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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Get On Your Bike!

Otesha Project UK

Written by Cari Steel

Here at Amelia’s Magazine HQ this week we are all feeling rather revitalised, this salve with the prospect of spring safely in our sights and a stomach full of Easter eggs we thought what better time to share our energized disposition with you are faithful readers, and boy do I have a treat in store for you fashionista’s today.

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It comes in the form of exciting new Aussie talent Fashion Designer Josh Goot, heralded as “modernisms new messiah” it’s enough to get anyone in the fashion sphere jumping up and down excitedly in their Chanel heels. Goot first catapulted his way into the fashion sphere in 2005 after winning Young Designer of the Year Award in Sydney, but only made his debut on the London fashion circuit at this years London Fashion Week with his S/S 09 collection

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Goot studied Media Art and Production at Sydney’s University of Technology where he graduated in 1999. This background has shaped his distinctive approach to fashion design, renowned for his use of print and his minimalist aesthetic Goot has injected a healthy dose of artistic expression onto the catwalk.

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Goots A/W 09 collection did not fail to get our taste buds flowing, paying homage to the natural world it’s an explosion of texture and colour. Heavily inspired by geology the collection focuses on organic lines and silhouettes.

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Goot’s exquisite tailoring techniques come to the forefront in his A/W 09 collection. Enthused by the erosive textural quality of rock Goot uses angular tailoring with reverse contour lines to mimic the harsh lines that occur in sedimentary rocks. This masculine tailoring is then softened by his subdued use of colour; the palette is a hazy of distilled greys that merge with soft violets, yellows and blues to create quixotic and distinctly feminine pieces. His modernist aesthetic creates a look that is both functional yet expressive, with styles ranging from tailored jackets, panelled shirts to asymmetric tops and body con suits.

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The most enthralling element to the A/ W collection has to be Goots Marble effect series. Audiences were mesmerised by the haze of colour gliding down the catwalk. To me it conjures old childhood memories of marbling from art class. I remember excitedly leaning over a tank of water mixing oil inks and eagerly gliding my stick through the water to create patterns. I was mesmerised by the beautiful hues merging together to create such vivid canvases of colour. Goot encapsulates this perfectly in his prints, which were created from large-scale digitally printed water coloured pieces.

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After such awe inspiring pieces in his A/W collection I am eager to inspect what else Josh Goot has tucked up his sleeve. With stores such as Browns Focus in London and Marie Luisa in Paris already stocking his collections I have no doubt Goot is set to take the fashion sphere by storm!

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Lewes’ quaint, story cobbled streets and Dickensian finery belie the town’s rebel status and heritage. Thomas Paine, ask 18th century philosopher and all round radical was a local while the annual bonfire festivities are the kind of Pagan perverse, politically loaded Wickerman shindigs that grab national newspaper headlines. Situated slap bang in the life-affirming environs of the Sussex Downs and home to Harvey’s ale, it’s easy to see why Lewes is something of a hippy haven – genteel on the outside, pretty bizarre on deeper investigation. The perfect host to the neo-psychedelic revolution. Or a place where a bunch of bearded dudes get to hang out and discuss obscure Nuggets. Either way, I was home.

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The happening unfolded in the All Saints Centre, a church where, most appropriately, Pink Floyd played in 1966. Heightening the sense of lysergic lasciviousness that characterised the night was the mind mulching lightshow provided by locally sourced hero, Innerstings. Such visual freak-ery was offset perfectly by the evening’s DJs who, for the most part, dealt in psychedelic music of the guitar based variety. No bad thing, especially if the crate digger behind the decks is Richard Norris, whose set seemingly unearthed the kind of gems Lenny Kaye would kick himself for missing. As was the desired effect, this all blended perfectly with the live performances which served to give the evening a modernist sheen and kick several shades of shit out of any sense of nostalgia that pervaded. Take, for example, The Notorious Hi-Fi Killers, whose singer resembled Jerry Garcia but whose band kicked up a beautifully godless stoner-rock racket. (Un)natural heirs to Rocky Erickson’s throne perhaps, they tore their way through an acid-spanked set of psychedelic garage punk and sounded far bigger than you’d expect from three blokes from South London.

