Although there is no lockdown in Sweden it still feels a bit strange to be going to an actual meeting this afternoon. Uppsala Artists’ Club committee has a planning day. Under normal circumstances I would be looking forward to such an event – a chance to discuss things, explore ideas, and dream up new and exciting ways of doing things. I am sure that it will still be all of that but it feels a bit wrong – perhaps a bit ’careless’ – to be getting in the car and going somewhere to meet people that I do not know. I have baked a cake to take with me, should I be encouraging/tempting people to share food? Will we have to wash the knife between taking each slice?
Our discussions include a revised autumn schedule. I was disappointed to read the proposal and see that my own show has been bumped from early November to December. It feels completely meaningless to have a show in December here – everyone is far too busy with Christmas in one way or another. Perhaps I would feel different if I made more easily commercial work, people might pop along to buy a present. However I do not make work that anyone buys, and the pieces that I am planning to make and show are far from commercial. I hope that I can swap my exhibition period with an artist who wants to tap in to the Christmas market!
After the last committee meeting and agreeing today’s planning day, the Arts Association in Enköping sent out a call to an extra committee meeting scheduled for exactly the same time. I hope that this is just a fluke and not a sign of things to come – I really want to be active on both committees. It feels important to stay on the committee in Enköping even though I have to be honest and say that I find it intimidating (?) to suggest news ways of doing things when I have neither the time nor the connections to push developments that I think need to be made for the long-term survival of the association. Our committee meetings there are rarely discursive – they follow a typically Swedish fixed agenda of re-viewing the previous meeting’s minutes and re-iterating monthly fixtures that almost inevitably precludes any possibility of forward planning or long-term thinking. I am not sure that my Swedish language skills are up to suggesting a radical overall of our meetings but I might have to try!
The Artists’ Club meeting was very good, also very long – six hours! I have a lot to learn about the club and its history – both distant and more recent. It seems that I am part of a committee that has been challenged to find new ways of doing things and make the club more relevant and contemporary. This coincides with, or is perhaps part of, the club relocating its premises from one side of courtyard to another. Uppsala city council, which owns the whole ’historic quarter’ has recently refurbished and relocated the artists’ club, the writers’ association, and their own activities and everyone is now settling in to their new homes after weeks of delays.
I together with another artist (who has been on the committee for at least a year) are the ’education and public programme’ team. It is the first time that the club has assigned committee members different areas of responsibility. I am looking forward getting on with this, first I am going to find out what is already planned – I know there are some children’s workshops scheduled – and then I want to find out what has been tried in the past – there’s no point in repeating past mistakes! Of the committees that I am on this certainly feels to be the most active and engaging, and that is exciting.
During the week I spoke with an artist friend in London. She too works with education programmes and we spoke about distance and digital ways of working. She finds it impossible to imagine a future delivering workshops remotely, her long career has always focused on the immediacy and intimacy of materials, making, talking, sharing. While I am intrigued by the potential to engage people via videos, web-chats, and on-line projects I understand her concerns and recognise that mediated experiences are very different from what we are both used to.
As our discussion unfolded and expanded I found myself edging around an existential question concerning my own practice. If openings and artists’ talks and workshops cannot be the crowded buzzy events that they once were, if people are less likely to visit galleries and museums, if people remain anxious about making new connections, then I am interested in still being an artist?
On Tuesday evening I sent in my entry for this year’s digital Enköping Open exhibition. While it was quite good fun making a short film from footage of Lek (an installation made for the exhibition at Källör last year) it is not a way of working that I find artistically satisfying. My practice is about the encounter with material. I love working with material(s) in the studio and I love presenting material(s) in exhibition. I love being in a room full of people all chattering away, I love hugging old friends and I love shaking hands with new acquaintances. If these things are no longer viable what does it mean for me?
Are my turning up at the studio and making things acts of resistance or denial? Are they fool-hardiness or comforting. For the time being they feel necessary, they are probably a mix of resistance, denial, fool-hardiness and comfort, and perhaps none the worse for that. I am aware though that it feels that I am doing these things more for myself than for any imagined audience.