I’ve had a full day of rest and an extra hour’s sleep as the clocks went back, so I’m now ready to report and reflect on the last two days and the outcomes of this intensive week-long project, in which Art and Geography students worked together to ‘map’ the Newton Park campus, informed by the work and approaches of Bristol-based artist Richard Long. Phew.
So Thursday was our day to go off and work in groups, mapping or intervening (artistically) on campus, with tutor support and gatherings by the media wall at 9.00 am and 1.00 pm. I’d brought in scissors, glue and the printed-out photos sent in after the first day (four each), plus the word sheets from Wednesday group work. A lot of material, how to organise it? I’d been hoping to find someone else to share this work but it seemed I was on my own – collaborative in that the raw material came from the whole group, but alone in terms of what I did with it. More anxiety.
The morning passed with soothing cutting-out of the photos, and placing them onto the word sheets in any way that seemed to make intuitive sense. By lunchtime it was obvious that I had far too much material and I’d need to edit ruthlessly. I wrote all the words into a list and divided them by type – concrete nouns, emotions, verbs – ah, verbs! The Doing of art, a link with Richard Long’s process.
A long roll of paper meant I could write out my verb list (in an order that pleased my poet-self) and put various photos next to the words, not to illustrate but more to inform or comment on… I had a vision. To make a poem-thing using words and images that could fill the media wall. Could it be done?
Google slides, said Richard. I’ve never used Google slides. Could I do something in PowerPoint and transfer it? Yes. OK, so I got to work on my old clunky laptop, finding, downloading, re-naming the relevant images from Flickr and putting them into the slides I created with the words. It took a very long time. I’m not very IT literate. The last two hours of this were done at home by which time I was utterly exhausted, and spent a restless night wondering if it would work. At 2.00 am I had an idea for Plan B, another (low-tech) way of using the source material, which I refined on the drive in on Friday morning.
The tutors were amazing. Sue Lawty and Richard White spent hours working on how to translate my presentation into a format readable by the media wall, for a long time it looked as if we’d only get a small image up on there. Meanwhile I cut up the letters for HERE out of the original word sheets, laid them out as compass points and surrounded them with a circle of the photos, plus a line… Plan B in action. I reached crying point in the IT frustrations and Sue sent me off for a walk, so I caught up with what some of the other groups had been doing and had a proper breakfast, then there was a lot of hanging around and preparing what I’d say in my 1-minute spiel at the end. Finally Glenn the IT wizard from Sion Hill cracked our problems, my image appeared full-size, and I could relax and celebrate.
I would do it all very differently if I was doing it again, but given the time constraints I think it was sort of OK. I loved seeing and hearing what the other groups and individuals had been doing – and there was wine and nibbles for our celebration. I have learnt how to use Soundcloud and Flickr, expanded my boundaries enormously in terms of my own practice, and made some good contacts. It was all worth it. Really. But phew, glad it’s over!