So… this is IMMOVABLE, an art installation that landed in Barnsley Monday morning. I went to visit this big block this morning to see what all the fuss was about. It’s was still not even 10am, but people were still stopping to check out what it was and there were even two teens sat atop of it chatting.
IMMOVABLE is a project by Mind the Gap. They are an award-winning theatre company, which since 1988 has been working with learning disabled and non-disabled artists as equals.
You can visit the official website at http://www.mind-the-gap.org.uk/immovable/
Now the project itself talks about creative blocks and how we get over them; but also how we get over problems in life that appear immovable. How would you get over this immovable block?
I love the idea. And over the last couple of days many people have discussed it and interacted with it and you can watch what people are doing with it on the live CCTV feed on the website.
I heard that yesterday, someone made it into a rubix cube and that someone else even did some parkour on it. Others have graffitied on it. Everyone has their own idea about what it is for.
Other’s like the two pictured here that I met earlier, just sat on top of it in the sun.
We Are Barnsley have been all over it like a rash and much of their readership don’t seem to get that it isn’t council money that paid for it and is actually funded by the National Lottery arts fund. If you read their feed about it on their site, people automatically throw around disparaging comments about art and inappropriate spending. Other’s go so far as to talk about spending money on immigrants(!!!) and so for me IMMOVABLE actually says a lot about people unwillingness to open up and accept different ideas or even the fact that if it isn’t a lovely seascape, it ain’t art.
It’s also a nice change to have some public art that isn’t to do with coal!
So, as I was watching the live feed when I got home, I saw what looked like a group of kids gift wrapping it. It also looked like a couple of people were giving them shit for it. So, I decided to get myself back on down there and chat to them.
As I approach them another group of teens had just crudely drawn a penis on the side of the Cube with a cheese biscuit. They told them off and said not to spoil it. It made me wish I was ten years younger. This close knit group of friends were scattered around the already gift wrapped cube and embellishing it with ribbons, bows, and a motif saying Celebrate Difference. I asked them if they were art students.
Surprisingly, they weren’t. One of the used to work for an IT company but was recently laid off, the other were students and six formers. When I asked one girl, Kelly I think her name was, if she was at college, she said ‘no, I’m doing A-Levels. My mum says I’m not allowed to be creative.’ When I asked her if she knew she was here with the Cube, she said she had an exam in the morning but she knew she was going to do fine with it so came here instead because she wanted ‘to make Barnsley look pretty.’ And the Cube definitely has been prettied up. Kind of looks reminiscent of Tracey Emin quilt.
I asked them about the man earlier with the roller. ‘He’s the cleaner. He must work for the Cube. He removed what had been put on it the day before to give others a chance to paint on it.’
‘So after they’ve removed your gift wrap, do you have any other plans?’ I asked.
She explained, ‘one idea is me and Crissy are going to paint it white and put on it different equality symbols.’
They were eager to show me photos on their phones of what they did yesterday. One lad showed me photos of the rubix cube everyone had been talking about. That was them too! Then I was told I should talk to Stefan, as apparently he was the one performing parkour on it.
Everyone was so eager to talk about what they had done and Stefan was no different. He said that ‘yesterday we made it into a giant rubix cube. People were puzzles by it and so we came up with the idea of actually making it into a puzzle.’
Stefan found out about IMMOVABLE after walking past it on Monday. He instantly decided to start doing back flips off it and attracted a crowd. He later looked it up on the internet and has been tweeting updates to Mind the Gap since. ‘With the rubix cube we came up with the idea of using chalk and tape. No paint. That way we don’t permanently damage the cube and it can be washed off. We respect the cube! Today I just came down to help out my friends who’ve done this. I was meant to be meeting up with someone to talk about this cube for an inteview but they never turned up. Apparently there is a big event on Saturday; maybe Sunday, which is when I think the Cube is removed.’
I asked him ‘have you got any more ideas?’
‘We submitted an idea on the Mind the Gap’s website about taking the Rubix Cube idea further and making it into a dice or into a Question Mark Cube like on Super Mario. People think the cube is mysterious, so it’s a play on that idea.’
‘Did you see the mouse that was washed off it earlier this morning?’
‘Yeah… that was my friend Janna. She tweeted it on-line. I thought it was pretty cool. She used chalk too.’
I asked him if he had seen any of the negative feedback on We Are Barnsley?
‘I know people are complaining about the taxi rank but it’s a waste of time. Why can’t they see that it’s bringing such creativity out of people? And look at this enthusiasm. The market and this area will be knocked down soon. It’s so bland here and I think the block represents Barnsley.’
I told him about my idea of IMMOVABLE being people’s unwillingness to accept change, difference and new ideas.
‘I agree’ pointing to the Celebrate Difference motif on the cube. And at that point someone came to tell us that ‘the guy who put the block here has turned up.’
So, this gent, Tim Wheeler of Mind The Gap, was one of the people that had plonked the block into the middle of Barnsley. He greeted Stefan and told him that he enjoyed watching the footage of him leaping off of the cube and at that point some elderly fella with one of those big red beer noses barged in. ‘Who’s bloody idea was this? Well, ah tell thi wha’… it’s put ninety bloody pence on my taxi fare this bleeding thing. It’s disgusting. If ah’d a bomb ‘ad blowing the fucking thing up.’ And then he trundled off.
Tim explained, ‘The gift wrap will be removed this afternoon and a group of people with learning disabilities will be coming to do a performance. So, hopefully you won’t mind us removed the wrapping paper?’ And in unison, they all agreed that that’s why it was there; for everyone to use.
And suddenly he got a barrage of questions about what’s inside it, when is it moving, is there a prize for the best idea of what to do with the block and the only question he was willing to reveal anything about was what the stone is made from.
‘Where’s the fun in giving everything away. I’ll tell you what it’s made out of. It’s made out of Yorkshire stone. It’s quarried nearby here and it was in a quarry up until just before Christmas. The stone is over twenty million years old.’
Someone asked, ‘What’s inside the stone. Steel?’
‘I have no idea,’ he knowingly laughs.
I told him it looked suspiciously like West Yorkshire stone and not South Yorkshire; the kind Bradford is built on.
He laughed. ‘No, no. Bradford is millstone grit. This is sandstone. I’m a stone nerd. I know, this southern Yorkshire stone is much smoother.’
Tim went on to photograph the group before their contribution was removed.
I said goodbye to everyone and I was still pleased at how friendly and excited everyone was about the project and I hope everyone else will be too.
I think the project is fantastic. Yes, it encourages the usual debate, blah blah blah, but anything that encourages the kind of enthusiasm and outpouring of creative energy and ideas that these young people had, well… we really should think twice before being too negative about it.
They even asked Tim if the Cube could be moved to The Civic’s Mandela Gardens after the project was finished, so they could keep on using it.
In ways, IMMOVABLE reminded me of Antony Gormley’s installation The One and Other on the 4th plinth at Trafalgar Square, wherein he invited members of the public to do absolutely whatever they wanted for an hour at a time. Some protested about a particular cause, some performed, some stripped. Even one of our own Barnsley residents took a trip on down to That London to spend an hour raising awareness about breast cancer in front of an audience of many from all around the world.
This is the kind of project Barnsley needs and we should definitely encourage this kind of participation.
Follow IMMOVABLE on twitter @immovableblock and don’t forget to see the live feed over at http://www.mind-the-gap.org.uk/immovable/
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