Katie Jo Anderson

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

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

wave decay

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.

In Which she attempts to talk about Exhibitions

2015 began with the purpose of specifically working outwith the gallery setting. In this way, it failed entirely. In the end up, I worked on seven exhibitions, including curating one. I visited almost none, in contrast to my regular gallery trekking up until then. By the end of SUBMERGE, the year had more become an exploration in what the gallery context means for art making, and specifically who the audience is that the work is being created towards. Although there is of course an entirely self-driven part of myself, that demands to be let play in the studio without speaking or even considering the world beyond, I still strive for art that communicates, discusses, asks questions, involves and co-creates with those that travel to see it.

I’ve stropped and stormed about gallery audiences and white cube gallery contexts- but none of my whining ever really identified the real challenges of creating meaningful, useful, interesting work for meaningful, useful or interesting exhibitions. I kept asking what exhibitions were for. If they were to share art – new and otherwise – with the art community, then some were successful enough. But the art community is looking often without looking; they may be some of the art world’s biggest fans, but the over-saturation can lead to a deadened look in the eyes of some art-family veterans as they make quick march around the exhibit halls, room and inbetween spaces. But they can be a sympathetic, and caring crowd. If there are buttons to be pressed, objects to be examined, swings to be swung on, it is the art crowd that will play. They have permission. And the knowing of where they stand. But what to say to our art-loving art-making crowd? One opening in many, little will stand out beyond the closing drinks and afterparties, never mind beyond the close of the exhibition itself. Gallery culture invites us to step in from outside, to pause in the chapel-like quiet, adjust our eyes and breathe in deeply the cool and still air, before emerging back into the world, refreshed and suitably cultured.

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Serious art face, suitably cultured expression. Thank you to Barry Young for the image

I made new work I loved, I saw the work of others that I loved even more, but still was not satisfied. The lack of engagement, communication, feedback and even awareness of audience dulled any enjoyment involved in the making, planning and install. Conversations about the work were so limited as to make the whole endeavour feel nothing beyond ego-centric self-congratulatory navel gazing.

Curating was in many ways, a different experience. Inviting artists to create a space with me, my first desire was to reject ‘exhibition’. After a month or thereabouts, this became obviously impossible due to my creating an exhibition, or, ‘space-filled-with-art-that-things-can-happen-in’. The desire to have an arts space where exhibitions don’t happen prevailed throughout and added to the general confusion.

Things I have learned about exhibitions in 2015:

Exhibitions are all about context. They are not just a bunch of art objects curated in a white cube space. Instead consider an exhibition for the place in which it is to be concieved/recieved. Whether on a micro- level, or a global level (or both), it seems that the most interesting exhibitions are those that feel relevant, connected and driven by momentum and currents.

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Exhibitions still ring with me a romantic notion of Victorian expos – of new discoveries, inventions and ideas. This has possibly led to my disillusion with exhibitions over the past few years: too many experiences of staring vaguely at any variety of work between beautiful, mundane, awe-inspiring or gruesome, but in a completely disconnected enivronment of clinical emptiness, or run-down art cliche. Leaving a gallery space and crash-landing into the outside streets air of the everyday threw the importance of the work out as often as not. The few works that stuck held seemlessly to the places they were shown (not necessarily made for), or played creatively with the context of their being.

Interior of the Great Exhibition, 1851, Egypt, Turkey & Greece

The act of journeying to visit works, still stands. This is an increasing challenge in the exhibition context, rather than the opposite as might seem apparent. Journeying to a nearby out-of-context location is more challenging than travelling several hours to experience a work where it makes sense.

Exhibitions are not about the texture of your walls.

Invigilators are all powerful. They can curate individual experience without even directly speaking to a visitor. Each conversation had shapes the context of the exhibition, not just for the visitor but also for all those involved in creating it in the first place. By creating the exhibition-as-forum, each artwork becomes a conversational starting point, inviting tangents of all descriptions, exchange, uncertainty and redefining of the collective creation. Interesting.

Good conversations do not need too much curation, just the right context, the right invitation, and good soup.

The best exhibitions should be about creating conversations.

The unexpected can be a magical gift in making a good experience truly relevant and exciting, even if by the same turn can wreak havoc and uncertainty with the general populus. (This is not an excuse or rallying call for flooding).

Exhibitions can tell powerful stories, that grow and change with each visitor.

 

This exhibition is not complete.

Huge thank you to all the artists, curators, producers, gallery folk, visitors, friends and general stumbled-in-here-whilst-looking-for-something-else types, that have had the patience and kindness to work with me and share conversations over the past year whilst I stumble around figuring out what being an artist is about. Thank you all for such great opportunities!

 

 

 

 

Housing Activism and the Artist – Inspirations and Thought Processes

Question #1: Can artists be part of changing and creating residential activity on our high streets and in our town centres? Can artists and artist-led projects impact change in these ways in our towns?

We discussed examples in America, including the work of Theaster Gates, who’s creative property development in parts of Chicago, through the founding of the Rebuild Foundation, such as the Dorchester Art + Houseing Collaborative which provides residence for both artists on residency and local community members, growing collaboration, conversation and activity between both groups.

