I have recently returned from a residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida. 6 international artists and myself were there for 3 weeks with sculptor Josiah McElheny. His outline for the residency program was as follows:
“So much of making art is spent outside the studio, reading and looking at other works and influences outside yourself. This time can be hard to find but it is essential to a successful and happy studio practice. My work, across a variety of media from sculpture, film, performance, or drawing, is heavily influenced and directed by historical and conceptual research. I want to use our time together to communally share in this process of reading and looking as well discussing what it is we are taking in and how it might inform our work.”
I was intrigued by what sharing the process of reading would involve and was delighted to discover that for several sessions we would simply sit together and read a chosen text in silence.
What made this activity so special? Aside from the great texts that Josiah had selected, it was the rare and beautiful simplicity of the act of reading as a group. We were not reading to be tested, or out of obligation, we were doing it because we wanted to and we had nothing to lose. We even read together in our spare time. This small revelation – that the act of reading is of as much interest as the content of the page – is a pivotal part of my current thinking.