Over the past week the wooden structure complete with viewing platform looking onto a central stage or as Grizedale Arts are calling it – 'arena' - has hosted a variety of sublime and absurdist artists events. From William Pope L's tomato fights to a dissection of a curator-cadavar-cake by artist Bedwr Williams, and my personal favourite, a 'vermin dinner' prepared by Sam Clark of Moro restaurant who served Canada Goose (listed on the table menu as 'shit swan') amongst other flora and fauna often regarded as pesky and exterminated rather than utilised. The Colosseum hosts a produce market and a daily printed leaflet. I caught up with Alistair Hudson, far from his lake district village in the booths of Frieze to learn more on the complexities of the project and practice...
Dazed Digital: Explain the Colosseum to us?
Alistair Hudson: The Colosseum of the Consumed is designed by the Yangjiang group and is a prototype for a new cricket pavilion for our village. We have an International programme of curated projects but we also do a lot on our own turf and in our own village [in the 'middle of nowhere'] where we live and work as citizens, and that provides the nourishment for the wider projects and the curated artists programme as well.
The village needed a new cricket pavilion and asked if we would help and we said yes - but why don't we make it more interesting and make it help sustain the cricket club in a financial way? So we've been working with artists and architects to come up with a new pavilion that outside of cricket season can become a groovy architecture holiday let because the club is in a amazing setting with mountains. So this building is the Yangjiang's contribution to that development process. It's a multi-use building for socialising, eating, drinking, watching sport, retail - everything.
We got asked by Frieze to do a project about food, so we thought it would be really nice to use the pavilion structure as an arena to convey our ideas rather than just doing a boring stand. Then we've animated it with other artists projects around food. The way we work is we have lots of artists lots of projects going on in different places and countries and all our work in the village and it coalesces together and brings the whole movement and idea of what we do into one place where it can have an impact and be effective. We have this idea that art should be useful and not just an object of contemplation.
DD: How is that played out at Frieze?
Alistair Hudson: The art world is fairly uncomfortable with the idea, but it is gaining credence. At the moment we're working on a project with seven European museums about this idea of re-introducing the use of 'value' back into art - it existed until about 1848. The idea that art is useful and a tool, it's not an object of contemplation; frescoes in churches, or going way back or shamans in villages - or the village idiot - or the arts and crafts movement or decoration. Subsequently, if you think about the use of art, it's to do with things like power. So if you think of people in an art fair like this people know how to use art really well. They use it to give themselves power, display themselves and that allows them to make money. What we're saying is art needs to work on a daily habitual basis for everybody in an ordinary way as part of ordinary every day life. That's where the food analogy comes in, the idea that you use art to like food. You can have high art food or a bottle of apple juice from an apple.
DD: How did the project develop?
Alistair Hudson: This is a tamer version of the initial idea - we had rules like don't offend anyone don't annoy the neighbours, don't make any smells – but rules are there for breaking and I think we've broken just about all of those. The idea is also that it's making money. We're selling all these things and 20% of the produce sold goes toward the new cricket pavilion. That's what we want to demonstrate – this isn't an installation it's part of the wider mechanism that has effect on the world. All the produce has been made by people in our village all about food. We've banned everybody from selling art on our stand.
DD: How does the project sit within the context of a fair which is largely about objects for contemplation and consumption?
Alistair Hudson: This is clearly a counter to a lot of assumptions people make about the art world. It's not like we're trying to say 'that's bad this is good', it's just to remember there's another function for art other than making luxury goods for rich people, this is ordinary art for ordinary people.