Investigative process is always fundamental to my projects. To me it’s more than a developmental pursuit. It’s art in action, whether it’s experimenting in my studio, on the net gathering research material for a project archive, or on the streets collecting the thoughts of individuals - it is art happening.
When I’m in this mode I am enacting a role or a persona of sorts. And since the initiation of a long-term project in the form of an ideological initiative of which I am the protagonist and paragon, my art and life practice are becoming increasingly symbiotic.
My Seedpod project brought this to a whole new level, and it has felt like I have taken the leap that was needed, but had been hesitating to take. It’s amazing what can happen in two weeks, especially with a mentor like Jude Anderson who is astute on finding the crux of her protégé’s concept and prompting a plan to action. In my two weeks I embarked on a journey of ambitiously connecting with people, inviting them to self-reflect, interact, join a dialogue, and even commit to a membership.
To do this I had to jump the hurdle of self-doubt and embrace my role as protagonist. And, being able to ‘get on with it’ has also paved the way for real discipline in my art-life practice. As First Member of my initiative The League for Human Integrity I have principles to practice through my art, my everyday life, and on a metaphysical level. I have to make things lots of things happen and inspire a now growing community of individuals who are invested in what the project is striving for.
On reflection now, I think that the dedicated research process that I carried out for each of my projects armed me with the confidence to present works that took bold creative and conceptual leaps. Through this research I would build a store of material to draw from that allowed my works to have multi-layered meanings and divergent perceptual forms. Now it is as though all the investigation that went into those projects has fortified a solid platform for Integrity and my role as First Member. A commitment to research as process has proved to be the most profound impetus in the evolution of my practice to what it is today.
Seedpod was the conduit for this process of realisation, and I thank you Jude for being my protagonist when I needed it most.
Sometimes it’s difficult to hear and accept a person’s point of view, especially when that view is prejudicial and unfairly directed at a certain community of people. But at the same time I’d rather someone spoke their mind. Australians can be a reserved bunch, and I’ve found it often takes longer to connect on a meaningful level with people here than when I’m overseas. So in many ways it’s refreshing to have someone speak their mind.
I often encounter prejudice in the form of a snide comment from a person that is usually waiting for an agreeing nod or a snigger, like we’re all in on it. I’m still taken aback when it happens, particularly when it’s directed at the homeless. I’m not going to list the assumptions made about them here, but like always with prejudice against ‘other’ people the manner of stereotyping assumes that ‘they’ are ‘all the same’.
Last night I attended a Community Dinner at the Maroochy Neighbourhood Centre. My experience was that none of the people who were there for a communal free meal, access to nurses, a laundry van and other vital services were the same at all. I met unique individuals who were generous in their time and conversation. Sincerity is what I experienced, a rare and precious aspect of humanity that is often difficult to come by, and humbling when in such abundance as I experienced at the Neighbourhood Centre. We laughed, we philosophised, and for the first time I was asked how I answered the questionnaire.
The fourth enquiry in my questionnaire is ‘Where would I go to find integrity on the Sunshine Coast’. It is question that has stumped a few people.
The reason behind the question is the possibility of a new location to canvas in my quest to find Integrity. One particularly optimistic and relaxed gentleman replied ‘SCUH’. This is an abbreviation of Sunshine Coast University Hospital.
He’d been a patient there not long ago and said that all the staff were genuine, caring and considerate.
A hospital makes for a slippery social landscape. It is a place where life and wellbeing can be tentative. At the same time it is a place for transformation and care. Hospitals usually make me feel uncomfortable through past traumatic experience. The aesthetics, the smells and sounds, all meld to conjure bad memories…but not here. SCUH does still look like a hospital, but its hyper-featured architecture and super new surfaces give it an air of optimism, efficiency and progression, a contrast from the medical institutions we may be used to.
As dynamic as this location may sound, it was not an easy space to morally navigate. I remained outside in an expansive courtyard delineated with gardens and seating. It felt designated as a place to relax. I was very conscious that patients might be in a delicate mood and the staff with their mind on their work. It made it difficult to approach people directly and with confidence. I selected individuals carefully, and consequently collected some enlightening insights that aligned with my own experience within the courtyard.
Respect. Be true to yourself and mindful of your surroundings.
On the first day, there is always a bit of an uncomfortable, unreal sensation that goes with stepping out into the public realm with an invitation to interact with a project. It is a process that involves a clear prerogative, and usually a script. It also involves care and openness from the artist when meeting new individuals within a community. And, the invitation to interact must inspire more than reciprocation; it has to strike a cord within the individual and the community you are connecting with.
