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A reflection on Create to Move Residency at St Margaret’s House in July 2018.

Blog by Emma Macleod (visual artist)

The first of our Create to Move residencies as part of our AN Artist Bursary, was a 3 week-long residency at St Margaret’s House supported by Edinburgh Palette in one of their gallery spaces.

Although this was a relatively long residency, we couldn’t all be there the whole time as we all had other work commitments. One of the challenges when working collaboratively is finding time together; working around one another’s schedules can be tricky especially when freelance jobs can come up quite last minute! Despite this, the time was really helpful and fruitful for all of us in the collective (Emma Macleod (visual artist), Fiona Hermse (visual artist, jeweller & community artist) and Emma Snellgrove (choreographer & dancer).

One of the interesting things about this residency was its setting in a gallery open to the public alongside other exhibitions.  We decided that keeping the doors open some days & taking part in the opening night (despite it being in the first days of our residency!) would allow us to interact with the public.  We decided to pose some questions on the opening night around our topic of “AI & Technology” and asked visitors to respond on post it notes and on a chalkboard. We had some engaging conversation about peoples’ hopes, dreams and fears of technology.  Emma S and I (Emma M) also did an informal improvised performance.

One of the starting points of the residency was a reflection on a video work that I created, which involved found imagery of Sophia the robot with an extract of spoken words from Becoming Animal by David Abram. The video concentrates on the articulation of the carefully engineered fingers, and became the starting point of some movement tasks exploring intensive concentration on one part of the body, and ideas around manipulation and technology.

Emma S invited dancer Christina Liddell to join for part of the residency so that they could work together on choreography.  From the point of view of a visual artist, I found it interesting to observe the way dancers naturally work collaboratively, and the choreographic methods of exploring through improvisation and then working through to the development of a sequence, repeated, honed and tuned.

Throughout the residency we tried to find different ways of working together, some of this was sharing in deep conversation around our topics, others were setting tasks for one another and exploring these together through movement or material manipulation, other times we worked individually in our research and then shared collectively.  One of the things we’ve discovered is the need for a balance between working individually and in a shared capacity.

It can be challenging trying not to get bogged down in a final outcome, but allowing yourself to explore freely and to play.  In a time-pressured environment – short amount of time together and other work/life commitments – everything feels like it has to count towards an end goal.  Movement, however, is a fleeting thing and presents a refreshing new direction for an artist like myself interested in object and image making and creating things that “last”.

You can see a snippet from one of Emma Snellgrove’s improvised performance here https://www.instagram.com/p/BlgKwRGgk6m/