One of the things I’ve wanted to do this year is to make more memories and go new places to get inspiration for future projects and designs. So when Sarah-Jane Eagan from Fragment Designs who is the captain of the CAVETSY team said she was organising a trip to the National Museum in Cardiff to see the Artes Mundi exhibition, I jumped at the chance to go! Especially as there’s no entry charge!
When you have a disability, going somewhere isn’t as simple as just going. You have to think about how you’re going to get there and if there are facilities for disabled people as well as access. You wonder if you’ll be able to get round ok and if there are places for you to sit and rest if you need to. Is it conveniently near to a bus stop or a train station? What are the buses like? Will I have to catch more than one bus? If not, is there are car park? Is the entry easy to negotiate?
My first thought was to check the website. The website said that there was a car park that had designated disabled bays and if you presented your blue badge at the museum shop, parking was free. They also said that there’s a lift for disabled people outside the museum for those who are unable to get up the steps. There are also wheel chairs etc. available to borrow inside the museum. There are lifts and convenient seating options in the galleries for anyone who needs a rest. We decided to take the car and RiverSystem agreed to come with me in case I was too tired to drive home. There’s a restaurant downstairs where he could sit and study while I went on the tour with the team.
The museum is located in Cathays Park near the Cathays train station in Cardiff. There are also frequent buses from the town centre. The car park is easy to find but it is behind the building and a bit of a walk from the entrance so I would advise that the very disabled get dropped off by the front door. The lift to get up the steps at the entrance is easy to use but really slow! When we got in there were lots of attendants who saw that I was disabled and using a walker and they opened doors for me to help. I also found it really easy to work out who worked for the museum because they were all smartly dressed in their uniforms.
We all met and had coffee in the entrance hall which was nice. There was only 5 of us which was good because I really struggle in large groups. The group comprised of me, Sarah-Jane, Shirley from Ffigys Designs, Emily from England Designs and Nicky from The Catkin Boutique.
We started off with a guided tour of the gallery with Davies sisters’ art purchases. They were the daughters of David Davies who built most of the train network in Mid Wales and who made a lot of money from coal. They were brought up as strict Calvinistic Methodists and they were taught that they had a responsibility to improve the lives of those less fortunate. This led them to purchasing art to share with the country. When they were purchasing art, the Impressionist painters weren’t popular so they snapped up the paintings while they were cheap! There are lots of interesting paintings and sculptures in the gallery. I was very interested by the fact that Rodin’s statue of ‘The Thinker’ was based on a character in Dante’s Inferno. They had another Rodin statue of two lovers in an embrace and also one that depicts Eve.
I really enjoyed looking at the Impressionist art and the Tudor art but the modern art really wasn’t my cup of tea. I’d definitely recommend visiting these galleries if you’re ever in the area.
After lunch, we went on a guided tour of the Artes Mundi exhibition followed by a discussion based on the winner’s piece. The theme for the competition this year was ‘The Human Condition’. One artist did a piece about urban planning and super imposed a city onto Cadair Idris which is a mountain in North Wales. Another did a piece about equality and the Future Farmers piece was about growing seeds to preserve them instead of just storing them in safe places.
I really enjoyed Lamia Joreige’s piece which was about the war in Beirut in Lebanon. She made a list of all the items that are missing from the National Museum in Beirut and she did a video that travelled down the river in Beirut. It was interesting to see the city as it is now. Although it didn’t help my vertigo any! She also had a webcam that was in the spot where snipers had made a hole in the museum wall during the war and you could see what was going on outside the museum today.
The winner was John Akonfrah. his piece was called Auto Da Fé. It was about refugees and immigrants. If you look up ‘Auto Da Fé on Wikipedia, it says in part:
An auto-da-fé or auto-de-fé (from Portuguese auto da fé, meaning “act of faith”) was the ritual of public penance of condemned heretics and apostates that took place when the Spanish Inquisition, Portuguese Inquisition or the Mexican Inquisition had decided their punishment, followed by the execution by the civil authorities of the sentences imposed.
Auto Da Fé also means ‘Leap of faith’ which let’s face it, if you move to the other end of the world, it’s what you’re doing.
Below is an excerpt from the National Museum‘s page about the piece and the exhibition as a whole:
John Akomfrah’s work explores the global diaspora, history, memory, colonialism and its legacy through lens-based media. The range of single and multiscreen films allows us to reconsider the ways in which we think about both personal and collective histories, the grand narratives of our times, across nation states and continents. His work has often given voice to underrepresented communities and their universal stories told through the creation of sublime imagery, and evocative and immersive soundtracks.
I found the piece interesting and emotive but I struggled to understand why it won. The piece comprised of two videos played simultaneously that expressed in the artist’s own way what migration was about. I think he was trying to say that people have been moving round the world for centuries looking for somewhere safe to live. There are many examples of people in history of people fleeing violence and hatred. It was interesting from an academic point of view to sit down and discuss how the piece made us feel but for me it was nowhere near as interesting to me as the piece on Beirut.
The Artes Mundi exhibition closes on Sunday 26th February, 2017. (That’s this Sunday so get in quick!)
We were hoping to go and see the Chinese Bird and Flower painting exhibition that’s on at the moment but we didn’t have time that day. Daddy Flower and I are planning on taking a trip there before it closes on the 23rd April, 2017 to see it. I’ll let you know if we make it!
RiverSystem and I were discussing it together afterwards and we’ve agreed that once a month, we’re going to make a trip to a local museum or gallery or another cultural experience. I’m thinking about making a trip to the theatre to see a play or an opera. I’ll let you know how we get on!