Artist-in-residence – Paul Hurley

Paul Hurley is one of three Artists-in-Residence working with local communities on projects to celebrate the regeneration of the Temple Quarter area and document its heritage.  Paul, who is a Bristol-based performance artist, will look at how both human and animal communities inhabit the site and connect with each other.

His insights will be turned into a series of films to be shown on multiple screens to create a thought-provoking and immersive experience.

I’ve lived and worked in Bristol for a number of years but am always seeing it in new ways. The city is always changing, but so am I – my perspective shifts when I meet new people, learn new things about Bristol, or see and observe different lives being lived here. This was one of the starting points for my residency at the Temple Quarter. How can I make an artwork about a city that is always changing? And whose story is most important? Mine? The University’s? Someone who’s been born and raised here? Someone who’s recently arrived and wants to feel welcomed?

This then got me thinking about ‘communities’ (never a simple term) around South and East Bristol and the encounters they might have – encounters with me and my art project, as well as with the broader project of the new campus and the University at large. I have a long history of making performances with communities as well as performances with and as animals, but have never mixed the two. It struck me that in a big development project like the new campus, the communities around it are multiple – both the different human communities that live and work around here, and the nonhumans that also inhabit its spaces.

My plan is to create a performance for video work that will bring together some of these different communities in a kind of council or community meeting to reflect on the area’s past and to think about its future. This meeting will be attended by representatives of different human and nonhuman communities, expressing their interests and concerns. The work will be a space for differences to be explored (differences of opinion as well as differences of lived experience), and to consider how the campus might fit into a broader ecology of human and nonhuman lives in the city.

Fun Palace Barton Hill Settlement blog: – 6th October

On a slightly cold and rainy October day I went to Barton Hill Settlement, to take part in one of Bristol’s annual Fun Palace events. The Settlement is a community centre dated back to the early 1900s. There are some interesting archival photos here. Although the clothing and the centre might look very different today, the activities of the centre remain focused on creating opportunities for local residents to participate in positive and life-affirming activities. Fun Palaces are an initiative that “promotes culture at the heart of community and community at the heart of culture”. At Barton Hill, the day brought together artists, University staff and families to play video games, make bubble paintings, eat samosas and enjoy a free lunch from Food Cycle.

I used the opportunity to do a creative mapping exercise with families, drawing a map of East Bristol and asking people to draw where they thought different nonhuman communities might live. I discovered not only that most children can draw animals better than I can, but that they see the city as a place shared with a huge a range of nonhuman animals. As well as obvious ones like cats and dogs, people drew ladybirds, snakes (spotted near the river Avon), gulls, bats, nits and a pet tortoise. Almost 60 species (although that included a panda, two monsters and a reindeer).

Just one afternoon spent chatting to families not only opened up my own thoughts about the nonhuman communities around here, but felt really encouraging about how the project idea can connect to peoples’ imaginations. We will see how bringing human and nonhuman communities works – maybe the final piece will include a panda and a monster!