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TRCH The Da Vinci Code

Art Review: Trace Programme

19 February 16 words: Ruby Butcher

"The Rave Dinner Party reclaims the idea through crossing class and cultures, in a weird rave environment, but keeping high standards of food"


You may or may not have already seen some of the Matrix-inspired promotional material scattered about social media recently, but if you have, you’ll easily have been as intrigued as I was for this elusive art show at an ‘undisclosed location’. Well, the secret is out. The Trace Programme is being held in the unused, graffiti covered rooms inside the Flo Skatepark on the outskirts of the city centre. The day before the official launch, I found myself shown around the still undressed rooms by curators Ruth Angel Edwards and Jake Kent, to find out what it was really all about.

“The show started as a list of questions that I sent out to all of the artists that were invited to take part. These related to conversations that I’d had recently about how, in the current socioeconomic climate in the UK, artists can get together to commune, share resources and try to do something meaningful and positive.”

The exhibition is showing a range of works in different forms, including video, photography, sound, performance, text and more, from over thirty artists from across England, Europe and the United States.

“The artists are all people I selected, or was put in touch with through Jake,” says Ruth. “I wanted there to be a range of people who operate in different areas, who find their career and make things work for themselves in different ways. There’s quite a lot of speculation between artists, but really we’re facing the same things most of the time. I thought it would be quite productive to bring people together who share a similar ethos but might go about realising that in a slightly different way.”

When I asked Ruth and Jake to narrow down the themes or topics throughout the exhibition, it didn't seem easy for them, but after seeing the show the following day, in all its complexity, it started to make sense. There are many different ideas put across through a range of mediums but the thing that seems to glue it all together is what the creators themselves have in common in their experiences as artists, and the current climate of the art world, however different their personal styles and stories might be.

“The show is partly about navigating the art world and partly about the type of work people make related to their position in the art world,” says Ruth. “Part of the theme of the show is about how artists brand and present themselves and how they do that subconsciously through their work. In terms of choosing the pieces, we wanted there to be relatable work which references subcultures, making it accessible to an audience. We want to do something which isn't alienating but also without dumbing it down.”

One of the things that was clearly important to the curators was how the space itself interlinks with the themes behind the curation – the Flo Skatepark being a not-for-profit organisation, in a space that has been totally reclaimed by the people, for the people.

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“One thing that underlies it are the different forms that the desire to change can take, and that is why this setting is so perfect for that,” continues Ruth. “This space's history is really interesting and the people who use it have totally reclaimed it and made it their own – there is a lot of political graffiti around, and a lot of the works in the show are often thinking about how we can respond to things we’d like to change in our environment.

“The themes are widely being discussed, but a lot of what I'd come across was people discussing it in an academic, sterile art environment like in a panel discussion or in a gallery space. I thought it may be more relevant and interesting to take it outside of that environment into somewhere like Flo, which is a not-for-profit community space, and see how the environment might change the ways people interact. I guess, in that sense, it’s an experiment.”

The pair aren’t stopping at an art show. Accompanying the show, a handmade publication printed on a community resource Risograph printer is available to buy, featuring experimental literary works from a few of the participating visual artists as well as other artists and writers sourced by Ruth and Jake.

As well as the launch party, where special performances were shown, they are also holding two accompanying events, starting with Total Destroy, hosted by Richard John Jones. It will be an informal discussion about his research into gay and lesbian social spaces, and the rapid decrease in their numbers. This will be followed by a knees-up and karaoke, of course. Perhaps one of the most intriguing events though, is the Rave Dinner Party. It seems kind of self-explanatory right? But that doesn’t stop my mind from going in all sorts of directions about what exactly lies in store.  

“It’s dining to a rave soundtrack,” says Jake. “When you think of a dinner party you think of something sort of bourgeois. The Rave Dinner Party reclaims the idea of that, crossing class and cultures, in a weird rave environment, but keeping high standards of food.”

“It’s thinking about the ritual of a dinner party and how that can be messed around with,” adds Ruth. “There will be a performative introduction from the night from the collective think tank Communitas and there will be some accompanying material you can take home with you.”

So what is it that makes this pop-up exhibition so special? Aside from its passionate curators, range of events to get involved with and the incredible use of a neglected space? I asked Ruth…

“It’s a unique exhibition. It’s only on for a short time and it came together quite quickly, so it has a certain energy to it, in that way it sets itself apart from a lot of exhibitions you might go to.”

The Trace exhibition at Flo Skatepark runs until Sunday 21 February

Richard John Jones’ Total Destroy talk, karaoke party and dance takes place at The King William IV pub on Friday 19 February at 7pm,

Comminutas’ Rave Dinner Party takes place on Sunday 21 February at Backlit Gallery.


The Full Trace Programme

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