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Mission Improbable: art and music experiments at Wysing Arts Centre

  • Date: 20 September 2010
  • Area: National, South East
'Be Glad for the Song Has No End', festival poster, 2010

'Be Glad for the Song Has No End', festival poster, 2010.

There was a celebration of innovation and creative risk-taking at Wysing Arts Centre in Cambridgeshire this summer as it held its first ever International Camp for Improbable Thinking.

The three-month programme of artists' residencies, projects, events and exhibitions explored the unconventional or improbable thinking that is fundamental to so much artistic endeavour. An alternative to the residency model, seven artists from around the world and across the UK came to the camp to work in an environment that would 'give space for the unseen and unexpected'.

Brazilian artist Fabiano Marques created a film about learning to fly a glider at Cambridge Gliding Club; Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams investigated farming subcultures by connecting with local farmers and craftsmen; and Canadian artist Julie Myers worked with a local singing group.

In June, more than 250 visitors took part in eight one-day events held each weekend bringing together artists, cultural practitioners, scientists and members of the local community. A range of activities at these weekend camps included film screenings by curator and critic Lars Bang Larsen on the theme of psychedelia, games exploring improbability, risk and uncertainty by Professor David Spiegelhalter from the University of Cambridge, and a screening of Professor Nicky Clayton's film Bird Tango, exploring Darwin's theories on evolution.

More than 500 visitors came to Wysing for an open weekend in July, to see the site and experience work developed during the camp.

The camp ended on a musical high note on 11 September with Be Glad For The Song Has No End - A Festival of Artists' Music. This outdoor music festival, featuring artists' bands and artists' music projects, was the first of its kind in the UK, organised by Bedford-based artist/musician Andy Holden. Holden also created a giant boulder sculpture at Wysing to form the main stage for the festival. Artists performing including Martin Creed and Bob and Roberta Smith.

All artistic work developed at the camp will be brought to a wider audience through a major event in January 2011. The Cambridge Conflab is an alternative conference and exhibition event that will mark the culmination of the year of improbable projects and launch the new programme for 2011; when Wysing will become The Institute of Beyond.

Donna Lynas, Director of Wysing Arts Centre, said: 'It has been wonderful for Wysing to have the opportunity to experiment with the residency model through our international camp, funded by Arts Council England.

'Having all the artists here at the same time, with no prescribed outcomes, offered a different and more intense dynamic than we have been used to. To round the summer off with an amazing festival of music was fantastic and a fitting end to a truly creative moment.'