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Myvillages In Myvillages’ own words:
“Our interest is the rural as a space for and of Cultural production. The collective aims of myvillages.org are informed by the participatory nature of our individual practices and the autobiographical fact that we all come from small villages.”
The work of Myvillages is based on co-operation, mutual knowledge exchange, art-led research and tangible and context-specific life projects. Important themes are the localisation, conceptualisation and realisation of contemporary art practice within a rural context, and therefore questioning and altering perceptions of cultural production in general. Themes and research strands address the culture and cultural production within rural environments and the inter-relationship between the rural and the urban as a complex history and reality.
In 2001 the artists Kathrin Böhm (http://andmillionsandmillions.net), Antje Schiffers (http://www.antjeschiffers.de) and Wapke Feenstra and Stefan Saffer (http://www.wapke.nl) started to discuss the fact that the urban environment was almost always the presumed working context for their work and commissions. Questions about their village upbringing, relationships with the rural and a lack of practice and opportunities outside of the urban led to the beginning of their own initiative. Myvillages was then founded by Kathrin Böhm, Wapke Feenstra and Antje Schiffers in 2003 during the 850th anniversary of Antje’s home village Heiligendorf.
Myvillages.org is registered as an International Foundation in the Netherlands and its directors are Gavin Wade (curator and director Eastside Projects (http://www.eastsideprojects.org), Birmingham, UK), Claudia Büttner (curator, Munich, Germany) and Natalie Houtermans (Curator and writer, Rotterdam, Netherlands).
Early projects involve field and research trips to the founders’ home villages (Höfen in Southern Germany, Wjelsryp in Friesland and Heiligendorf in Lower Saxony, also Germany, an international gathering of colleagues who work in or with the rural context (Ditchling Village Convention, 2005) and the setup of a travelling archive of rural arts projects (http://www.bibliobox.org).
The ‘Ourvillages’ series started in 2004 and consists of self-initiated projects which revisit artists’ home villages in order to develop a site-specific new work. Antje worked with farmers from Heiligendorf on her first series of “I like being a farmer and want to stay one" (http://www.myvillages.org/index.php?a=work&id=31) paintings and videos. The result was later show at the Kunstverein Wolfsburg, and the project has continued since and grown into an international collection of farmers’ films.
Kathrin set up ‘Höfer Waren’ (http://www.myvillages.org/index.php?a=work&id=22) in 2005 (ongoing), which involves the women of the village in the development and making of new local goods and their local distribution at the annual village fete.
In 2008 Wapke started to collaborate with Pietsje Feenstra, who works as researcher and film historian at Sorbonne Paris, and they started a shared and collaborative research project into the production of landscape and cultural centres in Friesland. In 2012 they published ‘New Tendencies in Landscape Philosophy’, published by Jap Sam books, Heiningen.
Exhibitions and presentations
Myvillages is exhibiting internationally and their set-ups in galleries and exhibition spaces often combine documentation and objects from earlier projects mixed with a life programme of presentations, trade, workshops and discussion.
- ‘Elefanten undandere Gastgeschenke’,Kunstverein Springhornhof, Neuenkirchen (http://www.myvillages.org/index.php?a=work&id=39), 2009
- Myvillages, TENT,Totterdam, 2011
- Farmer’s Medley, Farm, Southbank Centre London, 2011 (http://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/find/literature-spoken-word/tickets/farm-drawing-60350)
Conferences and discourse
Myvillages has so far organised three conferences: ‘Village Convention’ in Ditchling, UK in 2005 (http://www.myvillages.org/index.php?a=work&id=17) in cooperation with General Public Agency; ‘Rural Art Space’ in Shrewsbury, UK, (http://www.ruralartspace.net) together with Shrewsbury Museum and the University of Wolverhampton, and ‘Images of Farming’ in 2010 in Nordhorn (http://www.myvillages.org/index.php?a=work&id=40), Germany, together with Städtsiche Galerie Nordhorn.
International Village Shop
A self-initiated and collaborative network of occasions for local production and trans-local trade. Locations include Kunstmuseum Thurgau, Kartause Ittingen (CH), Intermediae Madrid, Village Hall Höfen(D), Kunstmuseum Langenthal (CH), Gatow, Berlin (D), Jerwood Art Space (London),Tate Britain (London), Royal Academy (London), Grizedale Arts (UK), Potato Festival Neuenkirchen(D), Galeria Metropolitana Santiago de Chile, etc. ·Ukanafun local government. Prince Anthony udom okpuk.
Interdisciplinary and collective workshops to develop and make new goods with strong local connections. New goods include “a ball is a ball” (Radar, Loughborough University,UK), “Butterspoon” (the women of Höfen and eeaa Design, D/UK), “Potato Sleeper”, “Caravan Pot” in collaboration with the Forever Young community group in Ballykinlar, “Ohner Linen” (villagers of Ohne, D), “Fanas Arrow” (Fanas, CH), “Boxberg Products” and “ Ittinger Ei”.
A travelling archive containing documentation of approximately 110 international art projects in a rural context. Hosts and venues span across 40 locations and include the Swan Hill Regional Art Gallery in Australia, Lancaster University (UK), Kultuerverein Hehlingen (D), LOKO 6 in Amerfoot (NL) and Wysing Arts Centre (UK).
I like being a farmer and I would like to stay one
An ongoing series of swaps with farmers in Europe: an oil painting of their farm or land is swapped for a video made by the farmers about their daily lives and work. Until now farmers in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Rumania, Macedonia and Spain have taken part.
Publications and films
Myvillages.org is working with Jam Sam Books (http://www.japsambooks.nl) on an ongoing publications series edited by public works. Titles so far include ‘Images of Farming’ (2010), and ‘New Tendencies in Landscpae Philosophy’ (2012). Myvillages is also the editor of the ‘Vorratskammer (Pantry)’ book (2012) (http://www.japsambooks.nl/en/books/forthcoming-titles/vorratskammer-pantry/111), and producer of several documentary films: ‘Pantry Film’ (http://mythologicalquarter.net/2013/06/25/what-is-in-the-vorratskammer-pantry-on-myvillages-and-feeding-8000-people/img_2606_4279/), 28 min an ongoing series of and ‘Village Produce Films’ (each 4–9 min).