Monday, 30 September 2013

California Raisins.

One of the highlights of last weekend's Sonoma wedding was a wine tour of three Vineyards. Most of us had a hearty breakfast in preparation, but little did we know, spitting would not be an option. Each vineyard gave us at least three tastings, though some gave us four, and the third, handed us three different (full glasses) of champagne. It goes without saying most of the guests sunk into a deep sleep after a day of drinking and sunshine, but was it ever fun!

The Vineyards we stopped at were:

1) Ravenswood Winery

2) Buena Vista Winery (the oldest winery in Sonoma)

3) Domaine Carneros Winery (the champagne stop)

Have a look at our day...

Heading off in our Charriot-

H, catching up on some work between tastings.

The bride and her uncle.

Using a 'wine thief' to taste from the barrel.

Walking up to Buena Vista Winery.

The Count of Buena Vista is alive and well.

The Ladies.

Enjoying a scrumptious picnic lunch from The Girl & the Fig.

Domaine Carneros.

A little photo shoot with the bride and groom to be...

Nice colours boys.

On the whole, what a wonderful day, and an amazing way for all of the guests who had made the trek down to California to get to know each other. Nothing like countless glasses of wine to break the ice. I would have loved to have brought some bottles home, but my carry-on luggage wouldn't allow it. Next time!

Stay tuned for the spectacular wedding day...

Thursday, 26 September 2013

The 'Inbetweener's' Project.

As you may or may not realize, the purpose of my last year in London was to complete my master in Artist Teachers and Contemporary Practices at Goldsmiths University of London. Many of you were asking to see what my final piece looked like. If you haven't been following the blog over the course of my MA in London, please keep in mind that as the title of the course suggests, the focus of this last year has been on Contemporary practices. I've included my final reflective statement to help explain my piece (The 'Inbetweener's Project').

As my year in London continued to unfold at a rapid pace, my own heightened sensitivity and curiosity concerning my feelings of attachment to this city did not change. I have since read that this urge to wrap one’s head around their feelings in place is human nature. Human beings ‘have an emotional need to identify with personal and intimate places, and hence ‘construct’ these places for themselves on the basis of repeated experiences’ (Holloway and Hubbard, 2001, p. 75). It was a curiosity resulting from such experiences that encouraged me to begin the search for some of the more tangible factors contributing to these feelings as well as others who may share my experiences.

I called those similar to myself, ‘In-betweeners’. They were people new to London but neither tourist nor resident.  With this community, I was hoping to generate a shared knowledge, comparing feelings of our time in the city, while also expanding my own London footprint. The project began with an evening of discussion surrounding our experiences in London. This dialogue became a starting point in a collaboration amongst members of a similar community. I hoped the experience would be enriching for all of us, but was confident that it was particular to the group, and specifically for the group. Annette Krauss is an artist with a similar interest in informal and unrecognized knowledge, while challenging the tensions between the themes of place and belonging. In her project, ‘Hidden Curriculum’ she brings forth the hidden lessons that students acquired in schools, that were perhaps unintended. Krauss notes that a hidden curriculum can be found alongside any learning experience both within, and outside of the school environment (The Showroom, 2012).

Following the evening of discussion, the group agreed to a series of neighbourhood walks, sharing each in-betweener’s meaningful places, and ‘lived space’. We focused on places of belonging or disbelonging. These were places where memorable moments have taken place; relationships have been impacted, or quite simply comfortable spaces that are part of the in-betweener’s lived routine. ‘Their London’ is limited to their experience and continues to grow as their ‘lived space’ expands. Also exploring the relationship between place and belonging, The Richgate Project (2007) similarly used walking as a means of creating a ‘symbolic mapping experience’ with its participants (Irwin, et al., 2009, p. 64). The artists collaborating on this project suggested that when walking was integrated into the process of mapping, “cartography shifts from being a ‘point’ or fixed location to an encounter between people and places” (Irwin, et al., 2009, p. 64). Like The Richgate Project (2007), the stories associated with these places of meaning began to explain any feelings of attachment or disbelonging in this city.

