Existing quietly among the upper studios at Backlit Gallery, Nottingham-based art collective Chaos Magic Space practice a community-focused approach to art through ritual, symbol, and a spirited love for the mythic. With their latest exhibition Where the restless oceans pound currently open to the public, Tom Cobbett digs a little deeper into the mysticism to find out more about the group...
Chaos Magic centres its power to the top rooms of Backlit Gallery, with sprawling roots which sprout throughout the city in dialogue with space outside of the white cube.
Currently run by artist/mentor Joey Holder, curator Wingshan Smith, and five artists - Adam Beaumont, Becky Greensides, Jessica Lonie, Dudley, and Harry Martin - the collective focuses on support among their peer-to-peer learning network. Understanding that even with different practises one can always find core alignments through which they can navigate and broaden their practice, Chaos Magic Space finds its success through collaborating and platforming other artists to harbour a space of inclusion and positivity.
The name of the collective stems from the belief in ‘Chaos Magic’ as power to create through intention; through ritual and symbol they can influence the manifestation of a fairer world. This link to the occult has intensified since its founding, drawing members whose practises subvert typical worldly understandings through a relation to the mythic. With an understanding of magic as playful meditation, the group’s members draw upon a collective imagination to create. This innate witchery brings a language and lens in which one can reinvent an established world and decipher its problems, opening inclusive dialogue with playful irreverence.
The actual space in which Chaos Magic resides holds energy through its eclectic decoration. It’s a space stained with the familial groups’ previous collaborative performances and artworks; mementos of costume and prop scatter throughout the room, an informal archival of works prior. This shared studio space adaptively conforms to the collective’s needs as they appear, a feature notable in the opening of their newest exhibition as it played host to an exciting display by Nottingham Capoeira.
“This innate witchery brings a language and lens in which one can reinvent an established world and decipher its problems, opening inclusive dialogue with playful irreverence.”
Outside of the physical space emphasis on inclusion and collaboration expands their reach further into the community. One example is their community garden, The Curious Tower, located in Victoria Park, which brings to light the collective’s presence of nature. Witches, nutritionists, worm mothers and herbalists lead a magical garden of food and herbs. Inviting both artists based in and outside of Nottingham to platform their work, the garden brings together the voices of artists and those who might not define themselves as such to explore work which manifests an open and fairer future.
Running a collective with such an outward focus on platforming others, finding a balance of giving and taking space to present one’s own work can be challenging. Chaos Magic favours focusing on communal projects and outreach to those who might not find space in an artistic context. However, since emerging from the lockdowns caused by COVID-19, Chaos Magic has been busy exhibiting their own work. Terra Firma, the collective’s previous exhibition, featured three of their members - Becky Greensides, Adam Beaumont, and Harry Martin - collaborating through foraging, gardening, and performing woodland rituals in a rewilding of the self.
Their latest exhibition, Where the restless oceans pound, part of Flatpack Festival and the BFI’s Film Feels Hopeful season, centres around the ocean’s interaction with lost histories. Showing the work of three artists - Cairo Clarke, Raisa Kabir, and Ebun Sodipo - we witness a navigation of the documenting and archiving of identities both present and future. The three pieces curated by Wingshan Smith play simultaneously in the intimate loft of Chaos Magic: in the absence of ruins by Cairo Clarke, নীল. Nil. Nargis. Blue. Bring in the tide with your moon... by Raisa Kabir, and And The Seas Bring Forth New Lands by Ebun Sodipo. It’s a pleasing balance of stoic performance and irreverent humour which reflects upon the ocean as object, subverting colonial archival and documentation to renegotiate lost histories. The opening hosted a showcase by Nottingham Capoeira, a display of an artform developed by slaves taken across the ocean, running in parallel to the exhibition.
Where the restless oceans pound is on until 7 October.