Well, Berit and I had a great day at the Visual Thinking Symposium organised by the Textile Study Group and the Hub. It was a pleasure to spend the day discussing different ideas and approaches to the creative process. There was a good range of topics (from the inspiration and use of native materials such as scottish peat, to the creative journey through re-configuring a road map of the British isles, and touching on the visual language of people with Alzheimers: a subject very close to my heart. I liked the fact that there were a mixture of voices from makers, curators and philosophers. I particularly liked the talk by Dr Matthew Kieran (professor of philosophy and the arts at the University of Leeds) which explored the ways in which character and motivation are crucial to artistic creativity. He presented really well, but even then I struggled to keep up with some of the concepts he discussed, so I'd really like to see him talk again, so I can get to grips with and start to question his thinking, and explore the subject further.
Following the morning session of talking, listening and questioning, we hoped that our workshop - "Looping Something From Nothing" would provide a space for continued discussion but in a relaxed, creative and fun way. The workshop aimed to explore one of the central themes of the symposium: "what processes do we use to make something from nothing?" and also our continued approach to creating social spaces for collective making.
We started with two DIY loop tables we'd constructed during lunch. One holding a loop of blank paper, the other a loop of blank rug canvas. Our other materials were some pencils, graphite powder, some needles and a pile of old cassettes I'd dug out from under the house, and a blank cassette to record onto. 30 people took part.
To kick start the thinking we asked each participant to choose a favorite tool they used for making and then to describe what they do with that tool when they first start to use it. We then asked them to imagine that tool as a person, and to describe what kind of person it would be.
Each person then took it in turns to record their thoughts onto the cassette tape, through a loop pedal. It still amazes me how beautiful and moving some of these written pieces can be with something as simple as describing a making tool. Also, how the human voice, through intonation really brings these words and objects alive.
With the two looped pieces, we asked people to start with a word from their written pieces and then to freely move on in any direction with their marks, whether through drawing or stitching with the tapes. For the drawn piece we gave people a selection of sound pencils that Berit had constructed. The pencils make sound as you draw, using your body and the graphite in the pencil to generate and connect the current. With the fabric piece we were randomly sampling pieces of tape and thereby stitching sounds directly into the piece. Every ten minutes we rolled the fabric and paper round and asked the participants to continue working on their neighbors piece, until everyone had contributed to both the stitched and drawn loops. There was lots of chat, debate and laughter during the making which was great.
At the end of the afternoon we then played the drawing back using the sound pencils as amplifiers. We asked the group to join hands whilst one person held the pencil at one end of the drawing and the last person played the drawn marks. Using our loop pedal - as a simple way of recording, looping and composing live, we recorded and looped some of these sounds to create a collective sound piece.
When we're doing these workshops it's always interesting to see what works and what doesn't, and I like the fact that we don't know what people are going to create, which allows room for lots of surprises.
Here's a couple of short film clips of the workshop. I'll try to post the sound piece later.
A huge thank you from myself and Berit to all the participants for throwing themselves into the workshop with such enthusiasm, and to the Hub and the Textile Study Group for inviting us to take part. It was a great day.