Nazneen’s 12 Women!

Yesterday at the ArtfulScribe book launches (celebrating all of the activity that’s taken part as a result of their work in Southampton’s writing communities) I shared a new poem, the last bit of creative writing from my year-long residency. It was an added poem to the series I’ve made over the year, charting the public events and behind the scenes spaces at John Hansard Gallery.

Back in July, one of the events that I was lucky to be present for was Nazneen Ahmed’s clever and beautifully researched talk, presented as part of the ’12 Women’ series, for which the Gallery had programmed women from different disciplines and careers to respond to Gerhard Richter’s 48 Portraits of men. Nazneen was Writer-in-Residence at Soiuthampton Libraries, while I was the same at John Hansard Gallery and I was glad of the chance to get to know her through joint events and through shared times.

I’ll let the poem (shared below) give you the glimpses into the content Nazneen led us through. She’s a wonderful writer and works hard to support many voices in her workshops and writing, so I’m happy to offer cheers for her own words back to her and to say thanks for the thinking her talk, and our friendship, has encouraged in me.

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Nazneen’s 12 women. Fresh from Southampton-envisioning chat with Temple and

carbon nanomolecules, blackpoint chat with Dave Hubble, Elspeth introduces.

Leading UK gallery of 39 years Highfield, includes additional loans

Gerhard Richter’s collection, private, his own thinking, Germany’s own collective

ship of the father-figure. Maybe this means we are looking at mother?

Hidden-gendered, white-washed. Is a historian, many genres a

breather before Nazneen’s big title at Random House: something as a writer that you get to do.

Glad that back I’m in this room. I’m 48 portraits, tapestries, lots of colours. The things he’s doing, I’m doing.

Southampton and London are the ones I’ve worked on. An academic transitioning from a career to a fiction

writer, being dissolved. When I looked round, the difference returned: cannons occupied a space.

Book lists the frightening dissolution in paint Nazneen has seen to in a way I

haven’t. Non-white, non-male aren’t entering the ooft battery. The notion of silencing

too is here in this work. These strangely mute men, even in their profess

head is not given. Homo genus. Plastered in patriarchulinity. When it will bell

be all who may be here that they will well live we may enter the Everyman children’s library:

I definitely didn’t see it myself. I wonder how many children are in the same

kind of a boat. Her favourite part as an embroiderer of colour,

 

 

 

the word-thread in the Persia and Afghanistan record, what we would originally have

called East. Movement and deployment of pigment uncoverer stories than those

used to be, look, your images now are a little bit blurry. Hubble has a

crack, gescribing goes well, the paper structure. Focal face, the one vocal facade that maybe is whiter.

A carnival, the tool of. The two savages, Muslim seafarers worked at merchant

saferer from 17th century who would jump ship and become absorbed. Empire, its

two thousand Lascar farers in one port at a time in physically gruelling roles.

The streets of London. Why does this parade get lost when it already

had an audience? Who wrests it? Wondering how this relates to the reception of Black Pride

movement? The men spared no trouble. They were makers of work. Clothes

and the mosque. Modelled lilies through an interpreted, a dominating narrative

voice. Even he admires. Awe oddmiration connection. How does this loop to Richter? And this room?

The seafarers had to interview for the Santa Costume Agency. Presenting themselves to authoritative

British poor quality tissue paper because ‘this was no Bombay’. Finally four-thousand-nine-hundred colours, which signifies possibility.

From forty-nine to monochrome, this contrast had to be a way to say that colour was leached,

which is problematic. No one knew that it existed. It could exist. A parallel reimagined

 

 

 

as an actual railroad. Genial speaker, see the Utopian, even within our present. I try. To do. As a child,

a mirror of one of my very favourite books, it had always been there, I couldn’t

see it, The Little Princess. Deep, rich, yellow and light. The temperature change is making me

strange. Queer, little, speaking squeaky. The small monkey he held chattering in his arms

longed for a sight of the sun. She had learned since to know whom a smile is comforting.

