An artist’s perspective: Sarah Coggrave

We´re delighted to present you a fresh introduction to Sarah Coggrave´s work, who will be participating in Art Language Location 2016. Sarah gave us a sneak peak preview of what will be presented in Cambridge this October! Enjoy and make sure to let us know your impressions!


I’m Sarah Coggrave, one of the artists taking part in Art Language Location 2016. In October I’ll be coming to Cambridge to tell a story – one that’s inspired by real events. I’ve been researching this story for three years now, and it’ll link Cambridge with Manchester and Constantinople. I’ll be using performance and written artefacts to bring it to life. Here’s a little introduction…

The story began in 2013, when I lived in a house called ‘Massis’ in Manchester.

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Above: ‘Massis’ (my photograph)

This unusually titled red brick villa is located in Didsbury – a leafy suburb in the south of Manchester.

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Above: Pine Road – the quiet street on which the house stands (my photograph)

I rented a tiny room in the basement between 2013 and 2014, whilst studying for my art degree.

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Above: My tiny basement room (my photograph)

From the moment I moved in, that strange word – Massis – had intrigued me. It marked the house out from the others on Pine Road, and was carved into the gateposts, suggesting that this particular home had a history worth looking into.

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Above: From the gatepost (my photograph)

Massis (alternative spelling – Masis) is an Armenian word. It’s a name for Mount Ararat in Turkey, but also refers to a city in Armenia, a football club, a periodical and is a popular name for Armenian men and, seemingly, restaurants. To my enormous shame, I’d never come across Armenia or its history prior to that time, in 2013. The country’s connection with this Mancunian house became clear when I searched the census records, which revealed that my home once belonged to the Funduklians – an Armenian family from Constantinople.


Above: The Funduklian family and servants outside the house they occupied before ‘Massis’ (Image courtesy of Manchester Archives+)

The Funduklians arrived in Manchester at some point during the late 1800s. Hailing from the city now known as Istanbul, this Armenian family joined many of their co-patriots in seeking a new life in Britain. Whilst living in Turkey, as a Christian minority, Armenians did not enjoy the same advantages as many of their fellow citizens – in work, education or in civil life. Persecution led to massacres in the 1800s and later, in 1915, genocide.

The Funduklians had escaped just in time.

Karnig Funduklian and his relative Tigrane were the first to arrive. They set up a textile shipping business in Manchester, and its success enabled Karnig to give his wife Aznive and four children a large, comfortable home in Didsbury, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Many other Armenian families lived nearby. Karnig employed two servants to help run the household, which also included wife Aznive, and their four children – Arto, Astra, Vahe and Nazar. Three sons and a daughter.


Above: Nazar Funduklian as a child (Image courtesy of Manchester Archives+)

Arto was the eldest child. He studied at Manchester Grammar School, and won a scholarship to study languages at King’s College, University of Cambridge. He was a star student – he achieved a First, worked in military intelligence during WWI, collected art in Paris in the 1920s, and eventually settled in New York, where he managed a branch of the family business.

To see a picture of Arto, please click here.

Vahe, his younger brother, loved sport, particularly rugby, as well as the Lancashire countryside and down-to-earth Northern humour. Nazar (short for Nazareth) collected art and books, and, like his sister Astra, lived with parents Karnig and Aznive until they died in the 1930s, after which Vahe took over the family business. Only scraps of information survive about each individual – a mention in a book, a sentence in a newspaper article, but each tiny clue is revealing, and I found myself wishing I’d known this generous, and in some ways, slightly unconventional, family.

Astra is perhaps the most mysterious of all.

Unsurprisingly, as a woman, very little information survives about her. All I know is that she never married or had children, she travelled widely, played the piano and once was charged with smuggling silk. None of her siblings had children either, and Vahe, as the last surviving sibling and proprietor of the long-running Funduklian business, commissioned a gravestone for the family in Southern Cemetary near Didsbury. When he died the family line ended – only distant relatives remain.

