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