Photo by Alpay Beler
I am interested in how we shape our everyday worlds and how we seek meaning and significance in the fabric of daily life and communication.
Subjects I explore in my work include machines, work, innovation, ecology, geology, class and identity. I spend time observing and enjoy the ambiguity and mystery, often capturing surreal scenarios and ambience. Lucidity is fleeting as is life with humanity seeming more precarious than ever with a climate emergency in our face; I am an increasingly conflicted petrol head.
My practice brings together experiences as artist working in the early days of video art, filmmaking, performance and TV with curating, through a process of interdisciplinary research and residency, often in collaboration with other artists and communities and at times on a large stage.
Where is my practice rooted?
I would say in my personal experience, growing up as a Bedford boy. I was born in Welwyn Garden City, one of Britain’s first new towns, and in Bedford a 'home of innovation', though increasingly interested in deep time and ecology, my place in the world becomes both more holistic and smaller.
My father, (born in Barrow in Furness, home of Vickers where the first airships were built) arrived in Bedford to work as a technician on Unilever’s electron microscope and then on synthetic flavourings and biological washing powders. Bedford had an early landscape of innovation sites such as Texas Instruments and the Concorde tests at RAF Thurleigh.
As a young man I left Bedford to become an artist, filmmaker and curator. Over time my work and my practice has expanded into film and digital arts leadership and advocacy, internationally.
In 2020, I made an exhibition at Absolute Gallery for Next Art Tainan, Taiwan's new Bienalle, this included a new film commission, Mobile Home.
After a years Covid linked delay both new commissions: Climate Emergency Services for Folkestone Triennial 2020 (now 2021), which I then drove to Glasgow for COP 26 and Airship Dreams-Escaping Gravity for Higgins Museum finally presented during the pandemic, soon to be featured at Sheffield Doc Fest.
I have found myself returning to Bedford at key moments, perhaps to get closer again to my deeper self, when I lived in Bedford, and in sight of Cardington Sheds, The Imperial Airship Program captured both our imaginations and as a child I was taken to airshows, trips to see barrage balloons and the Goodyear blimp. Bedford provided an opportunity for my family, (working class migrants from Wales and the North West), to join an aspiring middle class. In 2001 I made Donut, my first more overtly autobiographical work and now an artwork with Bedford Creative Arts investigating the cultural history of the Imperial Airship Program. It explores the impact of secrecy and exclusion on a community through a study of the history surrounding Bedford’s iconic Cardington Sheds Originally built in 1917 to house airships (lighter than air-craft) including the R101 airship which would end in tragic disaster.
I have been the Creative Director for Doncaster Creates and now ArtBomb (the third festival I have been involved in initiating along with ROOT and AND (Abandon Normal Devices) which I started when worked as CEO of FACT, Liverpool, jointly appointed as Professor of Art, Media and Curating, at Liverpool John Moores University, moving from Melbourne, as Head of Program for ACMI, Australian Centre for Moving Image.
Originally educated at the Royal College of Art, Cardiff Art College of Art and Mander College, Bedford.
Technology has featured as subject and material in the work, as far back as the late seventies working with black and white porta-pack and early U’matic video tape, adapting to digital with the advent of non-linear editing. Combining performance and video, examples of this have been featured at the Tate Modern as part of Analogue, a program charting the history of pioneering British video.
From the eighties to early nineties I was active as a producer of 16mm film, video and media art. Based at Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff, collaborating within a film and video workshop and contributing to the 1984 Miners Strike documentation, Miners Campaign Tapes and Greeting for the Cape of Good Hope, for the 1985 Anti-apartheid Campaign. I shot films on Super 8 and 16mm and hacked film projectors and CCTV camera systems.
Combining mediums and forms including expanded cinema experiments and large scale video projection in the public realm and early experiments with on-line space, I wanted to find new spaces to find new audiences.
This led to a series of short experimental works made for television. In 1995, I co-founded Metamedia, with Roland Denning, a Soho-based Production Company specialising in art, dance and music. Notable productions included: Homing, 1995, Gift, 1996 both for BBC 2/ACE (winning first prizes at Oberhausen, Graz & Osnabruk) and Resistor, 2000.
AWARDS & CAREER
Major international awards include: Golden Phoenix, Monte Negro Media Art Festival, Serbia, 2006; 1st Prize WRO Biennale, Poland 2005; Barbara London Prize for Cultural Quarter at the 2003 Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, Japan; Golden Pencil, Locarno film Festival for Sweatlodge, 1993 & 1st Prize Independent Celtic Film Festival for Contortions, 1984.
