exotic mk

exotic mk

2012-12-12 Françoise Dupré

(Collaborative-Participatory Project, 2009) 10 July- 9 August 2009, Milton Keynes Shopping Centre, Silbury Arcade, near Middleton Hall

Medium and techniques: French (spool) knitting, crochet, colour Lycra fabric, wool, metallic yarn, wire, plastic bottle tops, pins, cake boards, dowels, PVC mirrors, sequins, flat elastic, woven polythene, felt.
300cm x 260cm x 140cm

exotic mk was commissioned by Milton Keynes Gallery's Offsite Education Programme. The collaborative-participatory project celebrates the ways in which people, in their daily life, transform their environment. Inspired by the highly colourful and personalised barrows scattered around the Shopping Centre, Françoise Dupré created a site-specific and community-based public artwork that celebrates Milton Keynes' hidden exotic.
exotic mk was made in collaboration with three women's groups who each made a section of the final artwork: a barrow, customised with knitting. Between January and June 2009, the artist visited Age Concern Milton Keynes, MK Mind and Healthy Lifestyles Project, for knitting and making sessions. French (spool) knitting technique was employed to make braids and tubes with a wide range of colour Lycra fabric and wool. Techniques and materials such as crochet, wire, metallic yarn and plastic bottle tops were used to create abstracted organic forms and colourful patterns. Participants' own designs and creative skills were instrumental to the development and realisation of the project.

The project was funded by Milton Keynes Community Foundation, Milton Keynes Gallery and sponsored by PONY Needle Industries (India) Private Limited.

When People Get Together By Kate Bloom, Course Director MA Art, Health and Well-being, BCU, School of Art. Text published in exotic mk booklet produced by the Milton Keynes Gallery to accompany the exhibition. When people get together, they usually talk. Like birds on a wire, they chat - about everything and nothing; how the family is, what life is like. At bus stops and in bars, school gates and cinemas, people talk. I visited Francoise and two of the groups she has been working with for the exotic mk project. There was plenty of talk but it had a different quality to general chatter. When people get together, and they are doing something communally, they talk but with a different voice. Conversations flowed between chats and questions like; "How do you do that?", "Can I have the scissors now?", "I remember doing this with my mother!", "That looks good." and "What is this for?" Some of these questions are demanding, other statements are supportive, but what happens is the talk and the activity interweave - as it does when working, shopping, eating together, etc. As trust and consistency is built by the artist this talk/doing takes on a rhythm; a 'to and fro' between people where differences and similarities are exchanged in a constant free form. People get to know each other by a reciprocal switching between the task and conversation, conversation and task. The work reflects this free form of dialogue in a musical cadence and form. Described to me as "jazz" by Francoise, it's easy to appreciate what is often lost in evaluating the outcomes of a community based art project - it's a soft approach, building an art work that has at its heart the authenticity of experience for all those involved. It's a music that is played without a score or formal composition. The art of the work becomes 'free form' relying on the rhythm of interventions and approval that is shared and builds. Individual 'pod' forms collectively become heavily laden fruits just as individual notes become a shared 'riff' or refrain. Spirals spin into new pools of intricacies and movements as the parts become the whole. Everyone is involved in the 'jam session' which creates the new work and the random becomes relevant, just as it does in a good conversation. Experimental work finds its place in the sequence and improvisation becomes the individual's contribution to the whole piece. exotic mk becomes a cool gig!

Photos: Françoise Dupré

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