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.

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.”

Collaboration within OutsiderXchangeS – Julie not Juliet

Horace was the first person I met when I came to Venture Arts – I actually met him outside the building on the day of my interview and remember being intrigued by his interest in knowing the year I was born, but also a bit intimidated by his insistence in my name being Julie and not Juliet.

When ‘OutsiderXchangeS’ actually started, Horace, Sophie and I quickly got together thanks to our common interest in education, childhood, and ways of working which are not limited to the studio but also involve online research, discussions and trips around Manchester.

Horace has been doing his interview series on the theme of school days and we thought the Open Studios would be a great way to take this project further.

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On Saturday 28th May, after Horace had been to church, we did five individual interviews in a small room next to our communal studio space where Horace first asked people questions about their childhood memories, before we asked them to build a small version of their school with wood blocks, so they could explain better how the school was structured, where their classroom was, where the head master or mistress’ office was, where they would play…

I was fascinated by how people would answer Horace’s questions in different ways: because they can be quite general (‘What were your school days?’), some people mainly spoke about the subjects they studied, some would enumerate the various schools they’d been to, one mainly talked about the games on the playground! Often the interviews are quite reflective for the people reflecting their stories, having to look back on fairly early memories and assumptions they had at the time (especially about the headmaster-mistress).

Some of the interviews were documented, but the important part of the work for us seems to be the live element, the special encounter with Horace and me in an intimate environment. Horace is being himself and speaking in the way he always speaks, I’m being myself as well… we’re not ‘performing’, but because it’s just the three of us and people have committed to the interview, I feel like this moment that we share together is slightly separate from the rest of the event and the discussions Horace can have with people the rest of the time. Where does the artwork/performance start and end? Who is performing?

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Throughout the interview, Horace, like he always does, impersonates different characters: the detached interviewer, his mum (“she told the dinner ladies ‘do not give Horace no pudding'”), the teacher, the headmaster (‘Where do you think you’re going?!’)… and the person being interviewed equally has to take on different roles: the adult recalling childhood memories, the pupil getting caught trying to get out of the school and having to justify themselves…

Horace also often uses sentences as ‘nets’ to catch us in this impersonation game, by ‘tricking’ us into finishing his sentences. (“-It’s not appropriate. It’s not what? -Appropriate.”)

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We’re hoping that these 15 minutes spent with us can help spark a mecanism of memories for the participants, even when they’ve gone out of the interview, and that by stimulating a conversation in a “safe” place slightly separated from the rest of what they experience during that day, they might be more open to encounters with strangers in their daily life…

Here are some extracts of some feedback we got during the day:

“It was pleasant to think back to my childhood. I was apprehensive at first but was put to ease by Horace. I was told to expect questions about my school years, but didn’t expect it to be deep and probing. I don’t think I have ever been interacted with by an art piece before.” Kamran, 28.

 

“It was great. It was different from the other artworks I’ve experienced before because of the interactivity, the focus on you as a participant and the ability to ask the artist questions.” Steph, 28.

We are going to develop the interview format during the future public events that will happen with Outsiderxchanges, and also devise a way for the artwork to be accessible when the interviews themselves are not possible. We’re currently working with Sophie on a video and a sound piece not being a mere documentation of the interviews, but a piece in its own right.

We’re really pleased by the enthusiasm that the participants have had so far and exited about the other works we want to develop together over the next few months!

April – Quotes and Images

The last few weeks the OutsiderXchangeS studio has been a hive of great activity.

Collaboration between all artists has started and individual artists have started to experiment even more.

Below are some images and quotes from the OutsiderXchangeS artists from the past couple of weeks.

Sarah used different clays for her architectural 3D sketches- and Juliet sketched her in the process. Sarah has continued to experiment with different types of clay to construct her buildings.

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Rosanne: “I’ve been recording Barry reading some of his wording. We’ve also been working with Horace to position records from history as well as collecting imagery for our AV collaboration”

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Matt decided to gift Barry a calligraphy note pad to which Barry said “WRRIGHTING IN THIS BOOK IS DIFFERRENNT. IT MADE ME HAPPY”

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Horace has also added a selection of Polaroid’s he took of his old school to his map drawing- “it brings back memories” he told the fellow artists.

