Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reflection time at Headspace

I have been at Headspace for a week already. I feel like I haven't physically done as much as I would usually do on a residency, but this residency is intentionally different.
This is a retreat as much as it is a residency, and what I quickly realised was that I have very much needed some Headspace! Over the past 5 years my art practice has been a roller coaster - moving from one thing to another, often having a number of projects on the go at once. I speak all the time to students about the importance of documentation, a written commentary, and time to reflect. I have been steadfastly doing the first two, but time to reflect has been a luxury that I could not afford.
So this week, alongside some drawing,walking, photographing, and thinking about 'Indefinable City II' I have also been looking back at my C.V. and blog, and categorising the projects and activities, to see if my work is as coherent as I thought. The categories that I set out as important are: work about regeneration, advocacy of art and artists, green stuff and things that don't fit anywhere: I found that some things do not fit into the categories that I set out, and some things fit into more than one. I then went through again to see if I could draw out any common themes that seemed to emerge, these were; regeneration, sustainability, walking, green/growing, interim use for derelict/unused sites, conversation/communication and then some woolly ones: something to do with text, often suggesting the potentially romantic, something to do with recognising whats around in terms of resources or how space is organised and used. 
I then went through my c.v. and took off everything that I didn't consider to be 'good art' or something which actually moved me on and was authentic enquiry - that felt good. From what was left I was surprised to find that 14 out of 18 projects were to do with regeneration or development, but they are also often to do with the artist's role in a changing society/city/landscape/economy.  Going through the same list to see which involve conversation - the number is 12, so there are some very strong threads through what I do. This seems to suggest that though I am really bored of the word regeneration, I am still interested in it, but perhaps even more now to do with 'The artist's role in (a) changing society.' I have also been thinking about the way many of the works respond to gaps or situations where a solution is being sought - I have written up my thoughts on this as a piece of text looking at Participation. Also, I do seem to like creating conversation spaces: despite this being something that actually makes me nervous. 

I have also tried to draw out what I am still interested in exploring, what do I get some (artistic) satisfaction out of and wish to continue with or do more of, what should my focus be for the next few years?: 

  • Text drawings - because they are something I can do in the studio for a long period of time, and they give me time to think (each one takes 10 hours). 
  • Work: what does art work look like? This comes from sometimes being misunderstood, see text on participation below. If I am cleaning a hotel as part of my work, does that make me a cleaner or an artist?
  • Printing techniques: I really want to learn letterpress properly and do some posters and books.
  • Adoption of derelict sites: perhaps adopt the ABC site for a year and do different events and activities there. Interested here in interim activity - what happens in between demolition and development. Also, associated here is the idea of mobile activity - work which can be moved about.
  • Small Change: idea of recognising resources and making something with them.
Here is the text I have written around my thoughts on gaps and participation:
My work often involves participation, but not always for altruistic reasons. Yes, I am interested in working with others, in creating situations and activities for people to get involved in, but not necessarily because I want them to get something out of it (although it very good if they do, that is not my prime concern.) Often, it's because I want to see their response; like an experiment.
Also, sometimes my work has been called 'socially engaged' which sounds nice, but more accurately, I think my responses are often a response to a gap, or a lack (I think Adam Chodzko refers to them as interruptions.) I hope to frame or draw attention to the gap - sometimes by filling it (temporarily) sometimes by creating a space exploring it and having a conversation about it. This feels like an important part of what I do. I am not a problem solver, social worker or box ticker.
The question about value does not overly concern me - I believe that the experience of the artwork, new context, life experience is enough of a reward in itself but still: the question about value seems to arise more, with work of a participatory nature than with other art practices: but how to measure 'meaningful value?' Can't it just be 'I enjoyed being involved, seeing, doing that?' Paintings don't have this problem.
I am interested in where the artwork is with works of a participatory nature - does there have to be a definable moment (event, performance etc) or object (solid artwork, book, exhibition etc) Or can the entire project be the work. Is it enough that an interaction has taken place? Is it enough that I, as instigator artist have designated this interaction as an artwork?
