Even though we are no longer living at Northbourne, the
'Moving In' project continues and we are still endevouring to continue
working and making there! We are going to continue publishing blogposts
as well in order to share the work that was made and has consequently
been developed out of the residency. 'Hammer' Making, Breaking and Re-making the Hand-casts 'Hammer' examines that relationship to objects and
captures the different ways we use, and re-use materials for self
expression. The full film is 40 minutes long. Please get in touch if you
want a link to it. This is a trailer...
Living at the care home meant Claire and I were around the work we made and make with residents - the drawings, casts and writing that we make with residents and we got to experience how it 'lives' and operates in the space of the home in the hours, days and weeks after it is made. The most significant part of our work happens 'in the moment' - creating a connection with people but as visual artists, we use materials to start these conversations and to see where they might go. The residency was a great opportunity to reflect on ideas about purpose, ownership and collaboration.
Often what is made is very quickly forgotten, and can create confusion - where did it come from? Who made it etc. At other times small attachments are made to objects, sometimes surprisingly small, seemingly insignificant objects are coveted or returned to over and over for re-examination. The residency gave us space to reflect on our relationship to these objects - drawings, poems, paper dresses and hand-casts etc and we have a renewed faith in the value of objects even when their initial intent or creative beginnings are forgotten. Embracing and exploring the potential for and process of an object changing in meaning and purpose is something that working in a care setting with older people offers.
Here are a few photos from our Moving In opening on the 4th December. Thanks to Phyllis Christopher for the amazing photos!
Our time at Northbourne was used to explore the qualities of what an artist can bring to these settings. We spent a lot of time discussing and trying out ideas that are inherently about working 'in the moment' - responding to and being led by people's personalities, circumstances and interests at the time we meet them. We are both motivated by the idea that the 'art' is situated 'in the moment' of connectivity. This residency gave us a chance to really reflect and expand upon this idea. The work in the exhibition is mainly presented as documentation that attests to those moments of connectivity and tells the story of the residency as well as becoming inspiration and source material for more work. The work unfolded over the days and weeks - we came in deliberately without a plan, ready to use just our eyes and other senses to begin.
piece in the exhibition has been made with the residents and staff here
- editing, sticking, painting, thumb-printing, casting, talking,
hammering! and we just want to say such a massive thank you to everyone
for being involved and sharing your space and your creativity with us
for the last 6 months. We both feel part of a community here now. Since
the summer, we have been continuing coming to paint and sew with our
friends and colleagues here. We are currently developing ideas with Amy
for future work in this wonderful annexe space.
Wow - how 5 weeks flew by! It is hard to believe that we lived at Northbourne Care Home for 5 weeks this summer. On Friday 8th of September we had a partywith residents, family and staff. We shared work that had been made - videos and paintings and we talked about moving forward. Both Claire and I feel strongly that our relationship with Northbourne has just begun really. We
felt it was important that this event was tailored around the residents
and hope to have a four day exhibition later in the year at Northbourne that is open to the wider audience interested in this project.We are going to continue writing this blog from now and use it as a reflective and evaluative space. We are also really interested in hearing thoughts from anyone who has been following the project, so please do feel free to contact us (see sidebar or contact page).
It feels important to continue coming in as the impact of our time here begins to resonate into our thoughts and feelings about our practice - what has changed, what has been confirmed, challenged, deepened. I think we both feel we have broken a certain type of institutionalised 'wall' that permeates participatory arts practices in settings like care homes. We have begun to think differently about how relationships are negotiated and established and. I feel so strongly that I am closer to a more reciprocal, unique and fluid understanding of what a collaboration really is.
Here are some photos of our time at Northbourne. Many taken by myself and Claire, and also by Phyllis Christopher who worked here with us, making photo-work with residents and documenting our time here.
The beauty of
this residency is that we have had chance to get to know the residents and
their families well. Flo is a resident who moved into Northbourne Care Home the
week before our residency started after living in sheltered accommodation. We
have been aware that she may have gone through similar emotions to what we had
when initially moving in. I know I felt unsure and lost without my home comforts around me alongside feeling nervous around people I didn't know or understand yet. After speaking with the staff at Northbourne, they told us that families or residents can spend as much time as they like decorating and bringing in their home comforts as it is an integral part of feeling at home. I can understand this as when we arrived at Northbourne our rooms were unwelcoming, sterile and clinical which made us feel even more detached to that 'homely' feeling. We however, were able to detach ourselves, knowing we were going back home after 5 weeks... Barbara, Flo’s daughter visits regularly and during week 2 of our residency, Barbara mentioned
that she would like to decorate Flo’s bedroom. It had some scuff marks on the wall from the previous resident and she wanted to make it feel fresh and lighter for her Mum. I felt elated and excited by the prospect of helping Barbara and it was certainly something unexpected, something I would never get chance to do working
within the traditional workshop model. I was also given permission and asked by Barbara to help transform it which came as a result of living in Northbourne. To me, a bedroom in a care home is a safe space for that individual and it should capture them, rather than been an unipersonal space where people sleep and live before moving on. As an artist working with the traditional workshop model, I tend to work with a brief or theme which isn't directly connected to the residents - something like 'Matisse' or 'Colour' that everyone can tap into. The idea that the brief would be Flo suddenly felt emotionally deeper and more meaningful. Naturally, I was worried about time and how long we had to create something. Time seems to go so much quicker in a care home and you worry how well Flo will be from one day to the next. Flo's bedroom is like any other care home bedroom, they are nearly all identical but have a range of magnolia paint shades on them. Photographs adorn the cabinets and sweet treats on the side but it all feels quite temporary. I would love to be able to use my skills and develop ideas to bring to life her room with story, colour, textiles and stitch. One of her main
recollections, that she repeats often, is of biking from Chadderton to North Wales with
her three brothers when she was young. The ride was approximately 100 miles there and 100 back. She also talks a lot about working in the cotton mills in Chadderton from the age of 14. Flo's bedroom so far....
After lots of
deliberation and looking through lots of colour swabs from Homebase, Flo chose
the colour for one of the walls - a very bright pink! She looked through them again and again matching them with her favourite cardigan. She was elated that someone would take the time to work with her on a one to one basis to change her room. Barbara, Kate, Flo and I painted the main wall in Flo's bedroom bright pink and Barabara has recently painted the three remaining walls white. It is certainly on the way to feeling much fresher and personal... This idea was evoked by Barbara during week 2 of the residency and I originally had the deadline of the 8th of September to have it all completed by. Why was I rushing it? Why did it need completing by then? The worries I had were ‘What happens if Flo’s story changes or another poignant memories comes up?’ ‘What if the familiarity gained from living here fades and collaborating with Flo starts to feel detached?’ ‘How can I stop being so 'deadline-driven' and instead enjoy the process and moment based activity?’ I have decided to work with Flo and her family in a reciprocal way up to Christmas on a weekly basis to be able to really collaborate with Flo, trying various methods and techniques. If the above worries happen, then these are the challenges I need to face creatively and they will really enable my practice to flourish and be debated. This is an initial sketch of my thoughts...and each small drawing was created working with a group of residents in the main dining room using a variety of techniques and processes. It felt important to include as many residents as possible in each aspect to inspire connections and conversations with Flo.