Wednesday, 26 June 2013

MEANTIME Residency Concluding Event 28/06/2013. 7-9pm


Performance 7:30pm
For Future Reference is an ongoing project exploring the relationship between our present and future lives. Kathryn Ashill has for a number of years been collecting and archiving predictions made about her future with visits to fortune tellers, psychics and clairvoyants.
During her residency at MEANTIME, these alternative futures have been tested and analysed, played out and presented, through drawing, writing and performance.

EXHIBITION OPEN: SATURDAY 29th JUNE, 11am-4pm Attended by astrologer Rosemary Smith.

Read respondent Phil Owen's (artist and research assistant, Arnolfini) text here.


More information about current, forthcoming and past projects at

MEANTIME blog at

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Off St Margaret's Road
GL50 4EF

Directions here.

MEANTIME aims to provide a platform for active engagement in current art practice and the representation of ideas. MEANTIME is supported by Arts Council England, the University of Gloucestershire and Arts Development at Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

MEANTIME Residency text by Phil Owen (Reading Room research assistant at Arnolfini, Bristol)

Phil Owen responds to Kathryn Ashill’s project, June 2013

Let me share with you my experience of a recent performance by the artist Kathryn Ashill. I had arrived at the crowded basement gallery space some time before, and was waiting for an opportunity to get into a separate tented area, set out to resemble a fairground fortune teller’s tent. I was aware that I wasn’t entirely sure of how to approach the situation. Kathryn, who was inside the tent, is a very good friend of mine, whom I was looking forward to catching up with. She was also mid-way in to a piece devised for one audience member at a time. I didn’t want to disrespect the conventions that she had set up, but I didn’t want to pre-empt them either. Once I knew the tent was empty, I pushed through the purple curtain and made my greeting. We quickly established a ‘normal’ conversation, but quite soon she made it clear that we were going to shift our interaction into encompassing the pre-determined exchanges of the performance. I was very impressed by the way in which she did this – a subtle but firm switch in atmosphere. We read each other’s palms, using a printed palmistry guide sheet augmented by Kathryn’s own knowledge and experience. There was no pressure to accept the resulting guidance, in the same way that there was no pressure to follow a script. Rather, the piece seemed to exist as a relatively indefinable sense of delineated exchange. Some of what our palms apparently indicated had a certain poignancy, since they rang true, and since we both knew they rang true for each other. The experience was something between a conversation, a folkloristic ritual, and a confession.
Many of Kathryn’s past projects have focussed on the commemoration of historical characters or scenarios. Consequently, I do not find it surprising that she should have chosen fortune telling as her most recent subject of artistic enquiry – since what is fortune telling, but a mirroring of the way we continually tell ourselves stories about the past as a benchmark to understand ourselves within the present? I am particularly interested in the unlikely parallels between her work and the medieval Welsh bardic tradition: within this poets were employed by aristocratic patrons to praise their ancestral lineage, to justify claims to power through emphasising hereditary connections (however tenuous) to noble forbears; the transmission of prophetic poetry (canu brud) was another aspect of their role. While her commitment to the Welsh language is certainly very strong, her frame of reference is generally more cheap and cheerful than courtly (though she sees the dignity as well as the escapism in things often dismissed by cultural critics for being populist or sentimental). Nevertheless, Kathryn’s work resonates strongly with the bards’ function within a society that understood the cohesive power of narrative, whether it concerned the past or the future, to its identity.
Contemporary culture tends to devalue the role of myth, while insisting, unrealistically, on the inviolable truth of its own stories (news reporting, political rhetoric, advertising, not to mention the popular presentation of science). Instead, in this project, Kathryn Ashill highlights an on-going manifestation of the need for people to take solace in a predicted version of events, whether or not they really, truly, believe in them. The psychic readings she has commissioned are shared with us, their discrepancies and contradictions undermining their claims to accuracy. They are not discounted however, Kathryn’s interest goes beyond whether or not the predictions will come true, to encompass the reasons why people want to be told. The specialness of being spoken to in confidence and acceptance; the reassurance of being presented with a certainty – they are presented as a quite unique format for intimate exchange within an isolating society that Kathryn has drawn on, both as a precedent for one-one performances, and then as an informing quality that feeds out into the developing project more broadly.

AN article on The Centre is Here: Alternative Art Schools

Symposium report: alternative art schools

The Centre is Here symposium saw representatives of alternative art schools presenting their visions for art education. Kathryn Ashill, who starts an MA at Glasgow School of Art in September, found plenty to take on board as she prepares to embark on her course.   


