Andrew Williams is Director at The LEVEL Centre, a contemporary arts space located in rural Derbyshire that provides gallery spaces for installations, performances and events, and produces ground breaking arts projects with learning disabled people, providing fully accessible creative spaces together with the resources to produce high quality, inspirational new work. Andrew is a performer, composer and multi media artist. He has been Director at LEVEL for since 2015.
How did you come to curating?
Curating is not really a word we use at LEVEL as our backgrounds mainly lie within performing arts, composition and time based structures which all use different terms for programming or creating new work. For example, my background is as a composer and started with a mix of orchestral, live electronics and electro-acoustic works for performances. Over the years more work became realised as installations, starting with multi speaker systems and slowly incorporating physical objects, video, movement and on occasion interactive elements. This work has then been installed in a variety of spaces and new work commissioned for specific spaces. The programme at LEVEL very much works like this – we have a bespoke, architect designed building which houses our work together with a programme of work by artists interested in developing work and ideas that can (in some way) engage people with complex needs and profound multiple learning disabilities. As a result we have a wide programme including dance/live art events, multi media installations, sound/electro acoustic works, visual art and interactive work. These are often multi modal but some are developed to explore a single sense. LEVEL needs to discover and create work that can directly communicate, stimulate and engage people with complex needs. As a result we have an on-going process that involves a mix of research and development, artist development, residencies and commissions. It is not underpinned by a single specific artistic concept but a wider notion of exploring ideas around ‘the art that difference makes’ and art that can be engaging without requiring conceptual understanding. This provides many possibilities and allows us to experiment with form and content.
Over the past three years LEVEL has demonstrated that this work can attract a wide audience and is relevant to all sectors of our society. LEVEL is not a normal public gallery/space and our rural location means that our audience often has a significant journey to visit. As a result we invite people to LEVEL at specific times and provide tailored facilitated tours for groups. Each of these is aimed at specific audiences and varies depending upon the nature of the work. This allows us to present work to a wide range of people from those with complex needs to PhD students and our programme reflects this.
What’s happening behind the scenes at the moment at LEVEL?
We are currently running and developing the facilitated tours for our SURFACE installation together with several exciting R&D process for future work. Our gallery space is at present a workshop space for building a performance and video installation POD that will tour from February 2020. It is a folding structure comprising three projection screens and a roof that creates a space in which the light can be controlled in any venue. We are all finding this an exciting development for LEVEL as it will allow us to take our interactive installations and performances to people who cannot visit us and provide an environment where the work can have the same quality as within our gallery. Initially it will provide the environment for SENSE – a sensory performance and video installation, but it has so many possibilities to be able to extend our work in the future. Our current R&D projects include: exploring how to create a touring work using smell: a series of installations based upon body image, identity and perceptions of sexuality for those in care and a new process for transforming sound within a 10 speaker system. Each of these is a response to questions we have asked over the past year that we would like to explore further. Some of the results of these are proving to be very interesting and some challenging and this is the kind of space we all seem to like.
Who are the artists and/or partners that you’re working with at the moment?
We are working with a range of artists at the moment to create new work for the programme in 2020. Our installation programme will include work created by, Toby Heys, Kuflex, and Martyn Stonehouse. Toby is developing a site specific installation based around sound at the edge of perception and the (potentially) mythical use of noise by governments to disrupt information. Kuflex are Moscow based and we are hoping to bring a 4 screen version of their work Quantum Space to LEVEL in April 2020. Martyn is working on a new three screen interactive work using the Unreal engine (gaming software) in collaboration with LEVEL. This work will involve the full team at LEVEL and will be launched in May 2020.
Tell us about your current exhibition or upcoming exhibition or project.
Our current installation is entitled SURFACE. It is an ephemeral light environment in which people are invited to explore projected sculptural forms within an immersive audio-visual installation. The room is filled with haze and mist, allowing light to create evolving 3D sculptures that fill the space. SURFACE creates cloud-like surfaces you can clearly see, pass through but not touch.
How do you select the artists you work with?
We usually search for specific types of work for each project and then select the artists that interest us from this list. We have also had very successful open calls that allow people we do not find to find us. A really good example is Will Hurt, whose work, Abstract Playground was commissioned after an open call. However it is key that everybody working at LEVEL has an understanding and willingness to engage with our philosophy and our R&D processes and as a result we always invite artists to the centre to explore what we do. In the case of international artists we have to make do with virtual tours and a lot of talking.
What dates should we put in our calendars?
SURFACE – Public Event is on the Friday 6th of December. This will comprise the SURFACE installations together with a series of live performances within the environment. Groups can book in for Facilitated tours during October, November and December.
What or who are you really excited about?
We are all looking forward to the possibility of working with Kuflex in Moscow. From their point of view we are a very different type of partner and will extend and challenge their installation. From our point of view their work will considerably develop our programme of interactive artworks. It has the potential for being a very exciting collaboration that may add to the creative voice of the Midlands.
What do we need to see more of in the East Midlands?
More really interesting work.
Andrew was interviewed in October 2019.