Piotr Piasta is a filmmaker and a photographer from the Wieniawa district of Poland, who has spent the past 6 months living and working in Berwick-upon-Tweed as our artist in residence in partnership with the Centre for Rural Economy (CRE) at Newcastle University, a research centre specialising in interdisciplinary social science, researching rural development and policy, food and society, and the wellbeing of rural communities.
For this residency Berwick Visual Arts and CRE were interested in proposals from artists that responded to theme ‘Beyond the Rural Idyll’ and questioned what and who is rural, local, authentic or vernacular and that explore rural life and society beyond idyllic representations.
Piotr's artwork explores themes of history, time and memory often within a rural context and he is particularly interested in ageing within rural communities and the stories and memories of older people.His practice is particularly relevant to the themes of this residency, as an ageing rural population is a growing concern in rural areas, with social exclusion and isolation too often being part of growing old for many in the countryside.
During his residency Piotr has spent time with older people in Berwick, listening to stories about life in the town and using this to inform a series of oral history interviews with older people – many who have lived in Berwick all their life.
The resulting series of five short films combine these interviews with archive material from Berwick Record Office and new film footage of Berwick-upon-Tweed and Northumberland shot by the artist, in an attempt to interpret these stories.
While the images in the films reveal a landscape that often seems unchanged, the narrative reveals fragments of forgotten stories and traditions, skills and working lives no longer of value in today’s society.