DAD Artists at Home

I’m delighted to be part of Dover Arts Development’s new project DAD Artists at Home. The format aims to support DAD’s community of contributors during the challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic and provides digital outlets and promotion for their work in order to aid further connections between artists and projects. The project is led by artist and curator Louisa Love who invited the over 150 contributors of DAD’s network to share their current lockdown activities in the form of videos, photos, sound, writing and weblinks. Below my contribution. For more information and to see the work of the other featured artists please visit:

https://www.dadonline.uk/projects/dad-artists-at-home/ and #dadartistsathome

If there is one thing, I could not complain about during the past three months of life in lockdown, it’s boredom. Online meetings, tutorials and project reviews with my students and colleagues at UCA easily filled my days alone at home (or is it work?) and did not leave me with too much time and headspace for other creative reveries. But since the academic year has finally come to an end, I have recently started to travel again, at least imaginarily, and delved into the wide world of sound – some call it music.

Inspired by John Baldessari, Pipilotti Rist, Martin Creed and other artists who have expanded their primary practice by venturing out into parallel musical adventures, I have arranged a couple of sonic vignettes by setting voice samples of other artists to music. Using excerpts from an interview in ‘Listen’, a documentary about contemporary music by Miroslav Sebestik, the first track features words of wisdom about sound, space and time by the American composer John Cage. Track two loops the proverbial “it’s a sad and beautiful world” – taken from the dialogue between Bob (Roberto Benigni) and Zack (Tom Waits) in Jim Jarmusch’s film ‘Down by Law’ – into a Sisyphean sonic mantra. The trilogy concludes with a humble musical tribute to Florian Schneider, founding member of Kraftwerk, who sadly passed away in April. The repeated Schneider dictum “Wir versuchen unser Bestes. We try our best” sums up my attitude as an amateur and novice composer quite well.

So, if you are not averse to sparse and minimal orchestration and a stubborn 4/4 beat, please listen to the three lockdown lullabies on SoundCloud:

https://soundcloud.com/precariouspropositions/sets/some-call-it-music

Tracks & Credits

sound is acting | 1:50 min. 
Voice sample: John Cage (1912-1992) in 'Listen’ (Écoute) by Miroslav Sebestik, 1992

sad & beautiful world | 5:13 min.
Voice sample: Roberto Benigni & Tom Waits in 'Down by Law' by Jim Jarmusch, 1986

für florian | 2:14 min.
Voice sample: Florian Schneider (1947-2020) in an interview for Brazilian TV, 1998

Meanderings. String Quartet by Matthew Brown

Canterbury-based composer Matthew Brown posted a score video and recording of the string quartet he wrote for my Meander (Spiegel im Spiegel im Spiegel) installation.

Meanderings was premiered by the Leon String Quartet at Kearsney Abbey Gardens in August 2018. Performers were Karen Jolliffe and Kammy Pike on violins, Matthew Brown on viola and Julie Peat on cello. The performance you can hear in the video was recorded by Karen Jolliffe and Kammy Pike (violins), Matthew Brown (viola), and Mike Bacon (cello) at St Gregory’s Centre for Music in Canterbury. Meanderings was performed by the Sacconi Quartet at the Customs House in Folkestone in May 2019.

Matthew Brown’s website

You can read up on Meander (Spiegel im Spiegel im Spiegel) here

West Wing Opening Postponed

Due to the Covid-19 situation all building and community access works at Fort Burgoyne are currently on hold and the Land Trust had to postpone the planned public opening of the West Wing to 2021. I will keep you posted as soon as I know more about when I can resume working on the public engagement process for the communal gardening area. In the meantime, above a visual lockdown reverie from a few weeks ago: What if, on its way from the steel manufacturer to the site, the substructure of my installation would make an interim stop in a gallery? This may never happen, but to paraphrase Voltaire: ‘Il faut cultiver notre rêves’.

Application for Scheduled Monument Consent

Here the Application for Scheduled Monument that I submitted to Historic England last week.

SMC // West Wing Gardens

Archaeological Shelter + Seating and Communal Gardening Area

The proposed structure is located at the western corner of the outer rampart of the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne in Dover. It combines the protection and interpretation of the structural remains of a twentieth century complex with the provision of a public viewing, seating and communal gardening area.

The historic complex was revealed during the evaluation trenching in 2019 and dates most likely from World War II. The elevation and positioning of the structure suggest some sort of surveillance role. Its exact function and date, however, have not been confirmed as yet. Suggested interpretations range from a command/observation post or gun emplacement to an elevated ablutions block.

