My wonderful friend Esther Gooch is a recently graduated Artist and Photographer. During her degree show at Nottingham Trent her work was selected to be show in the Photography section of Free Range, London. An exhibition that showcases recent graduate work.
In January I applied to run a series of 2 hour workshops as a part of the LGBT Manchester Creative Cafe. I have continued with the work we were doing with Patchwork Stories and developed a shorter version - Bunting stories!
In the first session I read the tale of Tatterhood and we did some exercises from the Patchwork Stories project. When it came to talking about our own stories and questions the group was most interested in happiness and the places/things that make us safe and also how we can change others minds in constructive ways.
In our second session we shared more of our own stories while drawing and designing bunting triangles. It was so much fun! I'm going to be sewing them into a bunting string that can then be displayed in the centre - and possibly used as a part of Political Pride 2015.
I make art alone, where I am the solo author and yet increasingly I am interested in participatory and community projects. These parts of my practice are equally important and valuable to me. However I think sometimes I downplay the importance of the group projects that I do, it is far more to me than just research for the solo work I am going to make. It often feels like projects that include multiple people, (particularly non-artists) where there isn’t always an outcome worthy of display aren’t as valued as art work made alone, in a studio. Patchwork Stories has been an interesting experience for me, being a part of a project in which I was one of only two artists, working with actors, directors, councillors, teachers and designers, as well as the general public. The project is helping me to question the value of art and work out where the boundaries between solo art, collaboration and co-creation lie.
The value of art, is a difficult and slippery thing to define. What value means and how it is calculated changes, depending on who you ask. I want to create work that has a great value in terms of what it gives to people, (both the artist(s) and the audience member(s).) So long as I can live, I’m not bothered with how much money my work is worth. Patchwork Stories doesn’t make me any money and yet the experience has been deeply valuable in a far deeper way, not just to me but to many others too...we created a space in which is was safe to be openly vulnerable, where ideas and stories were shared and where people grew.
By my personal definition to collaborate means to bring together ideas, feed off one another and then create work that is linked, but separate. While co-creation on the other hand, is the joint creation of something, whether the creators are all artists or not. Patchwork Stories is a project that blurs those definitions. Fiona, Megan and I were ‘in charge’; the project idea is ours and we are the ones who have developed it into a working form, so in some ways we are the artists and authors of the work. However without our larger team who all had ideas that fed off each other and grew through conversation and play, the installation would have looked very different. The people we interviewed and who visited the installation were also an important part of the process and most of the sewing (the quilted artwork that exists beyond the project) was done by them. I find it hard to define whether what we made was collaborative or co-created.
After the installation one of the designers said that the thing he loved most was that when walking through the installation space he was unable to see where his ideas ended and others began. That, I believe is co-creation, a total meshing of ideas. However there were also artists on the team who worked in a more solitary way, and who obviously felt like there were certain pieces of art that belonged to them alone. So, that must be collaboration?
Ultimately I think both practices are deeply important, and that a mixture of the two is probably healthy. As a fine artist it can be a struggle to let go of authorship; to say yes, I had a part in this, some of these are my ideas but we made it together. Patchwork Stories was my project, but if it is to be a success it needs to belong to everyone.