In July, MC3 Projects presented the second edition of The Occasionale, a summer arts festival spanning their beautiful rural grounds in East Sussex. Curated by Sarah Pager and Jaime Marie Davis, the event took the form of an expansive site-responsive sculpture trail featuring noteworthy names such as Rebecca Scott, Clare Burnett, Lana Locke, Emma Woffenden, Lucy Brown, Judith Adler, and Hermione Allsopp.
The Occasionale is an ongoing events series focused on developing support networks, and approaching exhibition making as a system for community building. This year titled Zero Gravity: A Landing, the edition looked to gravity as a metaphor for the forces that bind us not only to the earth but to one another. The way in which sharing creative practice can generate sustained relationships based on emotional responses and pulls of attraction intrinsic to certain forms was central to the curatorial vision. Further, the exhibition looked to sculpture as something that operates within and resists forces of gravity, with works by various artists in orbital relationships to one another.
The central goal of the exhibition, to build interpersonal entanglements of artistic connection and sustained support, was perhaps best embodied by Louisa Mahony’s striking Die Leiter (2022). A fleshy and uncanny object, the giant ladder made from “bamboo, scrim and clouds” leaned awkwardly against an outcrop wall. It drew the eye to the sky, suggesting in its material contents that the clouds above, the wall behind and the ground below were as essential to its composition as the substances from which it was made. This unique way of conceptualising installation brought the environment into the work as an intrinsic part of its make-up – it was not a piece made in one place and displayed in another, but instead, a work made of the place in which it sat. The notion of collaborative grouping was further implied by the form itself, with ladders suggesting a climb to reach new goals, made impossible without each individual wrung. Remove one element and the ladder is unable to perform its function, much like a group of equal collaborators working to a common goal.
This notion was echoed in two works by Hermione Allsopp, Slumberstack (2022) and Loopscape (2020-22). Slumberstack, a 10-foot-high tower of folded mattresses held together in constant tension and suggestive of the energy contained within a cohesive group and its potential when released. Loopscape (2020-22) meanwhile acted as a visual representation of co-operation. Made up of interlinked loops, cast from rubber rings used in swimming, it created a chainlike entanglement mysterious in terms of its beginning and end. Allsopp highlighted that the work is ever evolving and unfinished, coming together and apart, interchangeable in terms of which hoops are included. This relates to the philosophy of the artist group, adjustable and unfixed, open to change and reformation. This piece was also particularly operational within the landscape, echoing the rolling hills behind and nestling, as if organic, beneath a bellowing tree.
Other works implied orbital inter-artist relationships through generating strange and unexpected assemblages. Hidden inside a cluttered, almost haunting, garage sat a large white cube containing one vintage monitor. The juxtaposition between the environment of forgotten chaos and the deliberate austerity of the white cube drew focus to the expected materiality of a gallery space – white walls, parallel lines, clarity and order. Displayed on the monitor was a collection of films by collaborative artist duo, Paul Harrison and Mark Woods including Board (1993), Headstand (1995), Device (1996). These works humorously look at the material of the body as malleable and adjustable in relation to rigid forms such as boxes, boards, cupboards and doors. The two artists performatively manipulate their bodies within and around the objects to perform almost acrobatic routines of gravity-defying movement. The work pulled into question our relations with the external environment and the ways in which we utilise tools and work with objects in a routine and expected manner. We often confine a tool to its intended use, unable to look beyond to its possible functions.
Clare Burnett’s constellation of ceramic tiled gourd-like sculptures hid within a small garden courtyard. Titled The Centre Cannot Hold (2021), a quote extracted from one of Yeats’ poems about post-war Europe in disrepair, the work spoke to Burnett’s broader practice concerned with socioeconomic debates around growth, trade and exchange. The assemblage created an unexpected encounter, leaving the viewer to discover the works amongst the wildlife and thus take an active role in experiencing the artwork. Similarly, small bright seemingly organic sculptures, Judith Adler’s Clustermorphs (2021-22), were tucked under trees and hidden in tall, wild grasses. The rhizomatic forms recalled fly agaric, the mushroom forms synonymous with folktales of fairies and nymphs and took on a live quality as if deliberately recoiling coyly from the viewers’ gaze.
Most notable of all was the energy at MC3 Projects, flowing between the sculpture on show. An authentic air of genuine collaboration and real community was omnipresent, the likes of which seems to be most apparent in the artworld outside the M25. People brought along their children, dogs, picnic blankets and more to folic in the sun while connecting personally with the artists and enjoying the series of workshops hosted by the organisers. Through the summer, sculptures pop up across London in parks and squares, put there by the likes of Sculpture in the City and The Mayfair Sculpture Trail, but there is a lot to be said for connecting with rural artistic communities and viewing artworks out in the wilderness, where they and you have room to breathe. Stay tuned for next year’s edition of The Occasionale, and another opportunity to escape the city for artistic encounters.
Find out more: www.occasionale.co.uk
Jamie Marie Davies: @jaime_marie