SNAP HAPPY Francis van Maele and Antic-Ham. Pic: Fergus Kelly
Embracing art in an instant
It seems Westport Arts Festival is leaving no wall unadorned, no opportunity for celebrating the arts left unexplored. This year, both its poster and its box office, located on Brewery Lane, Westport, are works of art in and of themselves.
In previous years, the festival’s posters have become collectors’ pieces in their own right, having been created by Mayo-based artists and designers like Pamela Gray, Frank O’Reilly and Peter Brennan. The 2012 Westport Arts Festival continues this theme, but pushes it along even further. Each poster – and there are only 50 – has been not only designed but also hand-printed by two artists living on Achill.
Francis van Maele from Belgium and Antic-Ham from South Korea make a variety of art in different media, working together under the name Franticham. Their festival poster has been printed using 15 separate silk screens, each one a different colour. A limited quantity of this most unusual hand-printed poster is available for sale from the festival box office, where a fascinating Franticham exhibition of Polaroid photos and cameras, ‘Instant People’, is also on display.
After founding Red Fox Press (www.redfoxpress.com) in Luxembourg in 2000 to make, print and sell artists’ books, Francis moved to Ireland in 2002. He first met Antic-Ham at the Seoul Artist Book Fair in 2005. After meeting again in London they realised that they shared the same passions in life and work, and started to produce mail-art projects together as Franticham, later making their mail art into books.
The driving force behind much of Franticham’s work is DaDaism and the later, related Fluxus movement, the most famous proponent of which is probably Yoko Ono. Pushing art beyond its traditional boundaries, both movements question art and how it should be presented, trumpeting nonsense and irrationality over reason and logic. Often termed ‘anti-art’, they frequently poke fun at the seriousness of modern art.
Francis and Ham live and work at the current Red Fox Press studio in Dugort on Achill Island, perched on the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There, they make and sell their DaDa screenprints and books and Fluxus boxes (boxes filled with eclectic images and items, most of which they have been sent by other artists), as well as Polaroid works.
Franticham’s work has been shown in prestigious venues all over the world, including the Library of Congress, the MoMa Library, and the New York Metropolitan Art Museum in America; the Tate and Victoria and Albert Museum in the UK; and many galleries and libraries in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Italy, Korea, Japan and elsewhere.
‘Instant People’ is a fascinating mail-art project based on hundreds of Polaroid self-portraits posted to Franticham by artists from around the world. The collection of images continues to grow daily, and the more than 200 images on display in the Festival Box Office include some made when the project was first exhibited last July, during the five-yearly Documenta exhibition of contemporary art in Germany.
Franticham’s exhibition in the Festival Box Office also includes 50 Polaroid cameras from their vast collection. These range from the first Polaroid cameras from the 1950s through to the last made by the company, which no longer manufactures instant cameras or film. Some noteworthy examples include the Big Shot famously used by Andy Warhol to make portraits, Miniportraits cameras with four lenses for taking passport photographs, and a few macro-photography Polaroid cameras used in medicine or in research laboratories.
Over the next few months the ‘Instant People’ project will be exhibited in Luxembourg, Poland and Seoul.
Could you be an instant person?
If you want to be part of future ‘Instant People’ exhibitions, make a self-portrait with any Polaroid camera, sign on the front and add the date and place the picture was taken. On the back write your name, address, your website or blog if you have one, and the model of the camera and film used.
The Westport Arts Festival runs from October 1 to 14. The Box Office on Brewery Lane (behind Brawn’s Flowers), Westport, is currently open 12-2pm and 5-7pm daily, but it will extend its opening hours closer to the festival. For a full programme of events, visit www.westportartsfestival.com/events, or pick up a brochure from the box office.