A few months ago now, I attended a post show discussion at Cardiff Dance Festival, that posed the question "What is the function of a festival?"
I found this an interesting question.
At the talk responses seemed geared towards the experience and expectation of the practitioners involved. I also got the impression that the benefit of dance festivals where for the sole benefit of "dance enthusiasts" and professionals rather than general public and community.
This question has sat with me for a while now, and here is my response.
Looking at the meaning and origin of the word 'festival' - I think - gives us an indication of the usefulness it has on a cities culture and the society it impacts; the people it directly effects.
The Hindu's festival Diwali (for example) is a festival of light; all people come together to rejoice in all things related to it. So by this example should this be the same approach to a festival of dance. Surely by definition we are celebrating all things dance. Discarding individual objectives / expectations and preferences and celebrating movement and expression in all degrees of its glory. Whether this is the beginnings of creations or 'finished' creations; whether these be from established artists or emerging artist's. I see a festival as an even playing field where we experience dance as a whole with no hierarchy.
If when approaching the curation of a festival, these idea's of equality and celebration was at the forefront:
Would the response to the question be different?
Would the experience of festivals change for the cities they are situated in and artists/organisers involved?
What would be different?
I think seeing festivals of dance in this way is what makes it an environment where creators, practitioners, producers and dancers come to discover what is happening in our art form.
A point that seemed to be made very clear with in the CDF discussion. As an artist myself; and one who has performed in festivals as well, It has been highly beneficial to my growth as an artist and my art practise. It has given space for my work to develop and purpose for my work to be created. There is a great importance for artists to have space to create and make work that has risk and uncertainty in its outcome. Although festivals can be one of the best platforms for this, it is not the only platform. Workshops, research development grants, small scale performances / sharing's, scratch nights and residences, are all platforms in which artists and creatives can achieve all of the above and are perfect - for lets say - feedback from more like minded professionals.
With this in mind it takes me back to the question: What is the benefit of the festival as a platform?; what else do we get from it, when we have other platforms that give us very similar benefits?? I suggest that it is the wider audience, the community; the chance to share and celebrate dance with this wider audience (not just the creative community, but the general community).
For all artists, working on a new piece is an exciting time; ideas spilling out onto the paper, new questions forming waiting to find answers.
I find myself at the beginning of a new project struggling to find a momentum to move the project forward, asking myself the question - how do you find the excitement when it is triggered by something as emotionally charged as loss?
On immediate reflection to that previous statement, perhaps I shouldn't see this piece as triggered by anything too different from my previous pieces. 'Loss' is something that is very much present amongst topics of: adoption and identity and displacement.
Perhaps with this project the difference is channeling Loss that is still raw. Focusing a project on a specific subject that you have not yet had a chance to feel or finished experiencing can be difficult. This struggle I think is necessary.
I have always been told that I have to allow my emotions to come through on my work; to attempt to reveal the truth, by doing this I will make good pieces of work.
Which I think is a statement that makes sense...
But then I have also been told that my work can be too sentimental and because of this lacks development as I am displaying raw emotions / simple emotions??.
I can't help but feel this advice contradicts itself with "good work tells the truth".
When work is chosen to reflect widespread topics such as displacement, identity and adoption how do you find the balance between reflecting on your personal story and sentiments to communicate the wider subject?? .
Some 'inspiration' images for the project. A house in Cardiff in which the interior has been kept as it was in the 1930's.
I know its only day two but with such a sort time frame (two weeks) Realising ideas and allowing experimentation is something that is key.
How to do this when working in a large room in a small amount of time?
As someone who likes to meticulously plan and ponder over ideas; as well as someone who likes to be able to visualise each idea. Working on something that is large scale (a whole room) I'm not quite confident enough to start drilling holes willynilly.
Making a small modal of my space has been a great idea!! It has allowed to experiment visually with my ideas and helped me to anticipate obstacles/ problems with my ideas. Also it has given me space to push ideas.
It gave me a chance to consider and notice the architectural space and how I can manipulate it.
It is the start of a new project! I have been given the opportunity to work with eight other artists in an old victorian house - that is soon to be demolished - and create work in response to the building. Ideas of House vs. Home seem to be prominent themes as well as memory, past, history, life/death eg. the life cycle, family and traditions of the home are just some of the ideas running through the thread of the house.
