Imagined by the John Hansard Gallery this was a week of play inspired activities. It finished in an Open House Day, on the 16th of July 2016, when the public was invited to visit and take part in our Play Ground. Artists with different concerns and methods were working/playing together for the duration of the project. For me it was a learning experience in several different ways. Observing how other artists develop ideas, learning my own and others peoples boundaries, enjoying collaboration from the simplest play to more engaged pieces. Maybe the most important were the conversations with some of the artists.
Ana Cozendey and me, developed the performance Weaving Memories as a part of the Open House Day.
First, participants were invited to contemplate the art object “Pinned Moth” and read the story behind it. This was my offering, a gift of my private memory. Then they walked and discovered objects, words and smells, as a way of encouraging them to get in touch with a memory that is special to them.
After that they shared their memories, together with the collective weaving of a cocoon of wool. Speaking is easier when doing something with your hands, when people are making something together or alongside each other. Weaving memories was about sharing and encouraging empathy.
There was a participant who works with people that are loosing memories -he cares for dementia patients, also a nurse that works with psychiatric patients and we heard about the artwork they create and the effect that art has on them. We had participants from different parts of the world sharing memories and hopefully finding the common human thread. An older lady remembered her grandmother who worked as a pianist for a silent film cinema. This was well received by everyone weaving at that time! This showed the social aspect of the project. The positive reaction of this group of complete strangers from different parts of the world. People shared and sparked off each other. The threads interconnected and became an object, fine spider-web of soft wool.
In the same space there were two more artists, both very inspiring. Laurence Dube-Rushby was working with ashes.
Recently returned from a visit to the refugee camp in Calais, she was speaking in a very sensitive way about the temporality of existence and about loss. Building symbolic houses out of ashes almost ritually, that got destroyed and recreated during the performance. Part of this performance was also a letter by the artist addressed to a young boy, whom she had helped look for his belongings in the ashes of the camp.
Bevis Fenner was concerned with work, its meaning and role in our society. He was painting coals white in a structured way for the duration of the week long Play Ground. A large clock was positioned on the wall above to ensure regular breaks and periods of work. He also organised a collaborative piece, matching images concerned with a variety of contemporary issues – some political and some of the popular culture. A thought provoking piece that I enjoyed taking part in.
This experience was very important for me. The performance developed in practise and both me and Ana gained a feel of how to guide visitors towards an experience we have imagined for them. In the same time open ended and interactive.
There was an opportunity to talk to a curator as a part of the Play Ground, this was particularly inspiring and significant for me. Some of these conversations, I have already started to develop. Sparked off by an idea to capture the smell of a freshly baked bread, I have started planning a performance. Obviously it is about bread and dough. I was planning to make a sculpture but I think that this concept is a lot better suited to a performance. It recreates the smell better! I have since come across some fantastic resources concerning bread, bread making and ritual. Nikos Chausidis is an anthropologist from the University in Skopje and his “The Mother of Bread” and “The Father of Bread” articles are incredible. He creates an unbroken link between the bread rituals surviving in the Balkans and the archaeological remains from the Neolithic in the same area. Using artefacts, analysing language and the psychology of the mythical images he creates new ways of looking. For me this is very inspiring and points towards a research valuable for me and connected to something that interests me as an artistic inquiry. The connection between art and ritual is very deep and old. It is part of our base. Ritual is an ancestor of art.
To create feelings and thoughts in the visitors minds without a figure is an exciting challenge and it is growing in my head like a seed.