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Above: The family grave in Southern Cemetery, Manchester (my photograph)

The Funduklians, like many other Armenian families, contributed much to Manchester. They donated to various causes, including the city’s university, they gave books and art work to local institutions, and they campaigned tirelessly to help their friends and relatives who had been unable to escape the horrors of the massacres and genocide in the Middle East. Manchester’s specially established Armenian Church was a central gathering place, and the community formed numerous societies that undertook charity work, cultural activities and social events. I was intrigued to find information and pictures relating to this in Manchester’s archives. I worked with Archives+ in 2013 to digitise and blog about these materials, and in 2014 I created an exhibition at Didsbury Parsonage, inspired by the history of my home and its occupants. I performed there as Astra and created artwork about her.

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Above: Performing as Astra at Didsbury Parsonage (my photograph)

Later that year I spoke about my research as part of the BBC Radio Four documentary Out of Armenia. In 2015 I worked with Buxton Museum and Art Gallery on an exhibition of Arto Funduklian’s art collection, also part of Buxton Arts Festival. Here I performed as Astra again. I feel as if her voice has been lost from official records, like those of many women from that time, and as an artist I try to address this issue creatively (and respectfully) in my work.

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Above: My interpretation of Astra (my photograph)

I’ve known for some time that Arto went to Cambridge, and that there were records about him held there. However, work, distance and other commitments prevented me from pursuing the story further. Now, Art Language Location has provided me with an opportunity to do this, and to find a creative way to commemorate Arto’s time as a student.

Like Arto, I too was once a Cambridge student, prior to becoming an artist, so this project holds a great deal of meaning for me. Same university, but, I presume, very different experiences of studying there.

In July I’m visiting the King’s College archive to see documents concerning Arto’s time there, and in October I hope to bring my imagining of his younger sister, Astra, to Cambridge. Here she’ll be writing letters to her brother, reminding him of the home he left behind, questioning him about university life, and debating with him, the events of the day, from 1911 until 1914. In 1911, Astra and Arto were only teenagers. These siblings grew up during turbulent times, and their respective stories (or rather what remains) offer opportunities to explore unexpected links between Cambridge, Manchester and Constantinople.

I’ll be blogging about the progress of this project in more depth here, as the festival draws nearer.

Sources and Links

The Funduklian Story: Part I – Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The Funduklian Story: Part II – Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

The Funduklian Story: Part III – Buxton Museum and Art Gallery

Articles on Manchester’s Armenian community for Archives+ (scroll down to see early articles)

George, J. (2002) Merchants In Exile: The Armenians Of Manchester, England 1835 – 1935, Taderon Press.

Record at King’s College, University of Cambridge

Artist Open Day – ALL 2016

On the heels of being selected, ALL 2016 artists congregated at Anglia Ruskin to explore and scout potential installation locations. The ALL-curatorial committee welcomed fifteen artists and led them through the corners and cavernous spaces available at the University. The group eventually ventured beyond the borders of ARU to tour alternative locations in the 800-year old market town. With his heart set on installing an alternative location, Artist, Nicholas Houghton, imparts his impressions from the day.

“April in Cambridge

A familiar, bitter, Fenland wind competes with a warming sun. The former is winning and I’m glad to go inside, into the main Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) building. I’m there because it’s Artists’ Day for Art Language Location and around twenty of us are mingling at the entrance. Some have clearly done this before, while others, like me, are participating for the first time.

I’m feeling excited about the exhibition, tinged with a touch of trepidation, because I don’t yet know whether I’ll be able to put my work in the space I’m after. Art and artists had a fruitful and complex relationship with text until High Modernism. For modern artists use of language was anathema and in their eyes artistic expression began precisely when words ran out. Likewise, the relationship between art and location is often underestimated. Once commissions stopped being the main way artists earned a living, their default position was to produce works that could be exhibited in any number of spaces. A simple white space became the favourite.

We’re now some fifty years on from when the orthodoxies of Modernism were being comprehensively challenged. All the same, ideas from Modernism linger like chewing gum stuck to a shoe and an exhibition bringing together art language and location presents a rare opportunity. I’m hoping my contribution will turn out as I want.

The Artists’ Day gave us a great chance to meet other participants, as well as committee members. But most of all, it allowed us to investigate potential locations for our work. We were shown possible sites within ARU, but some of us are planning to put our work elsewhere. In my case, this is to be not far from the main ARU building, in a pub called The Tram Depot. I’ve seen pictures of it online, but what will it look like in real life? And will they turn down my proposal to exhibit there?

