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extra{ordinary} - Photographs of Britain by the Caravan Gallery

Exhibition dates: 6 March 2015 - 1 May 2015

Exhibition preview: Thursday 5 March, 6:00-8:00pm

In March 2015, artists The Caravan Gallery will reveal work citywide across Sunderland in conjunction with both a major exhibition of their work at Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, and a new study of the city, the Pride of Place Project. The project is the first installment of a national tour across the length and breadth of the UK throughout 2015 and 2016, encompassing many of the countryʼs galleries and photographic venues including Impressions Gallery, Bradford; Ffotogallery's Diffusion Festival, Cardiff; Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art; Museum of Lancashire, Preston; and Solent Showcase, Southampton.

The Caravan Gallery document the unseen aspects of the way we live now. For fifteen years their work has examined those practices of daily life, places or spaces, and processes of social change that the mainstream media frequently overlook. Alongside a major new exhibition, extra{ordinary}, that represents a distillation of their observations from over a decade and a half, the Pride of Place Project brings the artists into direct contact with the public to learn about secret parts of the cities they visit. The Caravan Galleryʼs photographic practice is based on travel - near and far. The artists re-appropriate what has been called ʻthe touristʼs gazeʼ to see spaces, places and people that are seldom visited or thought worthy of ʻtouristicʼ attention. The sites and sights that the artists document are often precisely those beneath a threshold of visibility. Like the very best travel writing, their work opens our eyes to those things already beneath our feet. Their work might be said to echo the approach taken by author Ignacio Vidal-Folch in his book ʻBarcelona: Secret Museumʼ. For Williams and Teasdale, the city itself is a kind of museum - a place of secret treasures - where one finds wonder, astonishment, moments of grace, and unexpected beauty. Yet this museum is itself a ʻsecretʼ even to - indeed especially to - its own residents, who bypass it daily.

The Pride of Place Project asks city dwellers to share in this project: to look again at their shared habitat, across its beauty and brutality, and at the improbable, imaginative, and intransigent behaviours that we invent when forced to share space in cities.

The artistsʼ astonishing observational acuity will be put to the test when confronted with residentsʼ own lifetimes of observations about the places they live in. The artists ask: how do we live together? What do we invest our time and energy in collectively - or when no-one is looking? Just what is it that makes us different or distinctive? As part of their national touring project The Caravan Gallery will spend a six-week residency at each city they visit, undertaking research into what people imagine defines them and where they live - and how far their sense of place creates their sense of self.

The Caravan Gallery is a collaboration between artists and photographers Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale, who use photography to document what they call the "reality and surreality" of the everyday. Founded in 2000, The Caravan Gallery is a mobile gallery run by Williams and Teasdale housed in a 1969 mustard coloured caravan. The venue has travelled thousands of miles putting contemporary art to unexpected locations and tens of thousands of people.

The Caravan Galleryʼs citywide project in Sunderland combines three major components:

* extra{ordinary}
Photographs of Britain by The Caravan Gallery
A national touring exhibition of over fifty photographs taken over the last fifteen years, that shows the extraordinary in the everyday, and is itself an extraordinary record of social change since the millennium.

* Sunderland Pride of Place Project

18 Fawcett Street, Sunderland, SR1 1RH

Opening celebration: Thursday 2 April, 6 - 8pm
Exhibition dates: 2 April - 2 May 2015, 11am - 6pm, Mon - Sat
Help create an exhibition about the city! Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale devised their Pride of Place Project concept so that everyone can join them in thinking about who we are - and how we live now. The Pride of Place Project is a space for everyone to participate - to show their own images of the city and responses to how we live now. The artists want to find out what it is that makes Sunderland different or distinctive as well as revealing their own photographic impressions of the city. Please bring your Sunderland - related images, words and art works in any medium, and your ideas, to 18 Fawcett Street.

The artists describe their shop as a kind of upside-down Tourist Information Centre - where information is provided by people rather than officialdom. Their centre is a free social space that invites people to discuss and debate what it is that defines just who we think we are. A special commemorative publication will be available at a later date.

* Sunderland Caravan Gallery Tour
The mobile 'Gallery in Residence'
During March 2015 The Caravan Gallery will visit six sites across the city: the caravan itself will become a new temporary ʻliving room for the cityʼ. Here, the artists will play host to an expected 3000 guests (and some unexpected ones), to discuss their own and their guestsʼ representation of city life through photography, and how the camera lens enables us to imagine what we value - or fail to.

Saturday 7 March - Arts Centre Washington

Wednesday 18 March - Sunderland University - City Campus

Saturday 21 March - The Bridges Shopping Centre

Wednesday 25 March - Southwick Green

Friday 3 April - Penshaw Bowl at Penshaw Hill

Tuesday 7 April - The National Glass Centre

The project is accompanied by two brand new publications:

extra{ordinary} celebrates the diversity of The Caravan Galleryʼs career to date.

Sunderland Pride of Place Project will provide a brand new view of the city where the first history of England was written in 731AD, where the first municipal museum in England was opened in 1842, and where its extraordinary industriousness meant that a century later, 92% of buildings were destroyed by falling bombs in four years flat. The book will combine images both by the artists and from public submissions. It will, the artists say, act as an ʻalternative tourist guideʼ - one most useful to residents, by which they have a forum to share their perceptions of their city, to allow other citizens to share their views of civic life.

Previous exhibitions include: Merseystyle Museum of Liverpool; Watch This Space, National Theatre, London; Festival 2014, Glasgow with Street Level Photoworks; The Condition of England, NGCA; LOOK/13 and FORMAT photography festivals; the Bluecoat during Liverpool Biennial; Pride of Place Projects in Merseyside, Lytham St Annes, Oxford, Guernsey, Belgium and Portsmouth; Is Britain Great?, Aspex, Portsmouth and Paul Smith Space, Tokyo. For more information please visit:

Following The Caravan Gallery's stay in Sunderland, it will tour to the following venues:

- Impressions Gallery, Bradford
- Ffotogallery / Diffusion Festival, Cardiff
- Lancashire Arts Development, Preston & Fleetwood
- mima, Middlesbrough
- Solent Showcase, Southampton