Your Future Needs You

Your Future Needs You, 2011

Your Future Needs You was at once an exhibition showcasing some of the artists, architects and others engaged in delivering live research at Art Gene and at a space set up to facilitate engagement events and consultation. It formed the backdrop for a range of tours, trips, talks and discussions and was a vehicle for capturing and developing emerging projects from within our communities.

Your Future Needs You, Operations Map Table (detail), designed by Stuart Bastik

Your Future Needs You, 2011

Your Future Needs You is at once an exhibition showcasing some of the the artists, architects and others engaged in delivering live research at Art Gene and a space set up to facilitate engagement events and consultation.

It forms the backdrop for a range of tours, trips, talks and discussions; and is a vehicle for capturing and developing emerging projects from within our communities.

We see the Gallery as an open collaborative think tank facility delivering a wide range of work both within and critically ‘without’ the conventional areas of concern typically addressed by arts organisations.

‘A town can be a work of art – in theory at least – much as a person may be – each have been amongst art’s most common subjects; yet with towns, art and people, as we all know, the true value lies beyond the aesthetic’.

Stuart Bastik, Revisioning Utopia Charette Synopsis Paper


We recognise that in order to affect real and sustainable change we must work in as fully and informed way as possible. In order to begin to acheive this Art Gene continues to work through increasingly multidisciplinary collaborations with for instance: ecologists, architects, archaeologists and palaeoecologists, writers, sustainability specialists, teachers, historians, theoreticians, thinkers and academics.

We are working in partnerships and collaboration with local authorities, development agencies, politicians, trusts and foundations, and organisations and businesses who have an existing ‘interest’ in and knowledge about the sites of our engagement, including Natural England, English Heritage, Archaeological Research Services Ltd, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, The National Trust, Wilde Ecology, Groundworks Trust, The Morecambe Bay Partnership and critically with the communities and individuals who will ‘live’ the places of our engagement beyond the period of our active involvement.

We have established diverse interest specific think-tank development groups (inc. The Islands of Barrow Group and a Self Managed Allotments Group) which we facilitate through meetings, training events, information sharing and brainstorming sessions. These occur at Art Gene, outside of day to day environments, on neutral ground with good food, to socialise, theorise and move beyond polarised positions, finding the common ground, nurturing the development of proactive mobilised individuals and positive, practical project-based ways forward.

Image gallery below:
Your Future Needs You, Operations Map Table, designed by Stuart Bastik, Maps courtesy of Barrow Borough Council, Art Gene Gallery 2011 The badges mark hidden assets identified by visitors. The notebooks of participants in Art Gene’s Re-Visioning Utopia Charrette are displayed around the table: Re-Visioning Utopia (here)
Maddi Nicholson’s Recipe for Thai Veg… & chicken or not Recipe’s are shared with our guests.
Your Future Needs You, Opening Event and Design Cafe Programme Launch, Art Gene Gallery, 2011


Maddi Nicholson

Maddi Nicholson is an artist & co-founder Director of Art Gene, an educator, and creative consultant working freelance since 1985 with Industry, Business and the Public Sector on all manner of research and development, art, education and design related issues.

Her work ranges from huge inflated sculpture including a replica of a recently demolished terraced house in Barrow, to consultation with young people on regeneration resulting in video and animation works exploring issues in some of the poorest electoral wards in Europe.

I am interested in the social as well as aesthetic aspects of regeneration, my engagement is with people and their sense of place

Having worked on hundreds of residencies and commissions nationally in community and educational contexts, she is no stranger to bringing creative thought to areas of economic deprivation.

Emma Cocker

Emma Cocker is an art-writer and a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. Operating under the title, Not Yet There, her writing and text-based work (often developed through conversations with other artists) seeks to explore models of practice which resist or refuse the pressure of a single or stable position by remaining willfully unresolved.

Recent work has interrogated the critical and creative potential of experiences or conditions such as failure, doubt, deferral, uncertainty, boredom, hesitation, indecision, immobility & inconsistency within art practice (and everyday life).

She is currently working on the research project, Performing Communities, and a forthcoming book entitled Desiring to be Led Astray: The Art of Wandering. (see link below)

Field Proposals are an ongoing work attempting to map or give shape to the conceptual landscape of a practice, where the identification of specific coordinates fails to provide any coherent or definitive structure, instead only revealing further zones of indeterminacy.

Field Proposal (2) is proposition for a portable studio, the diagramming of a thinking space. The work exists as a pairing of two proposals.

Part 1 uses titles from existing work in an attempt to plot the coordinates of or establish the cartography of a practice, where intersecting lines suggest the potential of as yet unnamed possibilities which for now remain indiscernible.