Theaster Gate's Dorchester Projects. Image: House past and present (2013) Image: Sarah Pooley

Theaster Gate’s Dorchester Projects. Image: House past and present (2013) Image: Sarah Pooley

Could such a thing be possible in Scotland? Could planning laws, available funds and communities allow for such a growth? Do artists have the skills necessary to do this? (This was a bit difficult to answer in a straightforward way). The Vennel in Dumfries was quickly brought up, and it was agreed by most that it was high time they got back to Dumfries to re-think the place. (I mentioned there was no need to rush, town centre change is a gradual thing we are in early stages of!) This was part of a series of discussions exploring what a more cultural high street would look like, as part of Architecture and Design Scotland’s annual Place Challenge conference in Arbroath.

Four days later, location: The Black-E, Liverpool. Context: Liverpool Biennal’s Community Arts Conference. The final panel is up after a day of sometimes heated discussions, and a definite division between audience and panellists/organisers. There is a palpable tension in the room, and a twitchy-ness from several hours sat listening in artificial light.

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This is the panel of my dreams; artists Jeanne van Heeswijk and Nina Edge, members of Homebaked and the Granby Community Land Trust, and design collective Assemble. Individually, each of these speakers presents an inspirational story of collaborative approaches, creative process, community intervention and making the impossible possible. Collectively, this was a place that stood up for their place and worked together to fight back for lost causes, and the history of many.

Nina Edge raises a curious point – of seven areas in Liverpool threatened with demolition, only three remain currently intact, and each of those areas has worked directly with creative practitioners of some form. It seems like creativity can galvanise and help create change in these communities. Nina’s work on committee evidence documents, and affecting legislature did not go un-praised.

What was most notable was the way these different artists and organisations had worked together, in support of each other and in solidarity. Also of note, from Homebaked was that without the support of the large scale ‘institutions’ (demonised somewhat throughout the day), in this case the Biennial, for being the bolster to push through small independent projects like Homebaked into securing the premises and holding back the bulldozers.

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(Apologies for any paraphrasing, it was a long day)

Interesting week! Arbroath was an interesting challenge in discussion leading, in lots of ways not super successful as a discussion – but a useful opportunity to speak about the Stove in a slightly different way to a new audience, and to think about the aspirations and potential of creative practice, as an alternative way of problem solving, communicating and creating change in our places. Liverpool was intense listening to a pocket-sized history of community arts in the city, and looked to focus predominantly at ‘what we could learn’ from what had gone before, a slightly idealistic notion of teaching the upcoming artists to appreciate what had come so far (noteably the audience, was not predominantly younger – by my eye at least.)

Notes: It’s not all black and white. Large scale institutions have a responsibility, as –largely, comparatively- well funded organisations, to be risk-taking and forward thinking about any ‘outreach’ work they undertake. Larger institutions should not, by right deliver all ‘community art’ outreach in their areas, as are often not best suited to doing so, however much they may be required to reach their organisations out to wider audiences, the real-time benefits to their communities appear to be limited.

Artists equally have a responsibility: we are not outwith ‘community’, but should perhaps be an integral part of it. We should be part of creating our places, and can input from being pebbles in ponds, to being connectors and links, question-ers, provokers, testers, builders and researchers. This isn’t to say that artists should only work locally, this sounds to be a balance, between building long term connections with place to growing new opportunities and bringing fresh energy into other places, either those with less creative energy in them or to work alongside the creative energy already present.

Now, to spend the next while not using the word ‘community’.

Creating New Narratives

A brief opportunity to write on the connectedness of artist and art object.

The act of making is a process of learning, knowing and bonding with material, action and time. Time spent on the creation of new work forms a contemplative emotional response to the final outcome/s. Each piece created in the studio becomes an attachment, an obsession, and finally an extension of the self. With each piece of work I send out into the world, so goes a little piece of myself.

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In which the artist drinks from her own curated bottle collection the earthy waters from Hart Fell.

Encountering works in their new locations or homes – however rare an occurance – is like meeting an old friend, memory soft-focused but intact, engaged, attached.

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This summer I set out to make a commissioned piece for Jan Hogarth’s Quest project. The work involved some exciting new challenges (ceramic shells can be done use The Stove’s pedal powered foundry, although smokeless coal is the preferable fuel), and new discoveries. After the event, the work which consisted of a set of pewter cast drinking vessels and vintage glass torpedo bottles were dispersed with the winds, finding new homes and new owners after the projects conclusion.

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Process. Bonding. Knowing. Know your material.

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Shaping, growing. Even accidents are not accidental.

In this way, each carrier becomes the storyteller, and are key to the history and narrative of the work. In taking a piece onwards, so they carry a little responsibility to share the stories, experiences made real through secondhand experiences, and a little part of me as maker, embedded in the heart of each piece, shaped as they are by my own sense of meaning, knowing and questioning.

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Gift. Breathe. Hart Fell water runs through you.

AMc - it takes a good casting to offer a firm grip on...

