Yesterday evening I went to my first “Enköping Art Association” event, it was a discussion with several of the artists from the current show at the gallery: 8 Young Artists. One of the artists, Fredrik Eriksson, I know a little from Mejan – he is on the five year combined bachelors and master programme there and we met during the ‘Explosion’ workshops. He is exhibiting two of his fantastic sculptures. It was good to catch up with him and to hear a little of how he came to be studying art. Fredrik comes from Enköping and was more than a little surprised to see me. He introduced me to a Nina who is the cultural development officer for the council here, we had a good chat about art and artists in smaller towns. I was very pleased to be invited to the next Open Dialogue meeting that Nina and Giulia (the recently appointed Cultural Policy programme leader) will be holding in a couple of weeks. I was also introduced to Gunilla Edström a great supporter of Fredrik and the journalist whose eight articles on young artists from the area inspired the exhibition.
It seems, though, that I may be the only artist living full-time in Enköping. I can not believe this and think that it has more to do with the hesitancy of artists who have not been to art school to call themselves artists. It will be interesting to see who else is at the meeting on the 15th! It is very exciting to have the opportunity to get involved in such discussions and of course I want to do my best to ensure that art and artists (in the broadest sense) are recognised as a vital part of the community. Hopefully the experiences that I bring will be of interest and can add something new to the mix. I am also keen to learn more about the history of the (visual) arts here and what artists want and need. After just our brief chat I had so many ideas racing around my head that realise that I have to be careful not to appear to be coming in and telling people what to do, nor to tread on toes or batter egos.
What follows is a post that I began writing in late January and did not get to finish. As part of my re-engagement with my own practice I am determined to make time to write and post more often! …
Over the last couple of weeks of intensive work as an artisan and planning my own creative ventures I have been wondering whatever happened to the “supporting statement”. I want to write something new to put on my website – actually I will re-phrase that! I want to have a new text on my website, I do not ‘want to write’ it but as I do not know who I would ask to write something I feel that I need to write something myself. Thinking about writing and the pressure on artists, and particularly those in education and outside of the commercial sector, to write has been bugging me. After looking at some application processes for degree courses I was pleased to see that selection by portfolio remains common, however post-graduate and doctoral applications seem more concerned with written proposals of the research topic. Along with the project description applications are asked to submit a (limited) selection of supporting visual material. It seems to be increasingly so for project funding. There is an implication that as one develops as an artist one’s ability to write gains more significance than one’s visual practice. I find this frustrating as the more I make the less I am able to give an adequate linguistic account of my activity. This was, in part at least, my motivation for taking those ‘Introduction to Artistic Research’ courses.
The conundrum that I keep returning to is this: Research seeks an authentic expression of communication, artistic research has one – art. So why does writing often seem to have more authority than making? And perhaps even more interestingly why do artists buy in to it and give time and energy to a discipline other than their own already highly specialised practices. I have yet to hear of a chemist or social historian being expected to communicate their research outcomes in sculptural form or in the medium of dance.
Somewhere between these musings on artistic research and sewing costumes for the “World Premier” of Mamma Mia The Party I remembered that Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at Moderna was about to close. My trip to Stockholm to see one of the last public rehearsals of the show was timed brilliantly as it allowed me to see Eliasson’s ‘Reality Machine’ show too. And what an amazing exhibition it was! One of things that struck me quite quickly was how engaged people were with the work. Everyone seemed to be really looking at the work, wandering around it, looking again, and even if they were not exactly looking at the work it was clear that they were thoroughly enjoying the experience of being in its presence.
The Sunday after I saw what in my opinion is one of the best exhibitions that I have seen in Sweden – Utopian Bodies: Fashion looks forward, at the Liljevalchs gallery. It really is world class not only in terms of content but also in the exhibition design. The gallery is built in a Swedish neo-classical style and the interior with two large central rooms and smaller rooms to both the left and right always looks and feels very similar – the curators of Utopian Bodies have completely transformed the spaces by incredibly skillful use of colour, light and temporary structures. The individual pieces in the show represent not only the best of Swedish design but include international names such as Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan and Issye Miyake as well as Iris van Herpen, Walter Van Beirendonck, Rick Owens and Stephen Jones. It is almost certainly the first time that many of these designers have shown in Sweden. It was amazing that we were able to get so close to so many of the garments, admittedly several were hung above arms reach and some beyond insurmountable obstacles but even in these cases there was an amazing sense of intimacy. In addition to fantastic designs were some great examples of new technologies – garments that wirelessly connect to a smartphone to lead you to your destination without looking at a map, or that relay an athlete’s physical experience of competing to the audience. But perhaps the most impressive, and one of the most discrete, was a dress made from milk! To be more precise it was made of fibres constructed from milk protein, with the current crisis in diary farming and the over production of milk it was inspiring to see something that offered an entirely new use of a very familiar product. I have no idea how viable the process of turning milk into fabric is but for me that is secondary to the idea of being able to see things differently.
Seeing things differently was how Rolf Hughes encouraged us to consider the potential for artistic research on his courses at Konstfack. It was great to see two exhibitions that exemplified and communicated artists’ and designers’ abilities to do this in ways that were literally and metaphorically wonderful!