A brief discussion with Hannah Clark, Artistic Director for the Bristol Biennial.
What’s your hometown and what brought you this way? I’m from Newport, South Wales. I came to Bristol to study.
So firstly, what is the Bristol Biennial? The Bristol Biennial is an artist-led festival of visual art that works with remarkable emerging artists. We have 31 art events taking place all over Bristol between 12-21 September. Some last for the whole festival, others are just 20 minutes long.
How did you personally get involved in the Biennial? Were you one of the original team from the first biennial in 2012? Over two years ago I emailed Catherine Bourne, the previous director, and asked if I could help with something. I came in quite late into the first Bristol Biennial, and helped with smaller aspects of the festival. We kept in touch and then she handed the festival over to me last May.
How come the festival is once every 2 years rather than the more traditional annual occasion? Being behind the scenes on this kind of event, you see how much planning goes on. It’s a bit like organising a few weddings over a week and a half. It’s not something you want to rush. It also gives time for projects to grow and develop and relationships to form. We will hopefully also be running some new projects between our festivals alongside ‘I’M STAYING’.
Is the main focus of the festival public interaction and participation? This year the main focus is on bringing an extra element of engagement with the artworks. So yes, participatory, interactive, fleeting on the hoof chance sightings are all here. It’s about having an experience with art, and maybe art having an experience with you.
Do you feel the best way to connect with people through art is by encouraging public interaction and inclusion, to help them better understand the concepts being portrayed? It’s something I want to develop and understand more fully. I feel like humour in art and participation can break the ice and get people excited. There’s still the stigma around art being inaccessible and un-inclusive. It’s a different language like science and maths, but one that’s incredibly broad and open ended. It’s fascinating to test out what it is, what works and what doesn’t for engagement.
Bristol is often mentioned as being a hotbed of emerging artists and creative types. Do you think that the Biennial is a great outlet for many of Bristols emerging stars? Oh yes I really do! I know that it’s very difficult to let people know what you’re doing, the spread the word and get people to your events, especially cracking out of the same crowd. We select our artists through an open call, which is very diplomatic for a Biennial! It gives artists the chance to take part, meet new people and we make sure they can be seen and heard as well as supporting them to produce their work.
Are there any artists or installation that you are particularly excited about this year? Of course! I’m very excited about the whole thing, but if I need to pin point certain artworks I will say Blind Chance, MINE, Cranberry Fields and Grass Men.
Are there plans to carry on the Biennial for many years to come and grow it further? I have strong intentions to carry on building the Bristol Biennial. We see it as a very important part of Bristol’s cultural scene. It provides so many opportunities and a fantastic portfolio of outstanding emerging artists. You will have to wait and see what unfolds for 2016, but now it’s just a seedling – it will grow.
What do you usually get up to in & around Bristol? Where are your favourite places to eat and drink? I am a prawn lover, a foodie and take delight in being in such a food and drink haven. My favourite places are Poco, The Olive Shed and Small Bar; and Obento with their week day deals! Other things I might get up to include cycling, going to gigs or events, having meetings at Harbourside no.1, and singing my heart out (alone) at home to a small cat called Hermione.
Want to find out more about the goings on during Bristol Biennial? Head on over to their website or give them a follow on Twitter. Keep an eye on the app for some exclusive Bristol Biennial opportunities very soon!