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Having obliterated the dance floor of rug cutting psychedelic Mods, it was left to headliners, The Yellow Moon Band, to restore some kind consensual good will. This was entirely apt as the Yellow Moon Band’s founders are Jo and Danny, hirsute curators of the Greenman Festival. Consummate professionals to a hilt, they play note for note the majority of their recent (and peculiarly danceable) debut album, Travels Into Several Remote Nations Of The World. On paper, their Steeleye Span meets Slayer schtick looks decidedly unappealing but, bathed in a wash of kaleidoscopic lights and played out with merciless efficiency the Yellow Moon Band are a strangely alluring, downright compelling and very psychedelic experience. Just ask the mass of people throwing shapes and gyrating down the front. Pouring out into the graveyard post show, chatting with likeminded souls and new friends, it seemed Lewes had given birth to a new spring time institution, one worthy enough of taking its place next to the other grand traditions of this beguiling and beautiful town.
The Otesha Project team are an ambitious lot. They want to tackle climate change, more about poverty, cheap injustice, and educate thousands of young people on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle. Their weapon of action? The humble bicycle. You heard me! But the folks behind Otesha are a clever and forward thinking bunch. They can achieve more with a bicycle and a deceptively simple mission statement then most global corporations could possibly dream of.

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Back in 2003, the team that would go onto create the Otesha Project in Canada had recently returned from working in Kenya. Rather than being inspired by life in Africa, Jocelyn Land – Murphy and Jessica Lax were dismayed to find vast inequalities between the North Americans and the Kenyans. The extent of the unfair trading, irresponsible over consumption and labour exploitation that they witnessed left a bitter taste in their mouth but equally seemed too insurmountable a problem for two people to tackle. The feeling of powerlessness acted as a catalyst for their own personal change. On return to Canada they began to alter their lifestyles to reflect the change that they wanted to see in the world. And thus began the Otesha way of being. It’s a beautifully uncomplicated concept, and practically the only one that we can adhere to when all of the world’s problems seem too huge to tackle – that change can occur on the most massive scale by simply altering your own life – in other words, be the change! So this is what they did, and set off through Canada on their bikes, stopping off to make presentations to young people about the importance of social change. Seeing that this was a resounding success, and that they made over 250 presentations to more than 12,00 young people, Otesha was ready for more!

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This brings us to the Otesha Project UK, which promotes social change in a number of ways. The most well known way is through their cycle tours. I met with some of the team behind Otesha UK; Liz McDowell and Hanna Thomas recently, and they filled me in on these expeditions. Needless to say, I am not much of a cyclist, but even I was segmenting off part of my summer for the following year to join the next wave of cycle tours. So, for any of you that are interested in spending your summer doing something slightly different to the status quo, this is how it works. A team of volunteers (like yourself, or me after I have done a couple more spinning classes) cycle around a particular part of Britain for around 6 weeks; last year the venues included Cornwall and Wales; this year’s venues are East Anglia, a section of Scotland, and the coast of Wales. Whilst on the travels, the team stop off to speak at schools and communities about environmental and social sustainability. They don’t just speak; plays and workshops are also performed. Whilst on the road, the team record their experiences on journals and video recorders.

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There is a bit of a travelling circus element to it; and Liz and Hanna told me that the team clearly love what they are doing. Equally as important – the response from the groups that they speak to is always overwhelming. Many of the group return year after year; Otesha are good to their teams! As well as stopping off at schools, the team also have excursions organised for them. In Wales they get a couple of learning days at the Centre for Alternative Technology, as well as a visit to a permaculture farm. Those who head over to East Anglia get a chance to stay in a tipi at a Roman archaeological site. While this is all good fun, the skills that the team take away with them are invaluable. Getting a head start in public speaking, learning to work alongside and live with a large team of people – and maintain a great relationship with them – are attributes that can be taken anywhere.

When they are not cycling around Britain, The Otesha Project are working with groups of young people over longer periods of time to help create change in their local community. They work from the Otesha Handbook, which highlights issues such as Food, Money, Fashion, Energy, Trade and Transport. Last summer, Otesha worked with students in Tower Hamlets Summer University, who chose to do a project about food; specifically the issues of seasonable and organic food. The students approached local cafes, shops and markets to discover who was using organic, fairtrade food, and wrote to their MP’s asking that organic food be subsidised. This culminated with the students creating a Seasonal Summer Feast for their friends and family, which by all accounts was a great success.

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(all images courtesy of The Otesha Project UK)

Other projects have included Getting Ethical About Fashion, held at the Princes Trust XL Club in Barnet, where students discussed issues in fashion that are often swept under the carpets, such as sweatshops, child labour, and the chemicals put in clothes. My favourite sounding workshop was the Dirty Weekend held at Goldsmith’s EnviroClub Community Gardens. Ok, so it was not that kind of dirty weekend, and it involved plans for creating a garden for the local residents and students, but at least the students still got their hands dirty!

The Otesha Project like to say that they are germinating good things, and it does seem that way. Everything that they do is for the benefit of the Earth, and the people who are inhabiting it. If you are interested in working with them, get in touch at:
info@otesha.org.uk

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