YORK creative collective Navigators Art & Performance are contributing a three-part project to the 2023 York Festival of Ideas, inspired by the festival theme of Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild.
The trio of shows and events celebrates rarely seen works in York Art Gallery, books in the city library and intriguing aspects of York life and culture that people might not notice from day to day or even be aware of.
For Hidden Treasures, five artists have sought out unfamiliar but inspiring aspects of York, reinterpreting them in their own way for an exhibition to be hosted by York Explore Library and Archive, in Museum Street, from May 27 to July 6.
Katie Lewis uses textiles and other media to reflect the story behind Thomas Baker’s Crazy Kate in the Treasures from the Stores collection at York Art Gallery.
Nick Walters animates and illuminates on screen the textures of John Davies’s Mapped Head 1, as observed by fellow characters from other works in the collection.
Peter Roman explores the library’s treasures, using collage, paint and typography to delve into the world of books and finding lyrical inspiration from York wordsmiths along the way.
Richard Kitchen switches from his trademark collage format to the camera, pairing it with manual and digital tools to reveal jewel-like qualities in city streets, walls and other surfaces.
Timothy Morrison summons the spirits of Vladimir Tatlin and Greg Curnoe to reveal an artist’s perspective on everyday objects through a variety of materials.
Entry will be free during normal library opening hours. More information can be found at: https://yorkfestivalofideas.com/2023/throughout/hidden-treasures/
On June 10, Navigators Art writers, musicians and performers present Living Treasures, an evening of original music and words at The Basement, City Screen Picturehouse, Coney Street.
For this 7.30pm celebration of secrets of York life and culture, from folk, punk and poetry to fine art via the city streets, they have sought out “hidden treasures” to reinterpret in song and spoken word.
Musical performers include members of the White Sail alt. folk band, Navigators’ composer Dylan Thompson, singer-songwriters Miri Green and Cai Moriarty and up-and-coming York band The Corsairs.
For more information and bookings, head to: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/living-treasures-tickets-621690722687
In Navigators Art’s third festival event, Brighton director Martin Nichols’ film There’s Another Country will be shown at City Screen Picturehouse on Sunday, June 11 at 11am.
Nichols’ kaleidoscope of post-Brexit Britain unearths parallel traumas in public and private lives while simultaneously anticipating a rediscovery of the radical transforming spirit of 1945 in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War.
For more information and bookings, visit: https://www.picturehouses.com/movie-details/018/HO00012927/there-s-another-country
Here CharlesHutchPress discusses all things Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild with Navigators Art co-founder and artist Richard Kitchen
How did you hit on the tripartite format for this event, Richard?
“Originally, we envisaged an exhibition based on York Art Gallery’s Treasures From The Store collection of rarely seen art works, hence our title Hidden Treasures. Our artists would reinterpret some of those works in their own way to suit the festival theme of Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild. We also planned a performance art, music and movement event to take place in the gallery itself.
“We were very pleased that York Explore offered to host the exhibition as we’d been wanting to show something there for some time. As it happened, the gallery said they’d be in mid-changeover so we had to change tack. We expanded the brief beyond York Art Gallery to include works of literature and physical aspects of York itself.
“This will also be the basis for the performance event, which will now be on stage in The Basement at City Screen. Again, the performers have created new work based on a rediscovery of something unfamiliar about York that inspired them.
“The film came along a little later and although it isn’t based on York it is very much about rediscovering aspects of the past and how they inform the present both personally and politically.”
How did the partnership with York Festival of Ideas come to fruition?
“I’ve always enjoyed the festival and its range of events. I wanted Navigators to be involved to round off our first 15 months of activity. This year’s theme appealed, so I drafted a proposal for our involvement, which they accepted. We’re very proud to be part of it and they’ve been very accommodating of changes we’ve had to make as our plans developed.”
How does the festival theme of Rediscover, Reimagine, Rebuild resonate with the aims of Navigators Art & Performance?
