Katie Anderson

Artist based in South West Scotland; interested in people, places, materials and collaborative practice.

Tag: collections

The Stories of Our Places are Hidden in the Collections We Make

Regular, or even occasional visitors to the Dumfries Hospital may have noticed a new addition in the ward areas in the past month. I was delighted to finally see the DGRI Collection Tables installed, following their completion by fabricators at the Glasgow Sculpture Studios (thanks Dave and Martyn). If you are about visiting an ill friend or relative, or are perhaps spending some time there yourself, have a look for the socialisation spaces in each ward, as nine of these contain one of our tables. There are also bonus points for anyone who spots the two tables out at Moffat and Stranraer community hospitals.

These are one of three commissions which I have been developing over the past two years for the new hospital, and comprises of a series of 11 coffee tables (nine of which are in the DGRI), filled with individual collections, filled with objects, found and gathered, and made specifically for the project.

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One of the tables in situ amongst a collection of odd NHS furniture and thank you cards

For this project I have worked with students from HNC and HND art classes at the Dumfries College, and young artists as part of blueprint100’s open workshops at the Stove. Students and artists were invited to create an object that reflected ideas of health and wellbeing, that could be a positive message for someone to spot whilst spending time staying in the hospital, or that reflected their experiences in Dumfries and Galloway. The found objects are a mixture of natural materials gathered from around the region, old postcards and curiosities linked to places around the region. We then hosted casting sessions in the Dock Park and outside in the College grounds making their objects in pewter.

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Inspiration from the Viking Hoard found in Galloway, during workshops with DG College students

I was really touched by the thoughtful and considerate approach students and artists made towards the project, and the love and care each person put into their objects. The concept of giving a gift of a positive message, or moment of distraction to a stranger who might be spending extended time in the hospital struck a serious chord with many of those participating. The generosity and creativity of everyone involved was very humbling, and a treasured part of the project.

The furniture itself was designed by Dress for the Weather and made by the GSS team from a coloured MDF material valchromat, which takes on a lovely soft and tactile finish when the medical varnish, Steriguard is applied to it.

The lettering in the casing is all hand painted, a copperplate font at a miniscule 12mm letter height, and will be etched on my brain forever.

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What is of real significance in projects like these however, is a more complex notion of ownership and association. Often, a little ‘community engagement’ is sought at the beginning of such large projects. ‘Could you just run a workshop with some key stakeholders to involve them in the project?’ This can be a great starting point. But the notions that this is the beginning, middle and end of ‘community’ involvement undermines the investment, and care of all of those involved. Whoever the community might be, in this case from staff and daily users, to patients, family and friends, and the wider community – almost all of whom will use these public spaces at various points in their life, to offer a tokenistic approach towards involving other people is insensitive and in the longterm, entirely un-useful to artworks.

Community engagement is not an afterthought.

For me as an artist, whenever I involve others in my work, by invitation, direct collaborative working, conversations in passing, or any other form, these people are then welcome to be a part of the ‘artist’ role, they too are invited to have a share of the ownership of the work, and to share in the journey of the works life. This is of course, not a requirement, but is open as a means of us creating a more meaningful artwork collectively.

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Token inspired by the histories of Lincluden and Lochside, created by Jimmy Russell

Over 60 people contributed unique works for the DGRI collection cabinets. I hope that everyone who has contributed a piece to the collection cabinets will have the chance to seek out their own contributions within the hospital, and share their individual stories. The tables hope to be there for the foreseeable future as a record of our moment of shared collaborative practice.

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Installation in progress

Ours is a transient community. But it would be disingenuous to claim credit for anyone else within this. I’m still hoping to get some form of permanent marking to tell the stories of those involved in contributing to the project, although unfortunately I don’t have a complete list of names.

Sincere thanks to everyone who contributed to the work, without you all it wouldn’t have been the success it has become.

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Stag’s head by Isla Gracie

Special thanks to Jo Shennan, who leads the art courses at DG College. Thanks also to the blueprint100 team, and Matthew and Sophie for their support with leading the workshops, and the Stove for ongoing use of the Pedal Powered Foundry.