Eternity. Late night exchanges under dark skies at EAFS.

I’m hoping not that the works will be returned but that each recipient will carry the work with them, to be re-interpretted in the stories of the future where we can meet again. These are the gifts of the artist, sent out in trust, in hope of creating new narratives.

Thank you Jan for the opportunity to create something new and beautiful for Quest. More about Jan and her work available on her website here And special thanks to all those who tasted, shared and exchanged Hart Fell from these pieces. Keep them safe and tell their stories x

All Paths Lead to Morton – EAFS Offgrid

This summer welcomed the second Environmental Arts Festival Scotland – an international biennial of contemporary art practice in landscape – which for two months this summer absorbed me whole. My last EAFS experience in 2013 (blog here) shook and rattled my perceptions on place-based art in all the right ways, and has been an important part in prodding my reflective process into the art practice that it is today.

But moving on from the hectic, region trailing festival that was EAFS 2013, this year took a marked-ly different tack. Exploring themes of pilgrimage and journeying, hospitality and generosity and – my favourite – inventiveness and foolishness as a way of understanding the world (Have I reinvented that a little? Perhaps it has grown from the original intention), EAFS Offgrid 2015 looked as a large scale collective artwork in which all parties became part-artist, an experiment in co-created community, temporary place making and exploration of landscape.

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I had lots of questions during the lead-up to the festival. (Apologies to all who endured my constant questioning)

One of the most persistant was in the meaning of ‘festival’ in the first place. Contemporary associations of festival – through the prolificy of large scale music and arts festival – put us the audience, in a passive state, consuming entertainment, resources and activity, these are free spaces for new experience and free partying; but everything is largely provided for us, from music and activity to food and water, the festival crowd is encouraged to participate by consuming. This seems mis-matched for our free spirited and independant festival idealism.

The alternative? EAFS Offgrid, whereby attending a festival made you an active participant, a sense of generosity and hospitality grown by all involved encouraged an active bringing and sharing, from extra food to additional programmed content – some of the quoted favourite moments at EAFS were the ones we never even programmed. From this generosity grew an amazing atmosphere of a community, caring and growing itself and each other. The EAFS team looked to create a space to be activated by others; in this way everyone had the opportunity to be a participating artist at EAFS – and in this collective making, everything from eating to sign-posting could be considered and created as part of the larger EAFS artwork.

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Who can claim ownership of EAFS? Creating a community or a place felt less concerned with ownership of artistic direction, and more to do with a growing sense of collective intent (count the number of uses of the word collective in this post). Interpreting and understanding of the festival was a big question in the run up to the festival; how could we encourage a sense of shared ownership to grow ‘open-source’ interpretation, conversation and development of EAFS’ themes and ideas? The core team (artists, interns, volunteers and management) became the knowledge ambassadors, pioneers of information sharing to spread throughout the festival over the course of the weekend, conversing over hand outs and newspapers. My own corner fell to signage as installation, signposting as artwork. The role of art/ist as a communicator may have been over-stepped in my new found blackboard and road sign obsession (sorry to any who crossed my path late one night with blackboards under torch-light) but allowed for an intense period of questioning, development and ultimately understanding.

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To the artwork itself, EAFS as an installation created a central festival village, an information hub and home for just over a week. Some of our visitors never left this safe haven of conversation, freshly cut field and idyllic viewpoints. This was the cluster point, teams gathering before heading out, the return point for artists, performers and our four legged friends; all paths lead to Morton. The landscape was our context, and growing out from the castle and festival village were walks into the unknown – opening up a vastness of purple heather, braken, running water and clear sky. These were the lands of EAFS.conspectus 1

An early decision was taken for artworks to be minimal in their occupation of the landscape, long walks to distant locations or installation points yielded time for reflection, discovery and understanding of the place-context (nobody mention the partridges). The artworks themselves allowed for moments or glimpses into an artistic perspective – this was art as investigation, as questioning and framing. Art as walking, art as looking closer.

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One of the downsides of being so absorbed by organising was how little of the festival I managed to absorb, however my highlights included:

JW hill walk

Sitting high above the reservoir, hidden in heather – eating bleberries and listening to the rising sounds from the Art of Expeditions’s boat house.

Gathered around Andy McAvoy’s Tea Caddy, passing around objects from George Wyllie’s studio box.

Being entirely submerged in The Terrestrial Sea late on Saturday night.

Late night conversations by the embers of the River of Fire.

eafs walks

The festival was designed to be light on the earth, leaving without trace – there was an importance to the act/actions of leaving. Within 24 hours there was hardly a mark of our being, and it somehow felt right – sat on the last picnic bench in the fading sun.

Food. Firesides. Conversing.

Rhythm. Sustenance. Placemaking.

Collect. Curate. Create.

Landscape. Our land. The Lands of EAFS.

 

 

 

All images my own. Huge thanks and love to Robbie, Matt, Jan, Debz and the super-cool EAFS team. This year I participated in EAFS as one of five interns supported by the (fabulous) Holywood Trust.

Some beautiful image blogs of EAFS available on The Stove blog, check them out here