Magnetic North Blog
Our next Space Time retreat will run from 4th-9th October 2019 at Cove Park in Argyll and the application process is now open. Experienced artists from any art form are welcome to apply by the deadline of 1pm on Friday 21st June.
Space/Timeis a paid creative retreat for experienced artists from all disciplines that asks the question “How does an artist keep developing?”
It aims to refresh participants through a stimulating examination of creativity. During the residency, we will explore how creativity can be nourished and how artists can continue challenging themselves to develop.
The residency combines facilitated dialogue - built around a series of self-generated questions - with time for individual reflection and work. It is led by Nicholas Bone and Alice McGrath.
Prior to my artist attachment with Magnetic North I simply identified as a Scottish theatre maker. I’m six months in and I’m finding this is starting to shift.
The purpose of my attachment was to integrate my recently completed MSc in Sustainable Rural Development into my arts practice. One way I identified of doing this was to focus on the divisive issue of rewilding in Scotland. This line of inquiry has lead me to discover a new network of artists, researchers and scientists, as well as reconnect with old colleagues and friends. It’s taken me to numerous rewilding projects across Scotland, to festivals, conferences, talks in community spaces and various SSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest). Its given me an insight into the conversations that are being had in the arts sector, and beyond, about rewilding, climate change, land management and land reform.
In June 2019, as part of my artist attachment, I was invited to a take part in a three day residency at the Bamff Estate in Perthshire. The focus of the residency was to explore the dynamics between the family of beavers, which had been reintroduced on the estate, the land and us.
Laura Bissell has written up an excellent summary of the residency, which you can read here.
This residency provided a rare opportunity for me to experience a landscape shaped by beavers over a number of days and at different times of day. What at first looked like a really unwieldy landscape was quickly put into context as the work of beavers. This immediately challenged my preconceptions of what a landscape with a keystone species would look like. It looked chaotic. beavers are conspicuous.
What also became apparent, was that despite their relative shyness, they had set up a dynamic in the landscape that both maintained their privacy and security, but also enabled us intruders to watch them. This, I observed was not unlike the performer / audience dynamic, except instead of your two metre clearance, was a pond, and the pros arch and cyc. was a massive Rhododendron.
This was of huge interest to me. This is a dynamic I understand. This is performative.
In response to this, along with colleagues, we filmed ourselves building a dam and ended up showing the film in the main house in Bamff. But rather than just watch the film, the rest of our colleagues had to stand at a distance from the ipad on which we were sharing the film, and view it through binoculars. So it became less about the film, but the act of observing on terms that were not our own. The frustration at not being able to see properly through binoculars, at not being allowed any closer, at the image being an imperfect composition, at not having the usual performer / audience contract honoured.
Another example of us (me) imposing something inherently anthropocentric on another species.
During the week of 11th May, we’ll be trialling an online version of our Space/Time retreat. Usually Space/Time is a residency in a rural location – previously venues include Cove Park in Argyle and Bute, The Old Brewery in Cromarty, Lyth Arts Centre near Wick, Findhorn in Moray, and the Swallow Theatre in Dumfries and Galloway. This is because being away from your regular surroundings is an important element in allowing people to focus on themselves without distraction. Clearly this is not currently possible, so - like everyone else – we’re having to work out how to do things differently.
People are often intrigued by the idea of these retreats and ask what they’re like. It’s quite hard to explain what the experience itself is like as each person’s experience is different – though participant Rob Young has done a very good job in a previous post – but I can describe what the structure is and what the ideas behind it are.