Powerful artworks to spark debate



A series of innovative and experimental artworks, ranging from installation art and photography to film and visual art, will spark debate at this year’s Cambridge Festival of Ideas, which runs from 19 October until 1 November.


Artist Mark Farid, whose previous work has caused controversy, will feature an exciting interactive art installation. Data Shadow, Collusion’s Real Time Commission 2015 challenges us to think about mobile phone security: do we realise how easy it is for organisations to access personal information on our phones? How much data we are giving away so often without realising it? And how this is getting more frequent? Members of the public are invited to enter a shipping container to confront the data their phone gives away about them; this is then is then screened onto the container walls.

Commenting on the project, Collusion Director Rachel Drury said: “This work will bring participants face to face with the privacy they sacrifice by using a mobile phone. It’s a challenging work and we’re excited to see how the public will respond.”

Mark and a panel of academics and technologists will also be holding discussions on how our personal data is collected and used, and whether this level of data-mining is morally right and should continue in Data shadow: Anonymity is our only right, and that is why it must be destroyed.

Photographer Toby Smith will be showing his work for the duration of the Festival.  Documented obsessively and below the radar of the police and site owners, Light after dark is a beautiful and artistic but menacing portrayal of every thermal power station in England. The finished project reached across many different genres of the photographic industry. It gained international recognition, exhibitions and awards but was also used editorially across Europe and had a National Geographic five-page spread. In addition to the exhibition, Toby will be giving a talk on 19 October, to introduce and offer insight into his first exhibition as artist in residence at the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute.

In another exhibition, award-winning photographer, Kerstin Hacker, will also be showing her work The maternity ward throughout the Festival. Photographed in the 1990s in the Czech Republic, this series of powerful and uncompromising images reveal a different and provocative view of childbirth. Kirsten has travelled widely and her work has been published in The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph.

In the lead-up and during the Festival, Art language location, a Festival within a Festival, is taking place in various locations, bringing exciting, new and experimental art to Cambridge. The event features 70 emerging and established contemporary artists from across the UK and beyond who use text in their work. On 17 October, a day of Performance and Participation will feature an audio drawing by 2015 Jerwood prize-winner Alison Carlier, plus performances by Amanda Couch, Ian Wolter, Raju Rage and many others. On 31 October, organiser Robert Good will give a guided tour of Supertext, an exhibition of contemporary text-based art. Artwork to be found will include silicone shaggy dogs by Tom Hackett, a multi-lingual Winnie the Pooh by Laima Vanaga and inter-generational portrait photography by Les Monaghan.  

The transforming power of visual art is highlighted in the exhibition Art makes you powerful.  Presenting work in a variety of media created by learning-disabled people at Rowan, it explores how art has the power to develop confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing. Rowan is a Cambridge based art centre and charity where learning-disabled people can grow artistically in their abilities. On Saturday 24 October, there will be a Film launch by students from the Film and Television course’s at Cambridge Regional College. The film aims to provide an insight into Rowan’s work while promoting the benefits of the arts.

A further arts film to be shown during the Festival is Arena: night and day, which will infiltrate Cambridge in a series of pop-up locations over a 24-hour period. To celebrate their 40th anniversary, BBC arts series Arena has created this epic film experience from its archive, showing the likes of Bob Dylan, Francis Bacon, Sister Wendy, Harold Pinter, Bob Marley, T.S. Eliot and Luis Bunuel. Following this filmic inundation of Cambridge, members of the BBC Arena team will discuss the secrets of its success and the future of public service broadcasting with Cambridge University film experts.

In Likenesses, photojournalist and graphic designer Judith Aronson will be conversation with Charles Saumarez Smith, Chief Executive of the Royal Academy of Arts, about her series of powerful portraits of celebrated Cambridge academics, literary giants and others, which are currently on display in Cambridge University Library’s Entrance Hall.

Other art-related events at the Festival:

  • Correspondence will see past and present Cambridge Artworks artists brought together to find new strategies for collaborative practice and create a group show. In response the Correspondence exhibition, Collaboration focuses on artists’ film work made collaboratively.
  • Threads of life is Jenny Langley’s exhibition of silk hangings and collagraph prints inspired by the extraordinary and varied structure of proteins. Artist talk and tour on 20 Oct
  • World War I forgotten heroes  A collection of portraits taken from old World War I photographs and bought to life by a group of artists.
  • Banned books: controversy between the covers  Exploration of literary censorship since 1900.
  • The power of paper: 50 years of printmaking from Australia, Canada and South Africa Inspired by environments from the Arctic to the Australian desert, from the country and the city, this exhibition displays prints made by black and indigenous artists since the 1960s.
  • Gropius’ Impington: power and space, art and the rural This exhibition, including sculptures and video, is the result of the research artist Elena Cologni conducted as part of a residency at Impington Village College, adopting an ‘art as interface in society’ approach. This contributes to the 75th anniversary of the only British publicly-funded building by Walter Gropius.  
  • Lichen ohms seriatim This collaboration between poet Drew Milne and composer Tom Hall develops digital environmentalism through music, text, images and beacons.
  •  e-Luminate Light Lab An exhibition showcasing ground-breaking light-based technologies.

Established in 2008, Cambridge Festival of Ideas aims to fuel the public’s interest in arts, humanities and social sciences. The events, ranging from talks, debates and film screenings to exhibitions and comedy nights, are held in lecture halls, theatres, museums and galleries around Cambridge. Of the over 250 events at the Festival, most are free.

The Festival sponsors and partners are Cambridge University Press, St John’s College, Anglia Ruskin University, RAND Europe, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Cambridge Live, University of Cambridge Museums and Botanic Garden, Arts Council England, Cambridge Junction, British Science Association, Heritage Lottery Fund, Heffers, WOW Festival, Southbank Centre, Collusion, TTP Group, Goethe Institut, Index on Censorship and BBC Cambridgeshire.

This year, we are conducting a range of speaker spotlights (Q&A interviews) with a range of high-profile speakers, including Toby Smith, Rev Christina Beardsley, Professor David Runciman, Peter Hitchens, Ian Dunt, Alan Sked, and many more. These are uploaded daily: www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk/features/speaker-spotlights

Further information can also be found at: www.festivalofideas.cam.ac.uk

Facebook:  www.facebook.com/cambridgefestivalofideas    

Twitter: @camideasfest   #cfi2015


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The University of Cambridge is acknowledged as one of the world's leading higher education and research institutions. The University was instrumental in the formation of the Cambridge Network and its Vice- Chancellor, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz is also the President of the Cambridge Network.

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