The Tyranny of Grammar

  • Date:
    12 March–23 April 2011

Carry Ackroyd, Phillip Allen, Nathan Barlex, Joanne Blake, Adam Burton, Gregg Cave, Lydia Corry, Graham Crowley, Stephen Dunne, Rhiannon Edwards, David Fletcher, Bettina Furnee, Sara Gilies, John Goodridge, Peter Harris, James Harrison, Lucy Harrison, Zoe Hodgson, Bibi Katholm, Ansel Krut, Simon Mathers, Alan Moore, Chris Orr, David Rayson, George Shaw, John Strutton, Neal Tait, Milly Thompson, Sam Windett, 3 Beards and more.

This festival of a project inspired by the ideas, contexts and philosophies of the poet John Clare. Northamptonshire’s peasant poet’s interests in the vernacular and the land are shared by the artists and writers featured in the Tyranny of Grammar, with work ranging from painting, drawing, print, discussion, and the disseminated work, whether spoken, broadcast, sung or printed.

John Clare was dramatically affected by enclosure, which changed forever the rural environment and communities he lived in. Adam Burton is taking this as a starting point to discuss community and nature in relation to urbanisation, forced eviction, homelessness, land-use, erosion of nature and community that is happening now all over the world Burton looks to social movements from across the globe to ask what can teach us about our situation in Britain, our seemingly atomised communities and the role of our government. For six weeks Burton is turning the Fishmarket into a place for people to meet and discuss their experiences of many of the issues encompassed by the term enclosure, to share their stories. Burton is working with people from Northampton to make flags suspended in the space and to paint emblems on the gallery walls. With them are found texts on the topics, which are available for visitors to take away with them. Burton is also running two letterpress workshops, giving visitors the chance to explore the language of slogans and to make their own posters.

Gallery 2 is becoming The Salon of the Vernacular, featuring contemporary painting and works on paper by over twenty artists selected by John Strutton. This musing on the nature of creativity could be seen as mirror to both John Clare’s arduous journey home and many of the artist’s personal and visual acts of reclamation brought together in this “Salon of the Vernacular”. The term vernacular is often used as a point of opposition to that which is seen as academic or learned. In the same way in which the body has been divided into the “Classical” or “Grotesque” canons, the vernacular is often used to describe the local, folk or more earthen endeavours of artists and craftsman.

For the artist in the Salon, landscape or place is returned to through the “detours” of myth, folklore, science fiction and personal narrative. The graphic is filtered through long lost allegiances and devotion to cultural icons of youthful protest and adoration. The figure is always particular and full of visual and stylistic idiosyncrasies, while acts of nostalgia are as much about revenge as they are sentiment. Even towering authorities such as modernism are recalled through compositions that owe as much to hand-painted shop signs as to considered geometric abstraction.

The term “Salon” could not be more at odds with many of the values one associates with the vernacular, with its allusions to the academy and elite endorsement. The clustered and random connections conjured in this collection are more akin to the makeshift memorial or ex voto wall where each individual offering and heavily accented voice becomes part of a larger and less than melodic chorus invoking the late great Malcolm McLaren mantra to “live yesterday tomorrow!”

Eeking beyond the Gallery walls is Bettina Furnee’s interactive work, ‘Mouthpiece’. Two LED word screens, one pointing out of the gallery window on Drapery, one pointing into the gallery, are broadcasting a word-association game. Visitors are invited to type their word into a laptop in the gallery, or the words can be texted by mobile phone. The chain of word associations become a portrait of the vocabulary of Northampton over the duration of the exhibition.

As well as artworks in the gallery, there are events and talks, including a talk on Clare and the land by Professor John Goodridge, chair of the John Clare Society at Northampton Central Library on 7 April at 7pm, Alan Moore will be reading from Voice of the Fire accompanied by soundscape and projections in the Fishmarket on 9 April at 7pm followed by The Peasants’ Song, a night of twisted eastern anglian experimental folk music from the 3 Beards and special guests. John Clare’s poems will pop up across Northampton throughout the festival, with readings in pertinent and unusual places – follow us on Twitter for announcements. A cabaret night will round off the festival in the Nook with poetry and music shaped by Gregg Cave and Joanne Blake.

For the full photo gallery, please visit our Flickr set.


Talk To Us, Not About Us, Adam Burton

When: Letterpress printing workshop 12th March, 9 April, 1-5pm. Informal discussions about enclosure and land rights on 18th, 26th March, 1st, 8th, 9th, 14th, 15th, 21st & 22nd April, all 12-1pm & 2-4pm
Where: The Fishmarket Gallery
Exhibition, discussions, films, texts and letterpress printing workshops

Mouthpiece, Bettina Furnee

When: 12 March-23 April 2011
Where: The Fishmarket Gallery Windows
Interactive word association. Text your one word to 07624809616 (normal mobile phone rates apply). Full list of words can be seen at here.

Carry Ackroyd

When: 12 March-23 April 2011
Where: The Nook Cafe
Exhibition of prints by the John Clare Society artist.

For the Love of Clare

Flash poetry readings of Clare’s work. Follow the twitter team for announcements

John Clare and the Land

When: 7th April 2011, 7-8pm
Where: Northampton Central Library
A talk by Professor John Goodridge, Vice President of the John Clare Society and Professor of English at Nottingham Trent University.

Voice of the Fire

When: 9th April 2011, 7-8pm
Where: The Fishmarket Gallery
A reading by Alan Moore accompanied by soundscape and projections. Tickets £5 available from The Nook Cafe, or buy online here, all proceeds to CAN.
A Fishmarket and Nook cafe co-production.

The Peasants’ Song

When: 9th April 2011
Where: The Nook Cafe
3 Beards plus special guests. Twisted, sprawling Eastern Anglian experimental folk music.
A Fishmarket and Nook co-production.

John’s Still Rambling

When: 23rd April 2011, 8:30pm
Where: The Nook Cafe
A cabaret night of poetry and music featuring Joanne Blake and Gregg Cave.
A Fishmarket and Nook cafe co-production.

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