10x ARTRES: Scotland
Gifford and Edinburgh
“interstitial space is celebrated [here]. We are locked into our practices, but every day was like: I can play here, and then hit on all cylinders. It’s like there are two wires sitting millimeters apart, and realizing, Oh, I should touch these together.”Andy Ducett
Situated first in the village house of Braewell, on a small lane in Gifford, the resident group gathered for the first two days together in an empty split level abode to share knowledges and get to know one another and each other’s practices. This was a particular kind of fractured learning, as we were all trying to get to know the house and village, one kind of navigation, and then each other and how we each work through daily living, which brought on a whole other set of negotiations and emotions. Once a feeling of trust was established, ultimately not until Day Three, people started setting out to work on their urgent ideas, which quickly registered as being affected by the close-knit situation and the specifics of site.
This is evident in Steph’s experimental video she began filming, alongside Collette; in it, she’d fabricated these long tentacled fingertip attachments, centered still in her own dreamscape ideation she’d brought to residency but also influenced by Anne-Laure’s reed-like weavings she was making at that time. Steph’s work-in-progress video was part of an experiment that would bring her to another work far down the line. Here, she performed a walk extending her hand out, with finger modifications in place, that literally touched all the matter along the way, sensing each stone wall, evergreen tree, bush, and stream in her path. We’d all been on several walks throughout the village and parks, either separately or together, and, on our first day, we collectively went on a half-day hike arranged by James, serving as our local host, out to a mysterious estate nearby that has a local legend around it. This video work seemed a suture of the place of Gifford to Steph, and further, a rendering of the interactivity of the entire Gifford residency assemblage, with all of its components coming together in a rhizomatic way within this video work, there, in that moment, on the day.
Also, on Day Two, Anne-Laure innocuously set out a bowl of colorful pompoms. Over the next three days, these were silently taken, without pre-arrangement, by each resident, in turn, and began to appear in ways which altered, obstructed, or decorated the house and grounds: in the heating vents, in between the stones on the outside wall of the house, in the metal eyelet handles and carpet holders, in the old cast-it on fireplace grate. Indeed, this site intervention reappeared all the way in Edinburgh, as they began to appear in working Headquarters there, as well as in the flats where local residents were hosting guest residents (our flat and Steph’s). Legend has it that Anne-Laure actually mailed them from Gifford to us at the Bargain Spot location, so they would arrive there in the post anonymously.
Technique experiment (video stills), participants: Luke Burton, Collette Rayner, Stephanie Mann, James Currie; part of 10XARTRES: Scotland, sited at 12 Earl Grey Street, Edinburgh, 9 August 2015.
Andy Ducett – “walks”
Andy Ducett – holes
Once we arrived into the city centre, and got settled into our next HQ, at a former Bargain Spot on Lady Lawson Street in Tollcross, the situation changed. We were now on a busy 4 lane city street with busses zipping by and facing tall glassy bank office buildings. Our storefront HQ was flanked by a Bridal Shop and a Sainsbury’s, and the entire building block had long been owned by a city church; the first story had an empty gymnasium-like hall that is still used as a congregation place of worship. It was to this church that two peer artist friends of ours, Abbe Webster and Lydia Honeybone, had approached months earlier to lease the former Bargain Spot as a pop-up artists project space for minimal rent, and we were subletting it for the 9 days from them. It was still quite rough inside, with many marks and indentations on the wooden floor from the weight of rows of kiosk store shelves, and still bits in the backroom from the shop, a mannequin head, a holiday sale advert, and a broken wall peg board for hanging dangly items for purchase. We set up our HQ studio dead center of the empty space, right where the daylight flooding in from the storefront windows met the blue-green fluorescent light from the ceiling. Before set-up fully began, Luke began to do the standing long jump from the raised floor window bank as far as he could towards the blue-green lit interior floor. Andy began filming. Everyone dropped what they were doing to join in the experiment, activating the public/private threshold by jumping simultaneously. This was our 6th day together, and trust had built amongst us; at this point, anything was game and there was little hesitation to join in the improvisation, everyone’s usual response was “Yes, and-” though if someone didn’t feel like, it was no harm, no foul.
Luke Burton and Anne-Laure
Our long 8’ tables could be used however it suited the group, and people set up workstations like hotdesks; we had brought the kettle and tea cups in. Luke claimed a floor area towards the entry to make 6’x6’ paintings on reclaimed butcher paper, which evolved evenly over the course of the week and kept time for us. Anne-Laure crouched on the floor, laying out her long reeds she’d gathered and brought from Gifford.
As the social studio days went on, Andy began playing with the hole in the floor. The wooden shop floor had several holes cut through it, likely where pipes used to run through, and Andy and James began calling through it from the ground floor to the rough basement. Before long, they were dropping things down and pushing things up, invading space on one side or the other. After a longer pause, then, Andy set up the “hat” over the hole. In my household, we call it the “hat”, or, a plastic ‘pour-over’ filter for coffee, meant to be placed on a cup with grounds in it and then hot water poured in and through, resulting in a pretty good cup of brewed coffee. Andy set this over the hole, and began brewing coffee through the hole. James had run down with a coffee cup to line up under the pour, and after several trials, the coffee performances had begun. Sitting down in the dank, dark basement, with spiders amongst the storage shoved off to the side, and a work light clamped to the ceiling and pointing its spotlight at a white cup and saucer, alone and incongruous on the rough cement floor. Suddenly the sound of a water stream dropping through a broken sink pipe, or possibly an animal peeing, broke the basement silence and brown liquid splattered flatly all over the cup, like Wiley Coyote’s anvil dropping mysteriously from a 10’ height.
The open storefront windows were also calling to Andy. Lady Lawson is also known as Lothian Road, one of the busiest streets in Edinburgh, and pedestrians walked by constantly. Andy began to follow them across the front of our store, he on the inside and they on the outside. Often, they wouldn’t notice, as seeing mannequins in storefronts is quite common, but as he crossed to continue following them in our second set of windows, they would catch on. This almost always got a great laugh from the walkers by, but even if it didn’t, Andy conducted this performance day after day, sometimes for hours. Like Andrew Gannon’s Chair Piece work we’d re-enacted in the MFBothy residency earlier in the year, this felt like his job, like paid labour, and if he could have clocked in, he would have. Soon he was enlisting other residents, often Collette and John to conduct it with him, he took one window bank and they took the other, so that together they could “follow” more people. He also began making handwritten signs on drawing paper and flashing messages to the office workers across the street, who after some time, began to respond. His signs would just ask conversational things, like “Hey, how are you doing today?”, or “Everything go okay in that meeting?”, or “Wow, that looked like a shitty phone call.” He was watching the third floor offices, particularly. On our fifth day, a loose gaggle of office workers had gathered in one window to converse with him together. Andy’s was such an intimate engagement with the situated place, he sincerely wanted to come to know the people inhabiting it, to reach out to them in a heartfelt way.