Katie Jo Anderson

Artist based in South West Scotland; interested in people, places, materials and collaborative practice.

Durational Time, and Place

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These have grown steadily from a rough idea, exploring genetic chromosome mapping, clockwork mechanisms, and tree rings. The outer ring, made up of 23 bands has grown visually from similar circular chromosome maps, abstracted back as one of a series of slow moving rings. The piece, to move in it’s own timeframe forms the first in a series of works focused on staying and waiting within a hospital environment.

 

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Thanks to Samuel at the Dumfries MakLab for helping me get started with these. I’m currently on the hunt for someone clever with mechanisms and kinetic artworks… if that’s you, drop me an email!

 

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Did you know yellow is a bad colour for those suffering from migranes? Neither did I. Apparently it’s a much more anxious colour than it’s sunny disposition might suggest..!

 

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I shouldn’t like these colours. But I really like these colours. These colours are in the process of being toned down appropriately. Turns out I like coloured vinyl more than I thought I would.

How can we influence the experience people have when in hospitals? Can works be stimulating and engaging but still remain sensitive to the needs of all hospital users? How can works engage with the fluctuating community of a hospital environment? What is the role of art in hospitals? How does creative environment interact with the medical one?

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To be able to locate ourselves within a wider sense of landscape, I’ve started to look at different scales and details of our surrounding environment when reflecting on the spaces where people will be spending long periods of time.

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A transparent vinyl landscape to cross the windows, letting in light and seeing through, bringing colour into the room during sunnier days.

Conversation has largely grown around about balance and challenge, finding an intersection of interest and placing a contesting object or artwork at the point of meeting and testing the possible responses. Hospital typography and signage, floor materials and the typical vinyl backed hospital furniture, mysteries of infection control and some violent cleaning products – the language of a hospital is a new one full of new approaches and conversations.

The authentic material – real materials of the earth, are rarely present in our hospitals, with the predominate choices being vinyl surfaces (floors, walls, some ceilings, most furniture), laminates and plastics, the sense of identity through tactile experience is pretty limited. This calls for a whole new set of approaches, as these materials are all invested in the easy-clean approach of a busy and constant working environment, and alternatives are eschewed in favour of more reliable constants.

Things are getting interesting.

 

Huge thanks to Dress for the Weather for the opportunity to work on this so far, and looking forward to the next stages!

Wave Decay Sonotorium

sound | art | light | space

18th – 21st August 2016

Follow the Annandale Way
Step lightly
Imagine the wild as fragile
Listen
Immerse yourself in the sound fog

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Wave Decay Sonotorium was a three day sound and sculptural installation created for Milkbank House, a now ruinous 19th century country house in rural Dumfries and Galloway. Working in collaboration with sound artist and energy healer Justin K Prim, the work was developed over the course of a year in response to the site and an exploration of sine wave tones.

Powered by a custom build multi-channel amplifier and speaker system, Wave Decay Sonotorium aimed to use sound to transform the space and shape the experience of exploration. A series of eight sculptural speakers, were installed throughout the ruined remains, shaping the sound and in turn re-shaping the environment around them.

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As viewers moved through the space, exploring nooks and crannies, the last moments of Milkbank as it is being reclaimed by the land, the sound of Wave Decay moved and altered with them, shaping the experience of place and changing our interpretation of space, if only temporarily.

The resonance coming through the sound horns, created and concieved by Justin, were pure sine wave tones. Tuned to harmonise perfectly with the natural resonant shape of the cochlea in the ear. The relationship between the eight notes uses an ancient tuning system, believed to be beneficial to the human mind and body.

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On Thursday evening, the only dinner for 50 years was hosted in Milkbank House inviting guests to spend an extended time with Wave Decay Sonotorium

Wave Decay Sonotorium was made possible with the kind support of DG Unlimited, Dumfries and Galloway Council, The Stove Network, The Holywood Trust, Robin Bell-Irving, Will, Ruth and Graeme Anderson, Robbie Coleman, Matt Baker, Mairi Singleton and the take down team family Wallace! Huge thank you’s are due to you all.