The archaeological findings comprise a weapon-pit/ dug-out and a series of lined recesses constructed from concrete block walls and paving slabs. The recessed chambers are positioned around a central yard that was originally paved with concrete slabs, many of which have subsequently been removed. Whereas the weapon pit/ dug-out was backfilled at the end of the archaeological survey, the concrete paving slabs, concrete blocks, protruding angle irons and corrugated iron sheeting have been left uncovered for the time being.

The proposed structure consists of a modular, grill-like system of steel frames that protect the historic artefacts whilst leaving them exposed to the public gaze. The new structure carefully traces the plan of the historic complex and the steel frames mark the area of the covered weapon-pit and accentuate the exposed recesses of the rectangular chambers.

As in the historic situation, the area is accessible from the north-eastern side, now connected to a proposed new footpath. Like the other new paths and surfaces, the central yard is covered with a resin bound surface to provide safe and barrier-free access to the public viewing, seating and gardening area. A horizontal steel plate protects the mosaic of broken concrete slabs on top of the existing raised floor of the East Chamber. Two vertical steel sheets, L-shaped in plan and backfilled with sand, cover the remaining corrugated iron sheeting of the original retaining walls.

The lower cross sections of the steel modules are bolted on to an edging strip, level with the new bound surface. The upper sections of the frames rest on the higher datum of the surrounding terrain. Embedded in the existing depression of the western corner of the outer rampart, the structure keeps a low profile. With its maximum height of 30cm above terrain (top edge of the raised planters on the south-eastern side), it does not disturb the silhouette of the battery’s earthworks and overall form.The orange-red anti-corrosion coating refers to the colour palette of the tools used during the archaeological survey and the conservation and stabilisation works.

To encourage future public use and to make the most of the opportunity afforded by the elevation of the site, public benches and raised planters are integrated into the steel structure. Their positioning provides visitors with spectacular views over the West Wing Battery, of Dover Castle, the surrounding landscape and the sea.

The concept for the communal gardening area is inspired by the ‘Herb and Pleasure Garden’ idea that was developed in the ‘Explorers’ community engagement programme in 2019; and by the historical anecdote that one of the camp commanders once used the West Wing Battery as his private garden. The strategic objective of the gardening component is to support the long-term placemaking process at Fort Burgoyne and to contribute to the transformation of the 19th century land front fort into an inclusive, public and recreational place through the acts of horticultural and civic care.

The West Wing Gardens facilitate the opportunity for an active and sustained community engagement. They aim to encourage the future residents of the adjacent Connaught Barracks housing development and other Dover ‘garden guardians’ to take ownership, to cultivate their gardens as well as the surrounding areas, and to help with the maintenance of the West Wing Battery as a whole.

“Mais il faut cultiver notre jardin” (Voltaire, 1759)

Gabor Stark, February 2020

Application for SMC

West Wing Gardens // West Wing Battery, Fort Burgoyne, Dover

Proposal by Gabor Stark

In collaboration with Lee Evans Partnership

Commissioned by The Land Trust

February 2020

West Wing Gardens

I’m delighted to be appointed by The Land Trust to work on the realisation of my idea for an archaeological shelter, seating and gardening area at the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne in Dover. I will develop my proposal for the north-western plateau of the West Wing’s outer rampart in collaboration with Lee Evans Partnership, the heritage architects for the Ancient Scheduled Monument.

The structure combines the protection and interpretation of the archaeological remains of a 1940’s building – concrete blocks, paving slabs, corrugated iron sheeting and a weapon pit – with the provision of a new viewing, seating and communal gardening area. Below a few photographs of the existing situation and an animated stratigraphic drawing showing the superposition of the historic and new layers: the grill-like steel structure, the benches and the raised planters of the Elevated Gardens.

I will also cooperate with Dover Arts Development on the orchestration of public events to continue the art led community engagement and placemaking process. The aim is to involve the pupils, their parents and teachers of the nearby Guston Church of England Primary School and other Dovorian Garden Guardians in the long-term management and maintenance of the communal garden space.

Mais Il Faut Cultiver Notre Jardin

Here my proposal for the new public artwork at the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne in Dover. As one of five shortlisted artists I presented this to representatives of The Land Trust, Historic England, Arts Council England, Lee Evans Partnership, Charles Holland Architects and Dover Arts Development in November 2019. The first presentation got me into the final two, and I developed a revised version for my second interview with the panel. Whilst the actual commission was awarded to a sound installation and musical composition by Emily Peasgood, the jury also commended a substantial part of my proposal for realisation. More on this in the next post.

