The massive AV Festival of art, music and film begins this weekend with events focused on Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough.
The theme is Extraction, primarily inspired by the mining on which many North East communities are founded, but inviting a wide range of interpretations.
Taking place every two years, the AV Festival has a growing reputation for showcasing cutting edge art. This is the sixth festival and it features 11 exhibitions, 36 film screenings, 10 concerts and 11 new commissions with a special focus for each of the festival weekends.
Exhibitions open today in Newcastle at the Laing Art Gallery, the NewBridge Project Space, the Globe Gallery, the Stephenson Works and The Mining Institute.
A solo exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery features the work of Jessica Warboys including a large painting on a canvas that was submerged in the sea and then pulled across sand.
Also at the Laing is Susan Stenger’s sound installation inspired by Nicholas Wood’s 1830s diagram of the coastal geological formations from the River Tyne to the Scottish border.
At the Stephenson Works, behind Newcastle Central Station, you can dip into Chinese documentary maker Wang Bing’s 14-hour film, Crude Oil.
In minute detail it chronicles the working day of crude oil extractors in China’s remote Qinghai province, which used to be a region characterised by poverty but is now growing on the back of oil and coal mining.
The film was shot at high altitude in the Gobi Desert where working conditions are harsh.
At the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, in Sunderland, you can see Cathedral, a single screen and sound work filmed and recorded at Fingal’s Cave, a geological formation on the uninhabited island of Staffa, off the west coast of Scotland.
The sea cave, formed from basalt columns resulting from contracting and fracturing lava flow, was rediscovered in 1772 by a naturalist, Sir Joseph Banks.
It is also known as the musical cave because of the mysterious sounds that can be heard inside. Also, of course, it inspired Felix Mendelssohn to compose his concert overture, The Hebrides, also known as Fingal’s Cave.
At 6pm today at Newcastle’s Castle Keep, Japanese sound artist Akio Suzuki will give a solo performance to complement his exhibition at Globe Gallery. Tomorrow at 7pm he will perform at Baltic with fellow artist Aki Onda.
These are just a few of the attractions in a huge AV Festival programme which embraces most of the region’s major venues and a few surprising places.
The festival runs throughout March. For the full festival programme go to www.avfestival.co.uk