Artlands presents Bearpits and Landmines a computer game for i-phone and web. The game is a culmination of Anna Best’s yearlong Artlands residency commission, which has explored a mutable and at times seemingly tangential set of ideas and images surrounding the development and delivery of Cyclopark - Kent’s largest Olympic legacy project.
Through an initial participatory programme of multi-scaled, multi-layered events, screenings, workshops and performances, Best has encouraged an active engagement with a complex array of themes and concepts such as sustainable energy, the control of leisure time and space, utopian visions and dystopian realities within the context of regeneration projects and Gravesend itself — with its rich and often hidden subcultures. Through this 'public' programme, Best has gathered and created multiple narratives and images all of which have fed into the creation of Bearpits and Landmines, realised in collaboration with cross platform production company Mudlark.
Best's practice expands ideas one might have about the traditional role of the artist. Her work often takes place in spaces that are divorced from any association with art. Past projects have included Vauxhall Pleasure, a sound work using classical singers who were conducted by traffic lights on a major traffic gyratory. Best is a trailblazer – in 1998 she persuaded a couple to abandon their own wedding plans and let her turn their wedding into a piece of art for Tate. In fact her practice is regularly some kind of social experiment that actively involves the public. For The Photographer's Gallery, Best realised Occasional Sights — a subtle critique of the photo spectacular, the engagement agenda and a psychogeographic celebration of the personal, which encouraged you to operate as a tourist in your own backyard. This anti-guidebook takes readers to sites in London where things have been noticed that are no longer there, with content gathered by Best over the course of a year.
Deeply unorthodox subject matter and extreme locations become surreal and eloquent artworks, where Best continues to challenge audiences desire for easily digestible 'box ticking' outcomes and instead focuses on the process of producing works, which are often not easy to pin down and emphasize the subversive, the playful, and the idiosyncratic. This is very much exemplified by Best’s approach to creating the Bearpits and Landmines computer game.
Bearpits and Landmines – (the 'Bearpit' referring to the political arena for debate and the 'Landmines' serving as a metaphor for the various pitfalls and potentially explosive elements which form part of the regeneration process) is a 2D, scrolling platform game which can either by played online or on an iPhone. The gaming environment offers Best a platform to pit various manifestations of extreme bureaucracy, which governs and continues to erode our public space, against the perceived freedoms found within the virtual world of simulation. Artists are frequently invited to be part of regeneration programmes by local authorities and companies looking for a variety of outcomes – decoration, community building, or just the 'magic' that they believe artists will bring to a place. Artists are often placed in compromising situations when they accept 'regeneration commissions' – and it is this complex situation that Best examines and deconstructs within this new work. The cyclopark will create a new environment for locals — undeniably this is a good thing — but Best wants to dig deeper into the process of regeneration and to interrogate its utopian ideals.
The game has been developed very much with the spirit of Monty Python in mind. Players will inhabit the persona of a hybrid bear cyclist, riding custom-made bicycles throughout the landscape of the Cyclopark. As the riders traverse the various physical challenges inherent within the park, they will also encounter various characters, which have featured during the many performances Best has organised during the commission including a stilt walker, fire breather and an accordion player. These encounters will offer various moral decisions/questions and bureaucratic interruptions, all of which challenge the rider to keep going and to keep his energy levels (depicted as a flame) burning brightly. The overall aesthetic of Bearpits and Landmines is one of superimposition with a unique layering of photographic and animated images — echoing the super imposed landscape of the Cyclopark itself, which was previously the site of the A2, before they moved it for environmental and infrastructural reasons.
Visitors to the launch of the Cyclopark and the Bearpits and Landmines commission on 27th May will be able to play the computer game in a bespoke, pedal powered gaming environment housed in The Bearpit Yurt. This will be accompanied by choreographed bicycling performances, where cyclists will rant on various subjects from the oil industry, to the status of motherhood, austerity measures, the commercialization of parks, road signs, car dependency and Nimbyism, as they infiltrate the offical Skyride, which takes place during the launch.
Ultimately, as with many previous examples of Best's practice both The Bearpit and Bearpits and Landmines ultimately resound with many inherent questions and contradictions, which sit alongside acute, playful and poignant observations concerning human nature and our contemporary world.
Artlands is a cumulative programme of public realm contemporary art commissions which explore North Kent's identity, creating connections, encouraging innovation and responding to the unique qualities of the region – its landscapes, its heritage and its people. Artlands inaugural commissions take place throughout 2011 and 2012 and launched with the highly acclaimed Sleepers Awake by Heather and Ivan Morison at Milton Creek in Sittingbourne. In July 2012, to Artlands will open The Ecology of Colour by architectural practice Studio Weave in Dartford's Central Park.
Cyclopark is a new sports facility providing visitors with 3km of road circuit, a national standard BMX track, 6km of mountain bike trails, a skate bowl, play area and outdoor sports facility. Alongside these sporting attractions, Cyclopark offers a pavilion with café, retail space, health treatment facility, community rooms and training workshops. Located just south of Gravesend, and within easy access of the M25, A2 and Ebbsfleet International, Cyclopark is the single largest Olympic legacy project in Kent and makes a significant contribution to the continued regeneration of the Thames Gateway.
Artlands and Anna Best would like to thank the following individuals, organisations and businesses for all their help and support in the realisation of The Bearpit and Bearpit and Landmines