When I saw an 1898 etching I went on maternity level. I came with the story up of a novel –

Rework: it’s a transitional feminine. Transnational phenomenon

the P&O ships. Heard beasts, not savage no. That year, no public was

admitted they’d been a lot of violence. Resistance and creativity: it’s an

anglophone list. There are translated works on there. If I was gonna add

I don’t know what that would look like, children’s stories by Tagore.

Sees an interesting, broad and humble, collective project even in this.

Nazneen loves Just So stories. Kipling, that won’t change.

Another kind of mirror, there’s enough resistance to inclusion that the system will replicate

unless we fight. Public spat with Lionel Shriver who is visiting the UK today to

change the narrative around them, needs something that would guide people through it.

 

 

 

When we go to Bombay we pick up picture books. Reminds me of when I dawdled in

the children’s section in Brazil because picture books seemed briefly transportable.

The things you can carry with you, that you can hold, you can bring – contain

on your grasp envelope. Empathy Labs in London. So:Write stories group.

Sore cheek bones and a headache as soon as we think.

What I do, better help her patients cut this bit if I write it in.

Next week Councillor Satvir Kaur understanding, communicating, listening.

Nadia Shireen has been writing some really great books, I also like the Rainbow Bird.

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An Interview with Iain Morrison, Writer in Residence at JHG by Sophie Jones

One of the gifts of this year has been having other people interact with my practice and reflect back to me what I am doing. Not least is this interview with Sophie Jones which we conducted over Skype and which she has patiently turned into something written, and intelligible! Thank you Sophie. I’ve learned about what I do from seeing where your careful questions led and from noting the parts of the interview that you have picked out and drawn into a through-line.

Read the interview here An Interview with Iain Morrison, Writer in Residence at John Hansard Gallery by Sophie Jones

Sophie’s also interviewed my companion writers in residency at Southampton Libraries and Mayflower Theatre, Nazneen Ahmed and Dinos Aristidou. Dinos’ interview ends with these words, and I couldn’t agree with them more:

“I found the other writers’ work so engaging, inventive and so resonant, and that we were together as three writers in residence felt like an honour.”

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Sophie is working on SO:To Speak festival which I take part in next weekend.

the (work)shop floor

DSC02426.jpgI’ve talked before on this blog about the range of learning opportunities available to me over the course of my ArtfulScribe writing residency at John Hansard Gallery. One of the areas of potential growth I saw as particularly desirable from when I first found the residency advertised, was in the chance to get hands on experience of running workshops. I won’t pretend that this didn’t also scare me.

As I have involved myself in situations as a writer over the last ten years or so, it’s occasionally come up that peers of mine have built a more secure framework for facilitating learning and sharing knowledge, either through obtaining teaching positions in universities, comparable jobs in arts organisations, or working as freelance educators. My lack of quantifiable teaching experience has felt like a hurdle I needed to overcome to further build my profile as a poet in public. Without going back into formal education with the aim of collecting the Masters and PhD that might offer one (expensive and perhaps flow-interrupting) way of accessing teaching experience, I thought I might be able to achieve some of the confidence and experience I felt I was missing through this structured residency, attached as it is to a university-affiliated institution and with support from a writing charity.

And so it has proved! DSC02369
The opportunities to deliver workshops have manifested themselves as the Gallery’s doors have swung open. During the opening Gerhard Richter exhibition, I delivered my first workshop. I called it Self-Portrait Writing, Three Times after Richter’s progressively obscured iterations of photographic portraits. I thought that the idea of tracing the personal in a gallery space, and playing with the balance of how much we give away in our writing and how much we choose or are able to hold back, would connect comprehensibly with the writing I was making in the gallery as part of my residency. The prospect of running this workshop gave me the impetus to sit down and read the beautiful poetry/prose book ‘After Language: Letters To Jack Spicer’ by Stephen Vincent, which I had lived with without quite immersing myself in for some years. The beautiful introduction, in which Vincent traces a walk around several art destinations in San Francisco, gave us a solid piece of writing to imagine applying personalising or depersonalising filters to. I was delighted that the large group trusted my idea and committed to going about the Richter exhibition, to make their own three-sectioned pieces of writing in response to their encounter with works in the show.

