Last weekend I had the pleasure of being at the Ranger Station Gallery while we hosted the drawing work of Eden Veaudry. It was a busy weekend and the blogging time got pushed aside. On Saturday, Eden hosted a community Draw-In workshop and so from 1pm until 9pm people wandered in and sat with us for a while doodling and drawing on a long roll of paper stretched the length of the gallery. This event had me thinking once again about what community interaction can mean.
I have begun to gain some experience with artist residency programs but each has been very different in its approach to the public. In Wales last year I was situated in a community college and so my interactions were primarily with students and faculty in structured workshops although there were a few who ventured into the studio space of their own determination. It can be intimidating, even in a school setting, to walk into a space you are unfamiliar with and engage with that which you have not been prepared for. An invitation, with preparatory text, is often what we desire before making the leap.
At Open Space I sat in the gallery at long work tables and completed my research within the eye of anyone visiting the space. My process became a performance but one that had only unscheduled viewership. I could be in the middle of eating lunch when someone wandered through, or not there at all, at these times my actions were replaced by the evidence left on the tables…string, books, paper, pamphlets, mock-ups. But when a conversation was struck up, it often had great meaning. In overcoming the intimidating staircase up to the gallery and entering the expansive space half filled with a video installation, the community member desired a connection to make it worth it and my work with string seemed accessible….everyone knows string.
On Channel Surf there were two types of community; the one that was working to get from A to B with you that had chosen this journey too, and the ones that existed along the path that had no idea of the disturbance coming their way. I call us a disturbance not because we were loud or obnoxious but because we provided an unfamiliar and uncategorizable presence for a very brief time. My project within this act was titled Passing Through and involved the small gesture of throwing a pencil attached to string into bodies of water and recording the drawing action of the landscape. While this seems like a lonely act, it was full of glances and questions and echoing of gestures as I stood near fishermen and dog walkers and families enjoying the canal. This, along with discussions with the members of Department of Biological Flow, has had me pondering the nature of artist in the community events.
I have often felt uncomfortable with scheduled community workshops and artist in attendance events. As we all scramble to distribute our precious spare time it is difficult to attend everything and especially those things that try to fit you into a tight box of time and date and action. I often wonder if this works for anyone any more? What comes out of these interactions for artist and community member? Did anyone feel at ease enough to ask the questions they really wanted answered? Was there conversation and laughter? Was it okay to just be silent and in the company of others if you chose to?
All of this to say that I am trying out other ways of being available to interaction while I am artist in residence at Kent Harrison Ramger Station. And that I much prefer accidental, bumped into in the pub type conversation than those that occur at invite dinner parties, which may just be the Welsh coming out in me.
Congratulations if you made it to the end of that meandering thought process.
As a reward you get to see my new collage, now available for sale as original or print on saatchiart.