British Council Creative Economy

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9 January 2014

In Focus: Site Gallery

Natasha Chubbuck talks about Site Gallery, Sheffield’s leading international contemporary art space and one of the UK's associate partners in Watershed's Recife: The Playable City programme.

©Site Gallery

Site started life as an independent photography gallery in the Walkley area of Sheffield in 1978. Since 1995, it has expanded its program to incorporate new and experimental digital and multimedia work alongside traditional image production. Site Gallery was a flagship project in Sheffield’s Cultural Industries Quarter, developed in the late 1990s and has been based here since then.

Site Gallery’s exhibition programme maintains a commitment to show both national and international work, maintaining a balance between photography, installation, electronic media and film & video. Its programme has gained significant recognition as a leader in the field of commissioning work, premiering new work or artists who have never exhibited in the UK.

Site Gallery pioneers emerging art practices and ideas, inspiring new thinking and debate through a fast-paced exhibition programme, artist-led participation and offsite commissions programme, in partnership with local, regional and international collaborators. With a recognised expertise in artists innovating with new technologies, Site plays a leadership role in Yorkshire and across the UK in the development of contemporary art.

©Site Gallery

The Magic Know How - Laura Buckley

As well as gallery-based exhibitions Site regularly commissions work for the gallery’s projection window and realizes ambitious off-site & online projects. Site also acts as host for a number of international artists’ residencies and also supports the dynamic field of live art.

These activities are contextualised by a programme of talks, events and education projects and internationally distributed publications aimed at developing a critical discourse around contemporary art practice.

Site and the digital + culture debate
'For many years, the gallery has supported innovation between artists and creative technology. From supporting new commissions such as an early augmented technology exhibition with Sarah Staton and Chris Hodson who generated an exhibition of real and virtual reality sculptures to present internet art pioneers In 2012, Site staged the first UK solo-show in a decade of early media pioneer Ernest Edmonds and brought together the leading voices from the late 1960s and 70s from across Europe and America to discuss how technology has changed the cultural landscape.

This ongoing interest has led the Site Gallery to drive key areas of work, such as being the leading agency of Happenstance, a national digital innovation pilot project which embedded technologists into small-scale arts organisations in order to produce new ways of working with technology. As part of the NESTA,Arts Council England andAHRCDigital R&D Fund for the Arts’, Happenstance created six residencies at three of the UK’s most vibrant and exciting arts organisations:Site Gallery in Sheffield, Lighthouse in Brighton and Spike Island in Bristol; placing pairs of technologists on 12-week residencies for a period of collaborative working and co-creation. The pilot was produced by Caper, with the University of Warwick as a research partner.

©Site Gallery

One cultural urban intervention which inspires them: 'Site is inspired by a huge amount of work across the world, not just in visual arts, but also in the world of interactive theatre, dance and performance. The work of the Eyebeam in New York is a constant reference point with small interventionist projects that they have developed in the public realm being so insidious and beautiful through to the large-scale interactive work of the pan-European interactive Urban Screens projects. Closer to home, the large scale events of music agencies such as WARP working with artists and film-makers in interesting locations to create one-off experiential events is particularly of interest.'

Brazil and Recife: The Playable City: 'Site is interested in the opportunity to connect with artists, producers and makers from different cultures and contexts. Site has not as of yet connected much with Brazil so this is a fantastic opportunity to expand their field of interest and reference.'

Natasha Chubbuck is an Associate Producer at Site Gallery and one of the UK producers participating in Recife: The Playable City.