built Valdrada on the shores of a lake... Thus the traveller,
arriving, sees two cities: one erect above the lake, and the other
upside down. Nothing exists or happens in the one Valdrada that
other Valdrada does not repeat'
Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, Cities &
Thousands of miles away from Shakespeare's birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon
lies its sister city Stratford Ontario, Canada. Like the twin towns
of Valdrada, the Stratfords share many physical similarities - a
River Avon, three international theatres, historic buildings and
flocks of white swans are intrinsic to both locations. Therefore
the visitor walking in one Stratford risks experiencing dislocation
and unease at references to the other. The donation of a portrait
of a William Shakespeare to a Canadian settlement in 1832 motivated
an appropriation of the name Stratford, and later the identity,
of its English role model. It is perhaps not surprising that settlers
in a newly colonised country would choose a culturally important
location in their mother country as the namesake for their new town.
Today Stratford Ontario exists as a simulacrum of its sister, the
town's streets, parks, pubs and schools bear Shakespearean characters'
names in a Disney Land reality; seeming superficially even more
Stratford than Stratford-upon-Avon. However, although Stratford-upon-Avon
in colonial arrogance claims to be the genuine article, it too is
guilty of artificially manipulating and exaggerating its historic
significance - after all recent research has challenged whether
the Shakespeare ever inhabited the town. Both Stratfords optimise
their tourist appeal; like two stage sets they fabricate, to a greater
or lesser extent, historical value that has more to do with creating
'Stratfordness' than referencing Shakespeare's birthplace. The twin
towns exploit this British icon's legacy: Stratford Ontario using
its annual Shakespeare Festival: Stratford-upon-Avon its few remaining
timber dwellings to transform otherwise unexceptional towns into
international, cultural centres. Although Stratford Ontario did
initially steal its name and inspiration from its counterpart, it
is now surely just as valid a Stratford as Stratford-upon-Avon?
It seems true of Stratford-upon-Avon as it is Valdrada that 'at
times the mirror increase a thing's value, at times denies it. Not
everything that seems valuable above the mirror maintains it force
In conjunction with the Commonwealth Games, Manchester 2002, The
Gallery hosts an exhibition exploring the relationship between Stratford-upon-Avon
and one of is five siblings around the world Stratford, Ontario.
In recognition of the Commonwealth values of friendship and inclusion,
Distance Made Good unites two places, historically bound, yet existing
and evolving in parallel. Artists Jen Hamilton (Canadian) and Jen
Southern [British] interact with the towns and their inhabitants,
to create installations via GPS (Global Positioning Systems) that
consider the relationship between 'location' and 'place'. The Gallery
would like to thank the artists for their immense energy and commitment
to this project. Our gratitude extends too to Emma Posey for her
insightful essay Memory Maps which explores in depth the artists'