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By: Sharon Haward
I have been chosen, along with French artist Pierre-Yves Brest, to take part in Résider/Reside, a project devised by Dover Arts Development and Espace 36. The residency is based on issues around location, residence and migration. Each of us will spend up to 15 days in Kent and the Côte d'Opale and produce work which will be exhibited in St.Omer in September and in Dover in October 2009.
# 26 [11 April 2011]
Recently I went to a talk by Emilia Telese about working abroad - really wish I had access to this prior to the Résider:Reside project in 2009.
Emilia highlighted the difference between working in countries with a strong heritage based culture like Italy, Spain and to some extent France - where they lean towards a more academic and clearly defined art object experience. Whereas countries with strong arts infrastructure and public funding like Uk and Northern Europe - support more experimental and conceptual based work.
Coming form a conceptual/experimental background and landing somewhere where there was an expectation of working tightly to the brief meant that I made fundamental errors in meeting the expectations of the French director who was a partner in this joint Kent/Côte d'Opale venture. I had worked hard on improving my french, mapping out the territory I was working in, and researching basic historical material but it didn't occur to me to research working with European partners !
The project based in St.Omer was well supported by press ad TV coverage and the location and accompanying staff were very agreeable. Although I was about 90 % sure about how my piece would work in the space the remaining 10% proved problematic. And it was this level of uncertainty and experimentation that led to difficulties with the french Director. I knew I could solve the problem but it meant that the work would appear on a different wall to the one I had originally intended.
The key was that I didn't do exactly what I said I would do and from that point our relationship unravelled - I could have done several things to perhaps prevent this - tried out different solutions before putting anything into writing and written the brief more loosely with an either /or contingent statement. It is a shame the project ended on a sour note but everything we do entails making some mistakes and the key is to make sure we learn from them !
# 25 [30 December 2009]
11th December - Box Gallery Dover -the final stage of the Résider/Reside and the distribution of a small publication which explores the theme of residence, location and migration from various points of view -the curators, mediators, participants and artists. A real joy to have such a concrete thing as the outcome of this 6 month long project.
Great turn out for finissage - pizza and mint tea went down well along with the balloon messages and Big Screen showing of my work and that of Pierre-Yves Brest - a really exciting aspect of working in Dover.
The whole project finished today and there is plenty to think about .... the things that stick in my mind are - being alone and away from home for short stretches and able to think and plan without worrying about day to day stuff - with a family, home and various freelance jobs on the go, this was a real luxury. The project felt like a team effort with plentiful support from the organisers and curators, their volunteers, mediators and associates.
Also I was the artist and not an organiser or project manager so I felt really able to focus on making work - something that happens quite rarely. As with most projects there were errors of judgment, mistakes and misunderstandings but these all added to the experience and they signify important markers of progress.
As for writing this blog - Hmm... not sure I managed to be as concise and open as I intended but it has served as a good place to explore and digest the whole project.....but not sure that it is of any interest beyond that.
So only left to say a big thank you to Joanna, Clare and Christine of Dover Arts Development, mediators Lucy and Charlotte plus Benôit and Evodie of espace 36 and of course to Pierre-Yves who was a rock when things looked a bit shakey.
# 24 [17 December 2009]
24-Nov - Dusk photo tour of Dover. This tour was organised as a way of connecting the work I have made for the Box Gallery with the themes of residence and location across Kent and Cote d'Opale. There was a good turn out of participants and some travelling from as far away Bexhill.
The sky was a lovley cool fresh wintery blue when we started and as we walked throught he town and around the back of the college it changed to an amazing inky blue lit by orange street lighting.
The most pleasurable aspect of the photo tour, which is a little like teaching drawing, is that moment when those taking part suddenly begin to really see the world - sounds cheesy but it is great when excitement, recognition and an awakening of memories all come to life.
# 23 [17 November 2009]
17th Nov. Now on last leg of the RESIDER/RESIDE project and am feeling more than ready to get the last lot of work installed and firing on all cylinders. Almost everything is ready but am a little nervous about how it is going to work in the space. I really wish I could do something simple for once - the days when I just packed the car with paintings and delivered them somewhere or hung them somewhere seem long gone ... now it's all electric cables, mirrors, blacking things out, mirror balls, everything but the kitchen sink !
In terms of the headspace to develop ideas and links this has been a great project especially trying to push the thinking into a tangible shape and form and juggling ideas about history and place, war and culture, belonging and not belonging - and how its all fits together has been and will continue to be a very exciting avenue of research.