In 2004 I was awarded a Fleck Fellowship from the Banff Art Centre, Canada and made a fellow of the RSA. Honorary Professor, Liverpool University and University of Technology, Sydney.
From 2002-2007, I was Head of Exhibition Program for ACMI, (Australian Centre of Moving Image) and 1999- 2002, Senior Research Resident, Dundee Visual Research Centre. 1985-1999, Founding Director Hull Time Based Arts.
- White Noise, Stanley Kubrick and Pixar for ACMI;
- the Nam June Paik retrospective with Tate Liverpool and Kunst Palace, Dusseldorf;
- Pipilotti Rist and Sk-Interfaces at FACT as part of European Culture 2008.
Tehching Hsieh and Krzysztof Wodiczko for Liverpool Biennials, 2010 & 2012, (leading to the Veterans of War Program).
- EMARE, European Media Art Residency Exchange.
- ROOT (Running Out of Time) Festival
- AND (Abandon Normal Devices) Festival
- Initiated and Co-curated ReROOTed for Hull UK City of Culture (2017)
Ryoichi Kurokawa, Minsheng Art Museum, Strata – Rock – Dust – Stars, for York Art Gallery; UNESCO City of Media Art, UK and for MAC, Panama City & Collide Residency Program with CERN.
Artistic, curatorial and strategic advice has been shared with organisations in Cheongju, Hong Kong, Kiev, Miami, New York, Panama City, Sau Paulo, Shanghai and Taichung.
ON MIKE STUBBS
“These films turn the compulsions of obsessive pastimes into rituals that stand in for now pale forms of ritual life, private and public, religious and domestic. The actions of the protagonists of Stubbs’ films are invested with something of the incense haze of communal practices that demand a special respect, everyday life wrought as magical and meaningful. As such the films are essays in de-familiarisation, investing ordinary lives with performative significance.
And yet the films do not entirely transform their subjects, or turn the everyday into the extraordinary. The visuals are sometimes dusty and obscure, blunted by a sense of repeated action. Loops, both visual and sonic, refuse to let these selected actions escape from the “technologies of the self” that contain them whenever they are not the explicit focus of Stubbs’ gaze, and the gaze of the audience.
Stubbs’ films are touching and poignant because they reveal the way in which obsessions, enthusiasms and hobbies are used by people to enshrine the aspirations that the bare facts of life can hardly ever live up to. Stubbs’ work is marked by an understanding of aspiration, and of the individual’s relationship with his/her own dreams. Within this relationship Stubbs articulates the significance of home - a place."
Lizzie Muller 2001
Encompassing a broad range of arts and media practice, Mike Stubbs’ arts leadership, curating and advocacy has been internationally acknowledged.
Stubbs has commissioned and produced over 350 exhibition programmes including White Noise for ACMI, the Nam June Paik retrospective with Tate Liverpool and Kunst Palace, Dusseldorf, for Liverpool Bienalle, Pipilotti Rist and Sk-Interfaces at FACT as part of European Culture 2008.
He has curated Teching Hsieh and Krzysztof Wodiczko for Liverpool Bienalle 2010 and 2016. He founded AND (Abandon Normal Devices) and the ROOT (Running Out of Time) festivals. In 2017 he initiated and co-curated ReROOTed for Hull UK City of Culture. He is also the co-founder of EMARE, European Media Art Residency Exchange.
Consultancy and mentorship includes: Chairing a new International Art Prize for Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai; Curatorial Advisor to Jikji International Festival, Cheoungjiu, South Korea; Digital Revolution, Barbican, London, Advisor, Hyphen hub, New York; Curator of Crystalize, Billingsgate, UKTI/KOTRA, London; Mentor, Creative Capital, USA; Jury Member, Nam Jun Paik prize 2015; Jury member, Collide @ FACT/CERN arts residency research partnership, 2016-18. Mentor many UK artists.
Recent major programs include: Are You Working Now ? for National Taiwan Musum of Fine Art, ArtBomb Festival, Rewilding the System, Symbiosis, Nomad Clan, Yola and Static murals for Doncaster and Aurora with Invisible Flock, The Future World of Work for FACT.
"Mike Stubbs essence is:
Under the hood