In the preparation for the workshop, I had gleaned some good practical tips from ArtfulScribe’s Matt. We used the experience of an ArtfulScribe film poetry workshop I had attended at the start of my residency as a source of examples to talk through how I might successfully deliver a workshop. This discussion covered practical details like ways to remember names, to the broader task of building community among diverse participants. This prep stood me in good stead to tailor the workshop for an intelligent and vocal group of 25 people, including a cluster of participants who already were working together through Mayflower Young Writers group. I think my main aim of staying calm and giving out positive vibes must have worked, as my favourite bit of written feedback from the group afterwards was ‘you are very smiley’. Matt’s right! Smile, and you are already feeling happier than before those mouth corners lifted.

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Yesss! I love this feedback! 😀

 

It also helped that I’d prepared examples of the exercises myself – examples made it much clearer what I was asking the group to do ­– so I’m definitely going to use that approach again for my follow-on workshop on Saturday 3rd November ‘Time And Time Again’. This time I’ll be leading the group to think about experiences of the gallery space separated in time, rather than by differing levels of disclosure.

It’s been such a pleasure to put together a structured learning experience, related directly to the things I’m thinking about in my own writing. Preparing workshops has given me the prompt to articulate my thoughts and process. I hope what I have learned in this very direct encounter with ‘audients’ of the gallery runs through into the poems I have made there. I think it does, and the encounter has informed the thinking I’m doing about how cultural activity in a specific venue can resonate within both its own history and within the life experiences of the people engaging physically with such a space and its programme.

As for workshops, now I’ve given one, I am happy to realise that more of my professional skills could be brought into play than I’d realised. I work in arts organisations and have managed teams of people for 15 years. The work I’ve done in structuring training sessions and supporting people’s development is of course, I see it now, relevant to teaching, even if I needed some support to work out how to form quickly the trust demanded by the temporary groupings of workshops.

So yes, I will be fleshing out the part of my writing CV that talks about leading and facilitating sessions. Just one of the ways this benevolent year of being invested in is helping me to puzzle my future writing career into place.

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Following the Self-Portrait Writing, Three Times workshop, two of the participants wrote up and shared their experiences. These were delightful to read, and here are links to them. Thanks Dave and  Katherine for doing that.

The photos are taken by Ben for CityEye.

Update from the writing desk

I have reached a turning point in my Southampton residency. After 10 months of visits to the gallery in its old and new homes, the Highfield Campus of Southampton University and now the new Studio 144 building in the centre of Southampton, I have finished with writing.

No, I’m not being dramatic, I just mean literally that I have managed to complete the sequence of poems that I set forth to write back in December, a sequence that samples a chain of events, encounters, conversations, meetings, empty spaces and all the other things that make up the life of an arts organisation making its way through changing contemporary contexts. My sequence, called Moving Gallery Notes, is now being prepared for publication with John Hansard Gallery, Artful Scribe and designers so sympathetic I actually envy myself for working with, Daly & Lion.

With the publication more or less off to print, I am making my push towards a goal I set myself at the start of the project, a final challenge of the residency, which is to make a set of film-poems using the Moving Gallery Notes poems. John Hansard Gallery and Artful Scribe have supported me with this slightly unusual addendum to my writing duties, sending me on a film poem course back in January, and recently giving me access to a professional voiceover sound engineer, Matt from Untapped Talent Studios in Southampton.

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With Matt from Untapped Talent Studios, recording my poems as audio, September 2018.

I am delighted to find myself now possessed with one hour and one minute of beautifully recorded audio, which will make the basis of the films. I have collected footage throughout the year at the various events I have written at and about, and now I’m having unchecked fun matching and mismatching it in a verbal and visual celebration of the year I’ve experienced.

At the start of November, I will be presenting the films at two readings, where I will read along with the silent films, and also in a looped version in the gallery, where the pre-recorded audio will accompany the images and hopefully allow people to spend time thinking about re-establishing of the gallery in its new site, and all the changes and adaptations it’s staff and communities have been making along the year.

It’s been a pleasure to have my eyes open through the unfolding of such interesting real life, and I’m going to enjoy savouring the year and its lessons through this editing process as much as I can, for just a little bit longer.