NEWS: 24 Jun 2013

  • Centre is Here
    The Centre is Here: Alternative Art Schools, at g39, Cardiff.
It was with slight trepidation that I attended The Centre is Here symposium about alternative art schools, at Cardiff's g39. I am, after all, leaving Cardiff in September to embark on an MFA at Glasgow School of Art. Had I considered all the other options? Would the presentations by Pippa Koszerek (The Independent Art School), Maurice Carlin (Islington Mill Art Academy) and The School of the Damned cast a shadow over my decision to return to art school? 
First to present their ideas was Independent Art School founder Koszerek. The school became a curatorial project after she and fellow course mates created The New Hull Art School as a protest against the implementation of modularity on the course structure of fine art degrees.
Championing a free and progressive approach to education, they set up talks, crits, performances and presentations. Koszerek's powerpoint for this event included a series of drawings that humorously illustrated her point. A woman with a large rock on her back accompanied her statement: 'There were problems with being perceived as opposing a system, people would make assumptions about my political standpoint: I was seen as being a Marxist, anarchist, or anti establishment. This is a weighty responsibility that is imposed on your making process.' 
As a result of being questioned about her integrity, Koszerek went on to do an MA in order to research groups who were actively seeking a student-led experience. She met Department 21, who adopted a cross-disciplinary approach within the RCA and broke barriers between the rigid, separate courses by having a communal studio for printmakers, sculptors and painters. Her experience supports the main argument of her presentation – that we should fight for alternatives within the current art school system.
Underground resistance
The School of The Damned offered a counterpoint to working from within the established system. They are a London-based group of artists who have fully embraced the DIY approach to education. After graduating, 15 friends decided to create their own MA as a protest against high fees, being unable to get on a course, and the need to be accepted by art schools in the first place. They forcefully borrow the term MA in order to copy structures set in place by traditional art schools, describing themselves as ‘an underground Fine Art MA course run by its students.’
Set up in late 2012, The School of the Damned has a timetable and a meeting place and pays lecturers in kind through offering their skill sets, such as gardening or web design. Both Sara Nunes Fernades and Rachel Haines from the school used forceful language when explaining their ethos, describing themselves as being “criminalised” for not getting on/affording an MA. This sat uncomfortably with borrowed educational terms such as 'degree shows', 'lecturers' and 'course'.
Although the energy, commitment and enthusiasm the 'students' have for their new vocation and 'school' is commendable, it was hard to see what actually makes it a school; it seemed more like the dressing up or rebranding of an art collective.
Revolutionary approach
Maurice Carlin of The Islington Mill Art Academy, Salford, offered a more organic alternative to institutional art education. He explained that after doing a foundation and feeling deflated by the BA options, he opted – along with a large group of other foundation students – to create an academy that would gain practical knowledge for its students by exhibiting work and taking part in international art projects. 
This revolutionary approach to seeking out opportunities and receiving on the job experience had echoes of Koszerek's determination to champion freedom and student-centred experiences. The Art Academy is not an accredited course, but it could be argued that, as a result of its proactive ethos, students have much more depth in their approach to their own work and exhibiting than the average BA graduate.
I had one burning question for the panel: Where is the room for the individual, and fostering an individual practice, when their alternative schools are so collectively driven? There were three very different responses: The School of the Damned explained that focusing on their own work wasn’t an issue; Carlin has found that the academy has influenced the type of work he makes as he focuses on ideas about collectives and the public. Koszerek, meanwhile, clearly makes the distinction that The Independent Art School is a curatorial project rather than a collective. 
As I prepare to return to art school I am looking forward to focusing on aspects of my practice and having the critical response of fellow students and lecturers. And I intend to take on board some of the panel’s points: I will endeavour to be an active part of a community; I will make an act of protest by accepting my place at art school, ensuring that it’s not only the rich that study at MA level; and, if need be, I will fight for alternatives from within.
The Centre is Here: Alternative Art Schools took place on 22 June at g39, Cardiff, and was organised by g39/Warp and Chapter.
More on
Alternative art schools - Pippa Koszerek's Research paper.

MEANTIME Residency: Weeks 2&3 Discovering I was a Witch

Tarot Reading with Dayle Antonius
Print trials of drawings
Print trials of drawings

Psychic Toni Hunt's shop Spellbound in Gloucester
Gloucester Cathedral
Gloucester Catherdral
A gift from Elaine- a visitor to MEANTIME space