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Lesley bought in a chimpanzee figure to show Matt and has decided, “I might paint on the tarzan picture” which Lesley has been working on for the past few weeks.” When asked about his painting Lesley said “I used to watch Tarzan as a child in the 1970’s, on Granada TV, and it has always been a favourite of mine. So I’m really enjoying painting this. It makes me feel good.”

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David has really enjoyed having a studio space for himself. “It feels a lot better to have my own space to experiement with my work. It has helped me realise sometimes I’ve got to reinvent myself’

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We’ll be capturing the thoughts and progress of all artists every week and you can keep a track on the work and collaborations on this blog and on our Twitter page. Give us a follow on @oxchanges

 

 

OutsiderXchangeS Collaboration Begins

Last Wednesday (16 March) we brought all of our Manchester based artists together for the first time at their artist studio in Chorlton.

Joining Barry, Sarah, Leslie, David and Horace we have the dynamic Sophie Lee, Rosanne Robertson, Matt Girling and Juliet Davis.

As well as our lead artists Tanya Raabe-Webber and James Pollitt who will be helping to facilitate the collaboration between all artists.

Entering a new artist space can be an exciting time and for some of the artists the first time they have had an artist space to call their own. Horace in particular appeared to thrive in the space saying “This is my space and I am going to do some great work.” Matt, who is an experienced artist, this is also the first time he has had a space to experiment with his work adding “having this space gives me the space and the sense of calm to really experiment with my work.”

The first morning in the space all of the artists settled in their own space and then during the day sat and chatted about their own work with each other. One of the first steps in collaboration is being comfortable in their studio and space and then learning more about each other. Through these conversations inspirations of collaboration will happen and hopefully we will see some amazing work produced individually, together and inspired by each other.

By the second week in the artist studio all artists appeared inspired by artist Matt’s figurine stop motion work which he had set out in the centre of the studio. Leslie and Matt decided to experiment on an animation connected to Leslie’s interest in Tarzen and David decided to take his previous exploration in DNA structures further by looking at some of Matt’s figurines of dinosaurs. Horace started sharing his interviews and music influences with Rosanne and who knows what might come from that. It will be exciting to find out. Sarah continued to experiment with different media and inspired by the recent fire at Wythenshawe Hall has started to build part of the structures of the hall in clay as well as the coat of arms of the Tatton family (who originally owned the Hall). These are just some of the early collaborations happening across the studio and it will be exciting to see where they go on the OutsiderXchangeS journey of collaboration.

2016 Jan – Feb Workshops – Reflections from Glen

2016 Jan – Feb Workshops – Reflections from Glen

As the new year of 2016 commenced our Venture Arts artists returned to their workshop space in Hulme. Every Wednesday our five artists – Barry, Sarah, Lesley, David and Horace – have the space and time to explore ‘their art’. Tanya and James – our lead artists and facilitators of the sessions – oversee and suggest different techniques, media and ways forward with their work. I pop in to the sessions at least once a day to explore what the artists are working on and to see how their work develops from week to week. Having this unique insight into their artistic journey I feel very privileged. It’s not often you get to see an artist grow week after week and I get the chance to see five artists grow into their work and their work become so individual.

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This way of working for most of the artists can be quite new for them. Within Venture Arts a lot of the artwork produced is workshop led. So the finished product and the content of the artwork is very individual and of a very high quality the starting point of their work doesn’t necessarily come directly from the artist.

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With OutsiderXchangeS the work produced comes truly from the artist, with no time pressures or group pressures. Because of that we are seeing our five artists starting to produce work of an even higher quality than they have in the past.

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Over the past two months we have engaged with artists across the North of England all of whom had shown an interest in collaborating on the OutsiderXchangeS project. We now have 5 artists who are joining us on that journey in Manchester in our dedicated artist studios in Chorlton and one artist who will be collaborating in Newcastle in our tandem project with BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art. All artists will be coming together to start collaborating by the end of March till August, and we will introduce you to each of them in the coming weeks.

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But looking at some of the work already produced by our Venture Arts based artists the artwork that will be produced in the next few months, through collaboration (that collaboration facilitated by Tanya and James), should be really exciting. I know personally I can’t wait to see what’s produced and I’ll be keeping you up to date here with their progress.

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From next week I’ll be posting updates on how each Venture Arts based artist has developed their work in the past four months. But in the gallery below you can see a few examples of the artists work.

Coming up soon:

Artist Profiles

Full artists studio collaboration updates

Newcastle Updates

and more…