Collections: Part One

As human beings, one of our more interesting traits is that of collecting, from the gradual process of gathering and selecting, through to our individual approaches of cataloguing, organising and eventually displaying. These can of course, be on a large scale, and done on behalf of communities and peoples, such as in museums, galleries, and shop fronts of many different kinds – and now the online purveyors of exactly-what-you-might-want-to-purchase-for-your-home, but the more interesting collections are those of the everyday, the individual collections of pebbles from the beach, mementos from previous holidays,fridge magnets, wine corks, postcards, pogs.

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This man apparently owns the worlds largest yo-yo collection, of over 6,000 yo-yos. Thanks internet.

We live in an interesting time, so overwhelmed by materialism and disposable culture, that I see the objects we chose to keep, collect, and save as imbued with an innate special-ness. These collections can come to represent us, to our friends and families, and to those who may find the collections after us, as representations of our place in this time. Even the smallest, and most insignificant of collections has a story to tell. Collections don’t need to be fashionable, they just have to be curious and loved. I’m slightly fascinated by the now highly unfashionable thimble collections, cases for which can be found in most charity shops, along with a large collection of mostly uninteresting thimbles from obscure British towns and faded seaside resorts.

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I’ve also held a long term curiosity about Cabinets of Curiosity, or Wunderkammer, (thank you University of Cumbria..), and collections that are neither ‘correct’ or ‘incorrect’, that have been gathered, grouped and collected in a manner inspiring and pleasing to the gatherer, creating an individual narrative rather than an accurate depiction of natural history etc.

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According to wikipedia*:  Ferrante Imperato’s Dell’Historia Naturale (Naples 1599), the earliest illustration of a natural history cabinet

But where is all this going? As part of an ongoing project I have started to assemble a collection of objects, made, found, gathered and bought, that will hopefully encourage a little closer examination, a little conversation, and a little curiosity as to their reasons for gathering and placing. I’ve also been working with artists from blueprint100, and students from the Dumfries and Galloway Art and Design courses to create some of the works for these collections which has been a really exciting sharing process. All the participating artists and students were invited to make objects that related to the region, and that were suitable, caring and mindful for a healthcare environment.

DSC_2196_lowres.jpgPewter cast object, by artist Agnė Zdanavičiūtė

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Slip cast conker from my studio collection
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Salt, gathered from the North Sea. Studio Collection

DSC_2203_lowres.jpgPewter cast key by artist Liam Templeton

It hasn’t stopped there. I’ve since been drawn back to eBay, madly collecting old, used postcards with curious snippets of tales on the back, cream pots and milk bottles, scrounging charity shops for old tourist tatt (whilst trying to avoid excessive mass produced plastics), my medal celebrating the last dip at the old Dumfries pool has gone in, as have other curios, pin badges, beach pebbles and seed heads.

The collections will be housed in bespoke designed cabinet-topped coffee tables, by Glasgow based design company, Dress for the Weather, and will hopefully be under production shortly.

If anyone has an old curiosities from the D&G area you’d like to see repurposed into a permanent artwork locally, from items of local history to tourist tat, please get in touch. I’d especially like to find some milk bottle tops – the kind that had the name of the area on them – or some pogs. Just because.

Breaking Inertia

Inertia.

The time between times when everything becomes still. 

We decided to take a trip to somewhere new and unfamiliar to jump start my failing motivation, and in the end went for Argyll, alongside Loch Long to the bothy there, Mark’s Cottage. It was wet, cold and beautiful. We got lost. A lot.

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Trailing through hours of forestry commission paths, we came across these remains sinking into the ground more or less exactly as they must’ve landed leaving the trail on a sharp and steep bend some time ago. My artist’s foraging head woke up, although unfortunately my backpack didn’t allow for substantial gathering.

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This was as much of the wreak as I could carry. Another time perhaps. It sit’s strangely well with my current slight car obsession (more to follow on that later). We also noticed the geology a lot. Walking for long periods makes you notice the unusually usual things.

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This particular rock (slate-like?) glittered in the wet. And it was wet more than it was not wet. There was a lot of quartz kicking about too. I don’t normally collect rocks, but this trip did seem to prompt it. This year will involve more trips, more collecting.Image