A man came by the window just now and I waved at him - If I had said beforehand that if someone comes by, and I wave at them, and that will be the artwork - then could that be participatory art?
My work is often about suggestions or propositions for how to fill the gap, but the proposition is time limited, because ultimately I am not a gap filler (in a permanent sense) but like the bandstand piece, or the tour guide or the travel brochures in Harlech - the work responds to where something is missing, and someone (me or someone else) expresses a need to fill the gap. My work will temporarily fill it, but not say - this is the answer, but rather, this could be one answer. Then maybe someone will be inspired to take it on, which has happened - but then again, maybe not (which I am also fine with.)
Sometimes, the way that the gap needs to be filled requires me to create an intervention which looks like something else, the viewer (and even other artists) can misconstrue the intention of what I am doing. For example, with the Bandstand piece, from Common Ground 2010, I organised to repopulate the forever empty bandstand by hiring a brass band, putting up hanging baskets and bunting, organising for  chairs to be delivered and giving out ice creams -  people said, this is great, you should organise bands to play in the park all summer.
My interest as an artist was not to be the band stand events organiser, but rather to draw attention to the band stand as a potential event spot. Since then Park Live! happens regularly in the park (which I am not saying is because of my intervention, but it is possible isn't it?) In a different way the travel brochures created as part of the Harlech Biennial residency, May 2012 were misunderstood. I worked with the landlady, Rhian Roberts, from the local pub to create a travel brochure for the town, which has seen a major decline in tourism over the past few years, which isn't helped by a lack of advertising about the town, and what can be done there. We created a brochure together based on Rhian's ideas of what makes Harlech great. I visited the places that she told me should go in the brochure, which helped to orientate me around the town. At the exhibition at the end of the residency I heard some of the other artists from the residency discussing my work, they said - 'She is a graphic designer - she makes brochures.'
I wonder if I should worry that I am not communicating my intentions well enough, or if it is OK when people misunderstand the work.

Friday, July 27, 2012


Yesterday I mentioned to Aiko about one of the ideas I had - I like this idea of Boro - using scraps of clothes to patch up rural work wear, and that the workwear has become collector's items. Aiko told me that Boro means a piece of clothing which is in rags, and is not what I mean really, I was trying to explain it is using scraps of something that are not worth anything, but together they become worth a lot. Aiko said this is more like Tsugihagi. I wanted to ask the villagers if each person will give me a piece of scrap rag and I could then stitch them together to become Boro (Tsugihagi), I had mentioned it to Jamie as well and he said - you can't just turn up at people's houses, it's not like at home. I wasn't sure what he meant until today: I wouldn't really turn up at people's houses at home either, but I see that there is a whole set of customs to be observed when visitors call. Aiko said she would help me to collect 'hagire' (which means a strip of material) from the villagers if we see them. 
This morning we went along to Aiko's vegetable patch a few minutes down the mountain. She is growing tomatoes, cucumbers, beetroot and peppers. While we were there Yoko-san, one of the villagers arrived to say good morning, and see what we were picking. 
Aiko introduced me and explained what I am looking for. Yoko said, she doesn't really have any hagire, but that she has some old traditional workwear ( the type that I seemed to be talking about in relation to Boro) and she might be able to bring me something. 
On the way back to Kayamori House we met another villager, Toshiko-san. Aiko asked Toshiko too, and Toshiko said that she had been a seamstress, and so had plenty of strips of material if we needed them.
When we got back to the house I did some drawing, and then after not very long Toshiko-san arrived with a bag full of cucumbers 
(which is funny because every day at least two villagers bring a bag of cucumbers - we are eating a lot of cucumbers - even the cat is eating them) and a bag of hagire. So now I see what Jamie meant, when you visit, you must bring a gift (bag of cucumbers for example) and then the host must make tea and provide cake, so if I turn up at people's houses they may be obliged to feed me, and also I can't speak Japanese, so it would be hard to explain what I was doing there.
Toshiko's bag of hagire yielded a good selection, of which I chose the ones below for my Tsugihagi, so I think I am already getting somewhere with it.
