’Be Interesting‘ is written in chalk on a college wall and captured in a large photograph here at O3 gallery. It‘s a tall order in the May heat wave. A low berth caravan is perched in the castle grounds, ironically on the spot Edmund Ironside is thought to have been skewered by a red hot poker in 1016 hence scuppering his bid to be king. The caravan is full of peculiar reminiscences of Oxford so unlike Edmund‘s bid to be king, my mission to be interesting seems quite possible.
A video is playing in O3 gallery, representing a vox pop of what Oxonians feel about their city. This is a diverse account, exclaiming ’no one has an accent‘ and later ’no one knows each other any more‘. A young girl on a market stall expounds the virtues of the castle we are standing in, making this a lovely site-specific piece of art.
The enlarged photographs on the walls are prepared and curated by Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale. They are full of wit, for example a cleaner‘s mop and bucket in modern red plastic sits outside the now luxury cell doors of the Malmaison hotel that was once a prison with a reputedly grim slopping out regime. The honesty of Oxonians spills out from the huge interactive map of Oxford that is being drawn on by visitors using multicoloured pens. Locations of first kisses and other milestones are anonymously felt-tipped onto hand drawn street maps.
A glass cabinet contains the wafer thin ceramic pieces by Crabby Taylor. They are fired with a colour tone that spans from mucky earthy brown to electric pewter grey; the colours are variegated in one easy going fell swoop. This technique of achieving such a phenomenal diversity of hues from one glaze may be down to Taylor‘s commitment of firing the clay at 1000 degrees Celsius in an old dustbin. This effort pays off with each piece looking unquestionably unique and being satisfying to admire.
As the ceramics are viewed, in the background plays the video of the locals being interviewed on their impressions of Oxford. The ideas being described prove as refreshing and honest as the whole exhibition is. One lady exclaims wholeheartedly ’I like Summertown!‘