I was wondering what I should write about and concluded that it would make more sense to start with a very recent, personal experience.
In July 2011 I participated in a simultaneous residency together with 5 other artists at BHVU Gallery, London. If you have never done a residency but you are thinking about it – do it! Do not think about it, just give it a go. I strongly recommend it to all artists out there, even if it had never crossed your mind. In Great Britain there are several residency opportunities happening all over the place!
It offers you a new environment to work in, a deadline to work towards and you get to meet new people, others who are interested in similar things to you and share same concerns. This residency was a rare opportunity for me as you do not often get the chance to work parallel to other artists in the same space and experience all that is associated with such a collective.
The residency took place throughout July, from Thursday to Sunday between the hours of 12 to 6pm, and was open to the public, to come and view the work in progress which was a bit awkward (at least in the beginning) as you felt you were the spectacle. On Friday the 29th July we had our Private View and the exhibition went on for the following 2 days.
To apply to the residency you had to create a 7 page booklet together with a proposal and £10. I must admit that I found the booklet to be quite a challenge as I did the proposal. What do you say? How do you say it? How specific should you be regarding the final outcome? Should you be a bit vague in order to allow yourself to be influenced by the space and/or the rest of the people involved? Such and many more questions were raised. All I can say is that at the end of the day you can only put down what you are interested in, what you aim to gain out of this experience regardless of having a set idea or not.
As I mentioned above there were 6 of us and the interesting thing was that we were quite a multi-disciplinary group.
James Lowne & Andrew Stewart were working together creating a film.
Joanna Peace was creating an installation, her main material being fabric and occupied a corner of the gallery.
Gema Sainz was creating her installation solely out of white paper, which was mainly overhanging.
Victoria Adam was using everyday miscellaneous objects such as party poppers to make her small but brightly coloured interventions throughout the gallery.
And I (Nicol Dourala) created an installation out of cement, wool and string using floor space and cutting diagonally to meet a beautiful wooden beam going across the gallery ceiling.
What I found very interesting was how the space transformed. At the beginning there was nothing but 6 souls trying to sort out where they want to work and how much space they suspected they will be needing – basically all the practical stuff. At that time, when the gallery space was empty of things it seemed quite small.
Then came the sudden boom and everyone worked hectically for the first couple of days, which I believe was mostly due to nerves as each one of us was dealing with unfamiliar territory. Funnily enough as more stuff was introduced to the space, the gallery felt as if it were expanding in order to accommodate these alterations.
About half way through came a time of relaxation and more detailed communication took place between participants. Motivating comments were being bounced off one another and at least for me, this was a point where I stood back in order to distance myself (as much as possible) from the process and try and get a clearer picture of what was happening.
Towards the end I am sure you can imagine what was happening – chaos! Good old chaos! There was hardly a square meter on the gallery floor or walls that was not being occupied. Tools, materials, objects, colours; everything became one large brilliant mess.
And as always after the storm came the calm (by the way, do you get annoyed with clichés or such phrases?). The necessary artworks were kept into position whereas all the process evidence was cleared away as the residency culminated into a weekend exhibition.
As I feel I can go on and on regarding this residency; the people and the works involved, I think I had best stop now. Once again I urge you to try out a residency, one that will obviously suit you best. The weird thing was that by the end of this whole experience, I found it was impossible to comment on the artworks as I was so close to them and lived among them for a month. But, even though I felt my exhibiting artwork was not complete, it was okay, as I now have a new installation/a sculpture/a body of work which I want to evolve and see where it takes me from here.
Before I go, a couple of interesting things that happened during this residency were:
1. Eleonore Gross, who volunteers for BHVU Gallery interviewed everyone concerned and together with images of our artworks these booklets were created (see below). These limited copies were sold on the private view and for us involved; it was a good something to have from it all.
2. During the residency images of the artwork and the space transforming was documented and a slide show was put together, to run alongside the exhibition; giving the audience an insight as to what took place.
Final Images of the Exhibition:
James Lowne & Andrew Stewart – ‘Double header three, The importance of keeping fit’
Joanna Peace (artist blog here) – ‘Everything that is more than that which is necessary’
Gema Sainz (artist blog here) – ‘Where I left it’ and ‘Curled core’
Victoria Adam – ‘Natural or pulled’ and ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry’
Nicol Dourala (artist webpage here) – ‘Hold, hold...release’
If you are wondering what is going on in Great Britain regarding the arts and its current situation, you can start by checking out the following art council sites:
Arts Council England: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/
Arts Council Scotland: http://www.scottisharts.org.uk/
Arts Council Wales: http://www.artswales.org.uk/And I found this on Ireland: http://www.artscouncil.ie/en/homepage.aspx