On the Occupation of Space
A residency at the TESTT Space in Durham August 2017
Application and Approach
At Easter 2017 I decided that since writing applications is a lot of work, which mostly result in nothing, I would only write applications that would be useful for my practice anyway. One of these opportunities involved writing a side of A4 setting out how I would make very good use of a week’s studio space. This application enabled me to collect my thoughts on how I was going to approach working out my meaning in the question “What is it to occupy space?”
I treated this week in Durham as if it was a job, arriving at 9 am and finishing at around 6 pm with a proper break for lunch. I planned ahead to make the most of my time as it will be rare for me to have that amount of space to play with so it was important to take advantage of that. I worked out a strategy to obtain the materials I needed in advance locally, bring or borrow what tools I would need and to enable swift clear out on an “as if I was never there” basis. I went to acquire the materials on the Sunday and arranged to have access to the space so that everything would be there to start work on the Monday morning.
During the residency I allocated time each day for writing up and reflection plus planning for the following day.
On the social media front, I made sure that I tweeted every day, tagging Empty Shop so that they could use it for their own promotion as well. I also took the opportunity to meet the other artists there albeit that it was a bit quiet over the summer.
At the end of the residency there was an open studio. Although I had treated the space as a laboratory I still curated the space so that the pieces would act in conversation with each other and I could usefully talk to people about what I had done during my week.
Impact on my practice
In preparing my application, my opening questions related to the space a body occupies rather than the body itself. How can this space be perceived if not formally occupied or fully outlined? How can it be explored without collapsing back into occupation? What information is sufficient to drive the imagination to recreation? Is it best to walk the fine line of this minimum or expand and risk being overly prescriptive?
In the period between the application and the residency I started out with the idea of the 3D negative space and how a sense of this could be captured, but in carrying out various initial experiments I became obsessed with the volume of space that I occupy. I calculated this a number of ways but always came back to the result that I am only 1/20 of a cubic meter. Intuitively this felt too small. So when I arrived in Durham this became my starting point. Am I really about 1/20 of a cubic meter? And if I am, why does this feel so wrong?
In the end I just had to build a meter cube and then compare myself to it. My investigations then continued on into taking moulds of myself in chicken wire in various shapes and forms. I also put up a “ceiling” at my height to walk under. Following the residency my practice slipped back into a mix of 2D and 3D again primarily in response to the needs of the exhibition Sensing Place (here). Following this my thinking has progressed so that I am now reflecting on the operation or movement in space as the prime means of occupying space which I am working out in part through the piece Learning to Walk (here).