4th June 2019: Reflecting on working in public

The last week was spent in the Winter Garden (Sheffield), doing a public project for the Making Ways scheme – weaving onto large frame looms plus workshops everyday teaching people how to use the mini looms.

I think it went well, I taught over 100 people how to stick weave and spoke to a lot of people about what we were doing, some interested in the weaving, some in the electronics.

I’m not sure if I discovered anything particularly new, the whole 5-days seem to flutter by, but there was one question that seemed to come up again and again – what is it for?

My answers fluctuated. I am trying to think about it. Perhaps there are several questions here:

Why are you doing this in public?

Why are you teaching people? (this old skill)

Why are you putting electronics in it?

I think I wanted to answer because I can, and it’s fun, and it makes me happy (and hopefully other people to) but that seems a bit flippant…

Working in public, in a slow deliberate way, shows off the process and doing it in a public place, somewhere outside the studio or gallery, puts the act of making in a position to be accidentally encountered, almost an intervention in the public space.

Maybe that’s a sort of answer to all those questions – unexpected encounters with materials and processes. placing an object or event in a place or making it do something and expected, perhaps this is a strategy for encouraging engagement?

I’ve just been listening to a podcast about the art of looking (“Slow Looking at Art” – Arts and Ideas Podcast, Radio 3) and a couple of things struck me. By presenting a process of making we are doing something a bit unusual. A visual thing like a painting is not encountered in a fixed linear way (like music or reading), the object is static, and it is up to the viewer how they navigate it, it cannot be taken in all at once even if it seems to be – our eyes move around it. But if we are making something then it is not static, or more accurately it is not complete, it is in a process of becoming – this is an interesting idea.

This also leads to a curious thought about how you encounter something interactive, where and what is seen is to some extent controlled by the viewer, so what does that do? I am trying to translate a static object into a dynamic experience…. Things to ponder.

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