Mallarmé Leads the Way

This month we’ve been focusing on the planning for October’s Frequency Festival of Digital Culture – sketching out possible sites and the artists who might suit those spaces. As always, the budgets are tight and the vision ambitious; the trick is to avoid overstretching one whilst not stifling the other. Much juggling to come!

Frequency is a strange beast; a hybrid animal made up of many partners with many needs and ambitions. Our task is to navigate the best path through all of those and to draw out the correlations, the echoes and resonances they share and then find a way to communicate that clearly to a wide range of audiences; some of whom are coming into contact with this kind of thing for the very first time.

One of the central festival principles is that Frequency should be open to all, offering something of interest and of sufficient depth for seasoned arts goers whilst also engaging the casual passer-by, the family audience and young people. We have a set of guidelines to help us choose the works, so it was heartening this week to read about Stéphane Mallarmé, the French Symbolist poet, whose own principles for C’est; an ambitious multi-sensory arts event he hoped to stage in the 1860s, echoed so strongly our own feelings about what Frequency should aspire to be;

  • C’est should be part spectacle, part educational; both showing and explaining artists’ works and present a wide range of art forms
  • It should be multi-temporal, bringing the past and present together
  • The whole should represent a constellation of ideas orbiting around a central theme that no one artform could illustrate alone
  • It should appear in multiple spaces with no single centre of significance
  • It has a message (or messages)
  • There is no hero – no one artist predominates
  • It can reveal the artifice
  • It should be viewer-centric – even participatory
  • It should represent more of a manifestation of ideas, talents, inspirations rather than an exhibition
  • No predetermined rules, grammar or syntax – it should invent its own language
  • The participants make the perspective

Our own language may be different, but we share much in common with Mallarmé’s plans for C’est. With Frequency, we have the incredible architectural landscape of Lincoln to present hybrid and digital work within. We make no distinction between local or global artists, emergent or established talent – all are promoted equally. We pool together a host of voices, artistic, institutional and curatorial, and facilitate a platform for them to action ambitions, forge partnerships and reach new audiences and try to stay in the background as much as we can. It’s about the development of new audiences; we choose work that offers spectacle and wonder for the younger ones but that is backed up with a depth of thought for those who want to delve a little further. It’s also about what happens after – the new links artists make with each other, the new commissions, the wider networks, the exhibition opportunities, the raised ambitions…

You get the picture.

Anyway, Mallarmé! Top bloke! Inspirational! I might get around to reading some of his poetry now.

 Barry Hale, meandering in the minds of Symbolist France – Jan 2015