As part of an on going obsessions with Luton, mountains and peace...
As part of an on going obsessions with Luton, mountains and peace...
I won the Murry Barford prize 2013 for my work "Peace for Luton".
As part of the run up to the BBC 1 documentary on Luton, I was interviewed on BBC 3 counties Radio about my views on Luton.
I was interviewed by Sarfraz Manzoor for a BBC documentary on Luton and my Lutopia Work.
I have been an associate producer on writer and film maker Michael Smith's new film called Mystery River.
This film is co-commissioned in partnership with Departure Lounge, Up projects and The Floating Cinema, and with the support of the University of Bedfordshire, and was premiered as part of the Floating Cinema programme at Lea Rowing Club on Sunday August 18 2013.
I was commissioned by Swiss interior designer Pelle Schiffhauer to create a bespoke one of a kind book with original photographs. We travelled to 8 Swiss cities and photographed over 3 days. We then worked with incredible printer and book binder Nelda Karklina to create a hand made 3m long concertina book.
I wirte this from a Hotel in Dublin, where I am finishing the Ratinale in a book design. The brief says display in an appropriate format and for this project nothing short of a book seems appropriate. It has been quite a journey and I have enjoyed the last two years. I feel my research has meant a lot to my practice and vise versa. THe way I view my work, the ideas that underpin it and the context it is in is vastly different to when I started. Even without gaining the qualification, I know that this time will be very useful to my practice and career as I move forward. Thank you to all my tutors and staff who have helped me over the years!
Although everthing that I have done is presented on this website/blog, I also prepared a series of large scale prints to show off the final work. As I am in Ireland as I write this I have had to get someone to hand it in for me. It is wonderful feeling getting to a final hand in and completing everything within plenty of time. I have throughly enjoyed the MA and the journey it has taken me on. I would cerrtainly reccomend it to anyone!
In understanding my practice I have had to ask questions such as where does documentary end and art begin? This question was easy to answer several years ago, but no I find myself flirting with these two distinct areas in different ways. Artists such as Luc Delahaye blur the distinctions further (interestingly his work is one of my personal favourites). I personally think that as I regularly interact with the space in front of the lens, then my practice fits more comfortably within an art context, however, I mostly present a documentation of what I have been performing/constructing etc, so the relationship is inherently more complex. When you document something there is an implied relationship to the truth, although this can be heavily scrutinised in an era where “to photoshop” is a verb. This uncomfortable association with the notion of truth is one of the defining practices of documentarians, where as artists seem skilful and intentional at lying or bending the truth to suit their aims and objectives.
For the degree show, I have been mocking up what a large scale montage of the peace mountain would look like. I have printed and stuck small versions of the prints to get a sense of the look/feel and to help approximate the scale.
The whole engagement with both places as subjects is to see what can be achieved in positive intervention. The final exhibition will attempt to start dialogue about the tensions both in Luton and Iraq and the relationship between the two places. I aim to print and display the final works on large digital c-type prints and have considered recreating the peace for Luton mountain in a large photo-montage, which I collected the images for at the site.
My journey as a creative has led me from being a painter, to a photographer to an artist who uses intervention and social responsibility as a central medium and theme. My practice is fundamentally focused on two concepts: art as intervention, and how creativity can have a positive impact on the world. My primary reason for engaging with the place and subject of Iraq is related to but not solely due to its recent dramatic history. It is creeping off the media’s agenda and we have a responsibility not to forget these people. There are still numerous stories that still need telling. The mainstream media gives us one impression of a place, I have attempted to get behind this and reveal the real people and their stories.
It is important that the final stage of this project be showcased to the people of Luton. The centerpiece of this is a large painted mountain in the Iraqi desert, near a significant cultural border. I painted the slogan Peace for Luton on the side of it. To understand the project and why I facilitated this dramatic and seemingly random event, you need to understand the context.
The recent re-enactment refers to the Peace for Kurdistan project in 2000 by Ismail Khayat. I have connected this initial exciting event to a more generic and worldwide context as a peace symbol. As an artist from Luton, it seemed right that I use this dramatic and beautiful symbol as a rallying point to wage peace.
Here are some photos form my solo exhibition in the Ismail Khayat gallery in Iraq June 2012.
I have been published in a book called "Human Connections - Portraits of our shared humanity" by the International Guild of Visual Peace Makers and curated by Jeffrey Chapman.
In 2009 I travelled to Iraq. I collected a large amount of data, images, video and audio. From this large database I created artwork, curated a travelling group exhibition called Iraq – The Forgotten Story and creatively supported a charity. I went on to create and exhibit a number of projects for the first half of my MA. For the final major project I have brought this large body of work to an ambitious conclusion with a return trip to Iraq in June 2012. The project has resulted in two main outcomes;
1) Exhibition in Iraq <> Exhibition in the UK
2) Peace for Luton, mountain installation and reenactment.
The outcomes are showcased in this rationale, the final major project work and subsequent degree show. The cultural exchange exhibitions were initially set out in my MA proposal, however, the Peace for Luton project has developed after pursuing some of my initial research and following leads I had in Iraq.
A video showing the dramatic painting of a mountain in Iraq as a performance by Ben Hodson and to reenact an original work by Ismail Khayat in 2000. Ben paints Peace for Luton on the side of the mountain to make a beautiful symbol for peace and hope for his home town of Luton, UK. Luton has suffered heightened tensions since the troops returned from Iraq in 2009.
In 2009 when the troops returned from the conflict in Iraq to Luton, they were greeted by a returning home parade. They were also greeted by a handful of Muslims with extreme views, who protested and caused an angry response from some of the supporters of the troops. This violent response led to a number of arrests and a growing sense of sheer detest to these few extreme Muslims. These people went on to form the English Defence League (EDL), a far right group that primarily is anti-extreme Islam. The group did initially grow some momentum with several marches, including a couple in the founding town of Luton. The EDL provoked a reaction from the far left, namely a group called Unite Against Facism (UAF) and amongst the Muslim communities, the Muslim Defence League (MDL). These groups and a number of others have primarily been trying to counter the EDL, branding them as racists and extremists in their own right.
Fundementally, the supporters of the EDL feel un-listened to about some genuine concerns and a number of their supporters have hijacked their core stance towards other imigration and race related issues. The UAF and MDL have reacted so strongly towards the EDL that they have become just as violent and regularly are the ones who get arrested at counter demonstrations. They are almost racists to who they consider racists.
Both sides appear to have truth and genuine concerns and yet both sides have very little time to sit down and create real dialogue about the issues. In my Peace for Luton project I am hoping to use the starting point of Iraq and use a dramatic symbol for peace to be a starting point for dialogue and peace. The tensions are UK/Europe wide, but Luton has become one of the media's main focussing points. THis is partly due to the large Asian populations in Luton and the fact that a number of the main organising people of these groups come from the area. Although it is worth noting, that few of the actual members of the groups live in Luton.