I’m not good at this type of project record; my writing up until now seems to oscillate between formal reporting structures (public, but a given quantity, and easy to de-personalise) and informal email chatting (private, wide-ranging and meandering, open-ended…). Blogging an award seems to sit somewhere between these two poles, and has lead to my making copious notes, but not posting them. In an attempt to stop over-thinking things, my plan now is to
“Begin at the beginning,”…”and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
So, how did I (we) get here? The award itself is for a collaborative action research approach with fellow artist Ruth Jones, to develop the “Agency of Visible Women” an Intersectional Womxn Artist Network based in Southend-on-Sea that itself developed from a group exhibition that Ruth curated, bringing many women artists together.
And we kept talking…and thought about what else we’d like to do…and applied. Our aim has been to develop the Agency beyond its initial stages through research including visits to other community-based groups, hosting consultations with women artists, and publishing our findings in a collaborative artist publication, developed using risograph, which we would learn as part of the project, detailed in the next entry.
Collaborative learning and development certainly reflects back to my own practice and experience. As a d/Deaf artist I’m usually excluded from networking and development opportunities – unless I expend considerable time and effort negotiating access (with no guarantee of success) for opportunities that many artists take for granted. One of the reasons I was so drawn to the Agency was my sister artists’ willingness to consider how to include me, and this in turn feeds my innate attraction to collaborative and community approaches. The sharing of experience and knowledge is also developing my understanding of intersectional issues; not only broadening my knowledge of issues that impact on other people, but also developing a deeper understanding of how I am personally impacted. I’ll add thoughts and examples of this through my blog posts.
The first example is related to blogging (and a partial explanation of why I have copious notes but am back-filling in terms of actual posts). At the start of the project I spent some time looking at the a-n blog structure, as well as my website provider’s blog mechanism, but neither really seemed to meet what I wanted in terms of reflecting the shared working process with Ruth. We set this aside for a while, and then began discussing virtual information sharing (with the intention that this would then feed into our individual blogs). I was keen for some kind of virtual noticeboard that would allow us to share information as and when we wanted to without the persistent pestering that email dialogues can become. Ruth’s discussions with another agency member threw up Miro, an online colloboration programme, that would allow us to do just that.
We both feel that using this noticeboard approach mitigates the fractured nature of our working/personal lives (would be nice to have focused time to…well, focus…but few people do). It’s certainly something I’ll keep working with after the project is completed.
When Ruth and I initially discussed the project, we looked at risograph techniques as an area of learning which could benefit us both and steer the research outcomes towards an end publication. Although my practice now incorporates much more digital working, in earlier years it was more embedded in printmaking, so I was keen to explore a new technique that offered the possibility of bridging the various areas of my practice.
If it’s not something you know about (skip this para if you do), risograph is something like a cross between screen printing and photocopying – at a cursory glance, Risograph machines look almost identical to older photocopiers. The glass bed at the top allows artwork to be scanned in and the machine then creates a ‘master’, a stencil wrapped around an ink drum. This stencil then allows you to run off multiple duplicates of the image at high speed. The machine can hold two ink drums at any one time and colour drums can be swapped in and out, so that layers of colour can be built up. Like many printmaking techniques, the skill level required can range from beginner to expert; some basics are easy, and some outcomes possible need considerable experience and application.
Ruth had researched Rabbits Road Press a community Risograph print studio and publishing press based in East London. We were fortunate enough to be able to combine our learning session with a group from The Old Waterworks which made for a great sense of a team outing (though it added some complexities for my BSL interpreter, Jilly). Working with Etta at Rabbits Road, we learned not only how risograph works, but the technical issues and complexities to consider when selecting and developing an image (as shown in the four-colour risograph example we collectively printed. Additionally we got to see a huge variety of work, both that produced at Rabbits Road, and works that are part of their collection, which really helped me think through the potential of the medium. A fantastic day of learning and sharing.