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Impromptu writing perch at Studio 144, John Hansard Gallery, in between exhibitions. April 2018

Final Residency Events, Southampton Nov 1–4, 2018

At the end of my year as Artful Scribe Writer in Residence at John Hansard Gallery, I’m contributing to five, free events all held at the gallery between 1st and 4th November. Moving Gallery Notes, the film-poems that I have produced from the residency will be screening during gallery opening hours between Friday 2nd and Sunday 4th November.

Here is the info on the five events, with clickable links to reserve places:

Thursday November 1st, 6–8pm.

Iain Morrison & Walter van Rijn

Iain presents a first live reading of Moving Gallery Notes, the film-poem poetry series he has produced in residency. Walter van Rijn talks about his work for Time after Time and the two artists discuss their work, made in response to John Hansard Gallery’s programme.

 

Friday November 2nd, 7.45pm-10.15pm.

SO:To Speak SO:Write Showcase

Iain reads as part of the full roster of writers who have been involved in ArtfulScibe’s writing programme in Southampton over the last two years. Headlined by MC and poet, Dizraeli.

 

Saturday November 3rd, 10.30am–12.30pm.

Time and Time Again: Writing Workshop with Iain Morrison

In this workshop participants will write brief responses to the works in the Time After Time exhibition before compiling them into their own poem retrospective. For ages 15+.

 

Sunday November 4th, 1–3pm.

SO:Write Book Launch

Iain takes part in a celebration of Artful Scribe’s SO:Write anthologies and his and partner Writer-in-Residence Nazneen Ahmed’s publications.

 

Sunday November 4th, 3.30–4.30pm.

Moving Gallery Notes

Iain gives a final live reading of Moving Gallery Notes, the film-poem series he has produced during his residency. The poems chart a year at John Hansard Gallery and explore the experience of the communities forming in and around the Gallery’s spaces.

How I Write… Gallery poems in Southampton

During my May visit to Southampton, my writing residency mentor Matt West, with his clear-sightedness, suggested an idea for this project blog that hadn’t occurred to me but which made perfect sense. He suggested I write an explanation of the process I’m using to make the poems that are the writing outcomes of my residency.

I’ve spent time arriving at the process I’m using to make these poems. It’s become ingrained, having already structured a set of poems (Art Talk Notes) which I began two years ago. I hope that laying out my method might, as Matt mused it would, offer a helpful way in to the poems for readers/listeners.

The series I’m writing for John Hansard Gallery is provisionally called Gallery Notes. The reason ‘notes’ is in the title of this and my earlier series, is because my first step for each poem is to choose an event at the gallery and write notes during it. When I’m making the notes I mostly write continuously, allowing whatever I’m thinking about – whether it’s things people are saying, or things occurring by association in my head ­– to stream onto the page, at the speed I can write at. My objective while doing this is to not worry about the appropriateness or relevance of what I write down. I try to get material down on paper, and there’s a hope that I can use my embodied presence – a thinking body in the space – to make myself into a recorder, one that acknowledges its subjectiveness, of the event. So this stage of writing can be a splurge. It usually is. I will edit these notes at the next part of the process.

Here’s an example of one of the pages of initial notes, shown exactly as I took them during Sampler Week at the Gallery in February 2018:

Next, I type the notes up. I use the text contained on one written notebook page as the basis for one stanza in the resultant poem. This might seem arbitrary, but actually, I notice that there is a sense in which the page of a notebook works for me like a frame of an image: I squeeze thoughts within its boundaries. But when breaks happen because the limitations of page size means a subject runs over to the next, I find it formally enjoyable to play with how much I break or distort the original sense around those breaks – a bit like when you have add one bit of clay to another, and the new whole retains a sense of possible fracture around the join.

Here’s the previously shown page of notes as it appears in the final poem version:

Generally, as here, the stanzas shorten down from the amount of text available on that initial notebook page. I smooth down the wilder of my associations and leaps as I go, threading a line of thought through the original text that’s now more concerned with how I might examine the underlying interest/pertinence in what I was getting down. At this stage I think about the overall scope of the Gallery Notes poems I’m writing for John Hansard Gallery and I find it exciting how the text can shift and shudder into place during these edits, joining up to make a sense that I wasn’t conscious of when I was doing the initial flow of note-taking.

