Some Extracts from the artist’s and participant’s reports
DIY was a great opportunity to take my teaching / training / facilitating ideas further than usual, to cover new ground. The way the scheme was advertised encouraged artists to be “exciting, innovative and idiosyncratic”. So I felt free to push things further.
My thinking started with:
1) My ongoing research into sensory awareness. I ‘d take a previously worked theme/ workshop exercise to an extreme. We’d spend an entire day in silence, highlighting perception and the urban experience of the city. Would this be deprivation or overload?
2) I’ve worked for the past few years as an artist in industry, in an innovative role stemming from my work as a live artist. I’d share some of this experience with the other artists, looking at the interface with commercial life not cultural life, introducing – as invited guests – people I’ve worked with, looking into new opportunities, locating the discussions in non-art venues. It would be a deliberate contrast with the first day. All talk today.
The third element really came from what I felt was missing from the experience, and in relation to the group dynamics. To get the most out of it, we’d also need to spend some time together as an interactive group. So I came up with a final day of ‘mentoring’, putting the emphasis on people’s individual visions and needs.
The day of not-speaking had the tremendous affect (beyond its immediate reverberations) of allowing the group a collective experience with which we were able to relate to each other. I am quite sure that in years to come, when stumbling across one of the participants at some do or other, that we will very quickly establish common ground from our day spent without language. Even the anticipation of such a moment is exciting to me. (Joshua Sofaer)
I enjoyed my suburban walk! (five words to summarise the experience).
The project related to my own practice. The experience of actually doing journeys and realising how they developed my own practice, really helped when devising the project and working with the participants. The participants felt I really understood the professional benefit I was conveying to them because I had already had experience of doing journeys.
I personally found my experience of being a facilitator of my own project very empowering. I have been involved in workshops, training and teaching, which more often than not required me to work from a brief designed by someone else. Journey into the Suburbs was instigated by me, funded by organisations that supported my ideas and lastly, I was responsible for the money, workshops and training. DIY from an artist/trainers perspective is a great opportunity for artists to share their experiences and ideas.
Was it good? Yup – it was both educational and entertaining. Among the highlights were using a brand-new corporate lawn as a crazy golf course, successfully managing to swindle free cans of Red Bull from a Soho office, and most importantly, discovering the perfect point of Percy Passage.
What have we learned? Keep it simple. I’d never tried anything like this before, and should’ve started with a little less ambition. Nevertheless, I’ve learned a great deal about project management, pigeons and artichokes.
In the isolating and generally under-funded and unsupported world of contemporary interdisciplinary practice, it was wonderful to have the opportunity to get together and just spend a day ‘playing’ together.
title: skill swap
Each participant was asked to bring a skill with them. These ranged from playing a current R&B chart hit on the ukulele to bursting a balloon with your teeth. Participants had to bid with ‘desire’ for the skill that they wanted most and if there was an equal desire the group took a vote as to who should get the skill.
was it any good:
The process worked well but let’s face it, not all the skills were worth having. The auction idea worked very well. It became clear which skills were shit and which were desirable. Participants were active in their articulation of why a particular skill was of use.
title: lucky dip
This was when we started to make work proper. People were asked to pair up with someone that they had not met before the day had started and devise ‘shows’ based on predetermined ‘luck-dip’ criteria given to them. The aim was to create a kind of ideas factory with people who had not met having to work creatively with each other and come up with something in very short periods of time. It was basically on variations of this model that we spent most of the day.
was it any good:
It did work. I was pleased with how people responded to the task set. Ideas were ‘unrealistic’ at this stage in terms of their practicality but they were flowing thick and fast. I think people relished the idea of both not having to commit to an idea and also being directed as to the kind of piece that they had to make. Ideas became two a penny, rather than sacred, and this was very much part of the strategy.
title: devising for the rest of the group
As a penultimate exercise the group of ten was divided into two. Each group was given the task of devising and casting the other group in a show of their creation. The end point was a Polaroid ‘publicity shot’ for the event.
was it any good:
This was done in a very short space of time and was really just about ‘playing’. But it did have the serious point of (after a whole day of literally hundreds of ideas floating around) having to commit someone else to a project and physically visualising their role in it.
We finished the workshop and most of us went for a drink.
was it any good:
It took us a long time to find a pub that wasn’t packed but once we were seated people generally had positive feedback from the day. Apart from anything else no-one had done a ‘workshop’ for years and years.
The aim of Studio Sessions was to place a group of artists in differing studio locations across London as a means of examining the processes and practice of their own work. Each artists was asked to find a studio location, which they felt, compared or contrasted to their own practice, or would shed new light on their working processes. The interpretation of what a studio is was purposefully left open and up to the individual artist to frame either conceptually or practically.
Dr Dwostoyesky gave the group a tour around the observatory explaining his research into the abundance of gases that make up stars. We were able to view the moon through one of the telescopes, which was actually quite emotional for us. Just understanding more about how astronomy happened also enabled us to situate our own work and existence in important ways. And the visit certainly allowed us a view into a scientific studio practice. Through our previous visits to other studios we were easily able to dismantle our experience in relation to our conception of studioness. ‘Studioness’ was a term we coined to describe something that has characteristics or elements of studio about it. Whilst Dr Dwostoyesky would in no way describe his work as artistic or a studio practice he pointed to the fact that great ideas in scientific progress were about an originality of thinking and a way of viewing the world that changes the way in which we perceive it. In this sense there is a creative process of sorts, which ‘positions’ or ‘proposes’ ideas to the scientific community. These cognitive leaps are what I would equate to as being idea acrobatics, which I perform in my working processes.
"I just wanted to pass on to you what a great event it was. Helen and Leslie managed to create an open and sharing environment where artists of different levels of experience were able to share experiences and support each other. This doesn't always happen when artists get together....I found it really invigorating to be in such a caring and non competitive space."
"I got so much out of the retreat - it was a real booster creatively. The spirit of sharing amongst the group was a powerful tonic, and made it a really comfortable environment in which to ask questions and discuss ideas without feeling foolish. I picked up so much new information and am already applying it to my work! A big thank you for creating an environment which made us feel so welcome and at ease. By far the most fruitful/enjoyable two days training I've had to date!"
"Due to the eclectic/ hybrid nature of my practice I have found myself attending training and the only thing I have in common with the other participants is the fact that we're all there on the training. With the Guerilla retreat and its agenda, it meant that the participants had more commonalties due to the beliefs and interests that inform their practice/life. I hope that this means a connection to a network that enables fertile dialogues in the future. As an 'emerging' artist in a live art context it was wonderful to meet warm, funny, intelligent, generous, caring and committed artists - a reflection of Helen and Leslie's reputation, the training design and hope fully of the live art scene in general. I felt before the weekend that I was reaching a new point of arrival but as one participant so sharply put it felt that I was 'still hanging out in immigration'. I really feel the weekend has given me the rubber stamp on my passport to actually get out and explore the new place confidently. It really has been like a key to a door maybe I was a little wary of fully opening."
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