Karen Guthrie + Nina Pope
Region: North West
In 2005, Somewhere produced its first feature length film, Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid of the Future, which followed former employees of now-closed UK Bata shoe factories in East Tilbury and Maryport. Led by the artist/directors, this unorthadox coach trip took its passengers on a journey to the Czech Republic in memory of the country’s most influential entrepreneur – Tomas Bata. The unfolding travelogue examines what Bata’s maxim ‘We are not afraid of the future’, means for the coach party today. This film epitomises the ethos of Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope’s work, which does not objectify its subjects but – by the artists submerging themselves into any community or environment they are studying – gives voice to peripheral sections of society and value to folk culture. In Bata-ville the artists utilised the structure of an organised coach party; in their second film, Living with the Tudors (2006-07) they explored the culture of re-enactment societies. Before embarking on the film they participated – across a timescale of three years – in one of the UK’s oldest and largest historical re-creations at Kentwell Hall in Suffolk. They recorded their experiences using pinhole photography, painting, video diaries, and footage from cameras buried in their costumes. The artists later developed a website and blog, Sometime Later, documenting their time spent in both Tudor and WWII eras at Kentwell with contributions from many other re-enactors about their lives.
Other projects with which Guthrie and Pope have been involved since June 2006 include Seven Samurai (curated by Grizedale Arts), a month long residency in the remote village of Toge in north-west Japan with five other UK artists. Through this project the artists drew parallels between the rural Lake District in Cumbria (the base of both Karen Guthrie and Grizedale Arts) and the mountainous and beautiful area of Japan they travelled to. The residency comprised joint and personal projects concerned with benefiting this farming community, including designing rice labels for the village, a drawing workshop, performances and running a communal ‘fusion cooking’ facility and shop. This project led to Guthrie and Pope developing a short film featuring David Tate, the founder of Lilliput Lane in Cumbria. Lilliput Lane has made a huge success of its kitsch English cottage collectables; the film reflects on the success of Lilliput, Tate’s take on vernacular architecture and the desire to romanticise rural culture. In Japan, a dialogue is formed as the film follows the artists’ encounter with Karl Bengs, a German emigre now living near Toge and building a collection of the restored traditional homes abandonned by local villagers.
Titchy/Kitschy, meanwhile, is a project currently in development which, inspired by the success of Lilliput Lane, is seeking to develop a souvenir of Toge which may be used to bring new income into the village.
I am nominating Karen Guthrie and Nina Pope on the strength of Living with the Tudors and Seven Samurai, for their work’s engagement and non-segregated approach to practitioners, participants and audiences and for successfully identifying the importance of ‘local’ within an international context.
Fiona Venables, Visual Arts Officer, Tullie House Museum and Gallery, Carlisle
Karen Guthrie was born in 1970 and Nina Pope in 1968. After studying at Edinburgh College of Art they both completed MAs at the Royal College of Art and Chelsea College of Art respectively. They’ve been collaborating since 1995 and launched their multi-disciplinary organisation ‘Somewhere’ in 2001. Current projects include ‘Almanac’, a public art commission sited at Cinema City in Norwich (2007); ‘Agrifashionista’ commissioned by A Foundation for Rochelle Circus, London (2008); ‘Living With The Tudors’ commissioned by Britdoc Channel 4 Documentary Film Foundation (2007); ‘Return Of The Seven Samurai’ Luci Mackintosh Gallery, Lausanne, Switzerland (2006); ‘Virtually Grizedale’ A Foundation, Liverpool for the Liverpool Biennial (2006); ‘Seven Samurai’ residency curated by Grizedale Arts for Echigo-Tsumari Triennale, Japan (2006) and ‘Bata-ville: We Are Not Afraid Of The Future’ commissioned by Commissions East (2005). Guthrie is based in Coniston, the Lake District and Pope in London.