Finally, I title the individual poems with the name of the origin occasion, its location and date, so that the final poem signals back to the place and time from which it was taken.

 

Looking back at May 2018 visit to Southampton. ArtfulScribe Writer in Residency at John Hansard Gallery

After spending the last ten days in Southampton on my writing residency at John Hansard Gallery, I have a lot to look back on.

The Gerhard Richter exhibition provoked a lot of thought in me. In particular, an installation that caught my imagination more than I had anticipated when I read about it was 48 Portraits (1971–1991). It’s a subtly effective work that, although it uses the techniques of other Richter paintings, floats layers of potential relations between 48 individual portraits of notable men from the end of the 19th century/start of the 20th century in ways that insinuate lead a long way from the questions of image surface and relationship to subject that preoccupied me with other works in the exhibition. (I’m thinking of the Abstract Paintings Skin, Silicate and Grey made from images of surfaces of milk showing vibration patterns, and that I’m currently visually noting the similarities of to the top surfaces of clouds that I’m flying above on my way back to Edinburgh.) Maybe the deepening of engagement with 48 Portraits happened because I (and others I talked to) already had strong imaginative connections with some of the 48 men depicted, and no conscious connections at all with some of the others; it made for a bumpy and changing reading as I looked among the faces that gave or resisted my recognition.

I picked out the composers amongst the line-up first, familiar with some of the very same images that Richter had gleaned, from my own childhood readings of music encyclopedias – Anton Bruckner photographed with his seemingly taken aback expression has always mentally illustrated for me the stories about him being the more country cousin to the sophisticated Wagner, though now I wonder how much of that was in any sense true and how much snobbery. With their names displayed beneath each Richter-reproduced image, there were occasional shocks as you got close to read a name and realised this was the face of someone you knew about but hadn’t seen represented.

Paul Claudel, one of 48 men represented by Gerhard Richter in 48 Portraits (1971–1991). Image from John Hansard Gallery, May 2018.

Paul Claudel was one such for me – I knew about him from a mention in (one version of) Auden’s poem In Memory of W.B. Yeats. It was peculiar to see him looking so modern in his sciencey spectacles, having thought of him as already far back from the himself dated-seeming, mannered, young Auden. With all these men’s heads and gazes suspended indefinitely, you could daydream about the connections between them all and how their world shaped the time that followed.

I write about my thinking around this work in my poem-text written this visit. It’s turned out to be a long poem, and takes in my April visit (when the installation of the Richter exhibition had begun) and then the day before the exhibition opening, and the preview itself, ending with the writing drawn from the 48 Portraits. Incidentally, the portraits are also incredibly beautifully installed in the Barker-Mill gallery, a self-contained and well-proportioned space in the centre of John Hansard’s new set-up. The presentation really brings you close, into an audience with these faces. I can’t imagine a better way to see and think with this work. Please travel to see the show if you can before it closes on the 18 August.

Jane Birkin and Iain Morrison at the staff club, Highfield Campus, May 2018.

On my visit I was also able to have a much looked forward to lunch with writer and artist Jane Birkin, who works in the archives at Southampton University and whose presentation I had very much enjoyed at the Immediacy! Research Day I’d taken part in back in January. She had shown a very successful work there that used moving image footage of details of a still photograph and drew on the craft of carefully-neutral archival image descriptions to curate an encounter with the image in a faceted way.

There seemed a fruitful discussion to be had given the ways we both in our work started from the point of records/traces. The differences seemed fascinating to me, with Jane’s starting point being images collected and deposited by others and held in a structured system, and my note-taking and filming being more obviously subjective, yet still trying to keep a broad lens on the systems that supported what I was investigating: the public and slightly private life of John Hansard Gallery and its audiences.

Jane and I got onto a good track about the status of description within writing, and its categorisation, often, as an inferior tool to discuss, something that Jane I think challenges. I was interested in how observation (which I felt was a word to describe what I was doing during my residency) differed from description. I came to think of it as being something about intention. But then maybe Jane’s approach in her work is to observe the description? It’s all so interesting. I like the word ‘observation’ partly because it seems so mid-twentieth century with echoes of the faith in science that I associate with that space-race time. The Mass Observation project is also something thing I’m connecting in my head, the ongoing systematic recording of the similarities and different trajectories of human subjects in Britain over a long period of time. And this in turn brings me back to think about the Richter portraits, which feel a related way of taking a spread-out snapshot of a generation or two.

Jane also introduced me to the artist Walter van Rijn who is making an epic work for Hansard’s next show called Unconsumable Global Luxury Dispersion, which is working with the titles of every single work shown in the old John Hansard Gallery site. For a look at how he’s organising and shaping that enormous data-set, look at his instagram for the project here. I think there are going to be interesting connection between our projects to talk about over my remaining visits.

And finally, because it’s definitely part of the pleasure of the residency for a weathered Scot like myself, here’s a picture of my writing station on Sunday, in a beer garden in Winchester just up the road from Southampton. My body doesn’t know what to do with all this vitamin D!

Centre for Modern and Contemporary Writing – Research Day

I’m just heading back up to Scotland after an excellent residency day with the Centre for Modern and Contemporary Writing at Southampton Uni. One of the many great aspects of my ArtfulScribe residency with John Hansard Gallery is the academic network it opens up to me. Today there was a research day organised by Dr Sarah Hayden around the prompt of ‘Immediacy’, and I thoroughly enjoyed introducing my work and sharing ideas with the academics and practitioners (and the somewhere-in-betweeners) who make up the centre’s community. Woodrow Kernohan and Ronda Gowland-Pryde from the John Hansard Gallery team were also presenting. I’m getting a clear sense of how the gallery benefits from its immersal in the active audience of a large university.

Here’s a link to the programme and then the text of the introduction I gave to my work before showing an Art Talk Notes film poem from last year:

Final Immediacy poster updated A3 January 16th (btw I loved being put in a section called Encounters Immediate and Mediated – thanks Sarah!)

Talking Art Talk Notes

I’m taking the opportunity of this Immediacy day to introduce the project that I’m doing as ArtfulScribe Writer in Residence at John Hansard Gallery over the next 10 months or so. The title I gave for today, Talking Art Talk Notes, refers to the title of the project I pitched in my interview, Art Talk Notes, which is a poem series I started in 2015 from a growing desire to use the writing I was collecting, in the form of notes, from the many art talks I was attending. I had been working in a visual arts organisation in Edinburgh for 5 years and was increasingly keen to draw the strands of my experience in that world together with my practice as a poet.

Through thinking about somatic writing (writers like C.A. Conrad especially and Lee Ann Brown) I started to see the notes I was taking when I was in a talk as not just notes about a talk but a record of embodied experience and one that might be exploitable to form a record of not only my learning/thinking on a given occasion, but also – maybe because I was nosey in my note-taking – as a record of the wider community’s learning, it’s narratives and experience around the same events.

How I connected this project with today’s Research Day title is through the idea of immediacy as presence – as something being the thing that’s immediately in front of you, and which you are grappling with even before you have had the chance to formulate what it is. I conceive of that happening in the trajectory of planning an event, where time compresses between the planning and post-event reflection stages into the actual moments of liveness, and whatever is happening, whatever is contained within that conjunction of time and space is what the event contains, and always will have contained, to be made sense of (foregrounded, countered or erased) in recollection and dissection, after, as they say, the event.

I have started writing the Southampton series of poems sitting in on meetings and background planning chats, and these Art Talk Notes are already skewed, in a way, from the model of my earlier ones, because of being produced currently behind the scenes, in an organisation that’s between venues. There’s a shift therefore onto the sites where discussion is happening, albeit tied to the art content that’s being planned and shown off-site.

At the moment I’m considering whether Art Talk Notes will remain the right title for this Southampton sequence. I wonder what my sequence of texts is ultimately going to rest on, in the sense of being rested upon. It may end up being called Art Notes or Gallery Notes or even John Hansard Gallery Notes.

