Katie Anderson

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

Tag: Collective

Creative Practice as a means of Problem Solving

I was recently asked to give a talk about starting out an art practice in Dumfries and Galloway, to a group of young artists – blueprint100 at the Stove. I’ve learned to avoid these experiences as I am usually far more coherent when written down than when speaking in front of an audience.. but the timing seemed good. Having just completed four major commissions in the past two years, and been living the full time artist dream for six years, I took the talk as an opportunity to reflect and gather my thoughts on the past few whirlwind years.

Since art school, I have kept to the idea that I will not focus on one material or craft, but on applying the right approach to each project as it appears. That said, I have a strong connection to process and material – although many of my projects are more ephemeral in content, I always yearn to include a method, a craft or skill, a process of making, into my work. This can be communal, collective or on my own, or all of these.

In the quest to understand my own directions, I have become increasingly focused on the idea of creative practice as a means of problem solving; that artists and creative people can apply an open approach, a methodology, a sensitivity and awareness towards challenges and difficult concepts that can open up alternative ways of thinking and tackling problems. Not that artists can solve all your problems, but can be part of a wider social dialogue to open up alternatives. What does that mean? What does it look like?

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PARKing Space. Collaborative project with The Stove Network in October 2014 including work from Mark Lyken and Emma Dove, Mutual Motion, John Wallace and Colin Tennant, Alice Francis, Open Jar Collective and many more besides!

For me it looks like a lot of different things. Each of them as much a part of my practice as the others, although some of them not traditionally seen as ‘art’. (No surprises there then!) I decided to try and map my practice. That map currently looks a bit like this:

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The web could be knitted a bit tighter, but for simplicity this will stand. Collective working runs through all of this, I talk about this a lot at other points, but for now, when I talk about my practice – I mean both collective and individual working. (And rarely is any of my work truly ‘individual’ – everything we do is built upon networks and  communities.)

The different elements of my work are now starting to fall into two predominant categories: Process and Narrative, and Curation and Gathering.

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Collaborative project with The Stove Network in September 2014 (a vintage year), featuring spoons created by Uula Jero and I, jam and charcoal workshops with Phoebe Marshall, spoon effigies, Alice Francis’ long distance ride, and the Secret Ministry amongst others.

Process and Narrative

My love of process and making is born out of a compulsion to fidget, model, construct – to figure out and learn through forming and deconstructing. Process is not just something I do alone in the studio though, process also plays a strong role in any collective or communal working – as a means to keep hands busy, to draw in, to create pause and gathering for people to share, learn and exchange over. None of this is abstracted. All process is about forming a narrative – about the places we occupy, about our current situation and environments. It draws ideas and methods from the past and present, and allows us to re-write them in the present and the future.

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Tattiefields collaborative project with The Stove Network and Lochside community in 2017.

Curation and Gathering

This is making, but on a bigger scale. Making space for, or creating place – place-making if you like – for people to gather and spend time. Creating activity and energy in a space allows us to work collectively with a much larger group of people, it opens up the invitation to interact to a wider audience and creates the space for change to happen within, and beyond. Taking the time to consider how we interact and move around spaces, considering the invitation, the entrance, the flow of people and activity. This is the part where I am most regularly asked, ‘but how is your real artwork doing?’ This is the real artwork. I create this with the same authenticity, the same drive and focus and consideration as I create all of my artworks. This is just focused on allowing the best opportunity for people to connect. This is my artistic contribution to a wider collaborative project.

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Tattiefields launch in September 2018, contributions from others at this event included art workshops with Design by Zag and James and Susheila, Spud poem by Stuart Paterson, and tattie soup from the Lochside Grub Club

As usual, nothing is fixed, and nothing is permanent. But as a means of focus and direction going forward, this brings some of the huge complexities and variations in my otherwise seemingly scattered practice together into some kind of cohesive whole. One of my big challenges at the moment is to find a way to bring some of this clarity into the outward presentation of my practice – in the form of artist statement and portfolio. It’s a bit of an immense load to try and neatly package into something that can clearly share the interests and direction of my work to potential new collaborators and communities.

All Paths Lead to Morton – EAFS Offgrid

This summer welcomed the second Environmental Arts Festival Scotland – an international biennial of contemporary art practice in landscape – which for two months this summer absorbed me whole. My last EAFS experience in 2013 (blog here) shook and rattled my perceptions on place-based art in all the right ways, and has been an important part in prodding my reflective process into the art practice that it is today.

