A new ACA project - Call Centre an experimental  response to COVID-19 - visit the blog

Thanks to the Arts Council England Emergency Response Fund ACA will be resuming work with a research project. We are excited to announce a very new kind of project for ACA with our artists in residence staying at home. Join our Facebook group here and share your experiences. 

A research project led by satellite artists that invites people to share thoughts and experiences of this time of COVID-19 and how it has impacted on their lives and creative processes.

The project will engage regional, national and international contributors from contrasting rural and urban areas. From their outposts the satellites will focus their research on a variety of themes including; home, travel,  trust, fragility, confinement, politics, the domestic and motherhood.​


The selected artists are Ben Ponton, Martyn Hudson Watts (project writer), Tracey Warr, Annie Carpenter, Andrew Wilson, Helmut Lemke and Kerry Morrison. The artists working from their homes will select three additional contributors who will inform the project content.

Alan Smith and Helen Ratcliffe will work from the Call Centre hub at based at ACA Schoolhouse.

Join our Call Centre Facebook Group 

Introducing Paul Strikker

We speak to Paul, He is in his flat in Berlin.

It’s hot there / in Paul’s’ Flat in Berlin.


Paul is a rethinking economist.

We invited Paul to enter into a discourse with us and to share thoughts because we believe that his insight into contemporary economics and his experience of the Corona virus Covid19 measures in Germany will add an aspect to our endeavour that we, otherwise would not have access to.

He is currently working for the German Advisory Board on Global Change. Here he is focusing on the question if and if how to value nature and the drivers of zoonotic diseases as for example and motivated by Covid-19. His own economic research has been about the altruistic motivation of remittances (payments of migrants to their countries of origin) and how they can be channelled and supported by countries of the global north for the development of the global south.


Berlins social distances measures are completely relaxed, now – however there are regional, very serious outbreaks of Covid 19 in Germany. One of the worst happens just now in a meat-processing factory in East Westphalia (the region where Paul and I - Helmut are from). There, 1600 employees out of 7000 are infected and the whole city is closed down.

Latest news in one of the UK tabloids is that ‘the R factor’ in Germany has risen to above 2. Of course, that’s nonsense, just as in any other country there are very strong regional differences.


Bars are open, so are pubs and restaurants – but

Bars aren’t fun – nobody is excited of being there.


Our first skype meeting meanders.

Who is expecting what from whom for the benefit of the Call centre.

We immediately gain insight from Paul’s different knowledge to ours:

He introduces us to innovative models that cities worldwide introduce to tackle issues evolving from the corona virus pandemic. One example is the 'doughnut economy’ model that Amsterdam will introduce.

Another, the effort that cities make in creating more bicycle friendly urban areas


Globally this is the first time in decades that human health is the reason for economical measures, as was mentioned by Dr. Maria Neira who Paul just came across in the ‘COVID-19 Forestry Webinar Week’.


Background noises interfere with our conversation - either someone is listening in or one of Paul’s flatmates is making a bench in his underpants – it is hot in Berlin.

The conversations shifts to Bubbles, Paul is interested to tap into other bubbles than those he is part of. He is not aware of the topical implications of “BUBBLES in the UK.


in search of a label what we and our contact are we agree “WE ARE A BUBBLE” ;

the Chumpon, Helmut, Kerry. Paul & Suzi Bubble

Connections and similarities become evident between Chumpon, us, Paul and Suzi.

We will investigate further

How exciting!


We will speak maybe every week – maybe the whole bubble should have a zoom call – Paul will send links, all the economic stuff he tells us is too much to comprehend in one short afternoon Skype meeting.


It is still hot in Berlin - Paul is off to the Ploetzensee now for a swim.

we look out / rain pouring down

Annie Carpenter. Introduction to Katherine Akey.

Katherine was my cabin mate on the tall ship that sailed around the fjords of Svalbard for the Arctic Circle Residency in 2015. I invited her to be part of this project as her work often references the big stuff - WWI, polar exploration and early aviation. These themes are seemingly so far from the enforced domestication we currently find ourselves in, I was intrigued by how she might respond to the Call Centre project. With babies born within weeks of each other, Katherine also acts as my equivalent across the pond. I'm keen to compare notes on being a new Mother and artist in this strange situation we all find ourselves in.


This is what Katherine has to say about herself and her current situation:


This was going to be my year.


When I first moved to DC in 2016, I left behind a decade’s worth of community in Manhattan. The smaller city provided me a wealth of opportunity that I could not have accessed if I’d stayed at home in New York -- the supersaturation of artists there was prohibitively daunting for me as a newly minted MFA (from the International Center of Photography). In fact, one of the first pieces of advice given to us when we first started the graduate program was this: if you’re serious about having a robust art practice, leave New York, its expense and competition and intensity, behind. Find a quiet place where you can afford to make work.


