Katie Jo Anderson

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

Tag: art

they just don’t make them like they used to

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Been feeling a little playful lately, and enjoying the luxury of my studio that is no longer a building site. Stitching and something that could only very loosely be described as embroidery, appears every so often in my work, and has done since my very first foundation art course way back whenever. I’m not exactly technically capable, but having helped out with The Stove’s Stitching Our Story project for the afternoon – Deirdre Nelson advised a useful approach to stitching handwriting.

During the rebuild of my studio, I’ve been gathering odd objects and ruminating on them throughout the more repetitive stages of renovation, so a series has started to form around the making of everyday objects.

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Floor board nails. Serious beasts to extract from the boards and beams they have presumably sat within since the buildings erection in 1840. I’ve been treasuring handfuls of them, as much for the effort involved in pulling them up in the first place. (Most of the floor remains fortunately untouched, but some sections did have to be lifted to make way for the large quantities of insulation I’ve carefully packed into every available space..)

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A small series of these works are now to appear as part of an Upland exhibition later in the year at the Patriothall gallery in Edinburgh! Full details of SURGE available here

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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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.

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’.