Where We Live And What We Live With
How long has it been?
How long has it been since we connected?
How long has it been since I sent you words, from all the way over here?
How long has it been since I saw your faces; Skye, Daniel, Paris, Alex, Alan, Andrew, Georgia, Neil, Aimee, Andrew, Hannah and Aiden, and your Christmas video that put the biggest smile on my face, and brightened up that cold winter evening?
Thanks so much.
Thanks from all the way over here!
Over here, and far away.
So many far aways.
So many days.
So many sleeps, news-streams, snow falls and meteor showers.
So many sneezes, cups of tea, condensation drops on windows and dinners cooked.
So many fires lit, tv programmes watched at night and so many sunrises.
So many pages full of words read, so many slices of toast.
So many moments staring at the ceiling, so many dreams of holidays or just something else.
So many great tits and bull finches needing seed.
So much frost on the trees outside my window.
So many 3 mile car trips to Asda to stock up on food.
So many conversations about lockdown easing and vaccinations.
So many phone calls with gran, or thoughts of losing that lockdown podge.
So many people, so many people.
The world has changed hasn’t it?
We’re past that point of thinking ‘I can’t wait to go back to normal’, and are now just living that ‘new normal’ explained so long ago, aren’t we.
We’ve gotten older, right? That’s happened, hasn’t it?
And we’ve changed too, haven’t we?
My child has spent 1/3 of his life in lockdown.
Who would have thought this is what it would have been like?
All of us, contained in our little bubbles, occupying our own little corner of the world, and our own little corners of our lives.
I hope you are all doing ok.
The Village Artist
Late last year I got some money from Creative Scotland. They gave me 15k for a new year long project, and I was relieved. Relieved that I wouldn’t have to wait to carry on with my work; relieved that I had income.
I had proposed a new project called The Village Artist, where I would look to explore artistic and creative practice in my home village of Bowling in West Dumbartonshire, as a means of place-making. How do we use creativity and art-making to connect with where we are? To explore what art making can do, that other ways to engage with place, can’t. To make deeper roots. To skim the surface, to dig deep. To spend time with people. To feel connected to a community. To dream for better things for where we are, and for the future. To be able to walk out the front door and feel like we could have a direct impact on what life is like in the place we live, and to get a different view of things, god knows we all need that right now.
And I wanted to legitimise the idea that the artist is a valuable role in village life, or any kind of community life; just like a doctor, or a greengrocer, or a childminder, or a gardener.
What skills do artists have that other professions don’t? What do artists do best? As an artist, what do you do best?
Now write these things down and keep this list for later.
So I’m beginning the project now, with an interrogation of the square mile of the village I live in. This beautiful square mile of re-wilded forest, abandoned train line and ship graveyard. Of this canal side-river side, one street village. Of this one hairdresser, one pub, one shop village. Of this hill side space, ten miles from glasgow and Loch Lomond, home to 750 people and hundreds of other animals, plants, machines and histories. From dead and gone slave-owner shipbuilders; church attending Protestants; ancestors who loved the fact that there were once three pubs in this tiny space. The ghost of the old distillery, thought to be Scotland’s oldest at one point. For the 13th century castle ruins, and the original macintosh furniture trapped inside a boarded up house. And me, my partner and my child and our boat. And all the other boats. The swans, the ducks, the migrating goldeneyes and gosanders. All of us, here and not here. Resident and visitor. Young old, past and present.
“Where We Live And What We Live With”;
a provocation for your personal lockdown locale.
1) Look through your diary, and isolate 2 hours of your time for a single, uninterrupted exercise.
2) When that time comes, gather a water-bottle, a pen, and a notepad. No headphones, no music player, no distractions. Oh, and dress appropriately for going outside. Wrap up warm!
3) Beginning from your front door, you must go on a dérive for approximately 1 hour, but no less than 1 hour. A derive is an unplanned ramble. A walk. A way of experiencing your environment without planning too much where you will go. Like a dog following a scent on the ground, use your intuition to walk unplanned for 1 hour. Feel free to explore areas you haven’t been to before, but be careful not to get too lost...
4) As you walk, try and keep your senses open to your environment. What can you see? What can you hear? What is physically around you? Who is physically around you? What can you smell? What can you taste? How does this place feel to be in?
5) Don’t feel pressured to ‘meticulously study’ your area. Trust that you will be sensitive to it. Places speak, are you listening?
6) After one hour of walking, stop. Find a suitable place to open your notebook and start writing. Using stream of consciousness technique, write down your sensed observations for no more than 20 mins. Don’t be restricted by writing in complete sentences, or necessarily sentences that ‘make sense’. Be creative with what you write. Feel free.** DON’T EDIT what you write.
7) Walk home.
8) When you get home, take 20 mins for the final portion of your exercise. Open your notebook on the next clean page, and for no more than 20 mins, use stream of consciousness writing technique to carry on writing from this statement; “I went outside and looked outside, and I saw what I saw, but now I am inside, and so I look to myself, and see…”
9) Go make a cup of tea (or something else nice and warm). That is the end of the derive exercise.
Take some time away from the exercise.
The next bit to be done in pairs
Come back to the writing you did. Read over it carefully, take note of what you expressed. What did you write? What was written between the lines? Taking it in turns, read your writing out to your partner. Don’t be shy of what you have written.
Once one person has read their texts, their partner must ask the following question:
What does your writing tell you about Where You Live And What You Live With?
Repeat for the other person.
Now, go back to that list of skills and attributes that you wrote about artists earlier on, and share this list with each other.
Thinking about Where You Live And What You Live With, and through the lens of these skills you each wrote down, dream up an artistic intervention into your immediate lockdown locale, that would mobilise and inspire this locale lockdown.
Who or what is it for?
What do you want it to do?
Look to this writing from Tim Etchells again, for an interesting stream of consciousness type writing style: