In March Sarah and I were awarded the a-n professional development project. The aim of the project was to inspire and teach us how to create larger, more ambitious work in the form of an immersive space.
We began the bursary by meeting with Ruby Soho who makes large-scale work for festivals that uses a mixture of art installation and performance. Ruby gave us loads of useful advice about funding, scaling up and health and safety. The piece of advice that will always stick with us was the ‘naked fox man’ story, the moral of the story was know who the festival audience is and consider how they will treat your work and if your work can withstand this treatment! Since meeting Ruby she has written a lot of blogs full of handy advice, take a look at them here. You can find the Ruby Soho blog on Sarah’s blog.
From Ruby we went to Waterman’s Art Centre. UnReal: XYZ / s and were quite surprised by the way they got the audience to interact with the work. From this we learnt that audience participation shouldn’t be integral to the work as not everyone is comfortable with it. We both felt that our work needed to be visually impressive and have interactive possibilities that the audience can participate in if they want to. At the Waterman’s we also saw What’s In A Line, which had some brilliant interactive activities that were so simply and really affective. The blog for this is on Julia’s page.
In June Julia went to Random String Symposium, a day of lectures about digital art. This inspired us to think digital: before she went, digital art seemed pretty scary by the end of the day she’d found some really approachable ways to create digital art, for example Bare Conductive electric paint. If you’ve not seen this, have a look at Polyphonic Playground by Studio PSK. Melissa Mean from Knowle West Media Centre presented a seminar and it was full of useful starting points:
- Where are the people all ready? Go to where they are.
- Value what all ready exists.
- Reveal the richest that is all ready there.
- Start with people and not the tech.
- Bring the tech in slowly. What happens at the end? What does it do?
- First step very simply
- Put the means of production in the hands of the people.
- Create disruptive spaces for new rules and relationships.
These are definitely points to consider when starting new work. You can see the full blog on Julia’s page.
After Random String Nicola Richardson came to meet us. She runs Vortex-Creates along with Marianne Taviner. Vortex-Creates describes itself as a collection of professionalism, creativity and kickass design, they create costumes and sets for events, theatre and walkabouts. Nicola was full of fantastic advice, the key pieces were; use your voice, tell people what you do and ask for their help, make the right conversations, be in the right places, talk to the right people, go and seek out, travel all over, say no! (as well as yes) and be cheeky. You can read the full blog on Julia’s page.
During June we were busy creating Big Knitting. We think the a-n development bursary gave us a confidence boost, which really helped with our application for Big Knitting and we think it helped build Coventry 2021’s confident in us. Big Knitting was an amazing experience as it was our first really large-scale installation and the audience interacted with it more than we could have wished for. We learnt so much from the whole experience. Now we are in the process of getting dates booked for next year festivals. The full blog for Big Knitting is on Julia’s page.
Straight after Big Knitting we met with Loz Samuels, Arts & Pay Development Officer for Wyre Forest District Council. Loz runs Kidderminster Arts Festival (KAF), which runs for the first two weeks of August. We met with Loz as our experience of festivals has been paid entry festivals rather than community festivals. We were surprised to learn that Loz used to be an acrobat and aerial rigger and she therefore had a lot of useful tips for us, such as the idea that making Big Knitting climbable may be too tricky and not worth approaching. You can see the full blog on Sarah’s page.
From meeting with Loz we are now looking to create a new installation for KAF. We’re looking to create a community project that takes inspiration from their carpet history and local designer Lucienne Day. We are hoping to create large woven panels with different community groups to hang on the Town Hall along with weaving flagging tape along Kidderminster’s main street and a seating area out side the Town Hall. KAF really like the ideas and are just waiting to secure their funding before they can confirm the project.
The following week we headed to London to the Victoria Miro to see Yayoi Kusama solo exhibition and to the V&A to see Elytra. Victoria Miro was our first stop where we were immersed in Yayoi Kusama small room of mirrors and repeating objects. The use of mirrors really created that immersive feeling that we are looking to inject into our work and as such we feel that mirrors are something we should really think about using. In the Victoria Miro we were lucky enough to bump into Rana Begum, The Space Between. She had used metal in repeating forms to create art works that changed in perception as you viewed them from different angles. Her work really affirmed our use of repetition and how effective it is. After the Victoria Miro, gallery we headed to the V&A to see Elytra a filament pavilion that uses robots to create the fibre glass installation. We loved the way it was engineered and the visual qualities that were created through the making technique. The technique of the creation being embedded to the design is something we also do, using the textile technique to create our art works form, never embellishing it or manipulating it after production. I think this is a really strong technique and something we will continue to do. You can see the full blog on Julia’s page.
Every year the Serpentine has a summer pavilion that we always go to. This year it was by Bjarke Ingels and consisted of stacked cubes, the pavilion felt like it had erupted from the ground in an elongated form that had been hit by a massive sound wave. The pavilion was a very calming space, which was being used to relax within. Currently we have created immersive chaos and this was the complete opposite, we feel immersive calm is something to consider for the future. From the pavilion Julia headed to the Festival of Love at Southbank where immersive chaos was taking place in their water fountains. The Festival of Love had a mixture of calm, chaos and emotive work. Our favourite piece was Modified Social Benches, they were very social and could be used in many ways, they were also completely ‘naked fox man’ proof, something we really need to consider in our work. You can see the full blog on Julia’s page.
