Helicopter Art: 'Another Hurling of the Silver Ball.' Allard van Hoorn Sat 22 June 2019 St.Ives
Allard van Hoorn was chosen by Tate St.Ives to come and make a performance work around the town.
The practice of bringing in artists from elsewhere to seize on some, usually obvious and well known aspect of a place and develop work based on it is sometimes refered to as 'helicopter art'
Earlier in the year Anna Boudighuan had been to the town, seized on tin mining and Virginia Woolf and produced installations on these themes. A symposium in Redruth had recently discussed the phenomenon, it's curious characteristics, difficulties and absurdities.
Now a Dutch artist who nomadically makes presumably his living and his reputation by these means came to St.Ives Archive Centre and in one afternoon read about the town's two hundred year old ceremony of the mayor throwing a small silver ball,
smaller than a cricket ball, for which the children of the place scramble, returning it in the grasp of a small toddler to claim a prize before the Mayor and Town Councillors throw pennies to the assembled crowd.
Way back this somehow developed from the hurling games that occurr in other towns.
As I think GK Chesterton said, a tradition is something that happens but no one can remember why.
So van Hoorn decided to make a vastly larger ball
and in June rather than February, to organise it's rolling around the town from the community orchard and skate park to the recreation field, through the graveyard and the narrow streets, across the beach and to the outdoor rotunda of the Tate St.Ives, where his sound composition was broadcast and can now be heard faintly from loud speakers.
He involved community organisations to help with this physically rather than to conceive the plans. The ball was not manufactured locally but imported from China. Local musicians, disguised in the folk tradition, 'guised' under net curtain veils, played a traditional tune and children were organised in a serpentine dance which others then joined in. However, this music was not recorded in the film made by Alban Roinard, who lives in St.Ives, partly using drones, which forms the subsequent display in the gallery. Rather than this van Hoorn made a background of repetitive sound recorded and manipulated on his digital equipment. The video is projected at large size for 20 minutes and the small silver ball belonging to the town is exhibited in a vitrine. However there is absolutely no explanation of what the whole caboodle is about, which a friend I showed around brought home to me is to leave a visitor to the gallery who has no knowledgeable guide with them completely baffled.
My first reaction to the project was that these things are fairly ridiculous and rather than arising from the community are imposed on it for the greater glory of the visiting artist and Tate. It made an interesting record of what the town and people looked like in June 2019.
Then, when I attended part of the event I enjoyed it along with a lot of other locals who alerted by leaflets and publicity came out to watch or join in. It made a memorable day although I would say that anything happening in the street that gave occasion to meeting others and enjoying a pleasant sunny day would have been enjoyed equally. No one at the time I was watching knew why the musicians were veiled. Was it a reference to Muslim culture and burkhas I joked impudently?
Of the video work people have asked if it is the work of Alban Roinard or of Allard van Hoorn? I heard a visitor say no one who wasn't living here would be bothered to watch the whole thing, which people like to do to spot friends or themselves having a brief moment of screen time.
I can't classify this as art involving the community, rather it uses them and entertains numbers of them.
It cost a lot it is rumoured in insurance and I have been told will not be repeated.
I felt the urge to kidnap the big ball, claim it for the town and roll it next year without permissions, guards and gloved attendants , spontaneously and subversively.
It's an example of art being organised to provide spectacle but devoid of readily grasped meaning. Greater examination of the event I do not believe will reveal more significance.
Artists are encouraged to spend a lot of time applying for grants or prizes or commissions that require them to move around, like mad tourists glimpsing shots of local culture as light entertainment and responding by manufacturing something rather quickly which is superficial.
I wrote to the local Echo newspaper and volunteered to go to Holland and make something on a theme of tulips or go to Egypt to give a quick reaction to the pyramids.