Art Sheffield 2016

15 April – 8 May 2016, Sheffield


16 April – 8 May 2016
Preview: Friday 15 April, 2 – 8pm

Art Sheffield 2016 is a citywide contemporary art event, curated this year by Martin Clark, Director of Bergen Kunsthall, Norway. It takes as its starting point the political, social, cultural, and material histories of the city of Sheffield, enacted and explored through a carefully selected group of international video, film and sound works, as well as three major new commissions made especially for the exhibition by three British artists. The title of the exhibition, Up, Down, Top, Bottom, Strange and Charm is taken from the six flavours (or types) of quark: the elementary particles that make up every atom, and the fundamental building blocks of matter.

The festival is conceived as an ‘exploded’ group show, dispersed across the city’s streets and spaces. All of the works are moving image or sound, and the fabric of the city itself is very explicitly activated and inhabited by the exhibition. Each artist occupies a single, separate location, with the physical journey between each venue and work forming an intrinsic part of the experience of the show. Sheffield’s various histories are alluded to, but only in order to address more universal, fundamental, as well as personal, themes. The city’s material histories – built around steel, manufacturing and industry – are evoked in the exhibition through the rapidly disappearing architecture of Victorian works and industrial buildings, as well as the show’s engagement with the economic, social and cultural climate that these industries produced, particularly during their decline in the 1980s and the Thatcherite politics that accelerated it.

The political and economic realities of that time – defined by the assault on industry and the trade unions, the cold war and nuclear threat, and the boom and bust of a rapidly accelerating global capitalism – coincided with the availability of new video editing facilities in art schools across the UK, the art school at Psalter Lane in Sheffield being a significant example. This led to a number of artists and musicians experimenting with the emergent technology in very politically engaged ways, developing new visual languages and techniques, one of which became known as ‘scratch video’.

Often this work was screened outside of a gallery context, in clubs or music venues, or made as visuals for bands including Cabaret Voltaire, Test Department and The Human League. Art Sheffield includes a number of these rarely seen ‘scratch’ videos, by early pioneers including Jeffrey Hinton, George Barber and Nick Cope. Directly sampling and subverting found footage from TV, films, advertising and popular culture, they anticipate many of the methodologies and aesthetics now ubiquitous across the internet. More contemporary works, as well as the new commissions, draw on and extend a number of these ideas, which politically and aesthetically feel just as timely and urgent today. The subatomic, elemental reality of materials and matter is central to the show; experimental music becomes analogous to new economic models and patterns of risk, chance and improvisation; Sheffield’s long history of resistance, socialism and independence is reactivated through a proposal for a new ‘people’s currency’; while video, film and sound are explored in their myriad materialities and manifestations, as on one hand a mechanical, digital, or virtual object or medium, and on the other a kind of collective unconscious, dream or reverie. In this way the exhibition is both framed by, and assimilated into, the city – a place defined as much by its cultural production as it is by its material industry; by individuals and communities as much as infrastructure and architecture; a construction and a fantasy that is constantly being reproduced and reinvented – projected back out onto itself by the various forces, desires, processes and people that both inhabit and imagine it.

Sheffield S1 4RE
Tues – Sun, 12 – 5pm

Art Sheffield 2016 presents an installation of rarely seen ‘scratch’ videos by filmmakers including George Barber, Nick Cope, Jeffrey Hinton, Duvet Brothers, John Scarlett Davis, Gorilla Tapes, John Maybury, Kim Flitcroft and Sandra Goldbacher.


(with an introduction by Nicole Yip, Special Projects Curator, LUX)
Wednesday 27 April, 6pm
Showroom Cinema, Sheffield
Click here to book your place

Saturday 30 April, 6pm
Bloc Projects, Sheffield

Wednesday 4 May, 6pm
Bloc Projects, Sheffield

Saturday 7 May, 6pm
Bloc Projects, Sheffield

For more information, please visit the Art Sheffield website.


Jonathan P. Watts’ review in Frieze
Cathy Wade’s review in a-n
Felix Petty’s article in i-D