Matt on Collaboration

We sat down with Matt Girling to ask him about his thoughts and experiences on the OutsiderXchangeS project. Exploring how it may have changed his work and how he  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? 

 I started out in a way that, looking back on it now, seemed naïve. Even before we came to the first studio session I had big bundle of ideas that seemed to me, likely to result in interesting and exciting collaborations. Most of these ideas involved me inviting other artist to participate in what I was doing; I had the door to my art practice open and beckoned people in to try it out. On the whole, this approach fell pretty flat. Other artists were interested but understandably were more interested in getting on with there own work. At that early stage I wasn’t comfortable attempting to influence what anybody else was working on. It felt rude to break somebodies’ busy concentration and try and make a difference to artwork that in most cases doesn’t need to be changed at all.

So I decided to do the same and just get on with my own practice. Just doing the what I would have been doing regardless of the context of the residency. I was mainly drawing. I sit next to Lesley in the studio, He also draws a lot too, and generally with the same kind of equipment to me; he’s the only person I know with a bigger trail of dried out black fine liners in their wake than me. Working so closely in parallel with another artist with a similar process to mine has defiantly affected the way I make drawings in two ways, I have become more interested in making drawings that tell stories. I have adopted a more dogmatic determination to keep going without becoming distracted. The way Leslie is able to concentrate has made me pull my socks up and really get on with it.

After that initial handful of sessions collaborations started to form organically; small at first, using an action figure belonging to Leslie for a bit of animation or giving Barry an alternative kind of paper to do his writing on. Ever since I have just let stuff happen without planning ahead, often working with different artists from week to week. More recently I have been working a lot with David, we have been making some experimental animations using green screen, (or “the ghost town effect” a term coined by David because he had seen it used in the music video by the specials.) we still don’t really know what it is we are doing but we are both just enjoying process for the time being. Looking forward towards the end of the residency I plan to amass all the small chunks of collaborative video work made and into a kind of visual soup. But that might change.

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Will the way you work in collaboration change now moving forward – was there a particular way you approached collaboration before? How has the OutsiderXchangeS project changed your art work? 

I haven’t collaborated on many art projects in the past so I can’t be sure. I’m fairly sure it has in some way affected the way I will work both collaboratively and on my own in the future.

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

The difference in the way any two people perceive the world is massive, with the learning disabled artist working on Outsiderxchanges that difference in perception is multiplied wildly. This has made the whole experience insightful, confusing, hilarious in equal measures.

 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 wouldn’t say I have felt proud for any one piece of work but I was very happy with the reaction the project received at the open studio we held in May. I think people were able to see that this project is about mutual growth, which is important. I am looking forward to pulling all the loose ends together to make something that I am proud of in the coming months.

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.

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…

Tanya Raabe-Webber – Workshop Reflections

As lead artist on Venture Arts OutsiderXchanges studio project my initial first thoughts were about finding inclusive ways of connecting with the artists as practitioners in their own right. To explore their themes and artistic practices with them that is driven by learning disability art and cultural identity. This has proven to be a natural road to follow. All of the artists, as you can see from the blog posts so far, are developing their own ideas, exploring materials and developing there own unique techniques. This seems to have grown very quickly and organically in a very short time.

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Our staring point was about exploring our identities as people, as artists and the relationship we had with the new space. Everyone soon claimed their space in the studio and set about making and thinking about their own art.

The studio really does feel like a hub of artistic thought and ideas beginning to flow, artist centered and artist led. Our studio practice is very much like embedded in the culture and practice of a supported studio. We have James Pollitt from Venture Arts, an art tutor who has a great foundation and background knowledge into the artists past work, working practices and communication. James directly facilitates the artists in their arts practices as and when they need it. Glen is our photographer, blogger and has been named Grip the Runner Man in case we need a hand in the studio and I have Jackie Cooley who is my personal artist assistant and she supports me to access my working arts practices when collaborating with the other artists.