My focus has been on memory within the house. How stripping back layers can reveal the history of a place, identity within objects of the families from the past.
It has led me to images of forgotten attics at the top of houses; holding old, forgotten and once precious trinkets and objects. These objects uncovering the identities of the past. Snippets of memories and stories untold ...
RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH.
I have attempted to uncover the history behind our house in Trade St.
Which has proved difficult! A lot of history pops up around the time of the 1930's, but not quite for Trade St. (perhaps the street didn't exist yet?!) but for just the other side of Cardiff Central station. Temperance Town. A poor, working-class borough of Cardiff that was completely demolished for the building and extension of Cardiff Central station. Improving trading between Cardiff and England; as well as the rest of the United Kingdom, improving industrial trades and helping to give Cardiff its City status.
The question is how do I put this history into my work? or, how will this house tell the history?
Mother, what will I say to you?
Will I tell you about what I've been through?
Mother, will you criticise?
Mother, will you see it through my eyes?
Mother, What will you say to me?
It's through your eyes I'd like to see.
Mother, will you criticise?
Mother, will you see it through my eyes?
Mother, what will you say to me?
Mother, will you read my poetry?
Am I just what you want me to be?
Mother, will you see it through my eyes?
Mother, what will you say to me?
Am I just what you want me to be,
Or, Mother, will you criticise?
Mother, will you see it through my eyes?
I discovered a new poet this week - Lemn Sissay - reading an article on his life and experiences as an Adoptee. It is a story that touches my heart, and is refreshing to hear such honest expressions and thoughts. Reading some of his poetry was like reading some of my own thoughts.
I have started to read his collection of poetry and will have to use them as research in to my next pieces of work.
It is production week!! (which is really the two weeks prior to the opening and assessment week.) It is almost as if the months of production and 'fabrication' of my textile installation: Benjamin #2 hadn't officially started the preparation of the exhibition. It seems that everything suddenly starts to come together unexpectedly. No mater how much I plan, the unexpected seems to happen, the todo list piles up or plans fail to work out.
I feel like this week I have exhausted every idea I could have for the installation of my textile work, from:
It has been a lengthy process...
Experimenting with draping the fabric over different types of objects; angular objects verses rounded more organic shapes. I found that using the chicken wire gave the fabric an organic shape which enhanced the natural curves in the shape of the thumbprint motif I am using.
These are the forms that led me to consider working with the acrylic. When this idea was proving to be more expensive than I could currently afford. I began to question my reasons for wanting to work with the material. I asked question such as:
Why add another material to this installation?
Why is creating an organic rounded form important to the work?
and most importantly...
How else can I achieve this using the materials I currently have?
It was a good exercise to take a step back and think about what I was aiming for and why I was aiming for it. I suddenly stopped being stressed over moulding 3D acrylic forms and could thinking clear about my conceptual ideas for the piece and how to achieve this.
The Sidney Nolan Trust is at Rodd Farm in Herefordshire near the village, Presteigne:
Here I had the chance to unwind and learn new skills (Printmaking and WoodCarving). Here are some images from the trip!
We learnt MonoPrinting and Drypoint. I also wanted to experiment with some Collograph printing. (the process of using found objects to make a direct print) I took wild flowers I picked from a walk into the town (Presteigne) from Rodd Farm along the disused railway line.
Yesterday I was at Marega Palser’s Mark Making workshop. It was such a joy taking part in. I think hat was most rewarding was being there with people I dance with and people from my MFA. Seeing everyone at the workshop thoroughly enjoying themselves, learning from each other and ‘mucking’ in regardless of their creative backgrounds. It has made me question why I perceive such a divide in the arts between the disciplines. Surely we ‘work’ in the same way; expressing ourselves through our creative outlet. Whether that outlet is our bodies (movement) or drawing, painting, sculptor, printmaking, ceramics, illustration, social engaged art, textiles the list is endless.
As a dancer, my training has always included discussion about art. I have studied the art movements such as DaDa, Minimalism, Surrealism Neo-Classicism to name a few, looking at what happened in regards to dance and music and art. These discussions always included dance being an art form and dancers being artists and how all disciplines fed and responded to each other. It wasn't until I left that these thoughts where challenged.
