Creative Work Shop

A 12 month programme of interconnected arts projects and multi-art residencies that respond to themes of place and regeneration offering space for reflection, connection and exploration through artist led conversation. Produced by Findhorn Bay Arts.

We have been invited to spend 6 weeks as resident artists with Findhorn Bay Arts. The residency was due to start in July but was postponed due to the Covid pandemic. We made our first research trip to Findhorn Bay on 10th August and are continuing to visit for week long periods to research and develop work.

Blog. September 14th 2020

Reflections on being a Public Artist in the time of COVID : A Rollercoaster Residency

As artists, we work to the context in which we find ourselves and overwhelmingly at this time COVID is omnipresent. During our residency based in the Findhorn Bay area, COVID restrictions have been imposed in Aberdeen then in Glasgow and surrounds. There have been a cluster of cases more locally in Granton. We have learnt from the local community hub that groups aren’t meeting and although schools are open, the library is still closed.  Seeing everyone wearing masks still feels a bit surreal and there’s the strange dance of social distancing in the supermarket aisles and in the street. The number of people allowed to meet in public has now been reduced to only 6 from 2 households. As our work is participatory, it is now becoming even more difficult to find strategies to work in public.

Planning ahead is tricky with so many unknowns and it’s challenging to make work that brings people together for a public event. Even though we can bring more than 6 people together as an arts organization (under the category ‘work’ or ‘charitable activity’) we don’t feel comfortable creating anything that would involve an audience touching objects and we have to be mindful of the fact that many people won’t be comfortable with attending a public event. We are feeling our way with all these restrictions, which are understandably affecting our creative processes; we find an interesting idea and work it through and then realize that it’s too difficult to bring to into public space due to the pandemic. It’s a rollercoaster residency…

Findhorn Bay from Nelsons Tower, Forres.

Our residency is focused on responding to the environment outside the town context so we’ve been exploring the area on our bikes. We are loving the rich textures and colours of this special landscape; the sea, beaches, and the sand dunes now colonised by scots pines, heather and lichens at Culbin Forest. During our trips, we’ve been thinking of ideas and strategies to see how we can work in the limbo space that Covid has created.

The residency brief was to open up spaces for reflection, connection and conversation. How can we do this when physically being with people is restricted and people meeting indoors is either not allowed or inappropriate? Perhaps we can consider what a conversation is in the time of Covid and where and how it happens. If a conversation is an exchange of ideas, can our artworks be the way a conversation is held?  Can people’s interaction with an artwork be the conversation we are facilitating?

We are drawn to making work that exists in public space (rather than digital space) and want to avoid the health and safety Covid related protocols and procedures that ‘sanitise’ peoples experiences. This means that our work must exist in a way that people can come to individually or in small groups over time and /or work that can be engaged with in a distributed way. It feels a time perhaps for gentle investigations and tentative, reflective work in public. Testing and experimenting to gauge what people are comfortable with.

Some themes have developed that seem to be particularly relevant to us at the moment; the relationships between place, nature and culture and exploring time and scale…finding ways to cultivate new sensibilities and imaginations.

BLOG. SEPTEMBER 28TH 2020. Northern Exposures

More regulations have been imposed by the Scottish government so no one can meet indoors. Last week we marked the equinox where the days and nights are of equal length and we now start to move towards winter and the longer nights. We’ve been thinking about time and how for many people, time has changed from a forward moving linear experience to one that seems to stop and start, or appears to be a series of pauses…the world seems to be waiting and these pauses may offer us an unusual period for reflection and rethinking.

We’ve become interested in a photographic process called solargraphy. Small pinhole cameras are attached to a fixed point and capture the place where they are situated over a period of time, usually weeks or months. The cameras are positioned to point south and the resulting evocative images show the path of the Sun. We have made our first experiment and the below image is the result .. the path of the sun captured over 2 days.

The photographic paper contained in the camera captures more than light, it also captures time and place. Due to the length of the exposure, fast moving things such as cars, people or birds passing don’t leave a trace. The pathway of the sun as it crosses the sky slowly changing its angle as the Earths turns however, is captured in all its glory. A reminder that everything we see, however still or monumental is in motion, both through space and through time.

We propose to make a number of pinhole cameras and co-create a work called Northern Exposures’, inviting people to enter into the process of ‘marking time’ with us. The solargraph cameras will be given away to interested people (anyone can take part) who will be asked to attach them to a fixed point (facing south if possible) with a view – this could for example be in a garden or at a window – and leave them for three months. We’d like people to record their feelings on a postcard on the day they put them up and on the day that they take them down.  The resulting images and text will be a record of this paused Covid time and how we are feeling during this strange, unmoored period. The project will create an opportunity for the community to take part in a process which will be able to happen whatever stage of covid restrictions we are under at the time. The resulting captured images and personal reflections will be able to be displayed at the end of the project as both collective memory and a communal sharing of time..

Above images: Starting the process of making the pin hole cameras for the project. We painted the inside black to seal them and reduce reflection. One piece of photographic paper will be placed in each and then the top sealed tight. Tape will be stuck over the pin hole to stop light entering until it is attached to its position.

BLOG. October 14th 2020

More government restrictions have meant the closure of pubs and restaurants across the central belt, the advice is to avoid travel with a second wave of covid growing more likely. We are able to travel for work and so we are back in Forres and are making packs for participants that will include a pin hole camera tin, instructions and two silver envelopes. The envelopes will each contain a postcard that we will ask people to fill in on the day they put the camera up and on the day that they take it down. We’d like people to write something about how they are feeling that day, maybe something about the view the camera is pointed at, or anything that they want to reflect on or ‘capture’.

Outside the Northern Exposures pick up point with two of the participants. Image by Marc Hindley

We set up in the Findhorn Bay Arts shop on Forres High Street on Friday 16th and Sat 17th of October, where people came to find more about the project and pick up a ‘Northern Exposures’ camera pack. It was really good to be meeting people (albeit socially distanced and masked), chatting about photography, Covid, families, the economy, the weather and these strange times. We were really pleased that there was so much interest and that people were excited to be taking part. There will be around 75 cameras, capturing time and the winter light around the area.

UPdate. Jan 11th 2021

Further developments with Covid has meant that we are now in another lockdown until at least the end of January. We wont be able to travel to Forres to collect all the cameras until restrictions are eased, however this is not a problem as the cameras can be left up for many months to capture light. We hope to be able to take the project forward in February and look forward to our next visit to Forres then.

UPdate. April 11th 2021

We asked all the participants to take their cameras down at the beginning of March and to fill in the second postcard. We were able to travel to Forres to pick up all the cameras and have been busy processing the 55 cameras. It’s been a long winter of snow and rain – will the cans have remained waterproof? The moment of truth is here!! …….

….. So just about all the cameras have produced an image. We’re really excited that the cameras have worked! There are some really beautiful solargraphs and insightful writing. We are now planning how we can show all of the work within the constraints of any Covid restrictions in May.

From participants:

“The camera has mapped the days of the strangest and most surreal winter of my life. I feel connected to this little tin can because it holds the intensity of the winter and everything that happened around me while I was standing still. Dark and light and the shadows in-between”

“It is a really beautiful and profound project, capturing the passage of time like this in a little tin can. Resonates on so many levels. Thank you so much”