Engaging Erdington: Art outside the gallery
by Katie Stafford
Though from the Czech capital city of Prague, artist Tereza Buskova has used small rural villages and towns for the staging of her previous film works. As part of her artistic process, Tereza draws on local traditional customs and reinvents them in collaboration with the local communities.
In her new project titled Clipping the Church, Tereza Buskova will for the first time focus on an almost forgotten English tradition. Set in the Birmingham suburb of Erdington, this artwork will take contemporary art out of the gallery space and out of the city centre, exploring the blurred boundary between art and life.
For Tereza, connecting with the local residents of Erdington is at the heart of Clipping the Church. Throughout the project the people of Erdington are among the communities that have contributed through workshops in which members of the public join Tereza in making salt dough decorations – hand crafted ornaments made with just flour, salt and water that are inspired by traditional Czech decorations and people’s personal responses what to family, motherhood, and community means to them. The resulting salt dough decorations are personal and unique to the people who have made them and reflect on the role that community bonds plays in our lives.
During the final ‘Clipping’ event at St Barnabas Church on 11th June, these salt dough decorations will be used to decorate St Barnabas Church, while over a hundred people from Erdington, Birmingham and beyond join Tereza in encircling the church in a celebration of all the things that bind us together as families and as communities – things that are universal in all cultures and at the same time individual to the people taking part.
Erdington, now a town located not too far from the city centre has it’s own rich history and today is home to a lively and diverse community, including a growing community of Eastern Europeans and large numbers of families. Inspired by the wealth and importance of community in the local area, which relates to Tereza’s own Czech heritage and personal experiences of motherhood, Erdington was chosen as the the setting for Clipping the Church to be realised.
Another characteristic that inspired the artist into choosing Erdington as the place that would bring Clipping the Church to life is the High Street that runs through the town. From the Library at one end down to the Six Ways roundabout at the other – the High Street forms the town centre, hosting market places and small independent businesses alongside big high street names.
High streets across the country have faced decline in recent years, and Erdington High Street has not been immune to the challenges that more traditional retailers come up against in a modern consumer society of online shopping and large out-of-town retail parks.
As part of Clipping the Church, Erdington High Street will be celebrated as an important part of local community life. During the ‘Clipping’ event on 11th June, a theatrical procession of costumed actors joined by members of the public, carrying symbolic props and accompanied by live music, will animate the High Street with an exciting and energising breath of life.
At the heart of Erdington High Street sits St Barnabas Church – the Church toward which the procession will lead and the final Clipping will take place.
Visually, St Barnabas is a striking Church, making it ideal as inspiration for Tereza’s visually stimulating film work. The newly renovated building of St Barnabas (following a devastating fire in 2007) embodies the coming together of the old and the traditional with the new and the modern – a philosophy that is reflected in the Church’s role as a hub for community activity in Erdington. Throughout the duration of the project, Clipping the Church as worked closely with St Barnabas and their Vicar, the Reverend Freda Evans to engage the local community, including a day of Salt Dough Decoration making, followed by an Artist Talk and Film Screen taking place at St Barnabas on the 14th May.
To learn more about St Barnabas Church, visit their website: stbarnabaserdington.org.uk
or pay them a visit in person for a warm welcome and a relaxing cup of tea in their Harbour Cafe.
More information and regular updates on all the exciting activities of Clipping the Church can be found on our blog: clippingthechurch.wordpress.com as well as on our facebook page: facebook.com/ClippingTheChurch