We’ve now had two pop-ups in Lochside and a trip out to Taliesin near Castle Douglas. Both were great events and this blog is a reflective memory of those times.
Towards the end of our time at Taliesin we all (most of us) played Kicking the Can which is a game for any number of folk with certain rules which I’m still not fully sure about. However, the kids picked up the rules immediately and Alice and Rosie are old hands, so the game was a big success. Basically, someone is IT and the others go and hide and after a certain time the one who is IT has to find them and race them down to the can to kick it before they do…there are refinements but you get the idea. There is some flexibility in how the rules are understood and adhered to!
Why talk about this game? Because it seems to contain the essence of what we’re doing with folk in our sometimes crazy project. There are certain rules but not everyone knows all of them and we sometimes stretch them a bit or make them up as we progress. It makes me ask what or who are rules for? Is a rule made to be unbreakable or does it have inevitable slippage built in? Yet there were points in the game when a sense of respect for the rules was definitely there and an instinctive sense of fair cop when a hiding place was spotted.
Games are important for sharing involvement in a genuine way. I found myself hiding behind the same tree as Aaron and we shared the moment of trying to be invisible to Rosie’s all-seeing eye… As a teacher I often relied on the quick understanding of students and their sense of fair play in a tricky situation, and I enjoyed that feeling again in a more relaxed setting. But the connection was real and the neutral (natural) territory of Taliesin somehow encouraged this: everyone was able to find their own space with a sense of discovery.
Are there rules in Art? I hope not to find myself assessing art ever again, but that has its place in education. But the question of who art belongs to is related to the question of who controls art and as community artists we are deliberately letting go of that somewhat sad concept of art belonging to the artist alone (maybe that’s important if you are selling your art, but even then you are sharing it with the buyer and then they own a part of you whether you like it or not).
The week before the trip to Taliesin we had our second tent pop-up in Lochside and continued to focus on the theme of Home. Everyone was encouraged to think of what this means to them and some of the younger ones made up letters into words to print onto a poster to add to our understanding…
“Community arts are those arts that are created wholly or in part by a community of people…at the least they must arrive in the hands of the people in an unfinished form so that the gathering of the people has a clear part in the completion of the product. Such products cannot be pre-packaged; the process must still be ongoing, and the products must bear the clear imprint of the community for which they were intended.” R G Gregory, 1980*
Horizontal decision-making – drawing each other across the fire at Taliesin
Sketching and being sketched is a levelling process – especially when done with your less dominant hand! Everyone had to join in and happily did this, away from the usual inhibitions of familiar surroundings. Another way of experiencing the natural world is through cyanotypes – seeking out interesting shapes and textures and creating semi-abstract images throgh the action of sunlight on sensitised paper…a different kind of drawing wth the pencil of nature (Fox Talbot’s famous quote)
We created some art together in both places and forged more friendships along the way. Kicking the can up the hill means growing together into a new community where we are using creativity to kindle the spirit of life in each of us. It’s harder to do that by yourself in a studio or individual home.
On a grander scale we could say we are part of the community arts movement “positioned against the hierarchies of the international arts world and its criteria for success founded upon quality, skill, virtuosity etc. since these conceal class interests.” Claire Bishop, 2012* goes on to say the original community arts movement in the late 1960s was a key attempt to “re-think the artist’s role in society…it advocated participation and co-authorship of works of art; it aimed to give shape to the creativity of all sectors of society; but especially to people living in areas of social, cultural and financial deprivation; for some it was also a powerful medium for social and political change, providing the blueprint for participatory democracy.”
I believe we are all helping develop that blueprint for a richer and fairer world with this project.
- Both quoted in Culture, Democracy and the Right to Make Art. The British Community Arts Movement, ed by Alison Jeffers and Gerri Moriarty, 2017