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By: Susan Mortimer
This residency is made up of a number of visits to Westgate Studios during February and March 2011, documenting the space through as well as recording the journeys to and from Durham to Westgate Studios, Wakefield, Yorkshire.
This blog will be a documentation of the project and its outcomes.
# 9 [22 March 2011]
Completed 4 digitally printed A5 photo books for the Westgate Studios show yesterday evening, alongside 12 framed photos these will be the work from the residency for the show next week.
# 8 [17 March 2011]
I have just finished the latest issue of MAT ZINE.
This issue makes up part of my response to the residency and will form part of the work for the art walk show at Westgate Studios at the end of this month.
In this issue I have tried to address the idea of empty properties being regenerated as studios both in Westgate and Durham.
There is only positive to be had from the use of empty properties as centres of art practice: maintaining empty buildings, bridges built with local communities and of course providing low rent and viable spaces for a variety of arts practitioners.
At the beginning of the residency I was thinking in terms of taps, and a net work of flowing creativity through these spaces.
This issue of MAT ZINE is more political in content that I had 1st planned; there are political contexts surrounding the emergence of art practices in empty properties and I found I couldn't not refer in part to those issues, especially as much of the work I was documenting at Empty Shop Studios in Durham contained a direct political content.
# 7 [14 March 2011]
Sunday was my last day of my residency at Westgate Studios.
Spent the day photographing around the building again, as well as having access to artist Ian Smith's studio:http://tim-naish.blogspot.com/ as well as the empty 1st floor area which I hadn't previously visited.
Now face the final push in order to complete the project work for the Westgate Studios open at the end of this month.
# 6 [5 March 2011]
While working on the photographs from Westgate Studios have been thinking about the impact might cameras have on our understandings and expectations.
There are a prolific amount of images surrounding us, a constant kaleidoscope or slide show of images.
Replicating the way our eye sees, builds up visual information from number of images.
Thinking about photographing things in the way expected... prescribed... what things should look like/interpretation....imposing a look/set of ideas/ideologies connected with a certain 'look'.... Camera and lens will dictate how we see/interpret things... sepia long exposure Victorian photos... 35mm b/w fast grainy film... Polaroid... flash... digital... HD. The capabilities/availabilities of technology interpreting its current environment.
Have been looking at soft focus, enlarged segments of the photos as a way to question the extreme clarity achievable by high tech digital and HD cameras.
# 5 [25 February 2011]
One thing has been bothering me about this blog was the adjustment needed when using a different weblog. (I have been using a Wordpress now for over 3 years and wasn't really aware of how comfortable it had become until trying to adjust to a new weblog format.)
Employing a new structure really helped to high light how ingrained my work practice has become. Hope by trying new methods it will provide a better awareness of the established ones.
On Wednesdays visit the weather was more over cast with drizzly rain. I was interested that one view from Paula's studio window was similar to that from mine in Durham; there is a steep road opposite.
Another thought was that in these building which have been used for retail that the views from the 1st floor up have been the property of those employed there, not the customer. The views from the studios are cracking.
I did find myself wondering about falling in to taking an expected type of studio photograph. Have to keep reminding myself that this is a process of building up a rapport with a specific place; that the images develop over visits. Similar to repeatedly drawing a place might.
I am also interested about the imprint these visits will leave on me.
# 4 [24 February 2011]
Yesterday was my second residency day at Wakefield Studios.
I met several more of Wakefield's studio holders, including Paula Tod http://www.axisweb.org/seCVPG.aspx?ARTISTID=4862 hose studio I was able to spend some time in and photograph.
Spent the first hour or so yesterday photographing in the top floor studio that had been occupied by artist Red John, before revisiting particular parts of the building again and then taking myself outside to photograph the surrounding buildings many of which are quite particular in style.
Thoughts so far about the format for the work to take are:
A series of visual booklets either documenting each trip or focusing on individual aspects for example:
Local buildings; door furniture in the studio building (which has had an interesting history, is a listed building and used to be a coaching hotel before becoming a bank and now studio complex.)
These ideas represent a jumping off point rather than a concrete proposal and I will begin to get a better idea of how the images might begin to sit together over the next couple of days as I start working more with the material.
# 3 [18 February 2011]
Have been looking again at the photographs from Westgate studios.
One image keeps pushing its self forward; of a tap in a currently unoccupied studio on the top floor.
Taps are ubiquitous... and are a conduit for something we can't exist with out.
Plan to spend the next few days exploring this.
# 2 [13 February 2011]
Here and there:
It's been a few days since my initial visit to Wakefield's Westgate Studios.
Going over the material I gathered (video and photographs) a couple of thoughts have been chasing themselves in my head.
The first is the notion of here and there... the process of going somewhere completely unknown, how one seeks out the familiar (street furniture, shops, etc) to use as markers to establish a map.
And the other a looser, more abstract idea, to do my with my own practice methods, concerning the role and importance I assign to my physical engagement while making work.
Looking at the videos one thing that I was thinking about with travelling to the Westgate studios was what happens when you go some where completely new... the disorientation... the similarities.. Architecture, retail shops, street furniture and how one reads them and tries to create using familiar points of reference to create configurations formulating a map/plan, to make the unfamiliar familiar.
Inside Westgate I tried filming surfaces, rather than spaces or spaces between, quite often un focused or very close up. Filming the views outside again filmed details, brickwork, surfaces, snippets.
The outside views were very different to those in Durham City which is far smaller geographically, the buildings aren't so grand and are lower, so there aren't (from Empty Shop studios) the vista views out across the town and over to the countryside which for me is a big feature at Westgate Studios.
With the photographs I concentrated on surfaces; on textures, details. Also on some broader shots of the studios and the light in them.
I am interested at this point of the idea of here and there... interior/exterior/ Wakefield/Durham... close to/far away
Perspective... how we perceive/ how we communicate...product of our environments/culture (local)... that contemporary society seems in many ways breaks down those understandings/differences/local identities,.
The photographs are a product of a quite rigours physical engagement on my part (not using tripods for longer exposures, physical control needed in obtaining certain camera angles/shots) in order to create controlled images which very subtly allude to a physical engagement with a place.
While I was thinking about this side of things the notion of how an application of extreme control over the physical body in the arts often is seen to award a cultural status (e.g. as with dancers.)
I wondered just how much the awarding of status for the subjugation of the un-predictable nature of the human physical body extends, particularly in relation to the arts.
That is something I would like to look in to more, though not necessarily in the time frame of this residency but as something to take forward in the future.
# 1 [10 February 2011]
Yesterday was my first day visiting Westgate Studios, Wakefield.
Spent a busy day photographing and video-ing around the building.
Was shown around by artists Ian Smith and Bob Milner.
The views from the building were amazing and so was the light in the building.
Have a lot of material now to start sifting through and planning for the next visit in a couple of weeks.
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Originally from London I currently live in Durham. In 2010 I completed an MA in digital art through Camberwell College University of the Arts, London.
I currently have a studio at Empty Shop HQ in Durham City.
To view my ongoing weblog please click the link below: