As part of my research into artist residencies I have been talking to SWAGGERJACK who where Samarbeta artists in resident in the club space at Islington Mill from 11/01/15-18/01/15. SWAGGERJACK are artists John Powell-Jones http://www.johnpowell-jones.co.uk and Callum Stephen Higgins http://sacredtapes.bandcamp.com who have been developing new work together and have studios at The Mill. Samarbeta is a Music Residency Programme which offers time for reflection and creativity away from everyday obligations. What does Samarbeta mean? To collaborate, to cooperate, to pull together. The residency programme is curated by Emma Thompson (Fat Out till you Pass out) and Rivca Burns (Sounds from the Other City) from their experience of supporting artists work led them to question why a specific music residency doesn’t exist, and thus Samarbeta was born in late 2013 http://www.samarbeta.co.uk/residencies/4586893838.
The appeal of this opportunity for SWAGGERJACK was to have dedicated time and space and to be as experimental as possible without any external pressures such as showing the final work or public release. I heard about the residency on Facebook and as soon as I read that you could not hear the final work made me want to find out more. In most cases residencies tend to showcase the work created or images quickly posted on social media however that was not the case with SWAGGERJACK. Instead what they launched was a printed work book titled SAMARBETA RESIDENCY 002 that documents the working process including printed emails, drawings, photographs and collage with the actual final record archived at the British Sound Library in London http://sounds.bl.uk. I feel the book No22 of a first print run of 50 was a steal at £10 with a free A3 print included. The paper stock feels grainy, soft to the touch which makes you want to spend time looking through it.
Callum commented that the original idea came out of a discussion about how musicians work will always be influenced and twisted to fit with what is expected of it, even on a subconscious level people would be aware of their peers hearing their output and judging it and as such even if not intentionally the result would be tainted with that in mind. The idea to make an album that would have a vastly limited number of people hearing it was an attempt to counteract this. By letting none of our friends or family hear it, or having no reviews.
When I interviewed John at the Mill he went into great detail about how the dub plate was made of a lesser quality than a record and intended to be used as a test that will degrade after 100 plays. He was very passionate about how by using the internet to listen to audio or look at images it’s easy to just flick through and not really give the work the time it deserves. Artists often are too quick to put material out without reflecting on whether it’s any good or not and he questions does it take something away from the work? Speaking with John reminded me of what an artist residency should be and used to be which was making art for the artist which I feel has been lost along the way in many residency programmes.
Apart from writing about my own work its completely unique to comment on an artists work where I have not experienced the final piece in some way. I guess this is what I feel is the magic about this, how often do the audience see the process before the final work? Although the work is never final as another twist in this ongoing live process is how with each listen will be a unique experience every time. I love the fact that the original work is archived at the British Sound library and it is digitized although can only be heard by becoming a member, what an innovative way of not only sharing your work but opening up a whole world of sound. It could be argued that the work is being a bit precious, but I would say why not be precious with your work? I feel I have stumbled across a secret and I am sharing it with you.