The Walcot Collective
A residency at Walcot Chapel from the 6th to the 11th February 2017. Review on the Happenings and Goings of this week.
I would like to describe, in detail, the particular challenges and rewards of being part of a group show at an off-site location- that is to say, out of the studios, and the comfort zone. Also, I particularly want to analyse why I feel it was not overly successful, and how to make it more so in the future.
Initially, the most important factor was advertising and distributing the information about the event. The plan was actually to involve the public in workshops, scheduling a timetable that they could come and select and participate in. This was both performance based, as two people involved use performance extensively in their practice, and also based on various different art practices: painting, drawing and photography. The idea was that we should start afresh, leaving the studio practice behind and using this very unique and atmospheric chapel to come up with artistic responses- in this way, we called the residency 'site specific'.
Unfortunately, there was not enough publication or enthusiasm for creating workshops- also, there was more health and safety implied when every day has to be assessed. Moreover, I found that my fellow artists found it hard to let go of their studio practice- preferring to complete a finished piece and hang this up to a finished final show of the week. This was mainly due to weather conditions, but also and uncomfortableness in using whatever media was available. For example, we mentioned the idea of using whatever was on site to analyse and produce a response to. I found that people had to refer back to paint or canvas in order to do this.
My work was completely based on the space. I wanted to do an almost archaeological study into segments and found objects around the site. I called this 'meditation on objects'. In the centre of the room I rolled out a white sheet, that almost acted like a wedding isle like walkway, in this way referring back to the chapel's religious connotations. Each piece, such as a stone, a random gold chain found in the graveyard, various strange paintbrushes etc was placed on this walkway, and two chairs facing them. In this way, the viewer could contemplate each one. With this, I made various people describe the objects, how they made them feel. I wanted to create a final written piece from these responses. I liked the idea of describing formal properties- very formal language becomes poetry in certain situations.
I also wanted to create a shrine for a name on one of the gravestones that interested me: Jemima Gunner. With just her name and her birth and death date, I wanted to imagine who she was and where she lived. I found this en-capsuled in a hairbrush that I bought near the chapel. There was something touching about having her name and the hairbrush on a pillow.
In the end, four out of the six of us brought in a finished piece to hang on the day of the end show. It was hard to see that there was any connection between any of the works, and I personally felt that none of the pieces had anything to do with the space. My personal piece was a line of the objects, wrapped in thin white fabric, each numbered. The number corresponded to a description catalogue. Each description was an imaginative historical, archaeological relic, the idea being that the viewer has to guess what is in the wrapped item and question whether it really is what I suggest in the catalogue.
Personally, I learnt a lot about working with other people - it is extremely difficult to cooperate when there is lack of enthusiasm, especially when there are uncomfortable conditions to work in. The final evening was successfully attended, and the atmosphere really brought together by a light display. I myself, think that the exhibition was unsuccessful due to lack of work. Also, it was not at all site specific. I now know to perhaps think ahead - in the event of a residency, it is a better idea to choose a warmer setting. We should also have planned way ahead to establish a theme, as we left our subject matter/theme way too open. It would be great to use the space in the future and really commit to the plan of inviting the public in to workshops/performances/events etc. This is what I would really like to do in the future.