In this opening post LOW PROFILE discuss the motivations and aims behind its new residential workshop model.
We feel pretty invisible.
We’ve been around for a while and we’ve done lots of things we are proud of, but we remain, in many ways, at the fringes.
Having said that, we like being at the edges. We were drawn to living in Plymouth for its underdog qualities and for the real potential to contribute productively and sincerely to the place we lived and worked in. At the time of settling here in 2005, it is no exaggeration to say that you could count the number of contemporary visual artists based in the city on one hand. A lot has changed since then and the city is becoming an exciting place for artists to be located and for audiences to have high quality cultural experiences.
We have never been concerned about the impact living in Plymouth has, or might have, on our careers. This has been our base and like many artists based in a particular locale or city, we rarely show (or desire to show) work in the city itself. There are, however, challenges to ‘being here’.
- it can be costly and time consuming to travel
- the art scene is still very young and lacking a full ecology of practitioners (emerging, mid career, established etc)
- the city does not have a large, dedicated contemporary visual art venue
- there are very few studio spaces available for artists making non-commercially focused work (est 12 individual studio spaces for rent)
- there are few curators and programmers operating in, and/or visiting the city
Over the years we have shown work across the regions and outside the UK, but have most recently spent the last two years making work (a participatory project ‘Picture in the Paper’ and a solo gallery installation, ‘Impromptu’) originated and based in Bath (South West). Bath, like Plymouth, suffers from a lack of critical engagement and attention from the art world and wider arts discourse. We had made two significant projects and attempted to create an audience for these works, but they remained very ‘local’ in their reach. The revelation that good work can be entirely missed when being presented out of established contexts, is in no way surprising. It is, however, still frustrating.
We are not interested in making decisions about where we live, or make and show work, based on whether (or not) it is strategically good for our career or professional profile. We’re not aiming for grand notions of success, status or recognition, but we do, of course, want our work to be seen, for our networks to reach outside of the places we operate in and for the things we do to attract the attention of people involved in the critical discourse around arts practice (artists, curators, writers, researchers, programmers etc.).
We started to think about ways we could reconnect with a wider network of artists and arts professionals and support other artists with similar needs, issues and concerns to those that we were identifying.
Jamboree – what was it?
The first iteration of Jamboree took the form of a residential workshop held in Plymouth (Nov 2015) over 3 days, with 16 artist participants (selected from 6 artist run associate schemes from across the UK) and guest curator Martin Clark (Director, Bergen Kunsthall & Artistic Director, Art Sheffield).
The workshop aimed to foster a peer network of artists who are invested in each other’s practices, providing useful and supportive connections; provide a focused professional development opportunity and maximise energy and resources, by gathering a group of artists together from across the country to share knowledge, practice and networks. Jamboree aimed to expand regional/national networks for artists and visibility of artists based ‘in the regions’; create a social environment for sharing; support the potential of long lasting connections and provide useful professional contacts.
During the workshop the group took part in/attended:
- the Jarman Film Award screening
- gave individual presentations of art practice – focused on current concerns, modes of practice and challenges faced.
- a ‘place mapping task’ and group presentations – artists worked in groups to map useful information about the place they live and work in, whilst considering how they operated within that place.
- provocation led by Martin Clark on the notion of place/operating at ‘the edges’ and individual responsibility.
- visited KARST for a behind the scenes tour and private view opening.
- Group session led by Martin Clark focused on notions of what is lacking/what is required.
- Go-Sees to Peninsula Arts Gallery, Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery, The Gallery at Plymouth College of Art and Plymouth Arts Centre.
- A public film screening of video work (selected via an open call) by associate artists of Jamboree’s partner Associate Schemes.
- Presentations by a sonic expert Neil Rose and cartography and geographic information systems expert, Sean Lewin
- Reflective sessions on ‘what is next’
- Skill mapping and swapping task (to share individual skills amongst the group)
Jamboree – a new approach to creating a dispersed but connected model.
Our desire to bring people together in one place, to meet face-to-face in an intensive environment to get to know each other and each other’s practice; reflects our interest (and belief) in notions of individual and collective responsibility, and the potential of the collective as an agent for change.
At present in the UK, it is well recognised that there are multiple established art ‘scenes’ operating across the country. This situation disrupts a notion of a clear or singular centre and presents arts practitioners with the potential of a (geographically) dispersed but (socially) connected model.
The framework of Jamboree empowers individuals to make the most of being part of a collective, a community of practice and part of a developing network of artists who are critically engaged, widely dispersed (geographically) but interested in making (social and professional) connections and open to sharing knowledge, information and contacts.
LOW PROFILE is a collaboration between artists Rachel Dobbs (IRL) and Hannah Jones (UK). They have been working in collaboration since 2003 and are based in Plymouth (UK).
LOW PROFILE’s practice spans a variety of performative interfaces with different audiences including small-scale live moments, gallery exhibitions, books, videos, durational task-led performances, sculpture, text works, sound works and large-scale participatory projects. Our work is informed by (and often make in response to) specific contexts and situations.
Jamboree #1: Plymouth was produced and facilitated by LOW PROFILE and developed in partnership with PAC Home (Plymouth Arts Centre’s associate programme) and with the generous support of a-n and Plymouth Culture, in addition to the six main partners: PAC Home and Plymouth Arts Centre (Plymouth), Spike Associates and Spike Island (Bristol), WARP and g39 (Cardiff), Extra Special People and Eastside Projects (Birmingham), CG Associates and Castlefield Gallery (Manchester), Glasgow Sculpture Studios (Glasgow).