So on Saturday I will do a photo tour of Dover seeking out interesting builidngs and architecture. The thoughts behind this reflect an interest in our ongoing obsession with clear visual fields, high definition images and I want to explore all the opposite apsects of this slippery but clearly delineated world - shadows, ambiguity and the palpably undefined.
# 22 [6 November 2009]
6 Nov. - House is full of cardboard, can't move for card facades and cutting templates. Seem to spend hours searching internet for mirrored perspex, board, plastic, lights, disco balls etc it's all getting. v. theatrical !.
# 21 [25 October 2009]
24 Oct - The opening of Pierre-Yves Brest's photographs in Dover - a lovely afteroon event consisting of art, chat, and lovely cream teas provided by Mandy.
The sense of undisclosed longing created through being able to view the subject, who in turn is looking into the distance is further enhanced by being somewhat removed from the images, which is a key characteristic of the Box Gallery space, where the viewer can only look in through the glass. This is in contrast to the setting in St.Omer where the viewer could get up close.
The Big Screen, a rather science fiction/Big Brother type screen in Dover town centre, shows Pierre-Yves photographs in a carefully calibrated slide show format. Against the darkening skies the photographs appear luminous and saturated; the subjects wistful and quiet - which is a counterpoint to some of the usual content which is all dynamic movement, colour and sound.
# 20 [8 October 2009]
8 Oct. - It has been a strange and strained week. On the one hand still looking back and dealing with the repercussions from St.Omer and feeling a distinct lack of sangfroid - and on the other trying to look forward and plan the Dover exhibition which seems to be looming.
The whole issue of mediation is proving to be quite tricky. I have worked with many exhibitions from an interpretation and mediation angle and now realise being the mediated one is no picnic ! (had once imagined it might be quite thrilling - but now think being long dead is prob the only way !) The difficulties encountered in France, whilst instructive are quite challenging because the expected levels of engagement with the public seem so critical. It is also hard to reconcile my own concerns about making work which resonates with the site and the ideas inherent in Résider/Reside and the concerns of Espace 36 to engage with the public - which they have found difficult because the work is not immediately visible . . . all in all a difficult and sometimes uncomfortable situation.
# 19 [5 October 2009]
5th October - next step is the Dover Installation at the Box Gallery. I am looking forward to developing this part of the project and am keen to build the work up through layers of media and imagery. Have now been to Dover 6 times and enjoy the architectural jumble and the rough and ready town planning.
It will also be good to be able to let the work evolve in a confined space with limited access. Am also wondering how I might be able to cram some shipping into the imagery ? it is very odd when you drive into Dover from the M20 and suddenly see huge ferrys lumbering into port and there is a very odd thing that happens to the scale of the ships and the surrounding buildings and landscape - the ferries look huge wherever you are.
# 18 [19 September 2009]
7-13 September - the week of installation. Received a very warm welcome from espace 36 team and the first 2 days went quite smooothly. A few changes were made to cope with the amount of light coming into the space. As always, for me, when I arrive at the space with all the installation stuff, things shift and change and some things work fine and some need ajustment - so happily did all I could to make the projection work with the building. There were a tense few days while we worked hard to make original plan work and 5 hours before opening it was still all up in the air ! It wouldn't work - so went back to the set up we achieved on Tuesday ! The vernissage was great, very well attended and both Pierre-Yves Brest's photographs and my projection were well received.
Have thought long and hard about the problems encounterd this last week and feel that there were misconceptions on both sides. In situations like this I perhaps have to be more sensitive to other peoples expectations and pay more attention to small details. For all that it has been an exciting and challanging project and one that has been a real pleasure to be part of.
# 17 [5 September 2009]
26 August St.Omer - ran a short workshop with some local photographers which entailed walking around the town and photographing the architecture and shadows - all went quite smoothly and particiapansts seemed engaged. Benôit giving a kind of potted history of the town as we went and Evodie taking some great shots.
Rather surprised to be miked up and filmed by France 3 as well as being interviewed by Voixnord ! challenging to say the least with my v. limited vocabulary!
Sharon Haward is based in Hastings and has been influenced by her immediate surroundings, specifically areas of urban regeneration and a range of historically significant buildings. These places and spaces have inspired Haward to create site-specific installations, interventions and open ended experimental work using found materials, photography and video. Haward's work evolves from a synthesis of history, memory of place, transient occupancy and a more abstract response to the physicality of the space.