Part 2 is largely blank, in further anticipation of this still to be navigated territory. Emma’s work will also be developed through a new performative mapping staged, unfolding event within the space of the gallery, which responds to the specific geographical and conceptual terrain encountered during a series of visits to Barrow. This will inform her writing in response to the Urban Retreat project.

ec Architects

Armelle Tardiveau is a practicing architect lecturing part-time at Newcastle University. She was born in Paris, trained at London Metropolitan University and ETH Zürich. Prior to becoming an architect, she was an editor in architecture and has worked for Artemis London and Actar publishers in Barcelona.

Daniel Mallo is a practicing architect lecturing part-time at Newcastle University. After graduating in Madrid, he collaborated with Florian Beigel in London and Herzog & de Meuron in Basel.

Armelle Tardiveau and Daniel Mallo founded ec-architects in 2004 with the intimate conviction that space and artefacts have politics – as highlighted by French anthropologist Bruno Latour. The practice’s research is design-led and focuses primarily on architecture as an enabling tool and alternative spatial practices such as temporary interventions and urban actions. The enabling philosophy consists of working with time, steering dialogue and social dynamics and offering platforms allowing spatial flexibility and capacity for change.

Sophie Mellor

Sophie Mellor is a gang leader and a gang follower, a cave dweller and a trainee horseback archer. She is currently amassing a handmade weapons cache for alternative non-violent uses; researching futility; meeting with animals; and embroidering money. She is co-founder and co-director of Plan 9, a Bristol based artist-led visual arts organisation established in 2005. She has a collaborative based practice focused on creating discussion through action and provocation, setting up constructs that challenge notions of self and society. She is interested in creating works that exist both inside and outside the art world, ducking in and out of mythology, story telling, powerful behaviour and stereotypes. Sophie’s collaborative work at Art Gene includes, Urban Retreat Project.

Jo Ray

I am curious about how we value, occupy and dream about space. A playful examination of urban, rural and domestic space is intrinsic to my practice. The situations I initiate often seek to heighten our experience or behaviour, in order to explore the mechanisms we live in, and live out.

Our landscapes, and the time in which we might experience them, all too often seem like someone else’s property. There seem to be only fleeting moments in which we can reclaim them. Rich environments can become an image, viewed always at-one-remove. We sometimes need a particular invitation in order to explore, or re-occupy.

It feels awkward sometimes, like using long forgotten muscles: We need to be reminded that we have permission to sleep in a sand dune, take the shortcut, or the long way round, if that looks like a good adventure. Taking ownership can happen by small degrees, every day.

Jo Ray


Clare Thornton

1970 – 2019

Clare Thornton employs performance, fine art and craft methods to create objects and events that bring people together for social and critical exchange. She is interested in collections and collecting:- collecting stories and curiosities, assembling archives of memories and making objects inspired by these gathered materials.

Clare, an artist & seamstress, recently undertook a Nine Trades of Dundee commission, in which she collaborated with textile industry professionals to produce a unique Tools of Your Trade textile design and bespoke Trench coat.

Co-founder of the artist collective Performance Re-enactment Society, their latest collaborative project UNTITLED PERFORMANCE STILLS is currently being presented in the exhibition Afterlive, at Norwich Arts Centre.

For Your Future Needs You, Clare is presenting work from her participatory public art piece Looking for the Black Redstart. This project was commissioned for Platforms, and the Fierce! Festival (2005) and took place at various locations along the Birmingham to Wolverhampton Metro Tramline. A series of billboard posters, performance interventions, social wildlife rambles/picnics and a mixed media exhibition at Bilston Craft Gallery, Looking for the Black Redstart, was an open invitation to become an Urban Adventurer in the post-industrial landscape of the Black Country. The photo album presents a collection of images captured during these performance interventions and public rambling events and the bill board images were posted at each Metro tram station between Birmingham & Wolverhampton for the weeks surrounding the live project.

Martin Gent

Martin Gent works in the live, visual and performing arts as director, performer and collaborating artist. He was a founder member and artistic director of the performance company, dA dA dumb, who were Arts Council funded and toured extensively in the UK and abroad. He has also worked in film and TV.

He has taught and led workshops in many institutions and organisations. He has worked extensively with business, using his skills from differing arts backgrounds to develop arts based activity to encourage and explore creative thinking and working, with particular regard to leadership.

He is currently Creativity Director of Spinach, a qualitative and consultative research company, exploring and experimenting with bringing arts based practices into the business environment and work place. He has worked with such clients as Unilever, Mckinsey Nestle, Pfizer, BBC, Cadbury’s, PwC and HSBC. He is also a Senior Associate of the MAP Consortium.

