Last Wednesday I showed my studio to about eight artists who are interested in taking it. The one who has been on the waiting list longest will be offered it. It has been a great studio and I hope that the next tenant enjoys it as much as I have.
There is so much change going on for, and around, me. It is as if some of the more abstract changes are finding their reflections in physical forms. At the beginning of April the train station next to the studio closed while ‘they’ work on the nearby bridge. I tried a few different routes to the studio and finally settling on the train, walk, tram journey that avoids the central Stockholm. Two weeks ago ‘they’ closed the flight of steps from the estate where I stay to the train station while ‘they’ build new ones in preparation for a coming housing development. Earlier this week a set of wooden steps in the middle of my walk between the train and tram were demolished in advance of the tramline being extended. In the space of five weeks I have had to adapt my way to the studio a good few times. The scale of development at the edges of the city is massive and I experience it in these relatively small but significant re-routings that I have to make. It reminds me of film clips of lab rats when ‘they’ change the layout in the mazes. Every time I make a new path I think how different it will be when I move and have the studio at home.
I had a great, and very very Swedish, meeting with the team who take care of Skeppsholmen (the former naval island where the art school is). I wrote them asking for permission to use the old cold-water bathhouse for an installation. They invited me to come to their “fika” (which is like a coffee break but is so SO much more). I thought that I would have to present my ideas and justify the proposal that I had sent them. No, it was more a question of when would be convenient to come and collect the keys! A brief discussion about responsibilities was followed by the seven of them and me having a good chat about Eugène Jansson, the island when it was a naval base, and even the tunnels beneath the city and its waterways. It was wonderful to get such a warm reception and to see their genuine pleasure and excitement about enabling an artwork.
Meanwhile a few hundred meters away at the art school it is a very different story! It occurred to me that appointing a curator as head of school is a bit like appointing the head of the army museum to be in charge of the ground troops. They might be in roughly the same field but the experiences and approaches are completely different. What concerns me most is what I see as a shift in focus from process to results. The other thing that dawned on me is how I have an almost suspicious history of being at schools just before they change beyond recognition (and for the worst)! It happened at Dartington, the Slade, and now at the Royal Institute /Mejan!
The artists that I know are amazing creative intelligent people who are able to give form and image to things previously unimaginable. We see the world differently, we retain some of that childhood ability to be unencumbered by precedents and procedures. With good education, support and encouragement artists have the ability to combine an adult’s social responsibilities with the child’s sense of play and wonderment. This is my ambition for my own practice, and I fight for it not only for myself but for anyone else who is brave, crazy, brilliant enough to take the same risks.