I’ve had a history of good luck with the weather in the Lake District. They say you can never have more than two days in a row without rain and I’ve defied those odds on my last two visits. Many years ago, when doing my Gold Duke of Edinburgh expedition, the baking sunshine seven days in a row was actually a curse when carrying nearly three stone on my back and having to worry about the amount of water we were carrying. This time, however, was quite a different story. I thought summer was over but the Indian Summer in the South of England made the late September weather in the Lakes bizarrely wonderful. We were in t-shirts for a few of the days.
Anyway, the reason I was there is that members of POST Artists were invited by the Mobile Institute to go and stay at Littoral‘s Cylinders Estate, home of the famous Kurt Schwitters Merz Barn. The aim of the residency or “Place Exploration” was to investigate our notions of place through a series of workshops and exercises run by the Mobile Institute. I loved exploring the Cylinders estate in such an in-depth way and thinking about a place that isn’t London for a change. It made my soul smile to get into such sublime beauty, climb mountains, watch dawn, cook and eat together, and to spontaneously make stuff. Just brilliant! My favourite exercise was a group object relations sculpture game which could have quite happily done all day, and when we made out own interventions on the estate. Mine was a contemplation chair. I had found a stone which I considered the perfect contemplation spot during an earlier workshop, however, it invites you to come and sit on it and dangle your legs over the edge giving a rather unremarkable view. Looking in another direction, there is a stunning view so I had already started wondering what the perfect contemplation spot would be. Placing the chair at this angle allowed both comfort and the beautiful view but the nasty plastic chair sits somewhat uncomfortably with the natural surroundings and feels like cheating. I weighed it down with a rather ominous looking rusty iron hoop and chain on the back and a new plastic rope with a log tied to the other. On the one hand, this was just the simplest way of doing something practical. I like the elegance of practicality. On the other hand, it added a new level of narrative (possibly too much!) and was, to me at least, another humorous measure.
On the last day, we made collages from a single local newspaper. I had so much fun making the demonry (a rather surreal combining of mismatched pictures and headlines) that my Dad taught me to do when I was little. I enjoyed engaging the same kind of humour I used for the Contemplation Chair, albeit in a very short space of time. People laughed when they saw the collage too rather that the uncomfortable glances that I had made some sort of torture device. I enjoyed the limitation of it coming from one publication. I am about to embark on a series of city portraits with a collaged feel so the idea of making at least one per day from free London newspapers appeals to me. It was a thoroughly inspiring trip, and this is one of the more obvious immediate results from it. I look forward to finding out how it continues to affect my practice later. It seems appropriate that I recapture my love of surreal collage whist at the Merz Barn!
Many thanks to Littoral for hosting us and to the Mobile Institute for such a rewarding programme.