As soon as I’m able, I am anxious to cross the road and go in the Tram Depot to inspect it. Then, concerned it would not be as I hoped I delay the encounter. Like somebody receiving a letter with the result of an interview, as long as I delay there will be hope. So instead I go with some other artists who are having lunch and drink a welcome cup of coffee.

I know I shouldn’t wait any longer and wander along to the pub. Inside, I look long and hard at all the walls, even those in the gents’ toilets. I half expect somebody to challenge me and ask what I’m doing. The more I look, the less likely it seems that I’ll ever get permission to put up my work here. The walls are covered with an abundance of typical pub decoration, all of which is securely screwed to the wall. It would be a big ask to put my work up, as it would mean taking down what’s already up on the walls. Somehow, I’d always imagined there would be a spare bit of wall I could use. Now that I’m there, I can’t see any. I leave the pub. Perhaps when I return, I’ll see it with a different eye and have some sort of idea.

On the programme, the day is supposed to end at the Tram Depot. I don’t flatter myself this has anything to do with me: it would be because it’s the nearest hostelry to ARU. When I arrive, I’m able to reacquaint myself with some of the other participants and committee members, including Robert Good.  He asks me how I’ve got on and I tell him that I haven’t asked yet, but I’m not at all optimistic. He replies that in his experience of leading this exhibition for five years, sometimes you find you obtain permission when you least expect to and vice versa. There’s nothing to lose.

I know there’s nothing to lose, but nor do I want to blow my chance and be turned down almost before I’ve finished asking. The approach has to be made very carefully. I wander around the pub again and two walls near the entrance are looking at least possible. I approach ALL’s Kieran Priest, since he’s the person with the technical knowledge who could advise me about hanging on either of these walls. He’s very helpful and explains why one would be feasible and the other not.

However, he now proves even more helpful than I could possibly have imagined. ‘Why not go and put it to the publican?’ he suggests.

‘Is he here?’ I ask.

‘Yes, come on.’ We wander over to the bar. I introduce myself and when I put the idea to him, the publican immediately says yes, without the slightest hesitation. He’ll be delighted. We shake hands. It has been so easy, I’m almost shocked. Robert was right. You never know. And now I’m looking forward to putting Tramlines in the Tram Depot in October.

As I cycled to the station, the wind was still cold. But bitter? Not one bit of it.”

"Tramlines" by Nicholas Houghton

“Tramlines” by Nicholas Houghton

The clock is ticking – today is the last day to submit applications for ALL2016!

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ALL 2015 – Caspar Below (video screenshot)

Following the success of ALL2015 there are some high expectations for ALL2016 and we hope not only to reach but to exceed them too! As always, our primary goal is to bring high quality, experimental, text-related work to Cambridge. The Festival was designed to enrich our lives with prime examples of innovative contemporary art while expanding on  the art scene, enabling new collaborations, providing artists with new opportunities and wider horizons.

Preparations for ALL2016 are well on their way, with lots of planning and activities going on behind the scenes and we can´t wait to share with you what we have prepared! In the meantime, do take the opportunity to read our callout and apply to become a part of our initiative and to exhibit at Anglia Ruskin University or at other locations around Cambridge (UK).

Tom Hackett, Kenji Lim, Anna Brownsted, Kimvi Nguyen, Eric Marland, Eden Mitshenmacher, Joseph Young and Susie Johnson are only a few of participating artists from the previous year. The show was listed, by‘s Jack Hutchinson, among the Top 5 UK exhibitions in 2015 along with Jackson Pollock´s retrospective at Tate Liverpool.

There are no application/participation fees, and, with kind support from Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge School of Art, Cambridge Festival of Ideas and Cambridge Assessment, our Awards fund goes up to £3000. Proposals are being invited for creating new work to be exhibited at the Ruskin Gallery, producing new artwork on the theme „Language and Light“ (part of Cambridge Assessment’s new redevelopment project) or to work with a researcher at the University of Cambridge and exhibit at the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.1455918418753


Deadline for application is March 20th 2016, we look forward to seeing your artworks and building a brand new ALL2016 together with you!

For any further inquiries, please feel free to contact us at or via any of our social media channels!

Thank you,

Sara Lerota

Social Media Manager

ALL2016 Committee

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