OutsiderXchanges – Film and video works – Part 1

The following film and video works illustrate the collaborative outcomes of OutsiderXchanges project and artists working together to create new work through inter-responsive visual arts practice. These films were exhibited in a series of happenings, events and exhibitions including The Manchester Contemporary, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and The Whitworth art gallery for Thursday Lates event.

 

Jane Louise Graham and Simon Raven, Invisible Gallery at Midnight Part 1&2, 2016

This collaborative work of three short films grew from a discussion about disability and invisibility. Jane and Simon decided to establish Invisible Gallery as a fictional institution that might represent disabled artists who would not gain visibility without our support. In doing so, they compared the relative invisibility of disability as a subject in contemporary art with conceptual art practices in which an idea takes precedence over material form. Following playful and spontaneous discussions, they staged a curatorial conversation to camera (Invisible Gallery at Midnight) and made a farcical TV news bulletin about the opening of a new Invisible Gallery in an unnamed city centre, imagining that our concept had been turned into a successful franchise (Invisible Gallery News).

 

I was the Assembly hall, 2016 by Juliet Davis, Sophie Lee and Horace Lindezey

This video is the result of several weeks of online and field research and acts as a celebration of Horace’s memories of Cambrian School in Ancoats, Manchester, which is due to be taken down and turned into a car park in the near future. But it also acts as a ritualistic ceremony of letting the school and the memories “go”. They  created scenes where They physically interacted with objects associated to school, creating abstract or figurative shapes relating to Horace’s memories. Some scenes only involve hands and small objects, some others involve the hall body, as if they were making dens/being swallowed by the school. In the ‘wall paper’ scene they tried  to impersonate the school and match its architecture (left: class room, middle: assembly hall, right: dinner ladies room). The soundtrack is an edited recording of a discussion about some of Horace’s school memories, and has a sometimes literal and sometimes more abstract relationship to the action on screen.

 

The Pearlescent Party of Iridescent Energy, 2016, by Matt Girling with all artists

Taking the premise that the artists are blowing their art budget on a party, this film brings together in a theatrical way the art works produced and insight into the processes that inspired them. Each artist creates and inspires their own art story within the wider narrative. With a riotous and anarchic flavor, representing the relationship between artists, the film takes its name from artist David James who described trying to capture “iridescent eyes” and “idyllic eyes” using “pearlescent paints”.

‘Process Film’ capturing the unique collaborative and creative process between artists over the duration of the OutsiderXchanges project created by Venture Arts’ Martin Livesey.

OutsiderXchanges at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art: Exhibition and Symposium: Collaboration in Practice

On Tuesday 18th of October, Venture Arts presented Symposium: Collaboration in Practice at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. Speakers from leading organisations across the UK came together to share their experiences of collaboration in contemporary disability visual art practice.

The symposium coincided with the OutsiderXchanges exhibition at the Quay Gallery, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art from 1st-31st October 2016 where materials and documents were exhibited alongside the final works to reveal the relationships, work, play, and collaboration that led to the final outcomes. Over the past 7-months, OutsiderXchanges, a visual arts project based on collaboration, reciprocal learning and creative exchange has brought together six learning disabled artists and six contemporary visual artists in one studio space. Taking parity of ideas and aesthetic approaches as a starting point the resulting works blur the line between art and life, inviting the viewer to challenge their own conceptions of art and what might be considered ‘outsider’ art.

Irreverent and authentic with a little bit of anarchy – Amanda Sutton, Director of Venture Arts

The event began with a warm welcome an introduction to the event from Amanda Sutton, Director of Venture Arts, presenting an overview of the OutsiderXchanges project with Venture Arts and OutsiderXchanges artist Horace Lindezey. Delegates were then encouraged to look around the OutsiderXchanges exhibition and Studio Lab which included a show-reel of films in the cinema area and performative work in the cube space, where newly formed sound art band The Pyschedelic Brain Cells delivered another unique and ever evolving performance.

Venture Arts then presented a brilliant film created by Venture Arts’ Martin Livesey, capturing the last 7 months of the project, highlighting creative practice, unique processes and perspectives on collaboration between artists when they were based in the studio at New Art Spaces Chorlton, Castlefield Gallery’s . This film will be available online soon.