The Boro-wear that I had seen was always dyed indigo - because rural farmwear was usually dyed with indigo pigment, as it is a natural insect repellent - and there are a lot of mosquitoes here. Aiko and I are going to do some research to see if there is anything growing here at Kayamori that we can use to die the Tsugihari. Later on we are going to local rice-farmer Okata-san's house to eat non-eel (eating eel at this time is meant to make you virile - but I am a vegetarian so Okata-san is preparing me non-eel) and we will ask him if he has any hagire for the Tsugihagi. I like the idea of creating this Tsugihagi, because it seems that the community on the mountain is all about sharing - hence the abundance of cucumbers at Kayamori today. The Tsugihagi will be a representation of shared resources.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Headspace Residency: Nara Mountains, Japan

I came to Japan around 10 years ago, straight after having gone straight through 20 years of education: GCSE's then A'Levels, then foundation, BA, MA and PGCE. I decided to take a year off and see a bit of the world. It is only the last couple of years that I realised that what I was imagining Japan to be at the time (and which I only got fleeting glimpses of through train windows on the way to the airport,) was rural Japan - and so where I ended up (Tokyo) had not satisfied what I had wanted to explore.
When Ellie Doney, from Manifold (the artist group that AirSpace collaborated with for the BCB last year) sent through a call from Headspace in Nara, I immediately got in touch. The idea of a rural residency/retreat really appealed to me, and so I was delighted to be accepted. Months later, and I am suddenly here.
I had the idea of presenting Stoke-on-Trent as an exotic city to artists here, and doing a workshop where we would look at areas of the city and rebuild them according to Japanese design principles, and with an eye on creative purpose.
Jamie explained to me later that this really is a rural retreat, and that there are not many people here, let alone artists: mainly elderly farmers, and so my idea would not work. In fact, that I should come, soak up the place, and see what happens. So I intend to do that, but still come equipped with a plan to make a 'How To Retreat' Kit, for other artists that come to Kayamori House for the residency after me.
So now, I arrived yesterday - Jamie from Headspace met me at the train station, unfortunately I was late: as I found it difficult to understand how to buy the right ticket for the train! On arrival Jamie took me up to 'the viewing point' to get a sense of where we are.
We are 500m above sea level, and so though it is still very hot, it is cooler than the city. The viewing spot is close to a small shrine with a lake (see top image), full of big koi and turtles.
Then we went to Kayamori House and I had a look around. Wow.
I am not sure at this stage how much to say about all that I am seeing and doing, as this could turn into a travel-log. But perhaps I can summarise in words and pictures.
Explored the house and garden (above - my studio space for the next two weeks), met the cats, saw a lot of bugs, looked at mint drying on a rack in the sun, ate some amazing home-grown/home-cooked food made by Aiko,
met Okata-San a local rice farmer, who brought rice bran around and demonstrated how to use it to preserve vegetables, tried 20 year old snake sake made by Okata-San (he caught the snake and made the sake), went to a rice field to look at fireflies, had my palm read by Aiko, collected Cicada casings with Jamie at breakfast, 
saw more bugs, and now thinking about what I am going to do for the next 14 days. Below is an image of the veg bowl here at Kayamori, most is grown here, but some is from neighbours: Aiko got up early this morning to go to meet a local farmer who emailed yesterday to say he would be farming on his land until 7.30 this morning, and to come and pick up some corn on the cob, and also Aiko and Jamie go and help out Okato-San during the rice harvest, and he gives them rice all year round.Sharing. 
Plans formulated before I arrived, in Osaka, and since arriving at Kayamori include:
photographing the bugs to make a mushi print (mushi is bug in Japanese), creating the 'how to retreat' kit, a series of postcards with retreat based wisdom on them, collect sounds (Jamie tells me at the moment the sound of cicadas is just the baby ones - a bit like crickets) but that over the next two weeks the sound will get louder and become the whirring, so it will be interesting to try to record that. I wish I had a better sound recorder - I am just using my phone; also I will select and pick and press a flower each day.