Stuart Bastik

As a child I was taken on regular shopping trips to Hull: then in the grip of a fast declining fishing industry. I remember being pulled by the hand at the trot past the unloved concrete, litter strewn streets and smoking buses thinking…

“why is it like this?…people have decided to make it like this”

Since that innocent conception contextualised by my own experiments with lego bricks and the collaborative creation of underground tunnels in a friends sand pit to push our toy cars through, my career has always pulled me towards the regeneration of seemingly unloved spaces and derelict buildings, despite the fact that my conscious intention was simply to be an artist… or perhaps a farmer?.. sometimes a soldier. Art Gene’s work with (inter)national artists and architects asks “What if it could be like this?…”

Birkbeck & Duffy

Based between Manchester and London, Eimer Birkbeck & Joe Duffy have worked collaboratively as Birkbeck & Duffy since 2007, producing work that investigates narrativity through place, space, landscape, phenomena, sound and image.

Past outputs include their critically acclaimed international project Singing Sands, which was realized in collaboration with The Morphodynamic Lab, Paris University 7, and hosted by the Manchester Festival of Science, Manchester Museum of Science & Industry.

Joe Duffy works with video, installation and photographic practice around place, displacement and memory. Interests and subjects include the narrative potential of found objects, childrens toys, urban peripheries, simulacra and migration.

The central focus of Birkbeck’s work lies in the exploration of sound as the covert cultural and physical structure underlying all our day to day experiences. Alongside sound works for installation, CD publication and Radio, Birkbeck’s work can be heard on the YYZ Anthology Aural Cultures.

Simon Poulter

Simon Poulter has been widely commissioned throughout the UK and has been investigating the relationship between culture and regeneration in a variety of locations in England since 2004. This is combined with an interest in network technologies, human computer interaction and tactical media.

Previous commissions include Channel 4, NOW Festival, FACT, Lovebytes, Watershed and Hull Time Based Arts. Simon is currently working with Metal, in Southend, investigating several projects in relation to the Thames Gateway developments.

He is also a founding member of PVA MediaLab, where he has developed a successful interdisciplinary model – LabCulture – that assists artists engaging with new ideas.

(At time of writing) he is presently curating a new show entitled Small World Fair for Metal. He has managed several national touring initiatives, including LabCulture and Modes of Al-Ikseer, working with artist Harminder Singh Judge. He lives and works in London.

Patricia Townsend

Patricia Townsend is an artist working with photography, video and installation. She is interested in our emotional relationship with landscape – the ways in which landscape can affect us and the stories we construct by projecting our own beliefs, expectations and desires onto our surroundings.

Her work has been shown internationally in gallery exhibitions and film and video screenings. Recent exhibitions and screenings include Fotofest, Houston, Texas; Leeds International Film Festival; BBC Big Screen, Manchester; Pocket Film Festival, Paris; The Dock Museum, Barrow-in-Furness. She has a video piece in Sedition, at Tullie House, Carlisle.

(At time of writing) she is about to embark on a PhD at the Slade School of Fine Art where she will be researching the artistic process from a psychoanalytic point of view.

Patricia’s current project is to explore the landscape of Morecambe Bay as a metaphor for a psychological space. Morecambe Bay has been described as a “wet desert” and is a treacherous area of quicksands and rapid tidal flow. Many lives have been lost either to the quicksand or to fast incoming tides. The works use video and installation to explore the shifting relationship between land and water, above and below, life and death. This area lends itself to an exploration of an “intermediate area of experiencing” (as described by the psychoanalyst D.W.Winnicott) in that it is itself an intermediate space – neither wholly land nor sea but constantly shifting from one to the other.

On the Shores (single screen video, 5 mins, looped, sound) can be viewed below Before the advent of a railway line, travelers from Morecambe and the southern coast of Morecambe Bay went by foot or on horseback over the sands to reach the Furness peninsular. The Guide-over-Sands was appointed to mark out a safe route through the changing channels. This piece references the crossing of the Bay, using this as a metaphor for a psychological journey through hazardous territory.

Image gallery below:
Your Future Needs You, Opening Event and Design Cafe Programme Launch, Art Gene Gallery 2011
Field Proposals by Emma Cocker, (ongoing)
SOME DAYS ALL THIS IS YOURS, by Jo Ray, 2011. ‘A’ Boards
Placard for Your Future Needs You, by Maddi Nicholson, 2011
Images below (footer):
Your Future Needs You, exhibition view

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