I thought I would start by sharing some of my proposed ideas. The text in italics are my reflections now that I’m here.
… rather than figuratively saying ‘I am giving you power’, or ‘I intend to empower you’, the laying down of a koha and stepping away for the others to consider your gift means that your mana is intact, as is theirs. You are indicating that you do not want anything from it. It is up to the others to exert agency, to decide if they wish to pick it up. Whatever they do, both sides have power throughout the process. Both sides have tapu that is being acknowledged.
Whakawhanaungatanga: Collaborative research stories, by Russell Bishop, 1996. p222
“Making an invitation is nerve wracking
I am asking you here to my little glittery tent
This is a relationship. It is an open hand.”
Making Space- Speleology, by Sian Torrington 2010, p94
To make anything is to take risk. To make anything is to make an offering.
I propose to make temporary installations which operate as a form of gift or offering. To make these from local materials, and to work with local craftspeople to learn their techniques; particularly to build structures and shelters. I use lots of knotting, binding and wrapping, and I would like to learn local techniques using soft craft materials for the same purposes.
I knew I didn’t ever want to present myself as an expert. People build scaffolding here from bamboo which is towering and mighty. Clay pots grow from lumps of clay, and flowers are tied in intricate ways to lay in temples. I feel at home and know how to tie bamboo so it is surprisingly strong, but not like this. I wonder and revel in the skill and wonder of the everyday handmade.
These temporary installations will reflect the experience of being on a residency, as well as the need to build a temporary home in a new country. Build with what you have, build in what you have.
Everyone is working so hard to make me feel at home; to make it easy. I walk alone the wrong way from the swimming pool and I am guided by a shout and pointing hand. Suresh who runs Shanthi Rd is a perfect balance of clear about what he needs, and incredibly generous about helping me with what I need. This is a combination which is hard to achieve and I admire it greatly. I am fed, taken for a swim, walked around the parks, and we together make a plan of what I will need and what I want. I feel treated like a queen, or perhaps just a serious artist on a residency.
I research built environments for my installations, found drawings such as drips on walls or mould growing, impermanent structures such as tents and flags, to create a drawn and sculptural abstract language.
Everywhere there are marks, stains, paintings and drawings. Trees are decorated with flowers, figs grow straight out of the bark while rain weathers layers of posters and painted surfaces. Pigment used for offerings is liquefied by rain and drips, running down the gods to paint the gutters pink.
I am interested in making temporary shelters and metaphorical spaces for living. Many of my installations are shelters for one, metaphors for what we need to survive in certain environments. An artist in residence has need for shelter and space which relates to what is familiar and induces productive practice. She is in a new environment which is inspiring and stimulating, but she also needs to recreate somehow or hold onto aspects of the studio environment in which her practice flourishes.
Vines grow in gentle holding shapes to create natural tents. The People’s tree towers, providing green shelter. Everywhere there are wires, hanging, clustered, tied into trees and back on themselves. They snake and twist and I itch for a stick of charcoal to trace them.
Already I realise how much of a gatekeeper I have become. Protecting my space as if someone would always invade it. Here my body relaxes. Everything grows. Tangles, layers, wild abundance.
Research will take the form of three strands:
1) Photographing, drawing and writing about local structures (including small-scale structures such as offerings at temples, stalls, flags and bird nests).
2) Learning local handicrafts by working with local artist-makers. Sharing skills and materials. Collecting local materials.
3) Writing about and integrating the relationships I build while I am there into my art works. This usually takes the form of writing and then interpreting these writings through visual approaches, as well as using the writing itself. For example in the Christchurch project, a phrase “The earth became liquid” became an essential part of the work, where I used a lot of watery paint, liquid mud and plaster.
From these three strands of research a new body of work will begin which will consist of small- and large-scale temporary sculptures. My installation practice involves sculptures which find their place in relation to buildings themselves, and for this residency I would like to do this but on a much more temporary and gestural scale. The sculptures may take the form of gifts or exchange with people I work with, or they may find homes in cracks in walls or in the environs of Shanthi Road itself. Rather than working in a standard studio and gallery setting, I would like to push my practice to live in the city, alongside other makers, and for the works to find places to rest within the landscape itself. I intend to have a fluid practice during the residency which includes collecting to bring back to the studio space but also drawing, writing, making and photographing around the city and in others’ working spaces.
Today I saw people making structures which are used for celebrations. For when someone gets married, when someone dies. They are built from bamboo and covered with papier mache, then flowers and shiny paper are attached all over them. One night we saw a double headed silver swan float with thrones on it sail down the road. The men on the back looked tired and unimpressed. I looked like a two year old whose birthdays all just happened at once.
Suresh took me to where these structures are made. The flowers are scraped off afterwards and they are reused. Groups of men wind thread to bind flowers to pieces of bamboo. They move so fast I can’t even see how it works, but piles of flower sticks grow; pink and red and yellow.
Outside the window of my studio is a crow, a Badam tree, and a swing. At night stray dogs lie in the entrance to my apartment, staying cool.
Suresh tells me a word I don’t know how to spell yet; Vissiajn – to let go. He tells me that fabric is seen as a metaphor for the body; that is wears out and is let go, but the soul remains. A festival is coming for Ganesh, where intricate but temporary structures are made from clay and decorated. After the festivities the deity is floated in the water and they disintegrate. He says, it is always like this here.