Final Stages: Creating our re-imagined shared home
September - November, 2019
After our 10 weeks together, we all felt extremely satisfied with we achieved, but at the same time were completely exhausted with the intensive period of time together. So after a short break, the social-artist-in-residence team regrouped and planned the coming stages in the process to achieve the exhibition outcome.
As a part of our overall plan, the works produced during the collaboration were intended to be shown in the Manningham Art Gallery. After our discussions during week 5 and 6, I made initial sketches of how these ideas may translate into the gallery space, trying to accomodate the ideas participants had expressed as important to them and working with the work that was developed so far. During our sessions, I made initial floor plan sketches, and adjusted with their input. One of our key concerns when working in the gallery space, was the challenge of working with the scale of the large space, with the intimate work of the participants. Building on the theme of setting up the larger main gallery as a shared dining room space, a concept they had expressed was most important to them, we considered how the front gallery should act as a lounge space, where we would screen the videos made by Sofi of the interviews with the participants, intersected with video of the families in action in the studio space. The gallery was then reconceptualised as an imagined shared home of the participants, which was sympathetic to the theme of creating a place for themselves at the table. The portraits also complimented the table setting, so that when the gallery was empty, the empty seats would prompt the question of who belongs at the table?
I wanted to create a space, where it felt inhabited by this particular group, who were present in the photos, their connected and empowered hands featured strongly in the space, their bowls which they had painted themselves were laid out for them on a grand table with a rich red table cloth. I wanted to create drama in an everyday scenario, through the use of colour, lighting and placement, to create a theatre from our objects, as if the space was a stage, which was not occupied. The anticipation that something is about to happen, that we have prepared for our special guests. This of course, appealed to Jess, whose training is in drama and was a drama teacher for many years.
Ai Yamamoto also created two sound tracks specific to each gallery space. The first one was the soundscape of the workshops running concurrently with Sofi's videos and the second sound track was the chattering and eating sounds of our final dinner party in Week 10. The dinner party we held to celebrate our time together evolved out of the process, we created our final dinner party as a way of trialling our concept and to create the opportunity for Ai to record the sound of this event to contribute to the exhibition.
There were also many other tasks relating to the exhibition needing preparation, including the completion of the works, the editing of footage, the signage and curatorial text, translation, public relations, launch preparations and public relations.
By the end of the process, we had managed to create over two hundreds hands for the exhibition and also a personalised bowl for each of the participants. The completion of the hands required the light washing of iron oxide over the hands and re-firing, this was to create further depth in richness of the colour of the pieces and also to highlight the crudeness of the forms, rather than hiding this aspect. The iron oxide wash also emphasised the creases of the skin which were impressed onto the moulds. The effect were earthy looking hands, which gave the impression of deep time. We decided to glaze the bowls, as we wanted our participants to take home their own bowls, and felt for practical reasons it would be better if they were sealed and therefore functional.
I had the magnificent Amy Kennedy and Yuso Lee to work with on this part of the process, who with their experience of running ceramics classes at Manningham were able to guide this process efficiently. I initially had concerns that a clear glaze would be be aesthetically out of sync with the hands, but after they were fired and the bowls were a bit shinier than I had initially hoped for, they ended up to be a nice contrast to the hands which accompanied the space. The one concern I did have working in ceramics is the high failure rate and our short time frame to produce an exhibition. We were fortunate that the paper clay we worked with was resilient and each of our works fortunately had no cracks. It did help that we concentrated on creating small pieces with minimal joins to mitigate against this issue. I was also pleased to learn that ceramics technology has greatly improved in the way clays are mixed, leading to less air bubbles, meaning less experienced 'wedgers' can handle the medium more effectively.