Recreation Ground Exhibition: An Overview

23 Jan 2014 | David Bell - Nottingham, England

Recreation Ground was an exhibition curated by Wasteland Twinning Nottingham. It ran at Attic Gallery, One Thoresby Street, Nottingham from 18th October - 9th November 2013. Individual posts on each of the artworks will be posted in the coming weeks.

Photos by David Bell and Mathew Trivett

Featuring works by: Jeffrey Baker / Rebecca Beinart and David Bell / Beth Bramich / Julian Hughes / Matthias Kispert / Simon Raven / Mathew Trivett

Curated by Wasteland Twinning Nottingham

Recreation Ground explored the functions, values and temporalities of The Island - the large 'wasteland' behind One Thoresby Street. Once home to boots pharmaceutical factories, railways, gas works and much more besides, the site has (seemingly) lain dormant for over twenty years: a stubbornly stagnant scar at the heart of the post-industrial city. A wasteland.

But what does it mean to say that a piece of land is going to waste? The exhibition asked who makes such judgements, playfully exploring the social, political and economic forces that produce 'waste' and 'recreating' the island as a space of possibility. Supposedly outdated notions of the commons resurfaced through sound and colour. Political ecologies were forged, and links traced to 'wastelands' across the globe. Modern day rituals and yesterday's futures collided, suggesting that time on The Island hasn't stopped - it's just been knocked out of joint…

Artist's Impression by Mathew Trivett (with Wasteland Twinning Nottingham and Wasteland Twinning Berlin)

Artist's Impression portrays local residents recreating computerised renders for failed commercial redevelopment plans for The Island and Köpi Brache, its twinned wasteland in Berlin. Printed in the style of bus stop advertisements, the photographs oscillate between luxury and post-apocalyptic survivalism: the dreamworlds and catastrophes of neoliberalism writ large.

The Wasteland Sculpture Park by Beth Bramich

Wasteland Sculpture Park, is a book-object edited and designed by Beth Bramich. It proposes the repurposing of wastelands as common ground to form a network of sites for public 'sculpture'. From a giant naan bread in Balsall Heath to a proposal for 'Turf Twinning' in Colchester, the proposals it contains offer playfully serious reflections on the relationship between 'public' space and 'public' art.

Voices in a Field by Matthias Kispert

Voices in a Field is a collective vocal work written for the island, which was realised in October 2013. Performers assembled in four groups on the site and recited a text score exploring waste, wastelands and regeneration. The result was a (mostly) continuous game of action and reaction, creating a commons through sound and voice: a collective action between the pre-determined and the spontaneous. The work was presented through video documentation and a copy of the score used in the performance.

Wastelanders by Simon Raven

This film work draws on the twinning relationship between The Island and Ledok Timoho - a 'wasteland' in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Exploring a happening by the Yogyakarta based artist Rachel Saraswati, in which (s)he dressed as a shadow covered in rubbish, Raven discovered that a similar work had been performed on the island in the late '90s by Nottingham artist Usha Mahenthiralingam. He invited Usha to recreate these performances and the resulting work (projected onto the crumbling ceiling of the gallery) explores the beauty of movement; mistranslation across time and space; and the notion of waste.

Common Meadow by Jeffrey Baker

In the gallery, Common Meadow took the form of a vinyl text and wall design, subtly hinting at practices of commoning emerging beyond the gallery walls. Was it drawing attention to the way in which the commons exists like the 'seeds beneath the snow' of post-fordist capitalism? Or making a prophetic claim about future forms of land ownership and use? With a bit of luck, the common meadow may emerge beyond the gallery walls in 2014...

E1 by Julian Hughes

E1 was a Boots factory building situated at the fork of the long-vanished arm of the Nottingham Canal. Its former location served as the focal point for an event that ran from 1600-2013 (6-8.13pm) on the 19th October 2013, in which performers tuned in to the frequency of The Island to create a new version of its history in sound. Objects used in the performance were hung in the gallery, poised 'out of time' like The Island itself. A write-up of the event will follow.

The Island Archive by Rebecca Beinart and David Bell

Put together by Rebecca Beinart and David Bell of Wasteland Twinning Nottingham, The Island Archive contains hundreds of documents, objects and audio recordings relating to the island. The site's pasts, presents and futures collide; artistic happenings merging into historical events and unrealised futures. Further works related to The Island by many of the artists in the show are contained in the archive, along with information about The Island's 'twinned' wastelands in Berlin, Yogyakarta and Amsterdam. As a former part of the Boots Island complex (as building e28), we encouraged visitors to consider the One Thoresby Street building itself as part of the archive.

