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Looking back on the First week

I’ve been meaning to write something for the Rough Mix blog for the last few days but things have been fairly full on and time has just flown by, so its now the weekend which seems like a good time to look back on the first week.

I took part in the Rough Mix 1 in October at Lyth Arts Centre, near Wick, where I first met Linda and Christine, which had more of a retreat format and where we discussed in depth approaches to collaboration and how to keep developing as an artist. There are a few things that we talked about then that seem to keep cropping up again and again over the course of the week - discovery moments, formless hunches, going back to a default setting, avoiding saboteurs, being open to change, staying curious, seeing yourself in a different context, being in an in-between place, freeing-up-ness.

To begin with this week I found myself saying “this is not my area” or “I’m slightly out of my comfort zone“ but as time has past and we have become used to the rhythm of the days I’ve realised I’m not really out of my comfort zone at all and I’m doing things I really enjoy. As with so many of these kind of activities, so much of it is to do with having confidence…

We are all united each morning during the one hour warm up, which usually involves working in the studio space, working with the space and then we get on with our own endeavours. During my introductory session I asked the group three questions; “What are the big questions?”; “What have you learnt about life so far?” and “What advice do you have for others?”; and then asked them to choose one word or phrase to use as a basis for a collage.

I guess this kind of workshop, which I often do with community groups, is a good ice-breaker, a way of getting to know people, of finding out what other people have to say. In a way I wanted to see how this kind of workshop would work with a group of creative practitioners. As always happens, the session becomes as much about the conversation round the table as the images that are being created.

Other questions I’ve asked have been “What is your quagmire?” and “What does angry look like?” I’ve found myself going back to the familiar, e.g. using the children’s game of “Consequences” as a working process, working with text, protest songs, creation of lists, flags, and revisiting ideas that I’ve had previously but rethinking them within this new context. Also it’s a luxury to have willing and able people to work with. Other things that have influenced the work this week have been conversations with my ten year daughter about political parties and their use of colour, things shouted by drunk students outside my flat during the night.

My final session of the week became a bit of a revelation as I decided to work with the ‘personal’ rather than the ‘political’. I asked the group of five to create a list of things that upset or annoyed them and we started off reading these out, discussing them, adding anecdotes, and as others gradually joined the group the session extended and extended until basically we ran out of time. I had anticipated spending about 10 minutes on the lists, and getting on with other activities, but our lists of annoyances took over the entire session and it seemed more like an outpouring or therapy session.. All very interesting in itself… those other activities can happen next week!

There has been a subtle cross fertilisation going on which I became aware of on Friday when Christine got us involved in a piece of choreography, that used movements she’d seen Bill doing while making his sound works, and also stemmed from the text piece she had made during my collage session. Also Miguel who has been working with darkness, asked us to give a confession while sitting in complete darkness, and I divulged a dark secret of mine from when I was in primary six. Again this felt really therapeutic. We are all learning from each other.

This first week seems to have flown by and I think we are all starting to think about Friday’s ‘Sharing’ which currently feels like a double-edged sword, as we all seem to be working with what appear to be formless hunches. But having an event with invited guests tends to focus the mind somewhat, which is probably a good thing.