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. Findhorn Bay Arts.
We have been invited to spend 6 weeks as resident artist in the Findhorn Bay area. 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 then again on 4th September.
Blog. September 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…
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.