Song for Newtown
Oriel Davies Gallery, Newtown
Artist residency 23 February - 22 April 2007
Exhibition 26 May - 7 July 2007
Song for Newtown is the latest addition to Yvonne Buchheim's Song Archive project that she began in 2003. Yvonne's initial starting point for Song Archive was a response to the 18 th century philosopher Johann G Herder's song-collection, and his theory suggesting that the cultural peculiarities of a people are reflected through singing. Yvonne's project explores the truth in Herder's theory and whether songs can define a specific place, country, culture or people. Her work looks at the connections between song and identity, singing as means of expression and way of engagement, and what the process of filming people singing reveals. It is a project that has taken Yvonne to the UK, Germany, Ireland, France, USA and Iran.
The exhibition Song for Newtown is the outcome of an artist residency initiated by Oriel Davies Gallery that Yvonne completed in spring 2007. The show is a snapshot of an exchange, a complex relationship between Yvonne, Yvonne's camera, and the people of Newtown, a relationship borne out of singing, and the recording of people singing. It is an attempt to capture how the relationship started out and to what stage it has developed. The works that make up the exhibition are displays of the interaction that took place, and the bonds created between Yvonne and the community.
The initial part to the residency in Newtown resulted in the filming of an extensive number of individual amateur singers. The process of filming was crucial. The participants were asked for spontaneous performances without preparation, creating raw honest acts of self-assuredness, embarrassment, dignity, skill, enjoyment, solidarity, and vulnerability: singing as an often private act made into unrehearsed public performance - both revealing and touching.
During the residency, the project developed further, and Yvonne began to explore people's relationships with songs in a broader context. She collected views about singing through questionnaires in Newtown's indoor market, where she ran a stall allowing people to exchange comments for cake. Some of these thoughts were then used to create an original Song for Newtown in collaboration with local composer Iris Gordijn, and the Vox Orbis choir of Llangedwyn.
Yvonne also developed a relationship with Parti Cut Lloi, a Welsh choir from the Banw Valley, who in the exhibition present a formidable reminder of the preconceived tradition of singing in Wales. This, and Yvonne's toffee table installation, made in response to her discovery of a once important, local and well-known tradition that is now almost forgotten, give framework and roots to the more disparate aspects of culture and identity.
Song for Newtown is a reflection of a growing trust and honesty created by the connections made by Yvonne with the people of Newtown and local area. It is also a reminder of the changing make up of a mid-Wales town, and its historical and contemporary distinctions. Yvonne and her camera have sparked new links, new relationships; and while their part in this will never be forgotten, what is also now exciting, is how the connections made can develop, and how the people of Newtown and Oriel Davies Gallery can become more and more acquainted.