b-side is an arts organisation based on Portland, a small island in Dorset joined by a causeway to it’s larger seaside neighbour, Weymouth. We are part of the Arts Council National Portfolio. Since 2008 we have been working with and commissioning artists to make new site-responsive work revealing the marginal, often forgotten and less commercial aspects of our coastal towns and communities. We invite professional artists to make artworks in response to place: often drawing upon the history, architecture and geography of a particular site or working with communities as participants and as source of inspiration and research.
Using the island as a vantage point we work with themes and concerns that have both local and international relevance. We look beyond the island as well as within. b-side festival is held every two years to showcase the commissioned art works with research and development and partnership work continuous between festivals. The next festival is September 8th – 16th, 2018. Artworks can be found in car parks, military batteries, quarries, cafes, and along the plentiful footpaths crossing the island. We create a programme that is playful, witty and challenging emerging from conversations between artists, local specialists, producers and residents on the island.
Outpost is our project space and here we work with emerging artists and groups who may not get opportunities to show their artwork or to express themselves creatively: we have most recently worked with LGBTQ groups, artists working on personal experiences of dementia and with detainees awaiting deportation or appeals. We also host a number of Assemblies throughout the year, gatherings around themes such as Art and Activism with invited speakers and artists and members of the public participating.
Recently b-side set up the Dorset Place of Sanctuary group, part of the City of Sanctuary movement. The group comprises of over 40 arts organisations and freelance artists who lend their time and resources to enable refugees settling in Dorset to access the creative industries and to raise awareness of issues around migration and displacement in the wider rural and coastal communities of the county.
The Who Are We? project is a fantastic opportunity for us to share one of the commissions for this years festival with a wider network of partners and audiences and to invite those from other parts of the country to participate in making their own connections between notions of identity, place and home through the work of Farhad Berahman and his Kamra-e-faoree.
It’s a great pleasure for b-side to work with photographer and artist Farhad Berahman for a second time. Farhad’s work is both subtle and intimate. He uses hand made objects and in this case the kamra-e-faoree, to not only create beautiful, crafted images, but to draw audiences and participants into gentle conversation around their own notions of identity, memory and home and to broach thoughts and concerns around displacement and migration. On Portland, the rugged ecology, industrial and military heritage often determine many people’s choice to move to or remain on the island. It is not difficult to find people for whom the island is inextricably linked to their sense of themselves, whether they are from a lineage of Portlanders or newcomers who have come to the island to seek a new life or refuge. So through this project we are asking: How does place shape our identity?
What happens when we are forced to leave our home and how do we rebuild our sense of belonging? What do you take with you and what do you leave behind? Through Farhad’s commission b-side seeks to illustrate an island through its population whilst opening up conversations around identity, place and displacement. Extending the project by visiting communities participating in Who Are We?, we will build a small collection of portraits that begin to tell a story about our relationship to the places we live.