This year, a group of Cardiff students set out to photograph hundreds of ordinary people in Cardiff to
emphasize the importance of the locals in creating a city-wide identity. Quench Culture editor Amy Pay
interviewed James Cuddy, one of the project’s members, to find out about whether they achieved their
goal of creating art from everyday faces.
James Cuddy, You Are Cardiff
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Hi James! Thanks for talking to us today. Let’s start by outlining the idea of You Are Cardiff for our readers; what is it, why are you doing it and who is involved?
You Are Cardiff is a student run piece of community art, touching upon such mediums as installation art, photography and sound art. Our aim is to create multiple audio-visual spaces in which people are challenged and encouraged to think about the role we all play within a city as individuals.
The concept began whilst thinking about how the role we all play within a city. I realised how easy it is to forget that we are all the components of the places in which we live; a city is just a vast amount if individuals, each person inherently defining the city’s characteristic on an individual level. As a photographer and musical artist, I had the ambition to convey this through installation art, utilising my photography and musicianship to construct installations that convey this truth. Hopefully, it brings light each person’s existence and creates a deeper sense of belonging and community to the city.
Within the project there are five members involved with the production, distribution and creation of our art. The other members are a mixture musicians and producers whom share similar goals and aspirations for the project.
We can see from your Facebook page that the project has had a lot of interest. How have people responded?
Overall we have had a fantastic response, from both people on the streets and people online. We discovered that our audience is a varied as the city in which we live and through gathering portraits and interviews on the streets, we’ve had the most interesting and compelling conversations between old aged pensioners and all kinds of people alike.
Various photographers and the Cardiff Photography Club, have approached us about future potential collaborations, furthering the project and transforming our idea, . Recently the Cardiff Asian Society contacted us to create a piece on their Holi festival.
You Are Cardiff portraits from Holi Festival (left to right):
Yasmin Khalique and Raviina Vijayanandam
How many people do you think you have photographed for the project?
We collected over two hundred portraits of individuals in Cardiff between February and March, then managed to further this as the project developed.
It is a big task to undertake, this project. Have you face and difficulties throughout? One of our biggest challenges has been finding venues in which to exhibit our work. Many established galleries within Cardiff book up to twelve months in advance, so we’ve found gaining ground in terms of professional public exhibits a difficult task. However we have been warmly welcomed into ArcadeCardiff and Milgi’s café, which has opened our eyes in the area of community thus establishing temporary installations within public spaces and cafés.
You Are Cardiff exhibition spaces
How have you managed to overcome the public’s general reluctance to be photographed?
It is interesting that you ask. We’ve had many people walk right past us and ignore us completely, but since beginning the project we have discovered how lovely and welcoming the majority of the public are. Many individuals have been more that happy to have their picture taken and once we explain our art, their support for the project has been very encouraging. Our opinions of others have been transformed through creating You Are Cardiff. Even if our art doesn’t manage convey this to others, it has changed us for the better and softened our eyes to those around us. However if we manage to convey what we’ve learnt to the public through our art and installations, our job will be done.
Where have you exhibited the work?
Our work was showcased within The College House café on North Road and The Embassy Café on Cathays Terrace. We’ve also had a weekend launch within the Queens Arcade Shopping Centre and have had two more dates within this premise. We are also working towards future collaborations with the Modern Alchemists art group and Grassroots Cardiff. We would love for installations to start appearing in multiple venues throughout Cardiff as a fixed piece of continuous installation art.
So, for all of us wanting to see your work for ourselves, where can we go?
Quench readers can listen and watch a sample of our installations and photography on our website, www.identityinstallationcardiff.org
Brilliant. So, what’s next for You Are Cardiff?
We’ve just hit that stage of looking towards the future and development of You Are Cardiff. We’ve been very encouraged after the success of our first exhibitions and installations, so now we are thinking, ‘what’s next? What else can we do?’
We hope to continue this project, increasing our team and producing a piece of long lasting art that can continue within this city and even be implemented within our cities around the UK. We are talking with other artists about how best to do this, whilst contacting more venues and creating a general buzz that will facilitate us gaining exhibition spaces and time within public spaces.
We are additionally in the process of writing more ambient music and improving our sound design, to create even more effective installations. The ultimate aim would be to have a team of photographers working to collect as many portraits as we can. The more we collect, the more powerful our art will become. We would love to construct entire rooms for our installation, place multiple screens (8-10) within an auditory environment, one in which people can walk around within, experiencing a barrage of audio-visual stimulus. This would be our dream! Hopefully this will come to fruition in the future. For now, please support our work online, and if you see us in town, please let us take your picture!