Distance Made Good
Annabel Longbourne

Distace Made Good

'The ancients built Valdrada on the shores of a lake... Thus the traveller,
arriving, sees two cities: one erect above the lake, and the other reflected
upside down. Nothing exists or happens in the one Valdrada that the
other Valdrada does not repeat'

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, Cities & Eyes 1.

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 when mirrored.'

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' collaborative response.


Beside Ourselves, Sometimes by Kris Cohen

Walk by Annie Gerin

Satellites by Derek Hales

Distance Made Good by Annabel Longbourne

Memory Maps by Emma Posey

Distance Made Good: Installations using GPS to chart local topographies by Hamilton & Southern

Unfeasible Symmetry by Hamilton & Southern

Copyright Hamilton, Southern & St Amand 2008.
All rights reserved.

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