Day one

So here we are in Nottingham.
Are there rules for a good collaboration? Are all partnerships fruitful? Can we put aside individual egos and produce something new and unexpected? Over the next two weeks we hope to find out.

One of the things we already know we have in common is that we are both makers and we both like stuff. This is the van loaded and ready to go this morning.

We have previously worked together as artist and producer but we have not worked together as artist and artist.
Summer Lodge is the first time we will have shared a space. Today we were allocated our studio, and met the other artists and the brilliant student assistants. Very importantly to start to get to know everyone we shared a potluck lunch.
For the first three days we will each take it in turns to initiate a point of enquiry, planning and setting ourselves ‘provocations’. The outcomes of this will not be finished work. The work we share on this blog will be very raw and sometimes just plain bad! We want to be open to learn from failure. So we expect to share a lot of failures.

 

The luxury of Summer Lodge is that it is an opportunity to be open and experimental. I hope we can be honest enough to make the most of that opportunity.


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We planned to start our collaboration by exploring the metaphorical space of the garden. Its meaning and its materials. Not defining the outcome, meandering, letting the garden take us to unexpected places.

We want to see what, if anything takes root in the spaces between our individual practices.

We started with writing, using words as material, and we each wrote a prose poem. This felt like a useful and fruitful start. We collected plant material from the local churchyard. We cast small plaster molds. Setting some of the seed heads we had collected into the wet plaster.

We made drawings whilst listening to music, The Garden by Einsturzende Neubauten and Strange Fruit by Billie Holiday. Not surprisingly these were not colourful.

We went into the ceramics workshop and used clay, with Arabel throwing pots for the first time. I made flowers like the ceramic wreaths I had seen in the cemetery.

At the end of the first week we started putting all the things we had made together, placing them into arrangements of objects and materials and photographing the results.

 

After a week of making, of fairly intensive living and working in the same space we had generated a lot of stuff. But nothing was resolved. We have both enjoyed engaging with materials and the new opportunities they suggest. We both found being back in an Art School environment really stimulating and productive. It is like being back on a foundation course.

We had thought that we could make our collaboration more real by giving it a name, but one of our first realisations was that we needed to keep our individual identities. So goodbye ‘Magpie Projects’.

Our first week at Summer Lodge was over.


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Doing deceleration symposium at Nottingham Contemporary.

We started the day in the project space of Nottingham Contemporary exploring the theme of ‘Doing Deceleration’. This was an event open to the wider public, not just the Summer Lodge.
A full list and recordings of all the speakers are available on the Nottingham Contemporary website.

Emma Cocker introduced the theme with a call to action to nurture our capacity to linger, to tarry, to wander.
I was reminded of Rebecca Solnit’s book – A field guide to getting lost. There is a value in not always knowing the way and in not being continually busy. As artists we need to wander off the path sometimes.
This was a call to step away from productivity, from being on 24/7, to turn off our devices. To do less but to do it better.

How does ‘doing deceleration’ apply to an art practice? How can our own work benefit from deceleration? From time off the path?

This event was about ‘deceleration’ as a critique – a critique of the institution, and a critique of the way we live. It was also about deceleration as a creative approach and it ranged widely across art, politics and philosophy.

The Danish philosopher, Finn Janning was live via Skype and asked the question,
‘What problem is the concept of doing deceleration solving?’

For him doing deceleration is an affirmative strategy – a way to avoid what B-C Han calls The Burnout Society. Finn has written a book called The Happiness of Burnout. An interesting title for anyone interested in happiness or burnout.

The last speaker was Danica Maier, who introduced the thinking behind the Summer Lodge residency.

A space to pursue new ideas. Experimentation focussed on the process of practice not the outcomes and the importance of others being around.

A laboratory model where outcome is a contested term. Instead we have the Non-(outcome). A space for reading, playing, researching, testing, thinking, talking, doing, not-doing, eating and drinking!

Reminding me of the importance of sharing food, and the value of those conversations over lunch or dinner.

Speculative activities – sharing – openness – generosity – the uncertainty of not knowing in front of other people.
Doing deceleration.


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