And I really meant to follow through. I really meant to leave the city and set aside a chunk of my time, a chunk of my space, a chunk of my mental load for my art work. I had participated in a residency, my first (the Arctic Circle Residency), right after graduating. But life has a way of taking over; opportunities kept cropping up, and I kept saying yes. DC only has one active public darkroom, and I just happened to move to the city when they needed a new photography department chair to run the space and the associated programming (so of course I told Capitol Hill Arts Workshop yes). I volunteered at the WW1 Centennial Commission upon moving to the district and they ended up hiring me to produce a weekly podcast (WW1 Centennial News).


Winter 2017 saw my first solo show in the city (at IA&A at Hillyer) and by Summer 2018 a second (at the Fisher Art Gallery, Northern Virginia Community College). A high school friend forwarded me a fellowship opportunity related to WW1, knowing that I had a longstanding passion for the subject. I applied, and spent 2017 to 2018 as a fellow with The Living Legacy of World War One at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs. I was invited to be a guest speaker at the Corcoran School of Art and Design at GWU-- and then to adjunct, and then to take on a two year appointment as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Photography beginning in 2018.


And so, we arrive to 2020 (did I mention that I also got married and had a baby that arrived in the fall of 2019?) The centennial of WW1 is over, and so are the weekly podcasts. My workload at GWU has been reduced back to that of an adjunct. The research fellowship concluded with a publication and a public lecture. The darkroom and its associated programming chug along at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop. And I finally said to myself that in 2020 I would take a beat, return to my art practice in earnest, and move forward on projects so long left unfinished. I arranged for two solo exhibitions of new work, lined up funding opportunities to apply for, and began the process of turning my research from my fellowship with the Carnegie Council into a book.


But as you may realize, 2020 would not prove to be the calm, steady sea that I had hoped to set out upon. The international health crisis disrupted every part of our lives: my last full time semester at GWU moved online (as if teaching art courses online wasn’t hard enough I had to do it with a baby on my breast); my exhibitions were thrown into limbo; my husband and daughter and I resigned to the crowded, noisy existence of conference calls and nap times overlapping in our small city central apartment. Choices I had made prior to 2020 have proven detrimental under these new and strange circumstances. Notably, lining up multiple solo shows of new and not quite finished works shortly after having a new baby proved challenging when she was in daycare six hours a day, five days a week, but impossible when she was home instead.


So we find ourselves in July, and as I sit here typing this out, musing on how far I have come since moving to this new city, on where I had hoped to be by this point in the summer, on what I had hoped for my 2020 and what I now face as the reality, my daughter slams on the keyboard with her hands, taking advantage of a newfound talent of sitting upright and mimicking mama’s every move.


Tracey Warr  - Three Correspondents

The artists in Call Centre have been asked to extend the network and range of experiences covered in the project by inviting three more people to be in correspondence with them for this project.


I have invited: J R Carpenter

JR Carpenter is a Canadian writer who has lived in the UK and France in recent years, and became homeless during the lockdown. She is currently isolated in a friend’s borrowed house in North Yorkshire. JR will be interacting with my Call Centre posts through lists and other forms of writing. You can find her Twitter feed here.


Nuno Sacramento

Nuno Sacramento is a curator and writer. He is the director of Peacock Visual Arts in Aberdeen. He divides his time between Scotland and Portugal. He recently started making performance art in a workshop in Catalonia with the esteemed performance artist, Esther Ferrer. I have asked Nuno to interact with my Call Centre posts through documented performance gestures.


Alan Smith

Alan is an artist and the co-curator of Allenheads Contemporary Arts with Helen Ratcliffe. He was born in Wales and has been living in the high village of Allenheads in the Pennines in Northumberland for the last few decades. He is shielding during lockdown. I asked Alan to interact with my Call Centre posts through drawings.

Ben Ponton - Three Correspondents

Michael Begg, composer, musician and all-round artist, who lives with his family in the tiny village of Athelstaneford in East Lothian. Athelstaneford is regarded as the home of the Saltire, the Scottish national flag. One of his ongoing lock-down activities is to paint pictures of his garden with watercolours, one flower at a time.


Carla Santana is also a composer and musician who lives in Almada, Lisbon's twin city over the water. Her home is an apartment on one of the upper floors of a block, near the sea and the view from her living room window is the Atlantic. I thought of her for this project particularly because of the binary experience of confinement in an apartment block, yet probably being able to see further than any of us.


Mark Warren, who is the other half of Zoviet France: and who lives in rural north Northumberland, just outside the village of Eglingham.  He is my collaborator in music, which has been the case for the last 25 years, something that has been frozen, of course, and I'd like to get his perspective on that. He can see Cheviot from his back garden so, like Carla, he lives with a view of a faraway place that kind of measures a distance of visible separation from the wider world.


Recorded on 03/05/20 at The Old School House. Northumberland.

Start time was 4:30am. Not even COVID-19 can stop the birds.

© 2018 Allenheads Contemporary Arts, Allenheads, Hexham, Northumberland NE47 9HR