Between April and June 2015, artists John Abell and Lauren Heckler are resident at Castell Coch, investigating the artistic possibilities of Burges’s Victorian Gothic masterpiece. Cadw’s Heritage and Arts Manager, Dr. Ffion Reynolds asks both a few questions about their plans:
Explain to us what kind of work you do and what you have been doing up to this point.
My work is shaped through my choreographing of ‘poetic actions’. These actions respond to the idiosyncrasies of a place to create moments of temporary beauty.
With a site-responsive practice, I am interested in the discovery of the local; conversation and research is key to the development of my ideas. I have also produced work in response to being in Japan and Sweden, at The Booth Museum of Natural History in Brighton and for Brighton and Hove’s in-service buses.
Over the next few months you are going to be researching and spending time unravelling the eccentric history of Castell Coch to our audiences. Where did this initial interest in Castell Coch come from and where are you hoping to take your research during your residency?
Creating work in response to Castell Coch excites me on many levels, from having grown up living by a castle ruin in Llansteffan to having the opportunity to explore and expand my practice alongside Cadw. Castell Coch is a unique location, with a rich and eccentric history as well as being a beautiful location that draws a range of visitors. It holds the perfect opportunity for me to develop my site-conscious practice.
As I believe that the act of researching is a fluid process, I am approaching this residency with an open mind — so am excited to discover exactly where it will take me! I would like to gain an understanding of the people behind the castle’s activity, both past and present.
Considering the context of production and display, I am particularly interested in asking the question, ‘who is the work for?’
What interested you about the opportunity to be an Artist in Residence at Castell Coch?
Castell Coch is such a unique space, with a multitude of layers of intrigue to discover and reveal. I thought being Artist in Residence here would be the perfect opportunity for me to create new work, whilst stretching my understanding of what it means to respond to place and exhibit to new audiences.
Is it important for you to interact with the local community during a residency? In what way?
Whilst in residence, I believe it vital to the development of my ideas to interact with the local community, to ask about their relationship to the place and how it has and continues to affect them. This kind of engagement results in locals integrally informing what is produced and can enhance their sense of connection to the work. Such involvement holds the possibility of reaching a wide audience.
What can we expect to see from you throughout your residency at Castell Coch?I am interested in re-animating the space by uniting the historical legacy of the castle with its current activity through digital media and performance. I would like to explore the castle’s state as a ‘timeless fairytale’ and plan on spending as much time on-site as possible.
Amongst other ideas, I have an initial plan to create an interactive sound work that takes inspiration from the castle’s walls.
As part of their residencies, both John Abell and Lauren Heckler will be hosting a series of events, demonstrations and workshops based on their working practices. Visit the events page to find out about opportunities to see them at the site.
In addition, both artists will be tracking the progress of their research throughout their residency. Keep visiting this section of the site for the latest information.