Today's flower is from the sour gourd: which is growing just outside the door. Jamie tells me it is like a lumpy skinned cucumber, and has to be cooked correctly or tastes disgusting. And I hope to explore the idea of a text piece, walking around the imagined city, perhaps it is a mountain city? I want to include an exploration of Boro (which is the repatched and mended rural clothing - so patched that the original garment is almost gone) and I would also like to consider the art of kintsugi: which was from ceramics = where broken pots are mended in gold, and then become more valuable. 
Also, ideas for when I get back: turn the photos and sounds into an animation, and make a full-size wooden doll version of myself - the kind where you pull the strings and the legs and arms kick up - I saw one of these dolls at the Museum of Housing and Living, and it made me want to make one, and the idea of Brownfield site ikebana.
So what do I do first?

Osaka Research Visit

For the past four days I have been in Osaka, Japan, where my intention was to meet some Japanese artists, get a sense of how contemporary art is being shown, talked about and valued here, and move the 'Indefinable City II' project on. I had organised a couple of visits before going.
 My first visit was to Artcourt Gallery, in Tenmabashi. This is a privately owned Contemporary space, representing and working with both emerging and established artists. I had arranged to meet up with Ami Fukuda, and arts manager at the space on Saturday afternoon, as there was an artist's talk, which would be a good chance to see the work, meet Ami, and hopefully learn about the space and the works.
The talk was very interesting: of course, it was in Japanese, so I didn't know what anyone was saying, but the organisation of the talks was that each artist was introduced by a perhaps more senior individual, who would then put a series of questions to the artist.
 The work in Frontier was great; and Ami explained it is the 10th version of this show that they have had, usually showing new and interesting work by emerging or up and coming artists. The fish bone assemblages by Yumiko Tanabe were really striking.
Ami said that for Japan, Artcourt is an enormous space - and that some Museums that they work with have been able to show large scale works form their collections at Artcourt, where they cannot fit them into their own space.
Some of the works that stood out for me from the show were these fish bone assemblages - above - by Yumiko Tanabe - they are real bones dipped in urethane paint, which gives them a quality like ceramic.
And the series of paintings of anemones and sea creatures by Mariane - a beautiful painter whose work has just been featured in one of Japan's most important art magazines.
 I met Mariane after the talks and told her about Indefinable City II, and why I was in Osaka. I love Mariane's paintings but I am not sure that they fit the theme, but still it was great to see them.
Above Mariane, and Ami showing Mariane's work in the magazine.
One artist whose work I thought would be great for Indefinable City was Tomomi Takata.
 Tomomi graduated last year from Kyoto University, and her work exploring areas in cities which had been red light districts was fascinating. Tomomi was interested in how with gentrification, these once prevalent areas disappear, with little or no evidence of their former use. Tomomi visits the sites, documenting, looking for clues and making interventions which perhaps uncover their past. In particular, Tomomi pointed out some images of Okinowa, where whole areas were dedicated to 'catering' for U.S. soldiers. This is a largely unwritten history in Japan, and a poignant and sensitive body of work.
 I was also intrigued by these carrier bag cloud droplets by Akira Higashi - I hope that the exhibition will look at how sustainability in cities, and so using rubbish bags as material interests me.
This is something which has cropped up a number of times in conversation since I have been in Japan: sustainability in relation to our natural (and unnatural) resources has been mentioned by everyone I have met. Ami made me very welcome at Artcourt, much needed for a tired, jetlagged hot and bothered artist -  and I do hope to stay in touch.
My other prearranged meeting was with Koh Yoshida, who runs Tsukiyo to Syonen (Moonlight and the Boy) with his wife Mio. They opened their gallery 4 years ago, although it has been in this particular spot for one year. They have a varied programme which includes art exhibitions (both selected by them, and artists hiring the space) design shows, regular concerts as well as being involved in a forestation project. 
