This collaborative residency programme is a testing ground for new ways of working together and sharing ideas. To get started and to gain an insight into each participating artist's working and thinking processes, we took it in turns to invite the others into our respective practices for the duration of one day. This, in turn, led us to become more familiar with each other's creative methodologies and was a launching pad from which we were able to delve into further discussions around topics such as rituals found in different cultures, the agency of materiality, performing the landscape and the relationship between nature and social infrastructure, with a view to the production of a site-specific artwork to unveil to the public at the end of the month-long residency.
Michael Taiwo was the first artist to invite us into his practice. He asked us to participate in a writing exercise entitled ‘From the Ground and Out’ (pictured above). This involved the group of four of us looking at the world from the perspective of the ground or other aspects of the landscape such as the bridge and the wind farm, writing from this vantage point and then coming together to generate new collaborative texts and sound works. The aim of the workshop was to challenge the group to realign their thinking to consider looking at the world and their surroundings through the eyes and body of the landscape. The landscape as a living archive of experience was a reoccurring theme that we returned to throughout the writing exercises. The workshop aimed to communicate the experiences of the ground, the perspective of the sky, and the trauma and healing of the environment in which we were working as a way of understanding it as a sensory experience rather than just an observational one. Seeing the natural environment as a living body encapsulating memories, thoughts and feelings was crucial to the success of this activity.
Please find below three experimental 'exquisite corpse' sound recordings, created from the writing we did during Michael's workshop:
The second day’s workshop (pictured above) was led by Kirsten Bertelsen. It took its starting point in an earlier discussion within the group revolving around norms and how different cultures have it in their DNA to celebrate and encourage individuals who stand out. In her practice, Kirsten often explores hidden assumptions and underlying norms. She is interested in the way tacit knowledge in a culture can structure and influence human behaviour. The conversation around the cultural DNA of a country, and how it can enable an individual and generate diversity, led to the overall theme of the workshop. The sentence "why must you be different?" came up in discussions and became the conceptual foundation of the workshop. We decided to work with clay (which we had dug out of the ground near the site of the landslide) and to explore what happens in the field between material and idea when four artists with different methods conjoin their practices. The works made during the day led to thoughts around the agency of the material and one’s respect for it, and how to let go of control and work less intentionally in order to let the material 'do its thing'.
The third workshop (pictured above), conducted by sculptor and printmaker Christopher Pearson, began with an introduction to the artist’s practice, past projects and approach to making, followed by a brainstorming session where each artist shared key terms and topics related to their own field of research from which we discovered common interests and how our work intersects and overlaps. After this, Christopher’s workshop involved the collaborative production of three series of sculptures which each focused on being performed by a different environmental force: gravity, wind or light. These site-specific conditions respectively became the momentum behind the making of each sculpture, shaping the processes at hand whilst staging an active interplay between factors such as tension, movement, balance, weight, precariousness, colour and location.
The resultant ‘material performances’ took the form of contorted metal rods wrapped in strips of brightly coloured cotton, scrap fabrics and metallic ribbon with crocheted cord and tasselled rope which were installed on the cliffside (gravity), assemblages comprising discarded metal hoops, plants, air-dried clay, wool, string, wooden beads and lengths of fabric which were hung from a tree (wind), and various rocks, stones, pebbles, shells, beads and other found items wrapped in reflective foil and two-tone fabric and placed in and around rockpools and other aspects of the rocky coastline (light). Throughout this workshop, it was vital that all participants surrender control over the materials to the materials themselves in order to allow the process to become as automatic as possible and so that the outcome emerged not from the imposition of meaning on matter, but from the continuous ‘teasing-out’ of possibilities and connections from the evolving forms. Amongst other experiences, this led us to consider the inevitable agency of materiality and, correspondingly, that of the ever-changing natural environment.
Ingrid Pumayalla held the last workshop (pictured above) in which the artists were each given pieces of knitted wool (blue, pink, green and white) with which to explore the landscape. We were each tasked with placing our piece according to its sense of belonging. At the same time, we were asked to make a sound recording from this interaction with nature. The workshop took place as a ritual to introduce us as artists to this new nature which we were going to inhabit and where we would be making art for a month. The pieces were situated to fill cracks in between the rocks, they became offerings to the sea, and also part of the trees swaying in the wind.
'On Precarious Ground' (Norwegian: 'På utrygg grunn') is a site-specific installation produced collaboratively by Ingrid Pumayalla, Michael Taiwo, Kirsten Bertelsen and I during the month-long Stokkøyart residency programme in September 2019 (pictured above). It is permanently installed outside Bygda 2.0, Stokkøya, Norway, and was unveiled to the public on 27th September. It comprises five painted steel sculptures and a sound composition.
Please find more information about our final body of work and the vernissage here: www.christopherpearson.co.uk/installation-on-precarious-ground
Please find below our collaborative sound composition, created from layered recordings of us reading excerpts from a Facebook group called 'Vi som kjører alene over Fosen' ('We who drive alone over Fosen') during our travels by car across Stokkøya and the neighbouring island of Linesøya. This group was used by islanders and those on the mainland as a necessary means of coordinating the sharing of resources after being cut off from one another due to the landslide. As we are not speakers of Norwegian, we repeated the posts in a fractured, and at times incomprehensible, attempt to pronounce each word correctly; a metaphor for the fracture between island and mainland. This work was played from a speaker hidden beneath the rocks around the sculptures in our installation during the vernissage, providing a new conceptual layer to our work, as well as a personal connection with those in attendance, some of whom recognised their own writing from within the interwoven web of social media posts.