On my first venture I hit the streets of Maroochydore from my HQ at the Lock-up, and headed to the library. In front of the library there is a magnificent old cotton tree that creates a perfectly shaded canopy over some public seating. This is where I popped out my sign ‘your advice please’. I had a clipboard prepped with a questionnaire that might reveal something of a local character, both aesthetically and metaphysically.
To familiarise myself with my new location and ease myself into my new role I photographed my surroundings. These images, along with audio field recordings, will go towards creating location portraits.
I broke the ice by asking a lady leaving the library if she would mind taking a picture of me ‘on the job’. She became the first person to share her insight into what it is to live with Integrity on the Sunshine Coast.
The aesthetic experience of the Sunshine Coast was written out in blues, yellow and crashing waves on the beach.
The metaphysical experience was a lot more complex and intimate.
It seems that there are fundamental elements that epitomise a community, but the individual lends a dynamism through which it can thrive.
Two years ago I spent a week in this White Space and the surrounding countryside battling through a rigorous process of art making. It was challenging and ultimately taught me a lot about how I work. Reading over my blog posts from that week I realised that connecting to places and people has been central to my work for years.
When I read about the Leviny Sisters at Buda I thought I was reading a fairytale. It's a history that fascinates me. The complete redecoration of their late father’s house with their own handiwork in the philosophy and style of the Arts and Crafts movement spoke to my imagination. A persistent image I had been grappling with for months was of a woman transforming herself into a wild thing by sewing herself a second skin from her fur coat. When I read about the sisters I knew this place was somehow in the same world as my vision.
Further research has lead me into the lives of the Leviny family, the Arts and Crafts movement, and literature of the time including Virginia Woolf. What started as a hunch that this place may be interesting has turned into a dance for joy.
A quick list of some things I’ve noticed in my research:
- An integrated process of design and making,
- material honesty and integrity,
- accessible good design for all households,
- women finding creative spaces domestic or not,
- and an interest in medieval craft
These are just some of the ideas and themes that are relevant to my own work, and I recognise in the work of my peers and in the international art world. I will extrapolate on them in future posts.
So in brief my project SKIN is focused on the domestic space as creative space through the story of the Leviny sisters at Buda. Key questions in researching this are: What does producing creative work at home do to the domestic space? How does the environment and surroundings affect the work? And this relationship between home and creativity, does it affect the way makers and viewers value, interact with and understand the work? The development showing at the end of the residency will be a combination of craft and performance, in Buda house.
In October the creative team of The Spookmaster, which is a new play for children, spent a weekend in ICU experimenting with combinations of narration, physical portrayal, puppetry, sound and video projections.
One of the common questions I'm asked by children is, 'Is that story real?' The Spookmaster is a play where the answer isn't yes or no. Things are real and make-believe. The story is told as a memory, a thing that no longer physically exists but is nevertheless 'real'. Similarly, the central character isn't defined in one medium, he's physically enacted, he's a puppet, he's a projection, he's a puppet seeing himself in his own nightmare. Even the videos are reality shifting – they combine actual Super 8 footage from the performer's true childhood in combination with invented material. But which is which?
So next time a kid asks me, 'Is that story real?', I'm going to reply, 'You tell me?'
There's a short video of us working at
The Spookmaster opens at Castlemaine State Festival. Written and performed by Mark Penzak, Lynne Kent directing, Jim Coad video, Andrée Cozens sound and Eliza-Jane Gilchrist set/puppet design.
--------- Blog 6: Surveying coordinates
I made the most of the sunny morning and took the theodolite out to practice some coordinating movements.
Exercise 1: Aligning the theodolite to the concrete walkway:
Exercise 2: Pivoting to gaze into the field:
Spotted a friend in the yard... I think I was being surveyed...
Exercise 3: Surveying the path:
--------- Blog 5.2: measuring the library
On Thursday and Friday I set up in the foyer of the Castlemaine Library, and took to exploring the brickwork as a new unit of measure...
--------- Blog 5.1: measured walking
Today's excercise was to examine the path out the front of Punctum's ICU space where I am working. I wanted to know how the path moved, how its incline altered my movements and footsteps, and if there was any way to measure these concrete-footstep-movements.
Questions to consider: How might a concrete path move? How might we walk-with a footpath?
There was a lot of stumbling, balancing, and awkward walking....
We made lists with a small group of women today:
The sum of our parts
Eat it too
We performed some material we created in the last few weeks, asking what the text, objects and images brought to mind:
She was left wanting fries, just as some are left wanting with motherhood.
Why are there good eggs and bad eggs, or good parents and bad parents.
We wonder if any of the material confronts or offends, and why.