Full details of the project are available on our website, available here

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In Memoriam

Our relationship with ex-houses is an interesting one. Buildings and ruins, scattered across overgrown fields and forests, down forgotten cul-de-sacs, and behind tall fences in gloomy urban areas; the romantic in us all pines for the loss of a thing that we never knew.

The empty home inspires tales of loss and separation, of a neglect and abandonment of the old ways. It is a kick in the teeth to the old ways and we as a culture appear to mourn these forgotten states.

The lost living rooms, the last dinners, the encroaching wilderness that wraps our forgotten ruins up in a shroud, fills our eyes with a jewel-dusted mysticism, and the placing of concept, the reimagining of ‘home’ in true Grand Design’s style – of rescuing, and reviving, performing true and authentic restoration to these crumbling pasts – is heralded in the act of preservation and protection of our culture.

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The places that fall outwith the realms of saving; be they too big, too ugly, in the wrong place geographically, or simply not special enough to warrant any real attention are left to quietly disperse into the undergrowth. To be swallowed up, imperceptibly slowly but the steady but inevitable creep of the wild.
These are our dreaming spaces.
Free for projection, imagination and a certain freedom of exploration – of wandering, exploring and discovering first hand (as has been discovered first hand by so many before you), the true wonders of this individual place that exists only here, and only for now.

Throughout my practice explorations of home, of place made familiar, and emotionally nested from the world at large, and these ruins of homes, monuments to the very idea of home at all, have featured from time to time.

My first intimate and extensive exploration of a site was in 2010, a small and extremely unknown location whom, if you can take confidence with any of the older (perhaps oldest) members of our local village, will tell you was once called Hilltop House, and was last lived in in a time beyond living memory, just. The last living man who was known to live there as a boy was himself an elder of the village in the 1950’s.

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The first experiment at Hilltop House was one of lighting. Once unoccupied, these ruins return to darkness with the fading of the suns daily rhythms, so late one Thursday in early April, we sat vigil in the remains of Hilltop House and filled the place with light. With precious few walls or roof, the sounds of the evening are welcomed in to the forgotten ruin, and the sparks may fly unabated. The whole thing was shot in black and white analogue film camera, (potentially romantic overkill), and accompanied by at least one large bottle of wine.

Other experiments included refurnishing, (carrying the entire contents of my parents living room along a half mile track through the woods), of filming and then recreating offsite in full size cardboard replica (not worth the effort), of projecting new memories and new ghosts – forcing life back into the corpse-house. Littered along the pathway en route to the house were found strange collections, under one tree a households worth of glass recycling, under another kitchen tiles – mostly in pieces – and within the remains of the house itself, a tree girthed tightly by the iron cast door of a once-stove front.

The last farewell to Hilltop House was given, with full ceremony and celebration – and the company of friends and family, gathered for what we expected to be the last dinner in Hilltop House. The fire lit in the fireplace’s remains, (the chimney less drawing, as guiding the fire) the meal was laid across white tablecloths, glasses toasted and food shared. At the conclusion each guest carried their own chair home with them along the woodland path.

The work was not well received by my art college tutors (perhaps because they were not invited), and the project came to it’s own natural conclusion. Hilltop House lay silent again.

In 2016, a new opportunity arose to revisit some of these themes. Milkbank is a somewhat grander affair. Known locally with a certain amount of tenderness, the tragedy of Milkbank – of such a beautifully crafted building left to disrepair after such a short time as a residential location, of the death of the son McIlDowie during the construction, and the shortened life of the first Bell-Irving for whom Milkbank was constructed. It is a place of local knowledge, and it is accepted as part of the local landscape, although it is absent from the maps and guides of the area, and was technically demolished in the 1950’s. This has been my home-monument.

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To bring life back, even temporarily to these empty and drafty buildings, to invite exploration, and intimate gatherings places the history of our culture out of the museum cabinets and into every day conversation and discovery. Potential and possibility arise from unexpected corners.

