Thursday, 13 November 2014

Piotr Piasta - Berwick Visual Arts Artist in Residence

Piotr Piasta, current Artist in Residence at Berwick Visual Arts gave a short presentation at ISIS Arts about his work and his plans for the residency.

'Piotr Piasta is a visual artist, independent filmmaker and a photographer who currently lives and works in the Wieniawa district of Poland.

His artwork explores themes of history, time and memory often within a rural context and he is particularly interested in ageing within rural communities and the stories and memories of older people in these communities.

Berwick Visual Arts residency in partnership with the CRE provides the opportunity for an artist working in any discipline to question what and who is rural, and explore rural life and society beyond idyllic representations, whilst living and working in Berwick-upon-Tweed for six months.

The Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) at Newcastle University is a research centre specialising in interdisciplinary social science, researching rural development and policy, food and society, and the wellbeing of rural communities. The centre will provide access to research staff, facilities and equipment to support Piotr in the development of his work and support the distribution and display of work that is produced during the residency period.

Upon appointment to the post Piotr said ‘I am extremely happy to be offered the residency at Berwick Visual Arts and the opportunity to work with the Centre for Rural Economy. The residency will allow me to extend my research subjects and I am excited to explore a different rural culture to my own.

I am particularly interested in ageing in rural populations and I believe that old people are living archives of the past, and their stories are like inspiring books of knowledge. During the residency I hope to share their stories and show them in a new visual form’'

He showed a few of his films in which the camera pans slowly across a number of objects that have been placed on a table. The objects are mostly historical; each film focusing on a collection of items belonging to an elderly person. These objects often relate to the person's place of work, tools, equipment and so forth. Occasionally the camera stumbles upon a more modern item, something to make the viewer question the nature of work and how society relies upon technology and how the notion of craftsmanship has been lost. The soundtrack to these films tended to be the elderly person telling their story (in Polish), and these were subtitled. I desperately want to watch the films again as my eyes were mesmerised by the beautiful footage that they could not concentrate on reading at the same time. For this reason, I enjoyed the one film that was not subtitled, purely because I could feast my eyes on the visuals, and enjoy the general sound of someone singing in their native tongue. It is not often that I feel so moved by video, and i went home thinking about how we do not value the elderly enough.

I am already planning a visit to Berwick Visual Arts to see what Piotr produces during his residency!

For more information on Piotr visit

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