Workshops, Talks and Lectures

Sarah Lowndes addressing visiting curators to Dialogue of Hands, Glasgow International (2012)

I often deliver public workshops, lectures and talks on matters relating to my areas of expertise, at institutions including Kettle’s Yard, Neues Museum (Nürnberg), the Scottish National Gallery, BBC Radio Norfolk, BBC Scotland, Radio Scotland, BALTIC, the Serpentine Gallery and Camden Arts Centre, amongst many others, and I have been commissioned to produce printed and online interpretation materials on contemporary art for The Space (BBC), Tate Britain, National Galleries of Scotland and the British Council.  Since moving to East Anglia in 2015, I have also delivered workshops, lectures, talks and chaired discussion events in a variety of settings for organisations including University of East Anglia, Norwich University of the Arts, Norfolk County Council Libraries and The National Trust.

Online learning, radio broadcasts and podcasts are all areas of public engagement that I have actively worked with since 2018. In recent years, I have also broadcast and recorded podcasts, live Zoom and YouTube talks for Eastern Ear / Original Projects, BBC Radio Norfolk, Waveney and Blyth Arts, Norfolk Museums Service and Assembly House, Norwich. Links to 5 YouTube lectures from 2020-2021 can be found below.

Sarah Lowndes, What Community Means Now

This 2021 talk by Sarah Lowndes draws upon her recent Explainer commissioned by the Raymond Williams Foundation to mark the 100 centenary of William’s birth. Lowndes’ text, “One Immediate Huge Voice: Raymond Williams and Community” builds upon one of Raymond Williams’ most influential and persuasive ideas – the way in which he described communities as structures of feeling that persisted, developed and were expressed through words and actions. In The Long Revolution (1961), Williams set out the case that “the process of communication is in fact the process of community: the sharing of common meanings, and thence common activities and purposes; the offering, reception and comparison of new meanings, leading to the tensions and achievements of growth and change. Lowndes’ talk will discuss the ways in which in recent times, the meanings and values of British people “were lived in real lives, in actual communities” with a focus on football supporters and the community activism inspired by the Covid-19 pandemic. These two examples will be linked together by analysis of the meaning and values attached to the song You’ll Never Walk Alone, which holds great significance as a public expression of collective identity both for Liverpool FC and Glasgow Celtic fans and more recently, for community activists involved in initiatives such as Clap for Carers and fundraising for the NHS.

Sarah Lowndes, Perforated, Coastal, Ruined, Neo-Pastoral: The Lure of ‘Peripheral Places’

Ahead of the spring 2021 paperback release of her book Contemporary Artists Working Outside the City: Creative Retreat, Sarah Lowndes analyses contemporary examples of creative communities within commutable distance of the major art centres: ‘peripheral places’ in low population density settings with affordable rents such as the former GDR metro of Leipzig, the seaside town of Hastings, England, post-industrial Detroit and neo-pastoral East Anglia. Lowndes discusses both the potential and challenges associated with ‘peripheral places’, which have drawn increased focus during the Covid-19 pandemic and increased and ongoing Working From Home practices.

Sarah Lowndes, In a Free Spot: Chris Burden and Topanga Canyon, California (1984-2015)

Throughout his career, the sculptor Chris Burden (b.1942, d.2015) consistently used his work to highlight socio-political concerns, whether using his own body or later, recycled industrial materials. In both his early performances and his mature practice, Burden investigated how things work. While in his early performances the focus of his practice was personal considerations of power, in later years he shifted his focus of enquiry to external issues of power, in works that interrogated systems of monetary value, energy use, warfare, weaponry and transportation. Chris Burden’s practice bridged a number of methods and modes of address through his life, but one underlying consistency in his body of work was his questioning of the dominant Symbolic Order specifically the dominant messages simultaneously promoted by the American government and the American mass media. He observed, “I don’t think my pieces provide answers, they just ask questions. I don’t think that’s what art is about – it doesn’t have a purpose – it’s a free spot in society where you can do anything.”

This 2020 talk focuses on the post-1984 life and work of Chris Burden, after he moved to live in the geographically remote location of Topanga Canyon. Burden’s relocation meant that he could live a more private, self-reliant and expressive life, in which his wellbeing and his creative development were enhanced by his mutually supportive relationship with sculptor Nancy Rubins, capacious studio space and the outstandingly beautiful surrounding landscape.

Sarah Lowndes, Vaster than Empires and More Slow: Derek Jarman and Prospect Cottage, Dungeness, Kent (1987-1994).

This 2020 talk is based on a chapter from Sarah Lowndes’ book ‘Contemporary Artists Working Outside the City: Creative Retreat’ which was published by Routledge in 2018. Lowndes will be reading an extract focussing on Derek Jarman, accompanied by photographs taken by Lowndes and by Howard Sooley at Prospect Cottage.

Sarah Lowndes, We are Born as Nouns Not Verbs: Agnes Martin and the New Mexico Desert (1968-2004)

The focus of this 2020 talk is minimalist painter Agnes Martin, who from 1968 onwards lived and worked alone in the deserts of New Mexico but meanwhile was represented by New York’s Pace gallery and continued to exhibit internationally.

The talk is adapted from a chapter of Sarah Lowndes’ book Contemporary Artists Working Outside the City: Creative Retreat (Routledge, 2018) which explores ways in which contemporary artists in Western Europe and America have established homesteads in remote locations, while at the same time maintaining a relationship with the networks of colleagues, curators, critics and collectors found in the major art world centers.

The title of this talk, “we are born as nouns not verbs” is a quotation from the writings of Agnes Martin, which is suggestive of many of the most interesting aspects of her life and work. Martin believed that people were born with certain potential that was specific to each individual, but that this potential would only be fully realised through “positive actions”. She said, in a 1979 conversation with her gallerist and long-time friend, Arne Glimcher, “I want to be myself and have a true life and only then can I unfold.” This talk will discuss Agnes Martin’s self-actualisation as it unfolded through three distinct developmental phases: the years of early experimentation (1940-1960), her time of making grid paintings in New York (1960-1967), and finally, a third phase, which began in 1974, when following her first major retrospective, and aged 63, Agnes Martin took up painting again in New Mexico, now turning to composition with stripes and a wider range of colours.

Sarah Lowndes performing oratory of Samantha Walton’s poem Little Eye for Brancaster on Brancaster Beach for the National Trust / Katie Paterson project First There is a Mountain (October 2019)
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