Caroline Wright and I have been sharing images, ideas and accounts of our work together with Yasmin Canvin of Fermynwoods Contemporary Art over the course of the project. Most recently we met on 28th September to share our plans for showing in Oriel Davies Gallery’s Test Bed

We want to convey something of the process of our collaboration – the different stages and phases it has been through – so will be making a series of three interventions in the space, between the launch on 22nd October and close on 7th January 2017.

  • 22nd October: launch of phase 1 – (Penny Hallas and Caroline Wright)
  • Change over to phase 2 on 7.11.16 (Penny Hallas)
  • Change over to phase 3 on 8th Dec (Caroline Wright)

Yasmin wondered how we would convey something of the whole process at each stage – not just in accompanying text, but visually. She saw that we had each found different reasons for the noteworthiness of the Skirrid Mountain – and distinctive ways of communicating familiarity / strangeness: distance / intimacy: belonging / alienation. She spoke first about phases 2 & 3, noticing that in both of these, estrangement, barriers, and difficulty will be a part of the experience, involving viewers bodily, physically as well as visually. Phase 2 will encourage people to enter into the space, to peer into miniature paintings of the mountain, perhaps to use viewing devices of various kinds to overcome distance and try to get a better view. Phase 3 will fill the space with 3D cones, restricting access to the space – forcing the way the work will be experienced both from within the space looking out and at a distance from the outside.

Her feedback was that phase 2 and 3 are convincing and that, together apart, the differences in our approaches add weight to each other and to the narrative as a whole. However, she felt phase 1, where we show elements of both our work from the beginning stages of the project, is more problematic, and she posed questions to help us think more about how to make this phase stronger – and link it more overtly to what was to follow.

How could we communicate more of the themes of difference? How could we emphasise more our experience of near and far? She suggested this might be done through reconsidering scale and through careful selection of images. As I result, I reworked my slide sequence, making images smaller in the blackness of the screen – to link a little more with the process of peering into the miniatures that will follow in phase 2. Caroline took the decision to keep her contribution simple, choosing to narrow down to one image without including any of Agnes Martin’s writing at this point.

We talked about texts which could be part of the exhibited work and about how to extend participation beyond the Test Bed experience itself – in the way that we used postcards in PEAK on the Edge event (see blog below)

During our discussion I was reminded of 4 key messages I’d taken away from our first mentoring conversation back in June, when we were preparing for the PEAK event, and which have stayed with me over the summer and into the autumn. These were:

  • What is the difference an audience can see – and that we can show?
  • What is the experience you want people to have?
  • What is it only you can do?
  • What is the role of surprise in shifting audience perceptions and forging memories?