Art Life: South of The River | From The Ground Up. Part 1 (Without Culture Within)

“. . . it is simply not true that the colonizers bring to the colonized a new culture to replace the old one, a culture not being something given to a people, but, on the contrary and by definition, something that they make themselves.                                      James Baldwin

It was early 2018 when I first approached sculptor Keith Ackerman about the possibility of a sculpture project for South Leeds. Alongside our programme of projects here at BasementArtsProject, I spent the rest of the year talking to Keith about an idea that would create for the area, a work that was monumental in both scale and ambition. 

Choosing stone with Keith Ackerman

The story of Jacob’s Ladder is one that appears in the major texts of Islam, Christianity and Judaism and yet also provides a secular reading in terms of what it signifies. Jacob’s Ladder represents a connection between heaven and earth, it is also aspirational, a message that we can achieve a higher state through the raising of our vision, ‘a gradual ascent by means of virtue [ . . . ] not using material steps, but improvement and correction of manners’.

Designing Jacob’s Ladder

Keith Ackerman is Jewish and a man of faith, he is familiar with South Leeds through his work running interfaith projects for young people within the area. The story of Jacob’s Ladder had already provided Keith with the inspiration for a small scale sculpture in Ledmore Marble back in 2014.

On the basis of seeing an exhibition of Keith’s work with collaborative partner Adam Glatherine at a North Leeds synagogue in 2014, I then worked with them on producing the MantlePiece exhibition, which took place at BasementArtsProject in December 2015.

Stiffening The Sinews. Adam Glatherine (2014) Photograph.

In 2019, Leeds and Wakefield were the focus of the inaugural Yorkshire Sculpture International: A project that located the heart of Yorkshire sculptural production in these two cities, whose past associations include Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Damian Hirst and Thomas Houseago amongst many others. 

A House Within A Home (2019) Phill Hopkins. Installation at BasementArtsProject. Photo: Tim Balls

As part of this festival of art, BasementArtsProject put forward a handful of projects for inclusion in the programme. Supported by Yorkshire Sculpture International 2019 and the Index Festival of Visual Arts we realised ‘A House Within A Home’ by Leeds based artist Phill Hopkins.

“Home Is Where The Homeless Are” from ‘Pitched’ by Jadene Imbusch (2019) An installation at BasementArtsProject

Pitched’ by Beeston born, third year art student Jadene Imbusch and a collaborative project by Hopkins and Imbusch entitled ‘Collaborations On The Corner’. These three interlinked projects essentially looked at peripatetic living in a 21st Century gig economy.

Q. No Adults (2019) Collage. Phill Hopkins & Jadene Imbusch from the ‘Collaborations on The Corner’ Series

Also as part of the Index Festival and YSI2019 we were also able to start work on two other projects: ‘Jacob’s Ladder, inspired by the 2014 piece of the same name, by Keith Ackerman and ‘Nature of Balance’ by Dominic Hopkinson. The project was truly intergenerational with a span of forty years  between the youngest participant aged 21 and at the other end of the spectrum, a recent student of sculpture aged 61. In between were artists of varying ages and experience.  

L-R Jadene Imbusch, Phill Hopkins, Dominic Hopkinson, Keith Ackerman

In March 2020 all work on these projects, and all other indoor projects by BasementArtsProject, were brought to a sudden halt by the emergence of Covid-19. Since this point all projects have sat on the shelf waiting for such point as we can return to the Real-World. This of course has not stopped us from realising art projects online with exhibitions such as ‘My Kingdom For A Croissant’ by Nicholas Vaughan.

A 3D Virtual Gallery Space created by BasementArtsProject and populated with work by Nicholas Vaughan in which a table top sculpture is scaled up to fill a room

More than fifty instalments in the ‘Lockdown Journal

Image: Diary: Nature’s Back (2020) from Lockdown Journal’ by Silvia Liebig. Silvia is based in Dortmund, West Germany but was part of a residency project at Artist House 45 in 2019 through East Street Arts

. . . and our 10th Anniversary celebration with Kimbal Bumstead ‘We Are Still Here: Sonic Landscapes’ in which we invited the public to be a part of the project with us and exhibit their contributions in our virtual gallery space. 

A 3D Virtual Representation created by Kimbal Bumstead with contributions from the public by email as a response to not being able to celebrate 10 years of BasementArtsProject in person

On Thursday 20 May 2021 at 7:30pm BasementArtsProject will be hosting an online closing event for our 10th Anniversary exhibition ‘We Are Still Here: Sonic Landscapes’ in which participants will be able to view the completed project and speak to the artist Kimbal Bumstead. To join in this event on Zoom, pull up a comfy chair, get some biscuits and a coffee and join us for a comfortable and informal chat about Art Life, The Universe and Whatever Else Comes To Mind.

To get a ticket: CLICK HERE

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NEXT: Art Life: South of The River | From The Ground Up Part 2 (Sham, Drudgery and Broken Dreams)