Who is the insider and who is the outsider? – Kwong Lee, Castlefield Gallery.

Next, reflections from Kwong Lee, Castlefield Gallery. Kwong spoke about supporting Venture Arts’ vision, New Art Spaces and the focus of adding value to emerging artists and independent studios leading independent projects. He also discussed the collaborative process that takes place between galleries and studios.

We collaborate to survive, everybody does. Collaboration is the value of the unknown and uncertainty. Collisions of different ways of making and thinking. – Simon Raven

Simon Raven, OutsiderXchanges artist and Phd Researcher at Northumberland University, shares his experience of the collaboration between himself and artist Jane Louise Graham in the creation of their subversive film ‘The Invisible Gallery’. He spoke of existing power structures within the arts and questioned what is unique about disability arts and collaboration.

Barbara Van Heel, Co-Director of Action Space London and Charlotte Hollinshead, Artist Facilitator at Action Space’s Studio Voltaire, speak about the history of their studio and how many artists Charlotte works with apply collaborative elements in different ways, often through participatory projects.

We got a guided tour of the Project Ability studios from artist Cameron Morgan. Elizabeth Gibson, Artistic Director of Project Ability, who work with 124 artists weekly, talks about how residencies aid the collaborative process, using UNLIMITED commission collaboration between Cameron Morgan and Alan McEwan as an example.

Community engagement must be artist led, accessible, outward looking and use quality materials – Shan Edwards

Shan Edwards, Chief Executive and Artistic Director, introduced The Arthouse, Wakefield delivers her manifesto and the importance of artist residencies and how they role they play to help diversity in the arts, creative learning and supporting artists of all abilities.

Art and disability or disability arts? Disability is the last avant garde. – Ruth Gould

Ruth Gould, Director of DaDa Fest International, gave us a fantastic brief history of disability arts and spoke about DaDa Festival.

Why is our work not talked about in a serious way? Why is it not talked about at all? Talk seriously about inclusion in the wider art world. – Gus Garside

Lastly Gus Garside, National Co-ordinator of Creative Minds talks about bringing together learning disabled artists and performers and spoke on behalf of Sarah Watson, Artist and Founding Member of Creative Minds.

 

Juliet on Collaboration

We sat down with Juliet Davis to ask her about her thoughts and experiences on the OutsiderXchangeS project. Exploring how it may have changed her work and how she collaborates.

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How did you approach collaboration within the project and what difficulties did you discover, how did you overcome them and also what successes have you discovered in collaboration?

Collaboration, whatever the level, is a very important part of my work; I rarely do art projects on my own. I don’t really have a studio based practice so that was a first “challenge” for me, finding ways to make my thought processes and experiments visible in the space and intriguing enough for people to get interested in them.

I spent most of the first few sessions wandering around the space, chatting to people, looking at what they were doing… but not really creating work at my desk. I noticed that most of the Venture Arts artists were really focused on their work, getting on with it from start to finish, Barry even eating his lunch at his desk!

I wasn’t sure how to approach them as usually I will collaborate with people with specific projects in mind, everybody’s role and position in the group being quite clear, this time there wasn’t necessarily a clear entry point for the discussion and I was pressuring myself about having to create work with absolutely everybody.

I think the collaboration with Sophie and Horace started quite naturally, Sophie and I had a chat outside of the studio space, and then visiting Horace’s school with Martin really helped bounding us. After that Horace was always really up for trying new things we would propose, always bouncing off his own work. The ‘unproductive’ time spent with Horace looking for people or places on our laptops also really helped getting used to his sensibility!

So I think I’ve learned to value the time spent together in a studio setting without a specific outcome in mind (which I hadn’t really had since finishing my master 2 years ago).

I will usually do lots of research and thinking before acting (but not necessarily change things several times), this time because of the long duration of the residency, I really had time to build up ideas, then realise what parts actually interested me, repeat this several times, but also try things out without really thinking about it much before doing it (like the ‘if you could invite anybody in the world to our party, who would that be?’ question which in less than 10 led me to start building life-size cardboard models of people’s favourite guests.

