A Call to ‘ASSEMBLY’, September 15th-17th, 2023

An audience-powered exhibition that re-imagines educational and social systems

 ‘Assembly’ will be open from the 15th and the 17th of September at St. Lawrence Chapel, Ashburton, as part of Little Big Town festival. Every exhibition day at 3 pm, a bell will ring inviting the audience to actively join the assembly.

The idea that localised power structures are the key for flourishing communities is one of the key ideas behind the ‘Assembly’ project. Conceived and curated by Rob Manners, ASSEMBLY is a creation of the contemporary arts collective N-E-W, supported by the Arts Council England. Using a passage from ‘The Total Economy’ by Wendel Berry as a seed for dialogue, ‘Assembly’ invites various local artists and groups (including a school) to bring together their creative practises and observe the spontaneous emergence of connections – and community.

The exhibition venue itself, the historical St. Lawrence Chapel, invites questioning over education and hierarchic power structures. Now a heritage, cultural and community centre, the Chapel building was a grammar school for over 600 years; the wooden tables and benches where former students carved out their names as ‘graffiti’ are a permanent installation on-site, keeping alive stories of non-compliance. ‘Assembly’ will add to this, re-imagining the space and adding to the dialogue through projections, sculpture, painting, music and performance.

Aside from the stand-alone exhibition, the project will host a variety of interactive events. On each exhibition day the audience will be invited to join the ‘Assembly’ (please see times below). Prepare for a lively, non-hierarchical discussion and presentation of ideas where the boundaries between improvised performance and dialogue are blurred.

Friday Assembly 3.15pm (Sept 15th)

Assembly is a performative exhibition – a work in progress. Taking a text by American writer, farmer and activist Wendell Berry as a starting point, artists including Sophia Clist, Alex Murdin, Robert Manners and students from South Dartmoor Community College have collaborated to re-imagine and re-awaken the Chapel as a site of community education. Come along, see the work unfold and contribute to its development.

Saturday Assembly 4pm (Sept 16th) – OPEN FORUM

We invite you to join us to reflect on Berry’s text, contribute your ideas and take part in the ASSEMBLY. An opportunity to discuss the unique place we live in, its community, our dreams for it and how to make it better for all, for now and for the future. This is a place to share ideas around education, collaboration, creativity and neighbourhood.

Sunday Assembly 3:15pm (Sept 17th)

Sound-based and performative responses to the text, around ideas of education and place, crowds and murmurations, courtesy of This Ain’t Jazz and Steve Dow & Andy Stacey. Immerse yourself in a different form of Assembly, in this ancient and extraordinary place of study, knowledge and learning.

AI generated image of lichen provided by Alex Murdin