Spanning twelve days in October, Cupar Arts Festival’s main programme has a focus on visual art projects which form a trail of artworks and events in unused buildings and interior and exterior spaces in and around Cupar by leading and emerging artists from Scotland and beyond. This year was the fourth festival, previous editions having taken place in 2008, 2009 and then in 2011. Artworks and events were to be found at a number of historic venues and buildings around the centre of town including churches, county buildings, medieval closes, vacant shops, the park, and railway station. Several locations on the periphery of the town included the local national trust property and grounds, a nearby country estate, and a former grain silo.
The main visual arts programme is also complimented by music events, workshops, talks and family events. Research has shown that people, who are less interested in art and to whom artworks and events can be regarded as just a part of the enjoyable experience of visiting some of those historical buildings and sites, have become interested and engaged with the work they have discovered there, with the festival at the same time providing something of great interest conceptually and intellectually for visual arts audiences from Fife and beyond. Cupar Arts is supported by a broad range of local partners which help to make this possible. Cupar Arts recorded recorded audiences of approximately 12,000 in 2013, continuing to build upon previous events (10,000 approx. in 2011). Audience research demonstrates that the public profile and appreciation of the festival continues to improve nationally year upon year with increased awareness benefitting the participating artists, the local economy and perception of the town. In 2013, many people stated that they still could not believe that ‘something of this calibre’ was taking place in Cupar, with others saying that they thought it was a fantastic event for Fife and for raising awareness of and engagement with the arts in Scotland.
A man dressed as a pig and sought out by townspeople and festival visitors, historic buildings flooded with video projections of people being immersed in water, beautifully detailed drawings of mythological creatures lurking on the walls of medieval closes, and handwriting cut into the grass in the town’s park. These were just some of the exciting artworks and performative visual art events which were developed in response to the theme of “fate”, which underpinned the 2013 Cupar Arts Festival programme. Now in its fourth year, the biannual festival programme is developed from an international call for project submissions along with invited guest artists, as well as including a host of musicians, poets and an educational programme. Some project highlights included:
In the weeks prior to the festival, Anthony Schrag ran a number of workshops in the town with
the local Scout group, schoolchildren and youth groups. Discussions also took place with people involved in preserving Cupar’s heritage, the police, and those working in the legal sector. Talks and activities all centred around one key issue: After centuries as a judicial town, what did it mean for Cupar to be losing its Sherriff Court next year? Anthony’s time in Cupar culminated in an event, ‘Pigheaded Cupar Justice’
(the title taken from an old Scots saying referencing Cupar pigrheadedness), which involved a presentation at the festival hub on the second Sunday of the festival, followed by an exhilerating hide and seek event around the town’s streets. Anthony was finally captured by a group of local children, who, after throwing him in the river for good measure, took part in a discussion event about justice and fairness.
For the 2013 Cupar Arts Festival, guest artist Pernille Spence developed an installation in the town’s historic Corn Exchange building, which incorporated a performance based on personal accounts, texts and poetry from those who have experienced the loss of freedom and influence over their own fate through circumstances beyond their control. The performance was repeated continuously throughout both weekends of the festival. Restrictions were placed on the performer causing the pace of the performance to change as exhaustion set in, with visitors led blindfolded to the room where the performance took place, before festival volunteers removed their masks. Pernille’s work often explores a visual dialogue between the human body, movement and space and the body’s physical/psychological limits and constraints within these parameters.
Jenny Smith’s site specific work, “What is the most important decision you have made?” was
developed through a series of workshops with children at Cupar’s Castlehill Primary School.
Collecting their written replies to the question in order to form the basis of the work, she created a large-scale wooden stencil of the children’s handwriting which was then used to cut a text-based artwork into the grass in the local park, an undertaking which the children were involved in. Photographs and sections of the stencil were then used to make displays in the windows of two local shops. The artwork can still be viewed in the park for the time being.
Jacqueline Bulnes & PierGiuseppe DiTanno with Panini 2 Life
This group of visiting artists from Italy created a series of evocative and memorable performances at the town’s railway station. With captivating storytelling through dance and movement, accompanied by a haunting soundtrack, the four performers captured the imagination of festival visitors, passengers and the local community with many people caught by surprise as they arrived at the station or disembarked from a train to find the platforms and waiting areas transformed.
A full list of participating artists can be found here