Interpreting or interacting with these places is one of balance, seeking neither to over power or be over taken by their own stagnant attraction. Issues of scale, colour, object, shape and material became my obsession.

Light is powerful. It rules our interactions,, our comfort-levels, it directs us and shapes our movements. Next time we’d like more light.

By removing one sense, we must entirely re-draw our understanding of our environment. Adjust our step and reinterpret place. Reverberations create new space where previously there was none, hidden between the cracks of the physical present. Acoustics are a big learning curve. Our understanding of sound is complex and mysterious.

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Dinner is of much more importance than it might seem. The trivial and the everyday also creates space, for new conversations, exchange and discovery. I may have forgotten the salt (and the spoons), but the act of sharing invites us all to participate together. Dinner is a potentially powerful art process.

Niches

Hidden in plain sight.

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Dumfries’ smallest gallery is now on the high street, the Niches, has now been up and running for a few months showing a curated, rolling programme of individual works and installations from local artists.

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Thanks to the anonymous curators, two of my works feature in the gallery’s two spaces, Sound Out – a developmental work using found objects explores messages in bottles, and my old favourites, the TS Eliot inspired golf balls. The golf balls are cast glass, and the solar powered fairy lights hopefully give the work a little lift in the early evening.

‘And the wind shall say: “Here were a decent godless people
Their only monument the asphalt road
And a thousand lost golf balls.”‘

The TS Eliot piece will be in place until the end of September, and Sound Out will stay until the end of October.

Take a closer look.

The location? The Midsteeple, tucked in what were previously cases for a barometer and thermometer. Anyone who can remember the cases having instruments in them, or knows any more about the Niches, I’d be interested to hear!

Sound.Horn.

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During early Spring 2014 – yikes – I spent an intense month at the Scottish Sculpture Workshop. Taking time out of the everyday allowed for the pursuit of obsession. I started out without direction, walking daily and experiencing my new environment as a heightened, noticing light changes, wind movements, the bright, still winter sun shining almost warm in clear skies. My residency became a desire to create an instrument to observe or experience environment in a new way. For a variety of reasons, this plan ultimately failed. But the obsession stuck. I returned back to regular speed with a hand full of test pieces, new methods, and strands – as yet unconnected.

My favourite objects were the horns. The amplification of sound – whether projected out, or listened through, was slight, and distorted, but allowed for a new listening to space. Potential. Each placing of the horns was somehow unsatisfactory, so they have sat as talking pieces to be moved around regularly, to become part of the furniture.

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Sound Horn.

Some things just take time. The residency’s work continues, and the place for horns is almost here.

Sound vessels

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contain
decay
disrupt
escape

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http://www.wavedecay.com

Wave Decay

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Site Specificity.

Step outwards and pause, listen.

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Sound. Wave | Decay.

The announcement of a new collaborative project with Justin K Prim, exploring a favourite, secretive spot in Annandale. Walk out into the world, neither rose tinted nor of true reality. Tune in to space.

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Keep your ears pricked. Approach with caution. It’s wild out there.

18th and 19th of August 2016. Annandale. Details to be announced soon.

With thanks to DGUnlimited and The Stove Network.

what is valuable about workshops?

Following a recent spurt of workshop facilitating and leading on various projects, the art of running a workshop has been sifting through my work, with a particular focus on ‘what the point’ of workshops are. Aside from the obvious, artist goes into a place and shares their ideas, skills or inspiration with a ‘community’ of peoples, gathered whether in interest, geographical location or as a captive audience – schools groups etc and produces some kind of output, of artistic merit or otherwise. (what community? for whom? to inspire what? in order to achieve what?)

Now call me pessimistic, but these seem somewhat large demands to achieve in one to three hour time periods with a bunch of complete strangers gathered without necessary a common thread between them.

Conversations have begun to focus around several key areas or ideas towards the making of something with true potential to be useful, to grow something new, and to inspire possibility in a near future sense. These are potentially starting points towards more carefully examining the role of an artist within a ‘community’ setting (other words or terms for these groups of people very welcome).