I have always referred to myself as an artist – it was common conversation at Laban; what is it to be an artist? We never thought that certain disciplines where included and that was what defined that artist status.
I decided to do a Fine Art Degree to discover and develop other parts of my creative self and my creative practice. I now perceive this as ‘crossing over’ to Fine Art and am I being forced to ‘leave’ my dance background??
Or maybe I am reading these questions wrongly?
In these studios (dance studio for those who need me to be specific) at the dance House on Cardiff Bay, regardless of our disciplines, the to and fro of response between marks and movement. It just got me thinking; why is there a divide between us? why do we not openly embrace our creativity?
Why, even in art do we divide ourselves, (perhaps therefore limiting ourselves) when we are supposedly expressive and openminded individuals.
Play is freeness in creativity. There can be a carelessness and breaking of boundaries. With the absence of fear and over thinking it leaves space for a flow in creativity, fun and laughter. All of these things can leave us to building new relationships wether they be with people or materials. We open doors to learning and expression that is just simply not possible without play.
It is not the first time that I have been reminded about the importance of play, especially within a creative practise. When I was training in Rubicon Dance in Cardiff. I remember starting our choreography classes, being given the space to create what ever we wanted. There were endless possibilities, we could create what ever we wanted, yet we all regurgitated the movements from technique class. Why??? the next time choreography came around, Paul (our teacher) took us outside to the children's play park opposite the building, with one simple instruction. Play.
Today my mind has been brought back to that day. As a few days ago me and my fellow MFA students had the most fun and arguably one of the most creative afternoons as a group through out the course so far. Poppy Jacksons workshop was a real eye opener. Giving us the opportunity to let go of inhibitions and explore ideas and ways of working that most of us hadn't done before and most of all HAVE FUN. Having expectations of an outcome erased allowed the exploration and play to be central to my creative process.
If this is the outcome of Play, then I cannot help to question why we do not make it a bigger part of our creative practises? I suppose I have myself to blame for it all, there is nothing to stop me from picking up some charcoal or paint and seeing what happens. Or spending a day in the park or Go-karting and seeing if that leads anywhere new... but it doesn't stop me from from wondering why the element of play is not incorporated into art courses more, if the outcome of it is so positive?
If I take one thing away from this, it will be to find an element of play at least once a week.
Poet: Ijeoma Umebinyuo
Poetry and working with text is becoming a very predominant part of my art practise. Even when I choreograph work my starting point is with text. There is something interesting between the rhythm language and visual expression whether it is movement or textile work.
The question I have been asking at the moment is "how do you stay positive and move forward with your practise after negative feedback" After having to resubmit work from my first term, finding enjoyment in my process has been hard. It - unluckily for me - came at a point where a lot was going in personally which was making me question a lot about myself, so learning that the aspect of my life I thought I was able to do I had failed in, didn't feel to great.
To make this a positive experience. I have tried to make it a couple of weeks where I had the chance to review my previous research and reevaluate my position. With this in mind it has been a more positive process going back through my research and rewriting and refining the thoughts I had/have on various artworks, artists, and schools of thought. It has helped me to pick out what was valuable out of the research from my first term and refine my artist statement. I feel now that I can be clearer when speaking about what my work is aiming to address. With the rest of the exploration term I hope to refine how I will use the mediums that my thoughts and concepts will be embedded with in.
This resubmission has also highlighted the importance of how I present my work. Ideas and research seems to be able to be lost depending on the format I choose to use. Also how presentation of work can differ so much from discipline to discipline. When I say this I refer to my dance practise; when showing research process and final works in the past how this is presented seems to have differences to the expectations I have found in this Fine Art course. When it comes to presentation of written work and tackling the PDP for this term. I have decided this term I have to create and stick to plans, and set myself tasks with weekly deadlines. That I will review and write weekly reviews on weekly plans and the tutorials and seminars on Wednesdays.
When faced with time of doubt like this I feel it has to be embraced as much as times of clarity. It has moved me forward with my practice and taking my to discover new things that I hadn't previously considered.