Navigating Japan is hard, as signs are often not included in English (understandably) and a clear print out of maps were very useful, but I still got lost a lot. When peering hopefully at a map, without fail friendly Osakians stopped to see if I needed help, and a combination of pointing, bowing and pointing usually got me where I needed to be. I actually find it quite interesting being lost, as long as there is no time deadline.
I managed to find the gallery in time for the 7 o' clock concert on Saturday night: I recognised the second floor space from the flag - which I had seen online.
They had two bands playing: really relaxing and beautiful music, and I couldn't help admiring all the lovely objects in the space.
These euphorbias, growing like trees, with a tiny deer standing as if on a mountain. And then these amazing can lights made by Mio: just an ordinary dented can with holes in until the lights are off. 
Artworks are for sale throughout the space, but in an understated way, which makes each piece feel special and beautiful.
I returned on Monday for a meeting where myself, Koh and Mio could sit down and discuss the idea of Indefinable City II. Originally I was hoping to come to Japan and meet some artists and curate the show myself, but it seems to make more sense if this is a joint venture between AirSpace and Tsukio to Syonen, which Koh agrees with. I had prepared an intro postcard to distribute to Japanese artists, which explained the premise of the exhibition, and the requirements for application: I asked Koh what he thought, and it turns out this is a strange way of curating a show in Japan. It is not usual to put out a call, and wait for artists to send proposals, and usually exhibitions are not curated like that here. I wonder how it works - as an open call (I find) can be a really good way of finding new artists to work with.
Koh is also keen to consider if the show might contain UK artists as well as Japanese artists - and then tour the show to the space here? This is something we need to think further about, and decide. I am also wondering if the title might change, as if this is to be a partnership, it may not suit Koh to inherit the title?
We had a good long talk about the idea for the exhibition, as well as how our respective spaces are organised and work. I wondered about how they survive, which Koh said was difficult, and partly why they have such a varied programme, it is much more difficult to get funding in Japan - and it is very competitive.
In relation to the show: I wanted to discuss the idea of Japanese Boro: which is using parts of old clothes to patch up other clothes becoming a new and improved garment. Vintage Japanese Boro is very expensive. Koh explained that Boro is not just for clothes, and I was quite interested, as we (in U.K) are not very good at reusing and recycling.
We had a discussion about how the Japanese do not like to throw anyhting away, Koh used the example of his Japanese/English dictionary - which he has had since a child. He explained that as he uses it all the time, it becomes important, and the Japanese believe in a way that when an object is used a lot it will have a god inside it, and so it can't be thrown away. He said if he longer uses the dictionary he will give it to his friend, and if she doesn't use it she will pass it on, and so things are reused. We then discussed the way that this idea is at odds with the other more modern cultural trait, where everything is also available so cheaply and conveniently that there is a wasteful, throwaway culture. When you go to the convenience store to buy a salad they give you: a napkin (wrapped in plastic) chopsticks and a fork (wrapped in plastic) in case you can't use the chopsticks, all in a carrier bag.  A lot is wasted. 
I remembered the phrase ii ra nai (spelling - sorry) which is something like I don't need it - so I could stop having all the extra stuff with my salad. Koh said it is very interesting that on the one hand, everything is used many times, and on the other, people can buy and throw away so easily, this is happening simultaneously. Koh said that before the earthquake people were thinking about and talking about sustainability - but since the earthquake, and the questions it has raised about nuclear power  - more than ever people are discussing sustainability, respect for natural resources, and materials. 'Now - we should not throw everything away easily, we should recycle - we should save energy.' 
I talked about the idea of Boro in relation to Indefinable City: my idea for Indefinable City II is around a future city which doesn't waste anything; green space in integral to the way the city works, and not an afterthought, it may look beautiful and ramshackle, it is a better utopia than the one presented by the regeneration companies when I was researching Indefinable City in 2006.