In August we headed to Just So Festival as it is very family friendly and know for having a lot of art. Just So did not disappoint in the forest there was a lot of art for children and families to get involved in. It was mostly performance based with story telling, comedy, theatre, circus and walkabouts. It was really interesting to see what work was out there and how families interacted with different pieces. After the festival we really felt it was the audience for us and something we’d very much like to be involved with. The full blog is on Sarah’s page.
At the end of the summer Julia headed to Finland and visited Kiasma where Choi Jeong Hwa and Ernesto Neto were both exhibiting. Choi Jeong Hwa had created full room installations from repeating mass produced objects. Happy Happy stimulated immense happiness, this was due to the bright colours and the plastic jungle he’d created. Bright colour is something that we should look at using. Ernesto Neto had created installations which again filled the room, his work felt very calming, very still. Removing your shoes really added to the immersive feeling, it really connected you to the work. The lighting also really adds to that calming feel, lighting is something that we should consider in our work concentrating on the effect it can have on the viewer. The full blog is on Julia’s page.
In October Coventry celebrated it’s art, culture and engineering with the Festival of Imagineers. During the festival we saw a lot of outdoor performance, Urban Astronaut, Wheel House, Osadia, Teatro Tascabile di Bergamo Valse and Orchestra of Samples. It rained a lot and we saw how professional companies dealt with this, which made us consider how we could deal with it. Most of the performances had meanings behind them; they were looking at themes that are affecting our society. Orchestra of Samples was a piece that really stood out, taking musicians from all over the world and then mixing them together to create a complete new sound was an amazing experience to see and hear. We are really interested in bringing individual’s art together through them interacting with our work, perhaps we could look at this on a bigger scale with people from across the world creating one installation.
In October Sarah visited the Hive at Kew Garden’s. This was really interesting for us as it’s very different space from galleries and festivals and it was on a larger scale to the work we’d seen previously and used a completely different structure. Like the work we’d seen at Imagineer it had a strong underlying concept, looking at bees and their communication skills and highlighting their decline. Inside the installation felt very calming and you felt very connected to the bees with the use of light, sound and vibration coming from their hive. This again made us think of concept and highlighting issues that we feel passionate about, creating calming work and working on a much larger scale. You can read read about it on Sarah’s blog.
A few days later Sarah headed down to Devon and saw Sculpting the Museum by Michael Shaw at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum. Sculpting the Museum filled the gallery, passing through walls and doorways, filling up entire galleries and played with negative space and it’s own huge scale, it also created a warming glow with its orange and yellow tones. The simplicity and scale of the work was very inspiring, taking one simple technique, finding a versatile material and scaling it up to create one very immersive sculpture. This is what we aim to do and will continue to do as it is very affective and creates an instant impact. The full blog is on Sarah’s page.
The winter saw us visiting two light festivals, IN LIGHT: Illuminating Compton Verney and Bruce Munro’s Field of Light at Waddesdon Manor. IN LIGHT children’s workshop ran throughout the festival with children decorating lanterns with different papers and these were hung in Compton’s ground. It was such an effective technique, it was really easy for the children and was visually amazing. It was a very inspiring piece of work as it was large scale, allowed for audience participation and looked brilliant. Bruce Munro’s Field of Light was something we’ve been waiting to see for a very long time, it was a very special afternoon and something we’ll always remember. The scale was immense, it felt as if the Field of Light went on and on, the lighting changed in colour and was beautiful tones, each individual element was so simple yet so powerful when all together. Again this demonstrates the power of repetition, how emotive light can be and the value of keeping things simple. The full blog is on Sarah’s page.
In November we were due to meet with Cathryn Peach from Wild Rumpus who run a lot northern festivals, including Just So. Sadly Cathryn was poorly so we are now due to meet her in January. For our a-n professional development project she has given us some key tips for touring outdoor work, this included pricing, her advice was look at the Arts Council daily rate information and contacts, really use the contacts you have and find out who they know. We will certainly start thinking about who we know and who we should be getting in contact with. You can see the full blog on Julia’s page.
It has been a busy year and we’ve learnt a lot on the way. The things that really stick out are ‘the naked fox man’, keep things simple, scale them and repeat, lighting and the possibility of more meaningful concepts and finally using the contacts we have. We feel that the a-n development bursary has been a big confidence boost for us and has increased organisations trust in us. We feel that as a result of a-n we created Big Knitting which has now opened a lot of doors for us, we are now creating a large scale project for Kidderminster Art Festival (dependent on funding), making a new interactive installation for Art in the Park in Leamington Spa (dependent on funding), possibly creating an installation for the Herbert Art Gallery & Museum summer exhibition and maybe even creating something for Just So, along with touring Big Knitting in the summer. It’s been a brilliant experience, we’d advise anyone that has begun to create work and is looking to develop it to a greater scale to apply for the bursary in the future.