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What does it take to provide a real sense of attachment to our ideas or projects? How can such a short time period spark interest and create future inspirations, ask broad questions about our places?
How do we grow relationships and connected-ness with other people?
We ask a lot of workshops.

Share and Exchange
There is a basic trade between artist and ‘community’, where one party can exchange knowledge, connection, place-based meaning, history and heritage with the application of skill-sharing, whether introducing a new skill or more a way of looking at a problem/point of view.
Questions: Value exchange – how do we place value and hold value to knowledge/skills etc? How do we preserve these values once exchanged?
Ownership – keeping respect, and consideration for all parties, and an openness towards the future prospects of such trade and exchange.

Image: Barry Young

Making as Conversation
Repetitive actions, learning exchange and the complexities of ‘figuring it out’ make for interesting conversations for groups or communities without necessarily having a lot of common ground or relationships already. These are safe places, neutral environments for casual discussion, exploratory conversations and open questions. Like sewing circles or knitting bees, where ideas and gossip can be exchanged without fear of retribution or exclusion, the act of making provides a rhythm for questions – both big and small.

Meeting points and Common Ground
Creating connection via a sense of shared environment, time and skill. This is less of an instant reaction, more of a sense of collective space and ownership – and can only be built up gradually, and through repeated or regular activity.

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Invitation and Hospitality
Space creation (see neutral environment above), and welcoming. Creating the right invitation to encourage interaction, and participation. Openness and flexibility to unexpected factors, playing with and being responsive to already existent structures.

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The Authentic self and an openness to change
All the while keeping hold of a sense of yourself and your work, creating environments, events and activities where this can be openly shared with a collective group/‘community’ etc. This is the artist not as all seeing, applying a template to whichever community they land in, but as open and willing to change and adapt to suit to localities.

Transmute

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It’s a happening thing – any Sydney art types make sure you check out upcoming exhibition Transmute, curated by Celine Roberts and Amy Gardner at 107 Projects.

Opening night is on the 11th of May from 6.30pm, and the exhibition will run until the 23rd of May. For full details visit 107 Projects website here

‘Do you know how many times I’ve thought about writing on the paper that I’m writing on?’

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Formative
[fawr-muh-tiv]
adjective

  1. giving form or shape; forming; shaping; fashioning; molding
  2. pertaining to formation or development

Interesting challenges. How, as a context-driven artist, to make a piece of work for exhibition for which I will never visit or explore the context for. For the artist to create a new piece of work to be sent to a continent which I have never stepped foot on, never breathed the air of, and have nothing but imaginings and drawn perceptions.

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Part of me asks, what right do I the artist have to dump my ideas on an audience so far removed from my own environment? The other part looks for potential connectors, new links, networked points between our measured and counted degrees of separation. We live, of course, in possibly the most globally connected time we’ve known.

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The work has become a sort of call and response first move, exploring traditionally – romantically – held notions of communication still clinging on in a lost nostalgia, the delicate art of letter writing. No screen shots or font choices,  not even a  high-art finish or depth of mark making, letter writing is in it’s form personal, unique, the conversational made tangible. This work is also an invitation, to explore our lack of connection and our notions of distance travelled.

Transform

Transition

Transatlantic

Transcontinental

Translate

Transmute

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To see this work in the flesh (as all the best letters are recieved in person), visit 107 Projects in Redfern, Syndey (Australia) from the 11th of May to check out exhibition Transmute. For more details on the exhibition and the venue, visit the website here

The difficulty with taking Time Off

Artist’s don’t take time off, didn’t you know?
Art is a full time obsession. Announce you are going somewhere and the immediate assumption is, ‘for work?’
So with much guilt and apprehension, I took three weeks off in January.

The plan was: get to San Francisco, hang out and catch up, make some art, think art thoughts, come home full of new and inspired art plans. ‘You’ll make loads of new art connections, right?’ Um.