I was very interested to hear about how and why an art gallery would get involved in a forestation thinning programme in Chihayaakasaka. Koh told me that 60 year ago the forests in Japan were natural, but then they were cut down in order to grow orange trees. Whole mountain areas were felled, and orange trees planted, to satisfy the market. Then, oranges began to be imported from elsewhere, flooding the market, and the price of oranges collapsed. The orange groves could not be sustained, so many of these were felled, and cedar trees planted. Cedar is good wood for building houses, so suddenly everywhere cedars were growing. Again, cedar began to be imported, and the bottom fell out of the cedar market - as a result, Japan is full of forest areas with cedar trees, but they were densely planted (never intended to be left to mature) and as they have been largely abandoned and left to get on with it - now the forests are dying - as the trees vie for light - and all are sickly, skinny, leafless things. They go to the forest area and join in the thinning out of the cedar trees, to give others a chance to survive. The wood is used to make one-off frames and other furniture for sale in the gallery. I find the idea of the forest as palimpsest interesting: much like the city - and these forests surround cities. I somehow want to link the idea of this with the exhibition - and I like the idea of a mountain/forest city.
 After we had discussed ideas, we agreed we would each have a think and decide how to proceed: whether this is a show of Japanese artists in Stoke only, or both UK and Japanese artists: or whether perhaps we can swap: and UK artists be shown in Japan, and Japanese artists in UK? After the meeting Koh had arranged for some Japanese artists to come and meet me. We went for a meal together, and many questions were asked about arts in the U.K. and Japan.
We talked about survival, and how to make ends meet.
We will see what develops from these visits. I also went to the aquarium, which was in the Tempozan Harbour Village, housing many of the leftovers from the 1970 World Expo (something about World Expo sites really attracts me...) and I went to the Museum of Housing and Living, where I enjoyed the lifesize recreation of an edo village and the models of Osaka city through time...and it got me thinking about Indefinable City as a series of zones or districts: what zones and districts make up a city? Altogether the Osaka visit has been amazingly inspiring...I have a number of ideas brewing already.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Turning Point West Midlands Visit

Today AirSpace hosted a meeting with Turning Point West Midlands, to discuss artist's professional development strategies for the area. Turning Point is the arts councils 10 year strategy to support and strengthen visual arts in England, TPWM is our regional organisation. Wendy Law and Jane Morrow came to meet some of us Stoke based practitioners and arts organisers: present were: Paul Bailey (Cultural Development team) Marcus Wemyss (practising artist based at Burslem's live work spaces) Denise O'Sullivan (Ceramicist and pop-up organiser), Adam Gruning (recent graduate and artist), Glen Stoker (photographer and AirSpace window programme curator) Cath Ralph (Chief Exec of Burslem School of Art) and Andrew Branscombe (AirSpace Director and founding member.) Apologies from some of the other organisations and groups in the area who couldn't make it, but would like to be kept in the loop. I thought it would be useful to summarise the conversation and intentions here.
Today's meeting was part fact finding for TPWM and part communication in regards to their remit for delivering their aims and priorities of which 3 key priorities have been identified by the steering group, consisting of:
  • Artist support and development
  • Advocacy and communication
  • Research and critical debate.
In particular the focus of today's meeting was to discover what sort of provision already exists in North Staffs (in terms of artist's development) and what could be needed, and how that might happen. TPWM were keen to dispel the myth that the activity will be Birmingham centric, and in particular have identified that the professional development strand of what they do should happen outside of Birmingham.
They have already identified a number of opportunities which will be opening up in the coming years, which should support development for artists in this area and other areas of the west Midlands and these will include:
  • Research visits (about to be announced is a regional visit to Frieze, where delegates will go to see new work, but also look at the Sunday Art fair - with a view to explore whether art spaces from the region might be represented there.)
  • A series of studio visits: where artists will be able to apply to meet specific curators to show their work and explore possible representation or opportunities.
  • Micro residencies - where artists nominated by their group/area will be offered a residency in other areas.
  • setting up a regional artist development advisory group to feed into and set the agenda for an annual visual arts forum for the area.
They also wanted to know what we thought might be missing for our area, and how they might be able to support that. 