Brownfield Narratives by David Bell (with Alex Head)

A television on the archive desk played 'Brownfield Narratives', a work by David Bell in which participants from Artist's Impression discuss their memories of – and hopes and fears for – The Island and Köpi Brache. Multi-faceted and often contradictory, they are testament to the multiplicity of desires such spaces engender. Alex Head assisted in conducing the interviews.


Jeffery Baker is a practicing artist working both independently and as part of art and design collective Institute for Boundary Interactions (IBI). His work explores aspects of social consensus, relationships between people and public space, and the formation of belief, meaning and collective narrative within social groups. Utilising operations and forms of heritage and collective social investment, his work looks to create alternative narratives of histories and futures.

David Bell is a member of Wasteland Twinning Nottingham and a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Advanced Studies, University of Nottingham. He is interested in the links between affect, organisation and place, which he draws together in his writing on the concept of utopia. He is also interested in the relationship between artistic labour, the commons, capital; and how these combine to produce particular spatial forms. 

Rebecca Beinart is a member of Wasteland Twinning Nottingham. Her projects explore the territories between art, ecology and politics and take the form of live events, installations and interventions in public places. I craft particular objects and situations which open up a space for interaction or conversation, working with the multiple agents and stories that make up a place. 

Beth Bramich is a writer and curator based in London. This year she has undertaken research into the changing social function of public art, developed through a research residency at The New Gallery Walsall and a New Art-Writer Bursary funded by Turning Point East Midlands. Her writing has appeared in Nottingham Visual Arts, a-n magazine and this is tomorrow. She is currently studying Critical Writing at the Royal College of Art.

Julian Hughes is an artist and photographer based in Nottingham.

Matthias Kispert is an artist and musician living in London. His work encompasses sound, video, audio-visual live performance, installation and interventions in public space. He is a member of media artist collective D-Fuse since 2004 has also worked or performed with artists including Quayola, United Visual Artists, Steve Beresford, Terry Day and Blanca Regina. He has shown and performed globally, including TriBeCa Film Festival, Eyebeam (USA), Itaú Cultural, Multiplicidade (Brasil), Royal Festival Hall, ISEA, AV Festival (UK), Get It Louder (China), Gaîté Lyrique, Nuit Blanche (France) and is a lecturer in Sound Art at University of Arts London.

Simon Raven makes concept led performances, films and installations. From painting commissions of ghosty Pug dogs under a dead pseudonym (Mavis Enron - anagram of Simon Raven) to producing flawed, frightening and often comedic performances, he tries to challenge both his own and others' perceptions of what art might be. As part of his studio practice he has established a number of 'pop-up' exhibition spaces in which to collaborate and curate. BOX galllery was founded (and condemned) at Backlit Studios (2010/11) and over the past year, Raven's Grotto - a monthly programme of performative parties, celebrating the social nature of art making - has run at Primary studios.

Mathew Trivett is a member of Wasteland Twinning Nottingham. His work is concerned with the formation communities of practice and knowledge production around technology, material culture, and the built environment. He works as a producer at Broadway Media Centre where he heads their Near Now, their production, commissioning and artist development programme. 

Wasteland Twinning Nottingham is a collective engaged in a programme of research, experimentation and public events focused on The Island, a wasteland in inner-city Nottingham. With a rich industrial history, the thirty four acre site has lain derelict for over twenty years despite a number of ambitious redevelopment plans.  The collective consists of Rebecca Beinart (artist and educator), Mathew Trivett (artist and producer) and David Bell (writer and utopian theorist). They are part of the global Wasteland Twinning network, through which they work with artist-researchers exploring wastelands in Yogyakarta, Amsterdam and Berlin.


The Wasteland Twinning Network hijacks the concept of ‘City Twinning’ and applies it to urban Wastelands in order to generate a network for parallel research and action. By subverting the City Twinning concept that aims to parade a city’s more predictable cultural assets and shifting the focus to wastelands, new questions of value and function are raised. Wasteland Twinning aims to develop an understanding of the potential of these sites through transdisciplinary models of practice. Wasteland Twinning is led by independent artists and researchers, and offers the potential for cultural comparison to take place on a local and international scale – going beyond the obvious to examine often invisible perspectives on power relations, land use, urban development and ecology. Through engaged and critical approaches, we hope to uncover some of the peculiarities and commonalities of the wasteland sites.

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