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As the artists are now working on their own individual ideas I am able to begin to stand back and reflect on how I might develop collaborations between the artists, myself and the non disabled artists that will be joining us later this year.

With each artist I’m very interested in exploring verbal and non-verbal collaborative processes to develop new work of my own that explores learning disability art aesthetic, cultural identity and inclusive practice.

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I have just begun to do this with Horace. With Horace I’ve began to explore our shared experiences of childhood memories of school and childhood. Horace recalls experiences he’s had in an almost per formative way, taking on the physicality and characterisations of the people he speaks about, asking questions that he already has the answers to, whilst expecting you to know the correct answer. His recollections have an almost docudrama feel to them. When Horace is interviewing you it’s like you are the first to have been asked these questions. Making you, the interviewee, and feel very important. For me Horace’s stories are extremely lucid, totally reflective of a disability cultural identity and very real and for me our collaboration will inform a series of paintings about illustrating these types of memories whilst in the studio. We worked together on some pictorial ideas for this, which we filmed.

And this was just for starters so I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Tanya Raabe-Webber Lead Artist

Don’t forget you can join the artists on their journey by applying to be a collaborator on the project. 

We are looking for 4 interested artist to join our Manchester based artists over a five month period and in return they will be given a free artists space for the duration of the workshops and we are also looking for one artist to collaborate with a learning disabled artist based at Baltic 39.

More details can be found here: OutsiderXchangeS Collaboration.

OutsiderXchangeS Artists Workshop 4

The OutsiderXchangeS project is already a month old. During the past month our five artists  – Barry, Sarah, David, Horace and Lesley – have been hugely focused on developing their own individual art form and skills.

  • Barry has taken his narrative story style and begun to pass this onto acetate
  • Horace has begun to experiment with video and storytelling
  • Sarah is developing the designs – inspired by Bronte country –  for a piece of clothing
  • Lesley is exploring his illustrations and how to turn them into animations
  • and David has taken his fascination of the sky to another level utilising different media and abstract painting.

The OutsiderXchangeS artists will now take a short break for the festive period but will return on the 5th January to continue their artistic explorations.

Don’t forget you can join the artists on their journey by applying to be a collaborator on the project.

We are looking for 4 interested artist to join our Manchester based artists over a five month period and in return they will be given a free artists space for the duration of the workshops and we are also looking for one artist to collaborate with a learning disabled artist based at Baltic 39.

More details can be found here: OutsiderXchangeS Collaboration.

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OutsiderXchangeS Artist Workshop 3

Workshop 3 of OutsiderXchanges
Barry is writing into the shapes he draws (, street lights and houses) to create new layouts.
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Lesley is creating some layered 3d drawings by drawing each bit separately then cutting them out and composing them.
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Horace is working on his interview technique by filming himself chatting with people about their school days.
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Sarah is working on experiments and designs for a textile sculpture.
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David is using his photos of skies as a starting point for some abstract and fantastical multimedia landscapes.
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Want to join our artists? Want to be involved in a collaborative process? Want to be involved in a ground breaking project? An artist based in Manchester and Newcastle areas and want a free art studio space for 5 months? Find out how you can be involved by visiting: Artist Submission.

The deadline is 8th January.

OutsiderXchangeS Artist Workshop 2

The second week of the OutsiderXchangeS project and our artists: Lesley, Sarah, Barry, David and Horace continued to experiment with their artistic explorations which included the local community, superheroes, space exploration, Bronte country and stories.

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Horace experimenting with paper cutting.

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David exploring with pastels and space.

 

 

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Sarah experimenting with pencil and Bronte country.

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Lesley exploring pencil and pen drawing using superheroes and figurines as inspiration. 

 

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Barry exploring text art and a story about working with old Coronation Street stars and a trip to Wales.

Want to join our artists? Want to be involved in a collaborative process? Want to be involved in a ground breaking project? An artist based in Manchester and Newcastle areas and want a free art studio space for 5 months? Find out how you can be involved by visiting: Artist Submission.

The deadline is 8th January.