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As part of our 60th anniversary programme in 2021, Arnolfini invited artist Sam Francis to respond to the performance piece Somerset – A Year in the Life of a Field, by Lizzie Cox, which was shown at Arnolfini in 1981. The original piece left few traces in our archive, beyond a handful of images and a title, which seemed intriguing enough to warrant further exploration. One year on, and Francis has shown this to be very much the case through a number of text-based and image-based pieces she created through 2021.

Let the Idea Travel will focus on a new film work by Francis, ‘In here dreaming’ alongside text pieces and a handmade book created during a residency at UWE’s Bower Ashton campus (where Cox taught for many years). Experimental and elegiac, created in dialogue both with Lizzie Cox’s artwork and through connecting with people who knew her, and rooted in direct experience of a range of sites in Somerset, Francis’ work reminds us of the richness of the Land/Environmental Art movement, then and now.

In addition, alongside Francis’ work, we are presenting work by students from Weston College, who worked with her last autumn, exploring Land Art histories and practices, and reflecting on what the landscape means to them.

Michael Sims (course coordinator of the UAL Foundation Diploma, Weston College) told us about how the students responded to Sam’s project:

In response to Sam Francis’ workshops the students continued to explore their own relationships with Weston-Super-Mare. We centred the short project around notions of absence and presence, and made a series of walks from the college, along the beach as far as Birnbeck pier (with a few detours through town).  Weston occupies some interesting territory for both the students who live there, and those who travel in. It spans those liminal spaces between staying and visiting; nostalgic Victoriana and everyday realism; the absence and presence of its populace. Even our walks embodied its duality – one bright, crisp, all friendly dog walkers and optimism, the other a bleak and desolate January afternoon hunting for mugs of tea and the greasy remnants of a seaside’s finest chips.  

Piles of sand, plains of mud, discarded sausage rolls, arcade games and make-shift memorials. You can feel like a flaneur meandering through a Martin Parr photograph. The students recorded, wrote, collected, and pondered the place they occupy. 

The students whose work is being shown (on rotation) as part of Let the Idea Travel are: Shannon Hamblett, Alex Ellis, Katherine Evans, Sky Wigg, Kit Mckeown, Olivia Ephgrave, Sam Foxall, Louisa Gray, Evie Dolphin, Ellie Campbell, Olivia Beek, Jessica Oliver, Daisy Lumley, Millie Wood, Aalyiah Wareing, Kaida Jones, Rosa Saunders, Sophie Worgan, Ellie People, Jessica Rundle, Abigail Roberts, Beth Outhwaite, Poppy Hooper, Beth Jones, George Flay.


Listen to Sam Francis in conversation with Phil Owen, Arnolfini’s Archivist and Events Producer here.