a slog of a show - the individuals give depth and meaning to compliment the warm welcome - who can refuse soup and mulled wine?!

Boys and girls, really enjoyed being a momentary inclusion, able to perpetuate the experience. And what soup! hearty grub with brick bread is as much as any man can ask for whilst wondering round a gallery. Loved it and very sad not to have made the 8th, hope it was all fun and games.x

Michael Smythe's Tower of Babel
Michael Smythe's Tower of Babel


Agrifashionista has moved to the Royal Academy of Arts in London. How you move a website and a process to a gallery is up for grabs, but somehow this is what we have to do, or have come to have to do. I’ll be honest it’s a bit of conceptual mess now and we are having second thoughts. We’ve renamed it Toadball in honour of this fact.

The all action Agrifashionista version of the project that was a week of live studio production at Club Row in Shoreditch never came to bear fruit, as the hosts A Foundation imploded two weeks before went live. The net result is that we have a website of our commissioned artist films, but without the live hook to the reality of production and meaning. No critique, no pulling apart the art world myth, no debate, no new dawn and possible future use for art. For now at least. That comes after this project when the new farm is finished (see

It’s recurringly apparent that the art world (more so than the rest of the world) doesn’t like mess, complication, real critique and self analysis. It likes the show, the party the big pile of stuff, but when you start saying something like you mean it they run a mile.

I arrive at the RA late on Monday and Michael, our Mighty Atom project manager, has for the last four days at least, been dismantling a medical library and reassembling it, in a big, Tower of Babel pile in our allotted room. The installation looks super dramatic, sort of Harry Potter goes John Ruskin, and supra-curator David Thorp everyone at the RA loves it. I can see why; it looks great. But from a Grizedale point of view this is disconcerting, as we just don’t do installation like that. Michael once again has put in a superhuman effort in our absence and I painfully have to come round to taking it apart and starting again.

The point is it’s not really what it looks like; it’s what it’s doing. Often this is a disappointment to many in art land, but a deeply held belief in this organisation; that art should become useful in one way or another. There’s no way we can do this in the RA without the live, full blooded discussion, TV spectacular (an audience with Joanthan Meese anyone?) and, indeed, no budget. The best we can do is point to what we are talking about, point to the website, to our farm HQ, our other projects and hope to get them to follow.

As such the exhibition becomes a trailer or an advert to the thinking and process that lies beyond. Grizedale has become so much about the coal face application of creation it’s always going to be hard ‘to do gallery’, but it’s an important part of the equation – we don’t want to give up on art, we just want to make it better.


1 Comment

Well that does look kinda cool, like the end scene from Minority Report where the turbo geeks are left with their books in the middle of retro nowhere - turning their hunched backs on techno wizardry. However as you say pick the bones out of that, as in what does it mean, Tatlin's tower, ET, always popular art references though generally best avoided. Books as outmoded, reduced to pub decorations, although as a pile the inference is that they have been read, maybe the computers suggest the material is being digitized. Generally not clear, but that sadly is ok in contemporary art, all we generally need from an exhibition is for people to walk into the room and go 'yeh nice' and move to the next room. The problem is that if the new configuration only offers engagement with the long and complicated web site and artist films alongside a glimpse of the intention of the project we are probably asking to much of a gallery audience (I know I dont have the time to sit down in a gallery and spend time trying to absorb ideas - that would be an archaic notion) - so I guess a signpost is the best we can hope for, so just stick up a sign post.




Myself, Dan Fox and Ashley Marlowe support Bob Parks on 6th September 2008 in Amsterdam, as he performs at the opening of his solo exhibition 'Crying in the Temple of Love & The Sex You Have To Give' at ZINGERpresents gallery. We are also releasing Bob Parks 'The R&B Feeling' LP on Junior Aspirin records.
Bob Parks’ eclectic career stretches back almost 40 years and has its roots in experimental performance art of the 1960s and early 1970s. His life and work is filtered through his love of Rhythm and Blues (a term propagated by his friend Johnny Otis) and includes poetry, photo-realistic portrait paintings, music, video and installation works as well as site-specific performances.
Parks’ performances seek to confront and challenge the viewer, and can be compared and contrasted against more deeply personal work that explores his relationship with his Church Starlight COGIC, and its congregation who are his friends, brothers and sisters. It is here that music becomes so important to Parks – particularly R&B and the gospel singing of COGIC – and it is ultimately music that informs every facet of his oeuvre. (ArtSway, UK)




I always love that art centre talk, like that gem from from artsway, that chips on about seeking to confront, expoloring and informing facets of oevres. If art institutions confronted and explored their own rhetoric a little more studiously the world would be a better place. And I'm sure Bob would say Amen to that.

Eh? There's no rhetoric in that description, it's just descriptive. Most art centre press releases are, but this isn't. Bugger off!

These are two projects we made for the website...

The Librarians is a series of 8 video portraits concerned with the personal, sometimes unintentional collections and libraries of people working in the arts. The project looks at how individual collections and selections processes and by extension the design and organisation of personal environments reflect and relate to someone’s wider practice. As a sequence the portraits form a collection in their own right with the notion of collecting becoming increasingly complex while relationships and connections develop between individuals and their ideas. Featuring Tom McCarthy, Lorenza Boisi, Shaun Pubis, Michael Leslie, Pablo Bronstein, Isabel Waidner, Rebecca Bligh and Adam Sutherland.

Reading Room is video library of reading performances which will be regularly added to. Texts are chosen by readers specifically for the collection and filmed in their personal contexts, either home or workplace. As a result the library includes an eclectic mix of literature, poetry, biography and science while each video is also an encounter with the personal space of the reader. The project is ongoing and long-term, mapping through time associations and a sense of collective thinking .

I've just put live the 4th installment of, Iron Man by Jen Liu.
A story of Party Monks, Rock Guitars, Brass Bands, a Princess and Salvation.
Watch, think, and leave your comments below.

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Big screen video on the small screen is a big leveller, but the monks carry it off. Mind you give me small screen video on a bi screen anyday