“In all sorts of ways! Variously, our artists have rebuilt careers, reinvented themselves and how they work, and pursued new directions in life as well as art.
“As a group we’ve achieved extraordinary things from very little. Having no physical studio to work in and no funding, we’ve had to seek out places in which to show our work.
“The StreetLife project, in Coney Street, was a milestone for us and helped put us in the centre of artistic activity in York. I think we’ve shown people how much can be done with imagination and enterprise.
“It’s been about giving ourselves permission to do something when no-one else will. I’d say that has positive implications for society and how it might change for the better.”
York is full of hidden treasures! Is that an inevitable problem for a city so rich in history or a joy when such a treasure is put on show and prompts an artistic response?
“Not a problem at all, unless the focus (and public funding) is always on the same high-profile things. Art and culture in this city are alive and well and there’s a lot going on, but it’s not all about tourist attractions and the well-heeled establishment.
“Anything that communicates beyond the heritage trail, makes an impact on the average resident and encourages all levels of society to engage with creative activity is a blessing. Our group seeks out and celebrates the less obvious and tries to make such things more accessible and better appreciated.”
Who put together the June 10 event. How were the Living Treasures acts chosen?
“Some of them appeared last November at our Coney St Live Jam event for StreetLife and impressed us enough to ask them back. We knew they’d be able to come up with new work based on the themes and we’ve given them more space this time to show what they can do.
“One of them actually chose themselves: The Corsairs cheekily advertised in our visitors’ book last December and I liked their attitude. They turned out to be a very exciting discovery. Then we reached out to a few writing and other creative groups to encourage under-represented performers to get involved.”
How did you discover the film There’s Another Country?
“It’s directed by one of my oldest friends, Martin Nichols. After many years exploring familial and social issues in writing and film, he’s found the perfect vehicle for his concerns. It’s highly original in style and while moving and beautiful, it’s also highly critical, irreverent and angry.”
What would a York version of that film look like?
“It’s not ‘about’ any particular place. Its range of reference encompasses a 1913 Welsh mining village, the Second World War, a suburban town in the 1970s and recent anti-government demonstrations in London. It’s pretty universal. A York version would just have the Minster in the background!”
What’s next for Navigators Art?
“We’ll be compiling our next collection of pictures and words for the York Zine Fest in July. We’ll have a spot at the York River Art Market in August and then a short and well-deserved rest before our next show at Micklegate and Fossgate Socials. Nothing concrete for next year as yet but we’re already getting involved in some major plans.”
Navigators Art & Performance: the back story
ESTABLISHED in 2019, this group of York creatives has expanded to a collective of 12 artists, writers, performers, musicians and a composer.
Their mission is to work with community groups and projects, to enhance and creatively interpret their activities for as wide an audience as possible.
In January 2023 they completed a three-month residency at the StreetLife hub in Coney Street, York, presenting a large-scale exhibition and a charity fundraising performance.
They encourage enquiries from potential collaborators, particularly those who are less established or underrepresented, via firstname.lastname@example.org; likewise head that way for sales and commissions.
Keep an eye on Navigators Art on Instagram and Facebook at: @navigatorsart.
UPDATE: 12/6/2023: What was the reaction to Living Treasures and There’s Another Country?
“WE have had the most extraordinary weekend,” says Navigators Art co-founder Richard Kitchen. “Mark Nichols’ film, a kaleidoscope of post-Brexit Britain, generated a passionate discussion with the audience at City Screen Picturehouse.
“Saturday’s Living Treasures in The Basement at City Screen sold out. The performers were tremendous and the more experimental improvised pieces involving musicians from very different backgrounds, ages and experiences worked superbly well.
“The audience loved it and we’ve been offered a regular spot at The Basement. We actually have plans for a fluid Navigators ‘big band’ to work up some pieces for performance, such as ambient pieces, songs, spoken-word interactions and experimental collaborations.
“It felt very special and inspiring and perhaps the beginning of a unique venture in York.”