This afternoon I am taking ‘Play‘ to Stockholm. It is going to be shown at a one day performance event: The Cat Café. I do not understand how the day will be, however I trust Pontus who is organising it – I met him a couple of years ago when we were both on the project year programme at the Royal Institute here. The whole thing is good for me, not only do get involved with something new and experimental but I also have to deal with doing something quickly and without all my usual extensive preparations. I am a bit disconcerted that I have not been able to locate a box of hooks, chains, and other hanging devices that I remember having at the old studio. It would be great to have all those bits with me as I have no idea what I will find at the venue!
Last week I attended two meetings about developments here in Enköping. The first was part of the town’s ambition to establish a cultural strategy for the coming nine years. It was interesting to see the invited guests’ presentations and to hear people’s opinions and dreams, many of them hinging on establishing a new ‘culture house’ and improving public transport. I agree that these are important but I thought that there would be a little more discussion about what we can do in the short-term. I was pleased to be sitting in a ‘workshop group’ with another artist who suggested that there should be links to artists’ homepages and local resources on the council’s website. Another group wanted the re-instatement of the grants and awards that were cut by the previous right-wing council. I am going to get in touch with the woman from the council’s ‘experience management’* department and find out about the creative projects that they run for children and other groups. I met her socially at a gallery opening and she seemed very dynamic and enthusiastic when we spoke. I also want to ask her advice about finding a studio.
(* I think that something is lost in translation however ‘upplevelser’ definitely translates as ‘experience’ and has no specific reference to the arts, culture, or creativity.)
The second meeting as more general and very well attended! On one corner of Enköping’s town square there is a hole where the town hotel used to stand. Contrary to its listed status the hotel was demolished six years ago after the owners (a commercial development company) allowed it to stand empty and fall into irretrievable disrepair. Ever since then a question of what to build there has been fought between the developers, the council, and the town’s residents. Most recently the developers submitted plans for apartments including a ten-storey tower that would loom over the square. Having received a lot of criticism for this, and perhaps for other undisclosed reasons, the developers have now mooted the idea that they might be willing to sell the site back to the council. One idea that the council have had is to build a new culture house there rather than refurbish the 1950s one by the river. Again this meeting was a mix of presentations and small group workshops. By luck the people around my table included the former chair of the town’s art association, his wife and their adult son. Considering that there must have been in excess of 100 people at the meeting I can hardly believe the chances of me meeting this particular family. We had a very pleasant chat and came up with some good suggestions – including a building that provided studios, workshops and subsidised rooms that creative/cultural interest groups could hire. We also proposed that the street which goes from the church on the north side of the town, past the town gallery, past the ‘hole’, then extends between the library and cinema, and leads to pedestrian access over the river and finishes at the sports ground on the south side, should be designated and promoted as a cultural district.
The Saturday after this meeting I met Ulf and Gunilla again at the opening of a new show at the gallery (‘gallery’ is not quite the right word, however ‘art centre’ is a bit too grand for it – the Swedish word ‘konsthall’ is tricky to translate as its history is directly linked to ideas of both a not for profit public exhibition spaces, and an artists’/art association management/steering committee). It was good to see them again, and they have invited themselves for a ‘studio’ visit in the coming weeks! This is very exciting and will force me to speak about my work in Swedish! They had already looked at my website and had questions about particular pieces as well as enquiring how it is to work in such non-traditional and diverse materials.
My very initial search for a studio did not go well! The workshop spaces in wonderful old industrial buildings by the harbour are far too large – by more than a thousand square meters! There are smaller office spaces though I imagine that these are more expensive per square meter and the woman I spoke with implied that many had limited daylight and lower ceiling heights. I cycled passed a small shop with a ‘to let’ sign in the window, but as I suspected the rent is too much – surprisingly high for a small space on a side street in a small town! I am going to post my search for a studio on the town’s community facebook page and see if someone knows of a suitable space. It is possible that one of the housing associations has a half-cellar room that they want to rent out – previously such spaces were taken by independent repair shops and the like. I realise that it may take me some time to find a studio, in the meantime I need to make the room in the flat work! Or I need to make the work that I can at home! If nothing turns up in six months then I might ask for details of those smaller ‘office spaces’. Though I have started dreaming of having a studio where I could also put on some events and invite other artists to show …
At the risk of creating some kind of strange feedback loop I am delighted to have been asked to be a-n’s first artist blogger featured on their Instagram account. I hope that these cross-platform ideas generate interest not only in the selected artists but also in the range of a-n’s activities and that they stimulate discussion and new projects. Thank you a-n!