I photographed the neighbourhood visits, recording the pictures on instagram, with the hopes that in-betweeners (old and new) could continue to add to this growing visual collection of their London. Using photographs, Stephen Willat takes a similar approach by visually mapping relationships, and ties to place. Willat’s work explores the nature of human interaction, and the connection between individuals and communities. In his show, The Oxford Community Datastream (2013), Willat uses photography and mixed media to make a visual diagram of relationships for the viewers. Using a similar approach, my intention was to diagram the in-betweener’s experience by visually mapping it for the viewer.

While the map shows what the in-betweener’s London looks like, I compiled ‘The Inbetweener’s Guide to London’ to put into words how their London feels. The book contains helpful tidbits of information, maps, and places that the in-betweener’s have enjoyed, while also telling the story of unique experiences that future in-betweeners may be able to relate to. Each in-betweener’s perceptions on belonging and disbelonging in London are documented, as well as specific spots that have had an impact on their lives. Some of these places had meanings deeper than others, but every spot had personal significance to the person who took me there. The book was created by hand as a resource for in-betweeners with knowledge from in-betweeners.  Despite the stigma often surrounding craft-based work in the world of contemporary art, I felt strongly that the handmade approach to the book’s construction symbolizes a genuine sincerity in the sharing of information. Contemporary artist, Emma Smith created Ideas on Travel: Nottingham (2006) using a similar approach. To create her book, Smith collaborated with Londoners, compiling hand drawn maps and words of advice on travelling to Nottingham. When speaking of the relevance of craft in the contemporary art world, David Revere McFadden (Chief curator and vice president, Museum of Arts & Design, New York) says,
'Craft, art, and design are words heavily laden with cultural baggage. For me, they all connote the profound engagement with materials and process that is central to creativity. Through this engagement, form, function, and meaning are made tangible.’
                                                (The Victoria and Albert Museum, 2013).
Mark Jones, (Director of the Victoria & Albert Museum 2001-2011) echoes McFadden’s sediments, saying, ‘Craft is remembering that art is seen, felt and heard as well as understood, knowing that not all ideas start with words, thinking with hands as well as head.’ (The Victoira and Albert Museum, 2013).

It was in speaking with the in-betweeners in their neighbourhoods that the ever-evolving relationship between place and belonging became very apparent. It was the little signs of belonging to this new environment that seemed to hold the most meaning. It became clear on my walkabouts, that many of us had not been in the city long enough to have experienced significant moments, which would result in  a true attachment to the city.  The term in-betweeners infers a sense of disbelonging, being neither here nor there. We weren’t ‘there’ and only time and lived experience would help us get ‘there’. The Phenomonologists believed there was ‘no separate real world external to human experience’ (Holloway and Hubbard, 2001, p. 70). An individual’s ‘activity space’ plays a huge role in sense of belonging, as the more one is able to encounter a place, the more they invest in it, making the place, ‘an extension of the individual’ (Holloway and Hubbard, 1988, p. 75). This links closely to Bourdieu’s concept of Habitus. Hillier and Rooksby best define Habitus as, ‘a sense of one’s (and others’) place and role in the world and one’s lived environment’ (2005, p. 21).  Our daily actions, decisions, and lifestyle choices are governed through our experiences of everyday life. Bourdieu’s habitus helps to explain the different perceptions, emotions, and feelings felt by each of the in-betweeners. Each in-betweener’s perception of this city and their own sense of belonging are slightly different, and a product of their own history.

My hope was to create an experience unique to in-betweeners, by in-betweeners. It is my intention that this project does not end with me. I intend to leave the guide in London to circulate amongst new in-betweeners, growing with their experiences and newly formed knowledge in this city. Within the gallery setting, I intend the guide book and visual map to be seen as one event, both pieces intersecting with each other, while also intertwined with the memories and lived experiences that both the viewers and in-betweeners bring to the encounter.

If you know me, (in an artistic sense), you will realize that this piece is unlike anything I've created (art wise) in my entire life. I was certainly out of my comfort zone. While I battled with Contemporary art over the last ten months, I was forced to question it's value in the classroom. It's true the product may not be as aesthetically pleasing, specifically when attempting to decorate the walls of one of Canada's top private schools, but arguably the critical thinking involved in the process of creating is invaluable. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. I will also post some of the pieces of the other students at a later date.