Sometimes I think too much. Sometimes I don’t think deeply enough. When presented with an opportunity to connect with other people working within the arts I was thirsty for ideas, discussion and words.
But thoughts can be like drinking and heady ideas processed too quickly and without moderation can be hard to retain, giddying and overwhelming.
I hope to clarify and provide substance to some of those thoughts here…
Apart from the talking (of which there was perhaps too much) one of the greatest strengths to the five days spent working with six other artists at Huish Episcopi School in Langport was when we as a group were, either individually or together, making things. Thinking through making; slicing apples, making prints, drawing with ink and string, writing lines, balancing and grating. Making and the silence it created, allowed time for the mind to wander and process thought. I feel a little guilty that during this time we did not allow ourselves enough time to make instead forcibly finding myself, in my thirst to connect with other artists, binging on their ideas, conversations, discussions and analysis to the extent of having a massive art hangover by the end of the five days.
I do not seek to cure myself of my art addiction but in having time to reflect over the weekend after ending our five busy, intense days I am now in need to digest the experience. I can only speak for how my own personal account of the week’s activities unfolded, what I learnt, what surprised me and what I would do differently if given the opportunity again. I hope that by sharing some of the activities we ran and structure (we created as a group) of events, will provide a potential model or example of how artists can work together in a space as a form of peer-led learning, exploration or for want of a better word, professional development!?
Day 1: On Apples and Pairs; Collectives, Collaborations and Affiliations
We were welcomed and introduced to the space at Huish Episcopi by a student and Art Technician Emily Colenso. The Sixth Form Art department is pleasingly big but at the same time busy and bursting with all the work on the walls, they had loads of art books (an unexpected bonus), a dark room, print press, photocopier, lots of table work space, a communal area and several sizable sinks (which is really handy when you are used to washing your brushes out in the kitchen sink…). I wanted to respond to this space in someway, I felt spoilt at the amount of facilities available and that no matter what I made during these five days it should somehow relate to the context of working in the school. We were interlopers to this space, it belongs to someone else; I was always conscientious of that fact, whether it was in a consideration to keep things tidy or in a rebellious way to choose whether to conform or not to the space I was working in.
In the morning Anna Best ran a session in which we had each brought ‘an apple’ or ‘apples’ to respond to. Divided into pairs we were all randomly given a list of verbs such as, bruise, crush, draw, join and perform that we had to ‘act’ one of those words upon our apple(s). This exercise was difficult, I resented my apple and all it stood for, wishing we had favoured a different object that wasn’t so laden with symbolism. Despite my inhibitions there is much to be said for working outside one’s comfort zone (and as it transpired not for the first time during the week) and the challenge the apple posed led to varied outcomes. Interestingly, given my initial distain towards my apple, I was one of the few who chose not to physically alter it (by way of slicing, eating, throwing). Instead I chose to attach a g-clamp to it, the implied threat of crushing it perhaps creating more of a tension than that of actually destroying it. This session taught me how it is useful to step outside the familiarity and routine of one’s practice, though in doing so I found that I still created what felt to me at least, a very authentic response to the point where I felt I hadn’t pushed my creativity enough to venture outside my comfort zone. I left questioning what I was doing here at all and how can I make the most out of the rest of the week.
The afternoon session deviated from the schedule and we were invited to discuss in different pairs to the morning, the terms collective, collaboration and affiliation. As an exercise in discussion, having seven artists unravel these terms made for some enlightening perspectives on the nature of the political, contextual and practical applications of these terms that raised more questions than it answered. How many people make a collective? What makes a good collaboration and when does collaboration become an affiliation?
Day 2: In Which We Play With Ink and String
One of the joys of this project has been the opportunity to invite other artists/makers/practitioners to the group. Over the five days we invited four people to run workshops at the school and teach us or share with us something new. Artist and Art Therapist, Mary Caddick ran the morning workshop, which in my view was designed to open our minds as to what creativity means to us individually, what gets in the way of creativity and how we can be more susceptible to working with play, change and spontaneity within our practice. The outcomes of this were very revealing as they were personal. One activity involving using a length of string dipped in ink was immensely satisfying as it was liberating. I particularly found useful Mary’s approach to evaluating and turning creative problem-solving into a positive experience rather than an anxious one.
Prospectus artists, Sue Palmer and Isobel Adderly ran self-lead workshops in the afternoon. We as a group very early on in the Prospectus project decided it was important that we shared with each other our own practices and a workshop or session of our own making with the group. I personally thought this was really successful in helping understand the individual reasons of why people were on the project and it opened up possibilities for working with and understanding each artist better.
Both Sue and Isobel’s practices share elements of film and/or a live-event and documentation to them and I found it really insightful to hear what they both had to say about how they work as well as what they make. Along with the practical parts to their workshops it left me thinking about outcomes and the pressure to make ‘final pieces’ or responses to research that sometimes leave me creating contrived work. I enjoyed working in a way that meant the process of what I was doing was as much an outcome as the physical ‘result’ itself.
Day 3: An Absence Of Parsley
Due to personal circumstances I regret being unable to attend this day. Jon England and Jenny Graham ran self-lead workshops followed in the afternoon by a Cyanotype workshop directed by Lisa Cheung. I am sure that you will hear more of this day’s events in other artist’s posts.
This post continues in part 2 by clicking here