NODtoBristol is going a bit more public more this week. A couple of the images are in a show at Motorcade/FlashParade and I am scheduled for a slot at Spike Island’s Open Day Speakers’ Corner. I am comfortable with the images being in a show and am curious if they will resonate with people without whom I have discussed the “what is the function of an artist?” question. However, the Speaker’s Corner is another issue all together.
The whole idea of stepping into a space and just talking is strange to me. My practice is based in relationships and the idea of speaking to no one in particular is the opposite of speaking to someone in a conversation. How do I frame the conversation? Am I trying to get people to engage? How do I do that? People will be mulling about, moving from one event to the next and I am just supposed to stand up and start talking. I had asked if I could put a small table on the platform thinking it would help create a space for dialogue but the organizers said no. I am supposed to get on the platform, speak for 5 or 10 minutes and then continue the conversation with whomever is interested after stepping down.
I have created a prop of sorts. I printed images of 20 of the what is the function of an artist? responses. I may begin by reading these aloud. I also thought I might hand them out to people in the hopes of starting a dialogue. They could read them aloud and we could talk about them. What do I want them to know about these responses? Why do I think they are important? What do I think they express? Is there a larger context for the responses? I think there is. At what point in my 5 – 10 minutes do I suggest a larger context? How much control do I try to plan for before the event?
This idea of control is a very interesting part of my life as an artist. I always tell my sculpture students that what they are doing in class is learning to control their materials. They are developing their ideas also but what practice with materials gives them is the ability to control their materials so that they will express what they want them to express. In the beginning, whether it is clay, stone, metal or fiber, the materials and the artist’s skill level are in control of the experience. As the artist gets more and more comfortable with her materials, her ideas are able to take control of the creating process.
What if I consider the Speakers’ Corner a sculptural material? This will be my first experience using this material; I certainly don’t feel in control. Can I use this out of control feeling to my advantage? What would be a “naive” but effective approach to the material? My mom always says to “go back to what works for you.” What works for me? Usually I worry quite a bit. I over-think things, prepare and then try to back away enough to make it seem simple. I am always searching for the simple gesture.