Since my last update on the residency I have encountered three more psychics, and three new versions of my future. It is fair to say that having consulted these people on my future has made me lose my balance with the present- it leads to you reassessing everything around you.
My second visit was to a lady called Dayle Antonius, who doesn't normally take readings unless you have been passed on. Fortunately my previous psychic (Maureen) had put me in touch. As I arrived to her house on a quiet Cheltenham culdi-sac she was waiting at her door to flag me down. This made me less nervous. Entering a strangers living room for such an odd reason is very nerve wracking. It became obvious that Dayle too was very nervous, almost frightened of what she may predict, 'My mother didn't like me very much as I was her truthful child. I would make predictions about my family and it would frighten them'. Her deck of the Old Path tarot were placed in my hands and I was told to transmit energy to them. She began laying the cards out in a pattern. Dayle seemed really pleased with the hand Id been dealt- particularly the Queen of cups for a great love life, and the ace of cups for luck, spiritual journey. The images were used by Dayle to predict what was coming, and in terms of my upcoming move, current relationship and life, I must admit she was pretty accurate. Things turned strange when a spirit tried to get in touch with me: "Jack has a message for you from the other side: he says you must get in the boat, and row with the water- not against it." After Maureen's prediction of me having to put my oars in the boat and go with the flow, I was slightly shaken by this repetition. Could it be a familiar term used b psychics? Or is Jack always with me?
The third week was draining as I realised if I wanted to make large prints of the documentational drawings on time I would have to see two psychics in one week. I went to a witch shop in Gloucester. This olde worlde looking shop sat right beside the Cathedral. A pagan stand off- it seemed like a protest. Lesley was psychic number three, a blonde Aussie who seemed surprised that I wanted two readings in one week (probably as it costs so much!) "I work with the Angels", she said, "and I can tell you that your very angelic". Not only does Lesley work with the Angles, she also works with Aura's and Tarot. It felt as though I was bamboozled with pagan rituals. Our parting left me very confused: "Kathryn I feel that you need to sort your past life out, it is affecting your future... I feel that you were definitely a witch". It only felt right for me to cross the road and sit in the Cathedral a bit to gather my thoughts and write the session down before I forgot her predictions.
My final psychic experience took place two days later with Gloucester's famous psychic Toni Hunt. I was ushered into the familiar back 'psychic' room, and Toni began. Her face was covered in a dragon tattoo and she wore fake medieval clothes. She spoke too much about my past for my liking: "You are an old soul. You were an ancient Egyptian and you were present in medieval times". I am concerned with my future not my past. Once she got into my future it seemed optimistic, exciting and the kind of life I want. I was outed as a Witch again: 'You are psychic and you can perform readings. You're a witch, when we see one of our own kind we can sense it immediately". My knee jerk reaction was to run to the Cathedral.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

MEANTIME Residency: WEEK 1

New office at Cheltenham
Crystal shop
Psychic 1 hand writing
Beginning of drawing
Discussion setup for opening event 
Reading material and drawing
Residency space and salt rock lamp


I could not have predicted (but then I'm no psychic!) how well my first week at Meantime residency space could have gone. The residency space is perfect for any artist working in any medium- it is homely, light and makes you feel that you can make anything. Its a very special space- bright and airy with large windows and plenty of wall space. I have settled in well. The first day was spent researching local psychics and booking myself a session. Everything was ready for me to visit my first fortune teller on the Tuesday. This was a nerve wracking experience- I have a strong Welsh accent and am not very good on the phone, then there is the unusual experience of going to a strangers home. I stood at the psychics front door full of trepidation. She answered and was miffed that Id arrived early as she was in the middle of another reading. I was handed the sun newspaper and told to relax on the white leather sofa's in the lounge. A young blonde woman leaves and thanks the psychic. It struck me that she too was nearly thirty, well dressed and normal looking. The psychic ushered me into her consultation room. She was very motherly and friendly and put me at ease. The reading began with a disclaimer:

"I am not God,
  I am not a Counsellor,
 This is for light entertainment only."

She held my hand throughout the reading and wrote in an automatic style, interrupting the writing to explain what she meant. I will divulge what she predicted through my work. At the end of my session I asked how I could get back to Cheltenham town centre. She exclaimed "come back in loviee I am driving in to get my hair cut, Ill take you." I was moved by this generous offer.
Back at the residency space I started to consider what would be the best mode of documenting this reading and experience. It struck me that the language she used had been so full of visual imagery that I should make drawings. The black Biro drawings are very illustrative and help form a narrative of the reading. This ties in with the advertising style a lot of psychics use, and also makes a nod to the aesthetics of carnival posters.
The opening event took place on that Tuesday evening. This was a chance to have an active dialogue about the work and was very beneficial as I was able to talk through the whole of the For Future Reference Project and explain in detail what I am trying to achieve now. Many interesting subjects arose such as why it is such a female tradition to see psychics, and why it is very common in the South Wales Valleys to do so. 
Drawing has become the main focus of this work, this is a fresh start and a new direction for my work to take. Using drawing as a way of mapping out performances has taken place throughout my work in the last few years, but I am looking forward to focusing and putting emphasis on this way of exploring my ideas.