Maker in Focus: Blind Ditch

 

Blind Ditch are a small group of artists who collaborate with associate artists, creative technologists and other experts to make site-based performance, art and cultural events. Core team members Paula Crutchlow and Volkhardt Müller are Exeter residents, and the group are invested in the city and the wider South West region as co-workers and colleagues in cultural production, and artist-advocates for the rural and experimental. They also make work with national and international collaborators, taking inspiration from their activities and staging events beyond the region.

Blind Ditch have been involved in conversation-based art-making since 2002. Their work is a digitally friendly social practice that usually begins with a burning question or provocation. They collaborate with commissioners, partners and publics to interrogate that question, and then re-stage the findings as travelling art objects, audio-visual installations, interactive objects and performances in ‘found’ spaces that engage audiences as thinking, creative citizens. Group members also work as individual artists, consultants, researchers and educators. Rather than aiming for consensus, they believe that such practice has the potential to constitute communities of thought around the issues that are important to us, and preoccupy us in different ways.

They say: “If there were such a thing as experimental, risk-taking and accessible art in whatever form, we hope that we make it.”

Current and recent projects include:

The Common Line (March 2018-present)
A national land art work funded in R&D by the AHRC-EPSRC that combines the eco-activism of tree planting with the digital imaginaries enabled through AR and VR technologies. The project aims to establish Britain’s first linear forest across the longest stretch of mainland Britain and is being developed in collaboration with John Wylie and Steven Palmer in the Geography Department at University of Exeter and Controlled Frenzy creative technologists, working in partnership with Rural Recreation and the Museum of Contemporary Commodities (March 2015-present). A ‘pop up’ touring exhibition and online collection that invites deeper thought about the value of things, why we buy them and where they come from. With help from members of the public, MoCC’s lively digital activities, walkshops, and conversation events help make new connections between the data, trade, place and values that shape our everyday lives. Co-founded with geographer Ian Cook from University of Exeter, MoCC was developed in residency at Furtherfield in Finsbury Park, London. The project has been presented as a Thinkering Day, a Free Market event, an exhibition piece, an Exeter based shop-gallery & micro festival, and as a museum in its own right at The Royal Geographical Society, Exhibition Road, London. Further ‘pop-ups’ are evolving for 2019-20. www.moccguide.netUniversity of Cumbria.

D-Tour: thoughts looking sidewards (Feb-March 2018).
A project that invited travellers on the D bus route in Exeter to contribute short writings, musings and poetries about their journey. By answering six creative writing questions, and offering them for voice recording to other passengers, their thoughts formed the inspiration and soundtrack for a new video art work screened on a Stagecoach Bus. All contributions were anonymous. Commissioned by University of Exeter, Arts and Culture.

Museum of Contemporary Commodities (March 2015-present). A ‘pop up’ touring exhibition and online collection that invites deeper thought about the value of things, why we buy them and where they come from. With help from members of the public, MoCC’s lively digital activities, walkshops, and conversation events help make new connections between the data, trade, place and values that shape our everyday lives. Co-founded with geographer Ian Cook from University of Exeter, MoCC was developed in residency at Furtherfield in Finsbury Park, London. The project has been presented as a Thinkering Day, a Free Market event, an exhibition piece, an Exeter-based shop-gallery & micro festival, and as a museum in its own right at The Royal Geographical Society, Exhibition Road, London. Further ‘pop-ups’ are evolving for 2019-20.

Happening Here! (November 2014-March 2015).
A neighbourhood social art project for people who live in Buckland and Broadlands, Newton Abbot. Commissioned by DAISI and Teign Housing, the project focussed on values and perceptions of neighbourhood and social life, in order to promote positive relationships between people and the places they live in. Delivered with associate artist Lizzy Humber, events involved the making of a rich map with embedded animation links through the facilitation of an interview and media workshop process with young people and older people, and the building of a cob pizza oven and pizza making on a public car park over the course of a weekend.

 Audience members writing on the cardboard model of Exeter during This City's Centre 3. Here, Now. Photo: Benjamin J Borley

Audience members writing on the cardboard model of Exeter during This City's Centre 3. Here, Now. Photo: Benjamin J Borley

This City’s Centre (February – September 2013).
A year-long, Exeter-based digital, social art and performance project funded by a large project grant from ACE, with support from Exeter City Council. Based on interviews that Blind Ditch made with 40 city centre residents about the views from their windows, this dispersed, digital portrait of Exeter used a range of social practice to gently explore the meeting points of public and private space in three main parts: 1. Window, a two-channel video installation; 2. Linger, an interactive map; and 3. Here, Now, a performance held in an empty, city centre office space in Princesshay, with live webcam streaming from the homes of community participants. The project events were devised and performed collaboratively with local artists, designers, writers, technologists and performance makers.

For more information about Blind Ditch, visit blindditch.org

Belinda DillonExeter, maker, Blind Ditch