For now, a big THANK YOU to everyone who has supported the project so far: To my colleagues at UCA Canterbury, in particular to Ben Westacott, for helping with the gardener badges; to Katie Jolin, for the photo shoot; to Terry Norton, for all printed matters; and to Carlotta Novella, for introducing me to Ada Salter. And, last but not least, to Ines-Ulrike Rudolph for her sustained critical advice.

MAIS IL FAUT CULTIVER NOTRE JARDIN

Or The West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne as Our Garden

The project motto is borrowed from the last sentence of Voltaire’s satirical novel Candide (1759). Having travelled the “best of all possible worlds”, only to encounter an endless array of disasters, wars and other human follies, the hero famously recommends horticultural care as an antidote to ideological doctrines and as a prescription for a contended and fulfilled life. “That is well put, replied Candide, but we have to cultivate our garden” 

The project adopts Candide’s advice and proposes to cultivate Fort Burgoyne’s West Wing Battery as “Our Garden” in order to contribute to the transformation of the 19th Century Land Front Fort into a communal and inclusive recreational place through the acts of horticultural and civic care. The garden motif that leads through the proposal is inspired by the Herb and Pleasure Garden idea that was developed during the community engagement programme (The Explorers) and by the historical anecdote that the West Wing Battery once was used as a private garden by one of the camp commanders.

Acknowledging both the opportunities and constraints of working with the Scheduled Ancient Monument as well as the demands and desires of the future users, the project proposes a multifaceted placemaking toolkit. This consist of a family of site-specific interventions that share a differentiated set of objectives. 

1. Heritage Tools: Three structures protect historic artefacts above ground level against further erosion: a new ramp, a new stair to the magazine, and a shelter for the remains of the 20th century building at the north-western edge of the rampart. The three protective structures improve the site’s safety, its accessibility and the comfort of public use.

2. Horticultural Tools: A set of Elevated Gardens provides raised planters for a new community of gardeners. They facilitate sustained community engagement by the residents of the adjacent Connaught Barracks housing development and other parts of Dover. Changing every season and with every generation of gardeners they also create additional destinations for the visitors of Fort Burgoyne. 

The proposal presents instruments for an active, inclusive and sustainable participation and placemaking process through the process of gardening. The interventions perform as functional objects as well as cultural markers that help with the interpretation of the historically significant structures of the site. All structures share the same formal language and materiality. The orange colour of the anti-corrosion coating unifies the family of objects and allows them to be clearly read as contemporary additions to the existing palimpsest of the West Wing Battery.

Gabor Stark, 2019

Public Art Commission for a Scheduled Ancient Monument

The West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne, Dover

Commissioned by The Land Trust

Part of Pioneering Places: East Kent / Canterbury, Dover, Folkestone & Ramsgate

Project Partners

Historic England

Arts Council England

Canterbury Archaeological Trust

Lee Evans Partnership

Charles Holland Architects

Dover Arts Development

New artwork for the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne, Dover

The West Wing Battery as a Public Garden // Collage, Gabor Stark, 2019


I’m delighted to be shortlisted to work on a proposal for a new public artwork for the West Wing Battery at Fort Burgoyne in Dover.

The Scheduled Ancient Monument, originally built in the 1860s and in permanent military use until 2006, is now under the management of The Land Trust. Stabilisation and conservation works are currently carried out by Lee Evans Partnership, the heritage architects leading the redevelopment of Fort Burgoyne.

From January to April 2019, Dover Arts Development and Charles Holland Architects conducted a series of guided walks to support the conservation and opening up of the West Wing Battery through art led community engagement. Entitled The Explorers, the format drew on the skills, knowledge and ideas of local experts and residents to reimagine the site and build community ownership.

Building on the insights from the community engagement programme, the Land Trust is now commissioning a new artwork to help to deliver interpretation for the site and to facilitate long-term community activity. Part of the national Great Place Scheme ‘Pioneering Places: East Kent’, the project is supported through Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with Historic England and Artswork, the South East Bridge. From 36 expressions of interest, five artists have been selected to work on a proposal to be presented to the final jury in November.

I borrowed the motto for my approach from the last sentence of Voltaire’s novel Candide (1759), in which the hero – after travelling ‘the best of all possible worlds’, only to encounter an endless array of disasters, wars and other human follies – famously recommends horticultural care as a prescription for a contended and fulfilled life:

“Cela est bien dit, répondit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin.”

For further developments, watch this space!