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Will the way you work in collaboration change now moving forward – was there a particular way you approached collaboration before?

I used to collaborate with people I either knew very well and/or whose work I knew well, people who’d been to art school too and had very similar interests and references to mine, but often from different perspectives (sound, drawing, graphic design, film making, dance…). And as my work has a site specific/contextual approach to the environment, we would always have a very clear outcome/setting (an exhibition space, a certain event…). This time it was with people who have a very different approach to art than I do (and also people who had similar art education as me), and we were not sure about the form of the final showing.

It’s made me realise the importance of just trying things out before setting ideas and giving time for relations and ideas to evolve.

I realised that there were lots of ways to ‘collaborate’. I think I was quite weary of ‘using’ Venture Arts artists’ practices to create something that wouldn’t be meaningful to them, but by leaving things open ended and not feeing rushed some exchanges happened (even if it was just a discussion, giving someone a hand… and not necessarily creating a work together with absolutely similar involvements).

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How has the OutsiderXchangeS project changed your artwork?

My work is usually immaterial or takes the form of performances. This time, because all the other Venture Arts artist create works with visual physical outcomes, it helped me think of my work as installations, actions to be documented in video, etc.

But all the participants have a very ‘performative’ element in their art making, for example Barry whose writings are almost like performance writings; it’s helped me think of ‘performativity’ in a more open way. The discussions we had about celebrities, actors and TV shows has really made me think about ‘reality’ and ‘fiction’, when do both start and end… how important they are to us.

As an artist and person, I think I’ve become more patient and comfortable about speaking to people I don’t know. I feel like I have more attention and understanding for people I come across in public spaces. Disturbing/highlighting social behaviours and conventions was already very important in my work but it’s like these six months have really help put my beliefs into practice, so I hope this evolution will transpire through my future works and ways of working.

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How has it been working with artists who have a learning disability? Is there a difference? If so what is that?

They have very different artistic or cultural references to me (having been to art school, so being quite knowledgeable of art history and always ‘aware’ of it when I work, and also being foreign – so knowing little to nothing about British TV series or movies.). This meant that when we were interacting I couldn’t focus on the things I usually focus on.

I think there are common elements in the reasons why we do art and why we enjoy it, but also great differences, due to the fact we experience the world in very different but also very similar ways. We share really strong feelings in common (for example our admiration for a movie or a character) but they will take different places in our lives.

It really made me more aware of the direct impact that engaging with art / creating art can have on people’s wellbeing, why it’s important for people like Horace or Sarah or Leslie to do art, and how I can contribute to that.

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If there was one thing you felt proud the most about the OutsiderXchangeS project what is that? – This could be a piece of work, a collaboration, the environment…

I was really amazed by how the geography of the studio evolved throughout the months, at first we were all in our own corners and Matt’s decision to invest the centre of the space felt like a really bold statement, now everything is much more fluid and we feel comfortable working next to someone / don’t feel like we’re being intrusive. I feel like we’ve all created a really welcoming atmosphere in the group and that James, Martin, Glen and Tanya’s presence and advices throughout the months have really helped make everyone feel comfortable.

Then there are those little pearls that happened, which were not exactly ‘art making’ but really bonding moments: that day Leslie hugged Sophie to say goodbye, that day Sarah got really interested in the book I’d brought for Leslie weeks before (which didn’t really interest him) and we spend over 30min reading it, the day Horace took us to see his old school and wait for a freight train – and the level of excitement when a train did actually go past! I feel like these were moments when we forgot about our differences or what was expected from us and just enjoyed that sharing of joy.

Horace Reflections

We sat with Horace Lindzey, one of our OutsiderXchangeS artists to find out a little bit more about his work and his experiences on the OutsiderXchangeS project.

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Horace what have you been working on during the project?

“I’ve been working on a big book which shows a lot of things I’m interested in also the different types of people that interest me. One of the main things I’ve been making art around is my old school, a school called Cambrian school.

