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Reflections on Rough Mix 2020

Reflections on Rough Mix 2020 Photo: Jenna Watt

I’m writing this in the middle of the coronavirus lockdown, which makes this reflection even more poignant. It was only a few months ago that I spent two incredible weeks at Summerhall working with a brilliant bunch of artists on Rough Mix. In case you don’t know, Rough Mix is Magnetic North’s annual opportunity for 5 experienced artists to workshop their ideas alongside 2 emerging artists and a group of performers.

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Artist Attachment update

In January 2020 I took part in Magnetic North’s Rough Mix Residency, where I was given the opportunity to collaborate with artists from varying practices on a new work. The other artists were Flavia Hevia, Uther Dean, Gavin Glover, Greg Sinclair, Kol Sigfúsdóttir, Rachel Drazek, Apphia Campbell, Claire Willoughby, Elspeth Turner, Marion Geoffray, Nicholas Alban and Sean Hay.

Leading up to the residency, I was really unsure about what I wanted to explore, with different projects tumbling around in my mind, I felt a real pressure to pick the ‘right’ one, and to come out of the residency with a really solid WIP. I was also a little unsure of how to use the main resource available to us: six performers, especially as I was still unclear about what form I wanted to explore.

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Fusing the work of two artists

Annie George and Flore Gardner’s collaboration, Twa, comes to the Traverse Theatre for two nights later this month, following a successful run at the Scottish Storytelling Centre during last year’s Fringe. Both artists have participated in Magnetic North’s Rough Mix and Space/Time programmes so I met with them to find out about how that might have influenced their ways of working.

The two artists have come together from quite different backgrounds to forge this compelling cross-artform collaboration. Annie is an award-winning writer, director and performer and she wrote and performs in Twa. She turned to writing after struggling to find work that she wanted to direct.

Once the pair had agreed to create a performance together, Annie sent Flore a short script she had written as a starting point. “It’s got a lot of imagery in it and Flore liked it,” Annie says, “It was quite visual so it sparked off lots of ideas.”

Flore is a visual artist. “I draw on paper, quite small formats, and my subject is the human body,” she explains, “I don’t set out to draw the human body but I end up drawing the human body all the time. I also do alternative forms of drawing. It could be, for example, wall drawing or long durational performance drawing or drawing live in theatre.”

It’s this last type of drawing that features in Twa, though figuring out how to integrate the drawing element into a live performance was not without its challenges. As an artist used to working alone, Flore was initially reluctant to appear on stage: “I had a red line, which was I refused to speak on stage!”

Annie explains a bit about their process: “We spent a lot of time trying to work out how to do the projection. We were trying to work out how to make sure it didn’t draw away from the performance. At first [Flore] was going to be sitting in the audience drawing on a tablet, then we were thinking she would be on the stage with an overhead projector at one point.”

“It’s also because I wanted those two different temporalities,” Flore continues, “I wanted to have made the projections, the animated drawings, beforehand and then draw live during the actual performances. That’s two different kinds of time and drawing. We did spend a lot of time sorting that out. And also [Annie] finishing off the text and I doing different drawings then [she’d] change the text and I’d change the drawings again and that lasted for quite a long time.”

Encouraging this type of interplay between disciplines is at the heart of Rough Mix. However, Twa didn’t come about until after the pair had participated in the programme. It was Flore and Annie’s relationship, both personal and professional, which came out of their time at Magnetic North’s two-week creative lab at Eastgate Theatre in Peebles in 2017.

“We shared a house so even though we didn’t see each other during the day we’d talk at night,” Annie tells me, “and then Flore came to see my show the following month. Then she came back in October and we went out and I said ‘Right, let’s make a show then’ because we were always moaning about our work and, I suppose, the themes that led on to Twa, about not being heard and being stretched in a lot of different directions and the importance of our art to us.”

Flore agrees that connecting on a personal level as well as a professional level was important for their working relationship. “We talked about lots of personal stuff really, but I think that my everyday life is completely intermingled with my work,” she says. “I can’t separate the two; one is so much part of the other.”

This duality is at the heart (and in the title) of Twa: it mixes the contemporary and the mythical, intertwines two different women’s stories and fuses the unique work of both of these artists.

If you missed it at the Fringe last year, you can see it at the Traverse Theatre next week, 24th-25th May.

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The geography of love starts in Scotland

Hi, I’m Diego Bagagal, a Brazillian-Portuguese artist based in Lisbon. From Monday I'll be taking part in a creative lab called Rough Mix in Perth.

In July 2017 I was in Edinburgh as one of the Brazilian delegates from Momentum - a British Council and Creative Scotland project. I presented my platform, MADAME TEATRO, and I was very interested in co-creating with a Scottish based artist.

However, on the last day of Momentum, after attending so many meetings and shows, I was feeling a strong intuition and connection with Scotland, and at that moment I felt that I wanted more than a simple co-creation, I wanted to start an artistic dialogue and exchange.

At the end of 2017 I was again in Scotland, this time in Glasgow, co-creating with the director Susan Worsfold (we met in 2015 in Brazil) a solo show called "Cleopatra”. At that time I met Lorna Duguid and told her about my future project: ‘Geography of Love’. We had a fantastic conversation about the “disco” movement and its freedom, and she also told me about Rough Mix.

After an inspiring Skype meeting with Magnetic North's Artistic Director Nicholas Bone, I was very impressed with how they approach creation, artists and art. After our chat, “Rough Mix” sounded like the perfect incubator for my future project. I got very excited!

During our conversation I shared a project that I'm calling ‘Geography of Love’.

Let me tell you a bit about ‘Geography of Love’:

In 2011 my dearest uncle Ricardo passed away. He knew in a deep way the history and geography of the world. The interesting thing is that he never travelled beyond Brazil. He was a huge fan, in the 80’s, of Ipanema’s beach and Copacabana, two iconic places of Rio de Janeiro, known for its sexual freedom.

In the 90’s he contracted HIV+. Uncle Ricardo and I had a very strong relationship (I lived with him from the age of one till my 17th birthday) and before his death he gave me his "heritage".

His heritage consisted of a plastic box with some objects (photographs, journal pages, drawings, official documents) and hundreds of city postcards, that he exchanged from the end of the 1970 till the end of 1990's with different people - 90% were men.

That was the time that erotism and glamour were in the air and when the horror of AIDS was still in full force, ripping through his lovers, friends, idols and community. 

In 2016 I opened the heritage/box (and cried almost like a river!) and started to map the postcards. All the continents are represented, from south to north, from west to east.

After six months I came with a suitable title: Geography of Love.

I’d like to create with other partners a work that can talk about love and utopia. From the micro (Uncle Ricardo) to the macro (all men could be inspired by love without geographical barriers and freedom).

I don’t have any pre-conceived idea about how it should look (sometimes I think about something very visual and musical). Right now, I’m approaching it more in terms of music, visual arts and archives than theatre. 

For me it's very clear that this is a bilingual project because of the international content of it.

With the support of British Council and Creative Scotland, my time in Scotland for Rough Mix will start a utopic and geographical journey.

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Marisa Zanotti and The Spirit Merchants

Film-maker Marisa Zanotti - who took part in Rough Mix 2016 in Aberdeen - will be coming to Edinburgh next year to work on a Re-Mix residency researching a new project, The Spirit Merchants, where she explores a world of mediums and the relationship between spiritualism and technologies in the Victorian era.  We're very excited to host her and look forward to seeing how the project develops. In the meantime, here's a trailer:

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