22 January 2015
The value of fragments
Lorrice Douglas reflects on her experience.
There are numerous ways in which I could reflect on this residency. With respect to time, yours and mine - I shall aim to introduce some (but not all) of the elements that were resonant for me.
Several of my projects have taken place in rural landscapes or transitional spaces. I particularly enjoy residencies and in each one there is a period of seeking. A desire to understand the geography; where I am.
My residency in Wellingore took place in a former Methodist Chapel Reading Room, a building designed for more than one purpose. It was a space for both looking in and looking out. I am intrigued by that dynamic.
Throughout my stay I was thinking about the notion of ‘pastoral’. Both in it’s associations with the rural landscape and in an awareness of others.
In addition to making new work, I considered the studio as a space for contemplation. One of the first things I noticed upon returning to this part of Lincolnshire was the afternoon light, which seemed golden as I drove over the wolds. In the days to follow the rapidly changing daylight became a characteristic of my temporary home, drawing its own images throughout the interior of the building. In my first week before I had met many people, I would photograph the light as it moved across the walls.
During my time at the Reading Room a book came to mind that I had read on a previous residency at Lanternhouse, Cumbria. This was the autobiographical novel ‘Wednesday Early Closing’ by poet Norman Nicholson. The book is coloured by the interiors of Nicholson’s childhood during the interwar years, the Methodist School Room being one of them.
I thought about this as I noticed names carved into stone.
One of the dates was 1925, an era that Nicholson was writing about. These landscapes were both rural yet many miles apart. I thought about the cultural landscape of that time and the sounds that might connect them.
Sound has an important influence on my work. Sound, conversation, the audible, and the less so. Not just what is said, played, heard, but the way in which something is said - played - heard - unheard. How it ‘resounds’ in a space.
In that respect we could say I am interested in the character and tone of things.
The studio was open for people to look around during B.talking. I placed some short sketches I had written on a table. I am working towards a space where myself and the audience can pause, and observe a dynamic of which we are both a part. It is less about the laboratory, museum or gallery as established institutions for looking and observing and more about the spaces we access in our everyday lives — a view from a window, a route taken when walking the dog…These can be both moments of solitude and encounter, oblique or highly resonant.
On one occasion I had some old slides of mine and a projector set up in the studio and the writer Desmond Avery stopped at one photo of a plate of food and said “It looks spartan”. He then went on to talk about George Orwell’s autobiographical novel ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’. Desmond spoke in great detail about the book and I asked if I could record him as he spoke. I was inspired that one image had sparked such a seamless account of another space. It took it further, into someone else’s interests, someone else’s narrative. I showed the slide along with Desmond’s voice at the B.talking event. It was a small projection, with the projector placed on the floor.
At another point I had placed a collection of wood on the studio floor. Each piece looked blank, yet to be used. They were offcuts, each one given to me by different people between Wellingore and Lincoln. They appeared blank - but I knew the conversations behind them. Something unresolved, that might be revisited another time.
During the B.talking event I included 2 photographs from a previous project I made at Beacon in 2006 and said that rather than me talking about them that people could ask about them afterwards if they liked. Well, questions did come in, one person wanted to know more about the narrative. When I flicked back to the earlier slide (image below) this seemed to generate conversation.
John Plowman said “I was at this event and we have been looking at a still image but I notice we cannot see the audience in these images.” It was a fair observation. I flicked to the image below. I added that there was also another element - the sound of the organ (playing extremely slowly, almost incoherent) and how the sound of it reverberated around the hall. In situ, the sound was impossible to ignore and now as a still image, it was easy to overlook the impact it had within the space. We acknowledged that the work operates on different levels, in terms of a live piece within a specific landscape for a short time, and as a still image.
It seemed that there was some kind of value in showing the present and the past. Being able to refer to an earlier work; to fragments, and their interconnections.
From conversations with John Plowman, I would say that B.resident, really was about being present. It is rare to find a situation which truly values the process, without the expectation of artistic outcome. I have always seen the process of how I work with an audience (and people during the making of my work) as part of the work.
Having spent recent years making consciously low key works I felt that my practice would benefit significantly from an on-site dialogue with Beacon and a wide range of people about their reception. I arrived with no big plan of what I would make. I wanted to be open to the small and incidental things. I made a point of talking to the audience and seeing what happened. It was notable how much people were willing to engage and their presence will inspire me for some time to come.
he does that
going through the thoughts that came into his mind
one of the quite
things about it is that
he realises at that point
he quite likes living in the world
although you wouldn’t really
think so from the things that he had written up to that point…”