In my book I’ve brought together a collage of new and old pictures of different schools, but also showing different people’s schools as well. For example I’ve got pictures of Tanya’s school and my mum’s school which was Webster School near Denmark Road.

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Horace a lot of your work seems to focus on your school days and places. Is there any reason for this?

“My school days were good, I also went to Whitworth. This was back in 1977. I was really happy in school and I always think back to my time there. Especially the teachers who aren’t there now, but it is a long time ago.”

I see food and people celebrating features quite a lot as well?

“Seeing pictures of people out enjoying themselves I like very much, so I’ve collected them all in a collage. Food I really like because there are certain foods I’m unable to eat because of diabetes. So foods like Christmas and fruit cake and finding out if people eat them I like to find out. So I ask people questions about food as well. “

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So you’ve taken those questions to the next level working with Juliet and you’ve been conducting a number of interviews?

“Yes I’ve been interviewing lots of people. I’ve been asking them a lot of questions about their schools and weddings. Juliet has been recording them and then we’ve asked them to build their old school out of wooden sticks. That was good to watch.

Also working with Juliet and Sophie I’ve visited my old school and interviewed staff and I also made them both wait till a train came through the local railway bridge. It was very exciting

I’ve also been making art with Rosanne and we broke up old records and made bits of art with them. I quite like this piece of work because I love music and vinyl. Although it is strange, but felt good, to cut up old records.

I’ve enjoyed the work with Rosanne the most because it has included records but the work with Juliet and Sophie has really got me excited as well.”

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Going back to your artist book there looks like there’s a style developing there?

“There is an artist called Peter Blake who James introduced me to. I like the way he takes images and cuts out people and then turns this into his own art. So I’ve done the same. I’ve made art of Last of the Summer Wine, people with spectacles on, people from television history, comedy – like Eric Morecombe and soaps – I very much like Rudolph Walker (Patrick from Eastenders). Using these characters takes me right back to watching television when I was young. But I’ve also used complete strangers and shapes with abstract art, or flowers and body shapes. I’ve even started to use pictures from these workshops we all do on a Wednesday.

So my collaboration has brought about some good art but my little book is like a mini book exhibition about what I like and what work I’m doing now. I’ve curated what goes on each page.

The work I’m proud of the most includes the pictures we captured of the freight train near my old school, the work that’s come from the visits to my old school and of course my book. When we have exhibitions of the project I will feel proud to tell people “I made that”.

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Sophie Lee – Thoughts on Collaboration

This week we posed a number of questions to OutsiderXchangeS artist Sophie Lee focusing on her progress during the project as well as some thoughts on collaboration.

How did you approach collaboration within the project and what difficulties did you discover, how did you overcome them and also what successes have you discovered in collaboration?

I felt it was really important to get to know each other before approaching the collaboration. I spent the first few weeks observing the way others worked and having conversations, becoming familiar with one another and comfortable in the space. For a while I was concerned my pace was too slow, but on reflection this period was very important for me. It was challenging initially to see a way in to collaboration with the artists with learning disabilities as they were very focussed on their own work, it was quite difficult to engage them in an alternative idea. However, over time Horace has become very open to testing ideas with Juliet and myself. Perhaps this is through spending more time together or maybe because the project has quite a heavy focus on Horace’s interest in school. I think it was really beneficial for the three of us to go on a trip to Horace’s old school, he regularly reflects on this shared experience. I feel it brought us together and firmed up our connection to this project.


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Will the way you work in collaboration change now moving forward – was there a particular way you approached collaboration before?

When I’ve worked collaboratively in the past it has been very organic, coming together over a common interest or similarity in ways of working. It was a little overwhelming at first feeling pressure to find this in one another, but through conversation common ground was quickly established between Horace, Juliet and myself. It has been interesting to discuss our shared interest in schools, childhood and our relationship to architecture, but particularly exciting exploring our different approaches in how to communicate these ideas. Moving forward I see huge value in collaboration with artists working in different mediums and with different perspectives. This is really pushing my practice and stimulating my ideas.

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How has the OutsiderXchangeS project changed your art work?

