Yesterday I went to the Lion Hotel to interview Rhian, the landlady in order to plan the guide brochure for Harlech. We agreed that this should be 'The Lion's Guide to Harlech' since it would be based on her recommendations.
The conversation moved on apace, and at times I felt quite lost in the descriptions of places, and place names as Rhian moved from here to there. I recorded everything so later today will try to piece everything together. We agreed that 'The Lion's Guide to Harlech' would have Taz, the pub dog on the front cover, and we will talk about all that the pub offers, as well as Rhian's tips for what to see and do in Harlech. The Lion is obviously at the Centre of the Community here, getting involved in the twice yearly flower shows, where cake and sloe-gin competitions take place. Rhian had won the Cake competition last time, with her pavlova.
I will have a busy day today, locating Rhian's recommendations.
Also today, I intend to use my 'How to Explore Kit' and have decided to go up to Slidey Rock and explore it, as it seems to be an important local landmark - and spectacular viewing point, and as Rhian says - 'The Best Thing About Harlech? The Views.'
After my meeting with Rhian I went back to the Coleg in time for tea, which was early, as we had a skype appointment with Neil Powell and Finola Gaynor, they toured us around an exhibition of prints by Lance Wyman, at Norwich University College of the Arts.
Then John Brown gave a talk about 'Art in the Age of Materialism.' These talks were recorded in order to be published on the ICAW website.
Today is Wednesday, and we leave in 2 days time, but have so much to do. With the 3 meals a day, plus organised talks and happenings there does not seem to be much time to make work, so today, as we have the art burning at 5pm I will miss the lunchtime meeting in order to try to get some more work done.
Before coming on the ICAW International Artist's residency I had made a number of plans which I intended to carry out, but of course once in the situation the place and the people necessarily have an impact on the ideas t be explored.
I have brought with me 2 traditional explorer's hats, thinking that this may be a good icebreaker for talking to people here. In fact there has been quite a lot of discussion about the English occupation of Wales, and in conversation with Rhian she discussed how important the re-acquisition of Wales is to the Welsh and how they still celebrate today. It would, therefore seem very inappropriate for me, an English person, to march around the Town in an Explorer's hat - a symbol of colonialism.
Being thrown together with artists from across Europe can at times be difficult, strangely, though England is right next to Wales I feel foreign here. I have found a small talisman in an antiques shop which I think will remind me of the feelings being thrown up.
It is a tiny shoe with a cat in it - and the word foreign printed across the bottom. It describes how I feel. Sometimes it is good to feel foreign, and sometimes it is confusing. I think that the way I approach practice is also foreign, the other artists seem very confident in their idea of what they are doing. Not a criticism, but an observation is that ICAW seems to be about bringing artists together from across Europe and beyond, it turns out that the group know each other well, having been on these visits in Portugal, Israel and other places. It does not seem so important WHERE the current place is. The works which are due to be made on this residency will travel to Italy, and to Poland and so I suppose need to be able to travel. My practice almost always involves a response to site - here in Harlech I am working with 'Local Experts' to create a guide to Harlech. This is not because I am interested in making guides, but because I am interested in conversations with people about the places they live, I really believe that Local people are experts on the places they live, even if the expertise may not be regarded as data, it gives a more human understanding of place. The problem then is in wondering how the work will travel.
DOUBT. I am suddenly aware of how parochial my work may seem. I am concerned with the small, the overlooked, the insignificant. I am not interested in sweeping gestures and bold statements, and my methods look much like social science techniques more than traditional art techniques. It makes me question my place here.
This can only be a good thing, can't it?
The guide that I am to make with The Lion is more to draw attention to the need for Harlech to be recognised as a place to visit - I want to send the guide to the local tourist board, as a pointer or a marker of the place, not because I want to make a guide for Harlech, but because someone here wonders why there isn't one.
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