But moving on from the hectic, region trailing festival that was EAFS 2013, this year took a marked-ly different tack. Exploring themes of pilgrimage and journeying, hospitality and generosity and – my favourite – inventiveness and foolishness as a way of understanding the world (Have I reinvented that a little? Perhaps it has grown from the original intention), EAFS Offgrid 2015 looked as a large scale collective artwork in which all parties became part-artist, an experiment in co-created community, temporary place making and exploration of landscape.

festival village

I had lots of questions during the lead-up to the festival. (Apologies to all who endured my constant questioning)

One of the most persistant was in the meaning of ‘festival’ in the first place. Contemporary associations of festival – through the prolificy of large scale music and arts festival – put us the audience, in a passive state, consuming entertainment, resources and activity, these are free spaces for new experience and free partying; but everything is largely provided for us, from music and activity to food and water, the festival crowd is encouraged to participate by consuming. This seems mis-matched for our free spirited and independant festival idealism.

The alternative? EAFS Offgrid, whereby attending a festival made you an active participant, a sense of generosity and hospitality grown by all involved encouraged an active bringing and sharing, from extra food to additional programmed content – some of the quoted favourite moments at EAFS were the ones we never even programmed. From this generosity grew an amazing atmosphere of a community, caring and growing itself and each other. The EAFS team looked to create a space to be activated by others; in this way everyone had the opportunity to be a participating artist at EAFS – and in this collective making, everything from eating to sign-posting could be considered and created as part of the larger EAFS artwork.

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Who can claim ownership of EAFS? Creating a community or a place felt less concerned with ownership of artistic direction, and more to do with a growing sense of collective intent (count the number of uses of the word collective in this post). Interpreting and understanding of the festival was a big question in the run up to the festival; how could we encourage a sense of shared ownership to grow ‘open-source’ interpretation, conversation and development of EAFS’ themes and ideas? The core team (artists, interns, volunteers and management) became the knowledge ambassadors, pioneers of information sharing to spread throughout the festival over the course of the weekend, conversing over hand outs and newspapers. My own corner fell to signage as installation, signposting as artwork. The role of art/ist as a communicator may have been over-stepped in my new found blackboard and road sign obsession (sorry to any who crossed my path late one night with blackboards under torch-light) but allowed for an intense period of questioning, development and ultimately understanding.

Post Office 1

To the artwork itself, EAFS as an installation created a central festival village, an information hub and home for just over a week. Some of our visitors never left this safe haven of conversation, freshly cut field and idyllic viewpoints. This was the cluster point, teams gathering before heading out, the return point for artists, performers and our four legged friends; all paths lead to Morton. The landscape was our context, and growing out from the castle and festival village were walks into the unknown – opening up a vastness of purple heather, braken, running water and clear sky. These were the lands of EAFS.conspectus 1

An early decision was taken for artworks to be minimal in their occupation of the landscape, long walks to distant locations or installation points yielded time for reflection, discovery and understanding of the place-context (nobody mention the partridges). The artworks themselves allowed for moments or glimpses into an artistic perspective – this was art as investigation, as questioning and framing. Art as walking, art as looking closer.

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One of the downsides of being so absorbed by organising was how little of the festival I managed to absorb, however my highlights included:

JW hill walk

Sitting high above the reservoir, hidden in heather – eating bleberries and listening to the rising sounds from the Art of Expeditions’s boat house.

Gathered around Andy McAvoy’s Tea Caddy, passing around objects from George Wyllie’s studio box.

Being entirely submerged in The Terrestrial Sea late on Saturday night.

Late night conversations by the embers of the River of Fire.

eafs walks

The festival was designed to be light on the earth, leaving without trace – there was an importance to the act/actions of leaving. Within 24 hours there was hardly a mark of our being, and it somehow felt right – sat on the last picnic bench in the fading sun.

Food. Firesides. Conversing.

Rhythm. Sustenance. Placemaking.

Collect. Curate. Create.

Landscape. Our land. The Lands of EAFS.

 

 

 

All images my own. Huge thanks and love to Robbie, Matt, Jan, Debz and the super-cool EAFS team. This year I participated in EAFS as one of five interns supported by the (fabulous) Holywood Trust.

Some beautiful image blogs of EAFS available on The Stove blog, check them out here