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Going to a new place is full of challenges. Being an art tourist is especially challenging. Easiest to find are the large scale art instutions (SFMoMA… thanks for being closed for refurb during my visit), and well funded public sculpture/art (check out this giant bow/Oldenberg). With a bit of looking and guidance, the small scale commercial art galleries are pretty easy to find, and the art-eccentricities – SF’s best being the not-so-accurately named International Art Museum of America (hilarious, and well worth an hour of your time, but later slightly discomfortingly weird). But what of the art that is truly ‘of’ the place? This is where my heart lies, but also in often the least looking like art, and being the least aimed at a tourist market – the hardest to find. I have to admit, to getting distracted somewhat on this mission, there were after all a lot of good things to eat, people to meet, dates to be had and wine to be shared. But where does useful art exist?

Cities are also full of challenges. There are tonnes of people, space is pricey, competition is high. Opportunities are both everywhere and nowhere. (Oakland turns out to be full of those kind of emerging, experimental spaces – a brief visit to a well hidden venue, The Salt Lick to watch slideshows in the dark, made my trip feel a little more real). I could not possibly imagine being an artist here. What would I do all day? As with all places, cities take a little while to know. Gradually, artists and musicians and creative types appeared from all corners, working day jobs as many of my city friends here, by night hoping to create worlds of their own. But I hear that artists are moving out of the city. It’s too expensive, and the creative edges are moving to elsewhere.

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This red bike changed my visit entirely.

But too, here is a city where creativity as it turns out, is embedded in the everyday. Retail is a happening thing, businesses are bustling, the economy still seems on the up (fueled by the still running tech industry) and the arts feed on the gaps within these. Bakeries and florists are filled with entrepreneurial and talented creative types, stretching traditional business models in new directions. Designers and makers are moving in with the retailers, creating hybrid-shops that are both making studios and retail spaces. The energy starts to feel more vibrant. These are places full of hard-working people, though it can be difficult to tell if those hard-working types are also achieveing their dreams, or just running within the city’s systems. But how beautiful a city! And how kind and positive and intelligent and interesting are so many of the people! It’s definitely an attractive thing. San Francisco still has a lot going for it. (Superbowl, rocketing rents, homeless problems and that big old gentricification cloud holding it back).

So I was still working on not working. Only problem is, working on not working is inherently not quite resting either. Attempting cross-continental working wasn’t quite panning out either. Artist’s can quite help but look. We are joining dots, noticing how many beautiful ideas there are in the world and how best to join them together with string (thank you, friend). The narrative of the city, playing into my non-working-working brain.

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This, some might recognise is set currently in the Golden Gate Park, and is not as some might think some weird faux-relic to a greek styled garden design, but actually a monument to the SF earthquake and fire of 1916, and the front of a palladial house that was all but destroyed during that time. Fire engines and the sound of fire trucks (they have beautiful fire trucks in SF), were the familiar everyday of my time there. On one occassion we saw the blackened edges and soot stained pavement of a recent fire, a huge potential problem in a city made of wooden structures in case of earthquakes…

Three weeks later I arrived less the jet-lag (SUCCESS) in Glasgow, albiet majorly-sleep deprived. I also arrived thoroughly less any new artwork, less new art connections and less any residencies or future projects on the beautiful West Coast of the far away. This, conveniently, turns out not to be a complete failure. As, a) a self-employed human being, and b) a highly locally focused one, the issue with spending too long in Dumfries is simply that. Artists are still, for some reason, not supposed to take time off, but without time off – time to reset creative processes, work cycles and sleep patterns, without new visions, fresh eyes and a change of (weirldy accented) voices, how can we hope to keep changing the world?

Post -trip, I still have a lot of questions. In a world without the sort of arts funding or support we have here, it seems any wonder that the arts survives in the hard-rushing cities of America at all. How do you get into arts circles in big cities? (Or little cities, come to that – if Dumfries gets to having city status, do we get to have an art scene…?) What does it mean to be an emerging artist anywhere?
Special-est of thanks to my personal tour guide, entertainer, organiser etc etc for the wonderful adventure.