Working on OutsiderXchanges has definitely encouraged me to become more playful in my practice. The focus being shifted on to the process rather than the outcome has helped with freeing me up, as well as working along side such a diverse group of artists.

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How has it been working with artists who have a learning disability? Is there a difference? If so what is that?

The artists with learning disabilities are uninhibited and unpretentious which is really refreshing. It may be quite challenging to discuss the development of projects together, I have found it is better to experiment and reflect on how we feel afterwards. James and Martin have been key in supporting us in this, using questionnaire style worksheets is very helpful in giving a structure to reflection and allowing the artists voice to be heard. Almost always conversations about our collaborative projects go off on a tangent, this is one of the reasons that the work is playful and it really encourages a continued enquiry.

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If there was one thing you felt proud the most about the OutsiderXchangeS project what is that?  – this could be a piece of work, a collaboration, the environment…

I am very proud of the studio environment we have built together, it’s a lovely place to come and work with a different atmosphere each week. Sometimes it’s really calming and others we are belly laughing all day. I’m happy to have met all of the artists and I’m excited to see what comes from our time together. Each artist is making engaging work that is authentic and honest, I am delighted to be showing work alongside them on some established platforms.

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Sarah – Buildings, Architecture and Fashion

During her time on the OutsiderXchangeS project three things have inspired Sarah: Architecture, Sketching and Fashion.

Sarah constantly sketches the world around her and has a huge passion for the buildings around us in the North West.

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“I like to take the tram or bus rides across the region to look at buildings. Recently Wythenshawe Hall had a large fire and I took the structure of the building as inspiration for a collection of clay sculptures. These included the roof, the fireplace and other parts of the building.”

Sarah begins her creative explorations by sketching these buildings or particular details of the buildings:

“I like buildings and like to draw parts of them. Sometimes I’m trying to find some unusal features in a building so I can capture that in a sketch. I’ve explored bridges in Altrincham, Errwood Hall and Wythenshawe Hall, buildings within central Manchester and lots of places that I come across on my journeys. I just sketch them in to my little blue book, to start with these are just little scribbles and what not and then I transpose them into more physical pieces of art, like the clay work I’ve done and currently as part of the leaf clothing on the model dress I’m making.”

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Alongside the clay sculptures Sarah has also been sketching and designing a dress full of artistic flare. The dress has a leaf design within its tailoring and Sarah came up with the idea to merge the two explorations of her work recently – her fashion designs and building sketching. Sarah has now begun to move her sketches of buildings onto tiny leaf fabric and adding them to the small model dress she is constructing. Resulting in each part of the dress being connected to a place and a history. Bringing sketching, architecture and fashion together as one.

David OutsiderXchangeS Reflections

We sat with David today to have a chat about his work and collaborations on the OutsiderXchangeS project. Here are his thoughts:

“I’m trying to make the original painting come alive more by putting bits on top of it.

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I’ve got socks from Southport which have lots of different designs, I picked them because they are colourful and different and they blend in with my painting. They also remind me of the animations I did with Matt early on in this project.

I’ve got some jewellery and beads which I’ve brought from home which a family friend passed on to me, I’m adding them to the picture as well because they are so different.

I like things being different, I like to do something different that no one else has done before. It is unique.

I’ve been looking at different established artists to add elements and how they work into my work and it has ended up looking nothing like their work, but has turned into something quite unique.

It is boring just being the same, it is more exciting to be different and unique.

Collaborating I’ve been working with Matt and animating figures with my work on top of them. This added to my work, because I started to add the shapes of characters into my work. When I’ve completed this it would be great to then go back with Matt and animate the dinosaurs and fishes in my work and to see how they look, I don’t know if that will be possible but that’s the fun of this work and collaboration.

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Today I also did some interesting work with Roseanne which included sound, she has a set up that picks up minute sounds of springs and pen scratches using special microphones that pick up tiny noises. It sounds really unique and unusual. I added and dragged a bead necklace on the microphones which was recorded. This made me think about bringing sound similar to this into my main work, creating abstract noises for the animals and their movement which may then add to the animation work I want to explore with Matt.

Working on this project has been great, the development of using different art, collaborating and my artwork improving as well.”