I’m finding that the strategy of using stream-of-consciousness writing as a tool of interrogation means I am able to move fairly easily with the writing, as a sort of ultrasound with myself as the equipment, into most contexts. But I’m intent on seeing how I can keep a focus for this Southampton project as I was able to do in the earlier series. I think that previous coherence was achieved thanks to the fact there were other unifying factors holding the sequence together for me – namely my own subjective voice, belonging as it did to the networks out of whom these events were flowering; and my ability to choose a discrete path within the notes I was taking as there were plenty of them, indeed there were likely to continue being plenty of them, and I didn’t have to include everything. I had the luxury that this was my life as I was living it at the time that I was writing off of and that I was almost inevitably going to keep living it in smooth grooves, or trajectories that would lead me from one connected place of self-exploratory writing to another. And I would shape and see a personal narrative of my own unfolding alongside the chain of events.

The time I will spend during the residency here will still be marked by the relationships I am making and sustaining with the people around me, including for the first time, the public. I imagine though that they will be less complex than those that arise in a more fully embedded life – as in the earlier sequence. Maybe I’ll be wrong though, and should expect drama!

I’m going to show a short filmpoem from the first sequence of Art Talk Notes to give you an idea of how the work looks. I’m starting to collect footage from Southampton already and am likely to be producing something similar for John Hansard Gallery. Thanks.

Poole filmpoems and Southampton plans advance

I got back late last night from my 2nd residency visit to the South coast, this time fitting in a visit to Poole for a film poem course over the weekend before more time in Southampton with the John Hansard Gallery folk.

The film poem course was put on by ArtfulScribe, who are organising my residency, and was tied in to a film poem competition that’s part of Light Up Poole. It was taught by the patient and encouraging duo of Helen Dewberry and Chaucer Cameron. They share a joint practice as film poets and brought many examples of the genre to inspire us before giving us time to work on our own projects. I felt I had a double head on to think with as I’m conscious that I’ll be leading workshops and events as part of my residency and was happy to learn from their deft way of reading the dynamics of a group and making sure everyone was heard and looked after. It was a pretty diverse group! I met some interesting poets from further across the region and I hope I will have the chance to spend more time with them. Poole itself won me over with its piratey charm – so many olde world dockside pubs that I felt I was in a film set from something swashbuckling. Recommended.

This visit to Southampton was characterised by a closening of relationships with the John Hansard team. I’m blown away by their trust and the access that they’re generously giving me to the workings of their organisation at a very busy time. We had some interesting discussions about organisational voice in relation to my voice as a writer in residence – I think we’re all getting used to the unusual dynamic of having an ear in the room whose job is to document in some way. We laughed at parallels with sensationalist journalism or fly-on-the-wall documentaries, but I have a clear sense this is a very different remit and I’m looking forward to getting on with more writing so that we can all see how this time might be captured in it in some broad, outward-looking way. It’s possible to overthink things, so I think ploughing on is the way forward, then reviewing how it’s turning out.

The project I pitched is called Art Talk Notes, but since the circumstances I’ve found to write-in so far have been more in the administrative context, in the lead-up to other events, I wonder if I’ll change the name for this iteration of it. Art Notes might be a more accurate title – I noticed Woodrow, the John Hansard Gallery Director using that, and he might be instinctively one step ahead of me there. Or maybe Gallery notes? I’ll be thinking about it.

I’ve also been getting on with meeting partners I’ll be working with to deliver events and the aformentioned workshops. Stair/Slide/Space are a collective who are delivering something called a Conversation Station during a pop-up week at the Gallery’s new building in February, and we’re planning to team-up for the first public sharing of work from my residency, so there was a meeting with them and the John Hansard Gallery team. I also caught up with Asten Holmes-Elliott. They work with Breakout Youth, an LGBT youth organisation in the city, and we’re hoping to run a writing workshop together around identity and concealment during the Gerhard Richter exhibition that the Gallery is opening in May.

I’m going to be learning a lot from these generous people over the coming months. It’s great to feel the plans firming up.

