Katie Jo Anderson

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

Month: October, 2014

But is it art?

As ever, post project, the cogs finally start whirring and something close to cohesiveness starts to emerge from the fog that has been intensive creation, production, etc

Working as part of the stove network has led me down a different route in some senses in tends of artistic output, as for the first time in a long time I step away – albeit, cautiously – from the realm of the art object.

Love an art object.

Love an art object…

I’ve long been interested in the notion of socially-engaged artwork, and of something more ephemeral, less permanent or perhaps fleeting has long been a fascination of mine. Lately, we have come to the age old question, ‘but is it art?’ on more than one project which has led me to wonder why, when any object can be considered an artwork, as can many sounds, actions, movements and words be considered artworks, why this can not be further disseminated into the [realm] of events:

An artistic outcome as a gathering, a dinner

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Image: Galina Walls Photography. Parking Space. The Stove Network.

An artistic outcome as the creation of a space, the curation of a space

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Image: Cate Ross. Parking Space. The Stove Network.

The event as an artwork

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Image: Galina Walls Photography. Nithraid 2014. The Stove Network.

By contextualising, framing a moment in time as an artist (discuss authorship of such events), the work seeks to engage an audience in a deeper connection, awareness, experience of a place.

This, to me, seems a logical progression from the site-specific artwork, of which I have long been interested in.

The lead artist (again, see authorship) is then responsible for creation – physically, visually, conceptually – the space, the site, the place.

This space is then activated through the (perhaps, temporary) inhabitation, or occupation (occupy, difficult word) of that space by people, through activities, events, actions or gatherings initiated by the lead artist. Each of these actions allows the audience to experience the space in a different manner, either through direct physical experience, discussion and exchange, etc. In this way, the audience become an inherent part of the artwork. The artist as facilitator, the audience as [creators, illuminators, activators?].

In this sense it can become a fully community/participatory/public artwork as without the activation of the space, the installation effectively becomes another utopian artists vision, the isolated hermit-artist’s studio.

Authorship:    This is a curious one, highlighted in part thanks to Situations New Rules of Public Art no. 08: “Share ownership freely, but authorship wisely.” Artists are not always all-seeing and all-knowing, could these events evolve and change outwith the artist’s original intentions without disrupting the nature of it’s being art? If we are all artists (thanks Joseph Beuys), then perhaps once ‘created’, the artwork can be informed and influenced by those present – the audience as activators. Perhaps many of those in the audience can also be artists, and further instigate change as an organic and evolving mechanism that shapes and forms the ‘artwork’. [More thought required]

Uula Jero and his magnificent pedal-powered Foundry

Casting has excited me since art school. The excessive amounts of process, technical skill application (or not, as is often in my case), and the transformation of objects through process has had me hooked. Last year, the stove network teamed up with Roddy Mathieson‘s inspirational Mobile Foundry as part of the Creetown Ferrythorn project, where we cast a new bronze bell for the village out of the old blacksmith’s shop (full details of the project available here).

Metal casting can be seen as a bit magical, mystical and unknown; the skill levels required, the production and preparation in casting – for example – a bell, are hugely time consuming and outwith most people’s capabilities. It’s never really stopped me from trying anyways… The lack of kit and facilities also gets in the way. But, never one’s to do things by halves, the stove hit upon the notion of creating a foundry to become part of our growing kit this year and after a bit of searching around we met Uula Jero.

Specialising in pedal-powered machines and utility bikes, Uula came up with the grand idea of a pedal-powered foundry, that could be cycled about town, and after a few design sessions, set up in his workshop near Balmaclellan. Meanwhile we began honeing our casting skills…

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Honeing the power of the foundry also took a few shots…

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A ‘little’ practice saw our cuttlefish shell casting techniques improve astronomically when testing pewter buttons for the Nithraid prize

Sand casting early spoon tests… we'll maybe leave that one till next time...

Sand casting early spoon tests… we’ll maybe leave that one till next time…

Although, as fun as it is to shut the door to the workshop, and fill my car with cuttlefish bones (cuttlefish girl had better not be the sort of name that sticks…), this was only ever preparation ahead of taking the foundry on it’s inaugral outing to the stove’s Nithraid in Dumfries.

Organised chaos ensued. As the Whitesands flooded with people, rather than river as it is so renowned, word spread, and nearly 80 people designed and created their own Nithraid buttons over the course of the afternoon.

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Image: Galina Walls.

Huge thanks to the whole team who helped out on Nithraid day, and made the whole thing manageable, including Ruth, Hannah, Sara and David.

Back to the drawing board.

Because of course, doing something once is one thing, but after a few tweaks, alterations, a lot more cuttlefish, and a material change (did you know you can cast thirty spoons out of a single bicycle frame?) – Uula and his family departed for Wigtown Book Festival as part of the stove’s Trading Journeys – on bikes.

These were of course, no ordinary bikes - with the pedal powered foundry in one, and Uunti and Arnii in the other - they headed across the Galloway Forest Park.

These were of course, no ordinary bikes – with the pedal powered foundry in one, and Uunti and Arnii in the other – they headed across the Galloway Forest Park. Image: Colin Hattersley

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The pedal-powered bouncy castle fan fed oxygen into the charcoal fueled furnace Image: Colin Tennant

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The first of the spoons are unveiled. A limited edition run of 45 aluminium spoons were cast as part of the Trading Journeys project. Image: Colin Tennant

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Matt Baker’s lucky 45 spoon