Blog Two | Interview with artists Anna Bokström and Nina Bacos
Hello, and welcome back to my blog, if you are a new reader, welcome!
I hope you enjoyed reading the updates on my exhibition. I have had a lot of fun so far in the planning and research stages.
On other topics… over the past few weeks, I have been lucky enough to meet and work with artists Anna Bokström and Nina Bacos. Anna and Nina allowed me to gain hands-on experience helping with the installation of their new exhibition, 'The Bread Boy Of Herculaneum'. This international photography series captures images in Italy and Sweden, exploring various aspects of climate change. While on display at Dunoon Burgh Hall, the exhibition will partner with local climate groups Bullwood Nature Trail and Grow Food Dunoon to give talks that will spread awareness about the climate emergency our planet faces. You can read more about the exhibition and the events surrounding it here.
During my time helping, I was tasked with the job of applying the hanging materials to the artwork, providing a new perspective on the layout of some pieces, and ensuring the artworks were hanging straight and in a striking way. I learned so much from Anna, Nina and Jules (Dunoon Burgh Hall’s exhibition coordinator) and am very grateful for the time they allowed me.
Following this experience, I asked Anna and Nina for an interview, which you can read below.
Lily: The exhibition has an intriguing name. Can you tell us what this refers to?
Nina: A lot of the work was photographed during a residency in Italy hosted through Cultural Documents, which is actually an Argyll and Italy-based cultural organisation. The residency is hosted close to Naples, and in Naples, you have Pompei, which most people know about, but you also have a town called Herculaneum which was buried in the same eruption. The difference was that it wasn't buried in ashes, so people weren't incinerated, but it was buried in clay and mud. So that made everything very conserved so you could see a lot of things. When we went to Herculaneum, we had a guide, and when we were in the bakery, the guide told us that when they had excavated the bakery, they had found a little child huddling with bread under the table. You could even still read the insignia on the bread because, in those days, people would make their bread at home, but they didn't bake it at home, they baked it at the bakery, so there were these communal outlets and every family would have their own stamp on their bread to show which house the bread came from.
So, just before the mud covered Herculaneum, this child had been sent to get the family bread, that's what they think. And, it touched us, this story touched us.
And that Image there (points to image) was the port of herculaneum, so all these people ran to the sea, and there were boats coming from different islands to try and save people, but the mud came and buried them also, so they were found quite recently because they excavated the town, little by little.
Lily: Thank you for sharing that. Another question is, what is it that you’re trying to communicate through your work?
Anna: There are many different things that we want to communicate, but one of them is the urgency of the climate catastrophe. That we are in an emergency like they were in Herculaneum.
Nina: I think everything goes into the emergency and all of the different strands. You could say, in the sense, that we are looking at the culture of the emergency.
Lily: How is it that you came across the different locations and communities in your work?
Nina: So Deirdre MacKenna who runs Cultural Documents, knew me through the photography community in Scotland - I live in Scotland, Anna lives in Sweden. So through her, we were invited to Italy, and this was the first time we worked artistically together. We had previously published books and curated other shows with other people's work. I felt I needed Anna down there, I wanted her there. So, we went together, and after that, we felt our work was so important we wanted to continue to make it bigger, and we started to think of Sweden, to make a triangle in Europe of locations of rural places.
We found a residency on our own in Sweden in 2022, and then during that, right around when we had that exhibition in Sweden, Deidre got us this show here. Since climate change, the climate crisis or planetary emergency is the focus of our show, we think it is important that in these images, we try to cover the economy, we try to cover the culture, we cover activists, we cover growing things, we covered many things… but we feel it is really important to have a program of talks and communications with community groups while we are running the show and beyond it because we are here for the long run.
Lily: So, your exhibition will have talks and is partnering with local groups? Is this something that you have done before?
Nina: We did it in Bangkok and also in conversation in Italy. I think the understanding of the programme has grown, and our ability to generate it has grown as we have worked, we are much more convincing now than we were when we started. When we started, we were like, “Well, what are we gonna do?”. We didn't even really know that it was going to be about climate change, that is something that emerged when we started working in the house Deirdre had given us to work in.
Anna: But, also separately, we have also had these talks with people, climate conversations and coming up with strategies not connected to the artwork. I had an educational talk, talking with schools about this [climate crisis], not in the context of art.
Nina: And I had done it within art, regarding the importance of conversation, we want to, really, not that we would make a difference, but to be part of the momentum within a community to make a difference.
Lily: I have one last question, then. What do you hope to achieve and do next with your work?
Nina: Revolution… (Laughing)
Anna: Apart from that, the other thing would be for the world to be a better place, change, for things to become bigger and growing through the exhibition as well as the conversations and to build connections with people and the people in Dunoon and the people in Sweden and Italy can be connected and have a meaningful development in that sense.
Nina: We have here in Dunoon, we have already through these community organisations Bullwood Nature Trail and Grow Food Dunoon, we have also come into contact with individuals who work with these community groups or have maybe taken part in some activity, so on Monday we put in an application with a Dunoon resident to get some funding to do workshops around renewable energy. If we could come away from here in a few years, and know that there was a viable renewable energy company and that we had, had a finger in that, that would be huge.
Another thing that we were exploring was trying to collect people to develop a co-op for people who work in home care, a workers' co-op. And this will generate income for them to be able to be paid higher salaries than they are paid when they work for a franchise and much more money will be able to stay in the community rather than being dished out to the stock holding market.
-End of Interview-
So, if you share similar goals, or even if you just want to learn more about the climate crisis and different opportunities in which you can make a difference, visit Dunoon Burgh Hall before March 3rd to broaden your horizons.
I hope you enjoyed my blog and thank you for reading!