Here’s the film I made in the film poem workshop:

 

 

It uses a similar format to previous Art Talk Notes films I’ve made – footage of audience coming and going at a Gallery accompanied by loosely connected text – but as I was on a course, I let myself play more with the fiddly possibilities of editing. Not sure how this sits in relation to the overall project, but it was fun to do and has made me feel even keener to keep a film element to what I’m doing in Southampton having learned some new tricks.

Start in Southampton

with Markus Bergström’s Guildhall Pavillion. A John Hansard Gallery commission for Summer in the Square (2017)

Starting from about now, I have a temporary alias as ArtfulScribe‘s Writer-In-Residence at John Hansard Gallery in Southampton. There are many reasons why I’m excited to have swung my trajectory in line with this orbiting opportunity (I’m thinking of spacecraft landing on comets here for some reason). Here are a few of them:

I now have the prospect of having a decent chunk of writing time built into my year. This flexibly organisable residency involves me spending up to a month in Southampton split across the year, so can be scheduled around an existing full-time job.

From my initial meetings with the team administering the opportunity I know it’s going to be a genuinely developmental ‘professional development’. I’ve already felt significantly and usefully nudged by my conversations with the Matt West, who runs ArtfulScribe and who has an obvious grasp of ways to engage disparate audiences. I’m looking forward to spending time with poet and academic Sarah Hayden and her colleagues in the English Department at the University of Southampton; the chance to share work in an academic forum as well as a public one means I will be learning on at least two fronts.

This may be a silly reason, but I’m enjoying reopening a connection with the area where I spent my first year after leaving school, as a choral scholar in the Winchester Cathedral Choir. It was enjoyably trippy heading up the road to Evensong at the Cathedral after my interview last year, and trying to connect the person I’ve become in the intervening 20 years with resurfacing memories of those early adult days will be an interesting puzzle.

It’s a chance to tie together my dominant activities – being a poet and working in a visual arts organisation – that in the past have felt like they might be in tension, but increasingly feed content to each other through projects that benefit from a strong dual understanding of writing and art practice. The programme at John Hansard Gallery during the time I am writing there includes a juicy exhibition of work by Gerhard Richter which I’m looking especially forward to thinking and looking along with.

The residency comes with John Hansard’s and ArtfulScribe’s great networks and offers the chance to develop the filmpoem part of my practice. I was successful in pitching an iteration of my Art Talk Notes series for the residency, and have been keen to make more films to accompany these poems from art talks since showing some prototypes early in 2017 at Market Gallery in Glasgow. It will be great to have time, resources and impetus to put that project more fully together in this residency’s context.

 

In terms of challenges, I think I will be pushed into responding to new contexts with my writing, and I hope I will be open enough to learn from encounters I (and the things I write) will have with lots of different people. And it will be quite epic leaping up and down the country but mainly, I think, energising. The chance to experience an art gallery from the other side of the artist/organisation relationship is also already proving interesting and pleasurable. The team at JHG are excited about their move to a new building – the context for the residency – and are being generous about sharing access to their work at a pivotal time so that I can share some of that experience with them, and in turn with others.

Here’s the first bit of writing I’ve done in situ. A couple of blocks of text from my December 2017 visit. More soon.

 

 

Half an hour of writing at John Hansard Gallery

(that turned into 7 minutes because I got distracted with whether my camera was filming the shot I wanted)

Highfield Campus, University of Southampton, Tuesday 19 December 2017.

 

The time now is 97% I am writing in the old meeting room at John Hansard Gallery

surrounded by articles related to the transition programme

a space that has been preparing for some time to become another space

hoods in front of me and on the wall a planner chart

a gant chart beginning going gone but not yet in the writing time

I have been here all day thinking about with the team

warmly in the cold the move to new studio and the programme I think

will be a complex good and I am adjacent playing, enjoying the role

 

So far, this has been an experiment, in life and ten years

in the planning, so that’s a public public good and a cousin

in Bransgore to stay with and his dogs and news family

The new gathering around the John Hansard Gallery linking

to them to Matt, to Sarah by sconeference call in Ireland

in the CMCW in Mettricks in parks and sculpted parkland

before a move, we all make the movements for it

piling papers in the corners under chirpy named sheets

and there are memories of art works and not yet in the walls

the latex Bergvall balloon, the customised counted on days