MAC and Elan Links have awarded their 2023 paid artist residency to queer Birmingham-based artist Rowena Harris (they/she). This residency is an opportunity to develop a dialogue between Elan Valley and Birmingham, two locations that are profoundly linked by water supply.
Rowena Harris' practice focuses on how knowledge from disability, sick and crip perspectives, including their own, can inform methods, rhythms, structures and sensibilities for making work. Through moving image and CGI, creative non-fiction writing and discussion, sculpture and installation, they explore bio-cultural and socio-medical dynamics that flow through and affect human bodies differently. Often explored with feminist, queer and crip theory, their work is increasingly concerned with invisible disability and structures of ableism, as well as vectors of power within societal factors that shape how we feel, understand and make sense of our own bodies.
Roma Piotrowska, MAC Curator, said: “MAC is delighted to be partnering with Elan Valley for this Artist Residency exploring our relationship with the natural environment in a year our programme focuses on sustainability. We're proud to be working with Birmingham-based artist Rowena Harris, whose project will encompass the themes of remoteness and connection, and provide an alternative trail at Elan Valley focused on access and inclusivity for people with disabilities.”
Rowena Harris, Artist, said: “I applied for the residency to explore parallels between the way that Elan Valley manages water’s energy as a design for health for Birmingham since the 19th century, and the way that bodies with energy limiting disabilities also manage energy as method for health. The unique setting offers a way for me to expand my interest in crip and disability ideas and perspectives, particularly long-covid and ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis). Through exploring and developing new work that engages the environment through rest - through managing reservoirs of energy - I hope to form an intimate connection between bodies managing energy at different scales.”
Elan Links and MAC received around 60 applications in the most recent round, from a diverse range of artists based in the West Midlands area. Rowena will spend four weeks in Elan Valley and four weeks in Birmingham, building links between both locations. Rowena will show their work or work in progress at the Watershed Exhibition at MAC in autumn 2023. Curated by previous resident artist Kate Green, Watershed will show work from previous resident artists at Elan Valley.
This prestigious artist residency opportunity has been made possible thanks to National Lottery Heritage Fund, MAC, and the Elan Links project partners. This is the final year of a highly successful and creatively productive programme for the artists and communities at Elan.
Previous resident artists include Zillah Bowes, who won the National Museum Wales Purchase Prize at the National Eisteddfod this year for her landscape and portrait series shot in Elan, ‘Green Dark’.