At AirSpace we have a keen eye on development of artists, and have always included within our programme opportunities to learn from elsewhere (bringing artists and speakers in from other places to share experience as well as going to other places and bringing the learning back) as well as hands on workshops for development of new methods of making and doing. This is something we hope to continue and would certainly benefit from support from TPWM on. One of our key priorities is to increase support for emerging artists and new graduates in the area. This year we have introduced the Graduate residency scheme at AirSpace: providing free studio space for six months, monthly support and development meetings and a solo show at the end of that period for two graduates (graduating this summer.) We would like to expand this and offer support to more recent graduates, and have already begun looking at how to do this. In particular we would love to work with A-N (we have worked with A-N before - a few years ago) and hope to be able to host one of their Fast Forward events at the gallery as well as exploring other connections - perhaps this is something that TPWM could support? 
What became evident through the meeting to me, is that though at AirSpace we have developed a very supportive community - sharing ideas, knowledge and critical debate and getting out there to see what goes on elsewhere- other artists in the area feel less supported in these terms, so it may be an area which we can open up more, again here TPWM may be able to help by publicising the events and workshops and sharing opportunities that we already have going on. First thing is to let more people in North Staffs know about TPWM. The newsletter is distributed to over 1,000 people in the region, and is useful to get signed up to.

I would really like to see some research visits which take West Midlands based artists to other cities (Nationally and Europe wide if possible.) and also the other way, bring other artists here to see what we are doing.
I have been lucky enough to be selected for two A-N networking trips in the past: the first to Lille in April, 2008 (written up here on my blog.) This trip saw us visiting a variety of artist led spaces in Lille, which was brilliant and has certainly fed into my thinking about AirSpace over the years: but also led to a number of important connections and opportunities for me as an artist: A two month curatorial residency at Harrington Mill Studios, a commission for a publication, an exhibition in Margate with AirSpace studio group and a number of lasting and supportive friendships.
The second was in Liverpool - an A-N supported networking weekend called 'The Winner Takes it All' - on my blog here - which again has lead to a variety of opportunities and connections. The conversations and connections made on this sort of research trip are really priceless for the emerging artist, and I know how privileged I was to be able to take part in them. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Indefinable City II

What if the world were flat, I could walk across continents to stand beside you. What if it ended and then started again, suddenly, and you and I had to build the city together? What would it look like? What if it were a new island, and we could start from scratch, what would it be? Who would live here? What would they grow: people, animals, plants or buildings?

Next week I am going to Japan. The first 4 days I will be in Osaka, where I hope to meet artists and present the idea of Indefinable City II (IC II)an exhibition due to take place at AirSpace Gallery in 2014. Indefinable City (the first exhibition) took place at AirSpace Gallery (when we were in the old falcon works factory) in 2007. There is a write up of the exhibition and a video here. It seems right that I go to Japan for IC II as much of my thinking for the first show was informed by my time in Japan. The city seems a very different place to me today (compared to 5 years ago) the optimism and (utopian?) vision presented by regen companies operating here back then (which I was suspicious of at the time) have proven to be somewhat false gods: and investments were made often in the wrong places. Glaringly obvious truths seem apparent now that investment in grassroots development were opportunities missed, what if we could go back and do it all again?
Well, we can't so: Indefinable City II aims to look at the good work being done at a grass roots level: and in many ways talks about survival against the odds of grassroots activity. The question is particularly urgent for a country like Japan: where city's are even more precarious with recent natural catastrophe forcing a rethink in terms of energy provision and questions around Nuclear Power.
I am really pleased to have a been invited to Tsukiyo to Syonen (gallery in Osaka) to meet Koh Yoshida to discuss the exhibition, and also what they do and meet some of the artists they work with. One of their projects looks at reforestation: and I am keen to think about ideas relating to forestation in cities (and on a slightly smaller scale urban gardening - something we have been interested in at AirSpace for some time.)
After my days in Osaka I am heading to the mountain forest area in Nara - to Headspace for a 2 week artist residency. Kayamori house is a beautiful artist's retreat, and I am going there to create a 'How To Retreat' kit to be left for future artists' use when retreating at Headspace.
It is only a week until I set off: very exciting. I plan to keep a blog while there, so watch this space.