This piece is being exhibited as part of the Creative Exchange's group exhibition in Cardiff (12 High St. Arcade) between the dates of 27th January - 7th February. It is part of my ongoing Masters research where I am looking at the concepts of identity and displacement of identity that I find is apparent in myself through my experiences of adoption.
It was created in response to a dried rose left to me from my birth mother. The fascination with this object came from the apparent lack of significance to my past in comparison to the other objects that all came from the day that I was born. These objects where things such as tape measures that contained the height and weight I was that day, the bracelet that I wore, pictures of my birth mother and birth father and the rose.
My research around the question that I have around the rose lead me to looking broadly at the meaning and symbolism of the rose.
All my work is autobiographical, created through reflection from memories and objects linked to my past before I was adopted.
Something that has become apparent from tutorials and lectures though my first term at CSAD is getting feedback from the public and peers on my work from crits and exhibits. Being apart of the Creative Exchange has given me the chance to do just that. Over the Christmas period I began developing work in progress to exhibit in an empty shop exhibition along with other students and graduates of CSAD. The experience has been an eye opening one as I have had the chance to experience what it is like to be apart of creating an exhibition as previously I have had knowledge of showcasing dance which is a completely different experience. For me it highlighted how much more planning and consideration I can put into the viewing experience into my work. I had thought hyperthetically into how I wish my work to be viewed but hadn't quite got to the point where the practicality of it was realised.
Doing this exhibition also gave me a chance to start getting to grips with how to use social media to promote myself and the exhibition (and everyone evolved!) up until now I had not gotten to grips with using social media and being active on it from a professional point of view. It has lead to being able to get my work and the exhibition on to a wider platform; recognition with radio show invites, local televised interviews and other art and dance companies recognising my work.
Being apart of this exhibition has opened up a lot of dialogue with other artists and art platforms and I am feeling inspired to continue with developing my work from a research and art practice perspective. I will also be looking to continue to show work in other pop up exhibits and crits within CSAD as I am recognising this a constructive and rewarding process.
I've been looking at the relationship I have with my birth father and how I perceive his identity.
As I was looking at the picture I have of him I begun to realise that I do not have a connection with the man in the photo. I had very little memories of him. Then one came back to me. I remembered always receiving a packet of Rolo's when I saw him (which I don't think was often). Suddenly the blank space was filled with Rolo's.
This is the second experiment with using the role packet.
I have covered up his Identity with the role packet as a representation that this is how I remember him. As opposed to a blank space and lost memory, he does actually have quite a fond memory. As simple as it is.
Some pictures of the process of making "Lost Memories"...
This is 'Lost Memories' as a finished piece.
This piece is a representation of memories that have been passed down to me through objects of sentimental value to my birth mother. It is very personal to my story, but I believe is something that all viewers can share a connection with.
Sadly I couldn't take any pictures of this exhibition, which was a shame as the pieces in it where beautiful.
However here is the link to what the V&A have on their website: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/the-fabric-of-india/
It was great to see this exhibition, to see where the origins of textile's began in a country where it seems to have had most impact. It has given me insight to the different ways that textiles can be used and how there are many ways identity and expression can be woven or dyed onto the fabric. It has made me realise the importance of decisions around use of colour can have on my work as these aspects can holding meaning as much as the content.
Indian textiles are embedded in every aspect of its Identity ... Religious worship finds expression through cloth..."
The above text was taken from one of the plaques in the exhibition, a statement about textiles in India. It stuck with me as a saw a correlation with the reasons that I am using textiles to express my story and views on identity.
This was a great workshop! I had a lot of fun getting my hands dirty and made some interesting experimental prints. With this workshop I learned a more simple printing technique - monochrome printing. although it is a simple technique you can achieve many finishes with it and there are endless possibilities. This is definitely a technique I would like to acquire!
I see how working with this medium could bring a new dimension to my work. I love the delicacy that can be achieved even when printing on to paper.
From this workshop I can not wait to learn more about other printing techniques such as screen-printing and look at other ways to display or assemble my prints together. For example with binding fabrics together to create books.
Jodi ann Nicholson
I am a multidisciplinary artist. my training started at the Contemporary Dance School, TrinityLaban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. Continuing developing my creative practice at Cardiff School of Art and Design in their Masters in Fine Arts course.