Space Programme 2011

February 3d 2011. It was the middle of the night when I received the message. I was invited onto the SPACE Programme 2011. While jumping a hole in the air I wondered where I'd left my space suit.

The Space Programme offers artists of all disciplines an opportunity to collaborate, experiment and innovate in an inspiring environment. The project takes place over a two-week period at Castletown House Co. Kildare, it is an open ended process hosted by The Performance Corporation. The programme facilitates artists from diverse backgrounds to collaborate and explore their artistic process while removing the pressure to come up with an end product.

This weblog gives an insight in my thoughts and working process during the Space Programme and tells about some projects that came out of this wonderful opportunity.

zondag 27 februari 2011

About space

Writing in a different language is like moving around in unknown space. It makes you aware of yourself. You have to take care, be cautious, keep an eye on your fingers writing, you can never turn the autopilot on. You never know for sure if there isn’t a better way to put it. You lack the subtleness you are used to when writing in your own language.

For me, writing in English is about describing. It is about telling a story. I can try to make it about language, about words, but it will never work unless I am in charge of the words. Or maybe it is the other way around. Maybe I am in charge. I pick the words. While writing, I translate my Dutch thoughts into English words. In Dutch, the words pick me. They steer me in a certain direction. They confuse me, deceive me, attract me. They’re in charge. And I think I’m a better writer when I’m not in charge. When the words rule. Not my thoughts.

But anyway.

I was talking about space. Writing about space. Filling a blank space with black letters. Emptying my head. Creating a new space with words.

Earlier I wrote about Space with a capital S. Outer space. Stars and planets and infinity. I wrote about how space can be used as a mean to help memorizing things. I didn’t write about the importance of space in my work yet and I won’t today (although I did realize today that these days “space” is far more important in my work and life than “time” is, which I used to phocus on when I studied art). Today I want to think and write about space as in “Space Programme 2011”. The Space I will be part of from next Sunday on. A Space filled with or formed by 9 participants, 2 facilitators and a number of additional guest facilitators.

There is the space of the Castletown House and the grounds surrounding it. This is a very interesting space and will be part of our thoughts and actions but it isn’t the main space. There’s the space to experiment and collaborate without the pressure to create a fabulous work of art. Mental space. I love it. There’s never enough of it in the perfectiont’s mind that inhabits my head. And then there’s this other space. The space inbetween the people who will be part of this project. An empty space that will be filled with thoughts and gestures and ideas and collisions. Conversation, misconception, creation. It is the same space that is inbetween you and me right know. Me writing this and you reading this. That space. As infinite as Space with a Capital S. As exciting and confusing.

Trees and me

Apparently March 6th -13th is "national tree week" in Ireland, or "Seachtain Náisiúnta na gCrann" in Irish. It is organised by the tree council (I imagine a big group of all kinds of trees standing around a table - trees can't sit and if they could, they wouldn't use wooden chairs - writing with their pens because pencils are banned during their meetings, discussing all positive aspects of trees in our lives and environment). There will be a walk of the Castletown Estate with Dr. Olley, of the UCD School of Architecture, Landscape and Civil Engineering on Sunday March 13th.

I'm a big fan of trees. All kinds of trees. But I think birches are my favorites. I don't know why. Maybe because of their colour. Their seemingly sensitive skin. Their uncanniness. Their eyes. Their untreeness. (But what else could they be but trees?)

I took thousands of photos of trees through the years. I filmed their subtle movements. I used them in installations and interventions.

I'm curious to meet the trees at the Castletown Estate. And Dr. Olley.

All are welcome to attend the walk. You're advised to wear appropriate clothing and footwear for your comfort. I'll wear green. Or maybe white.

woensdag 16 februari 2011

Star Man

(polaroid, 2008)

It was a coincidence. I wasn’t looking for him but there he was. Star man.
I had googled “ space programm celbridge” and first on the Google list I found “Star Man Project”. I immediately forgot what I had been looking for and read about Dave the Star Man who has an asteroid named after him (21782 Davemcdonald) and who’s an amateur astronomer specialising in astrophotography, providing data to a variety of organisations (the Minor Planet Center and NASA). He operate’s the Celbridge Observatory and collects amazing images of solar systems, nebulae, galaxies and supernovae (take a look here). An astronomer in Celbridge. Somebody who knows about Space. I would like to meet him when I’m in Celbridge.

Stars have been on my mind lately. In my last project in Ireland I made drawings on the streets, connecting old bits of chewing gum by drawing white chalk lines inbetween them. The results unintentionally resembled star signs.
The most amazing thing in this project was that some of the star signs “came alive”. For example: I drew the “weeping woman” on a street leading towards the river Lee. It looked as if her tears were flowing into the river. A couples of days later the river flooded a big part of the city.

You can read more about this particular project here.

The art of memory

Thinking about the SPACE Programme I followed my memory back to an earlier occasion when I visited Ireland and found a book called “The art of memory”. In this book Frances Yates describes “the method of loci”. In this technique a person memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of “loci”[= locations]. If one wished to remember, for example, a speech, one could break up the content of the speech into images or signs used to memorize its parts, which would then be 'placed' in the locations previously memorized. The components of the speech could then be recalled in order by imagining that one is walking through the building again, visiting each of the loci in order, viewing the images there, and thereby recalling the elements of the speech in order. A reference to these techniques survives to this day in the common English phrases "in the first place", "in the second place", etc.

At that time, for days I thought about this “method”, was completely intrigued by it, then forgot about it. Now it popped up again. I think the location for the SPACE Programme, Castletown House, triggered it.

Would it be possible to write a text (or use an existing text) and use the lay-out of this magnificent building to remember this text? Place images "on" specific locations and by walking a predetermined route, recall the words that are connected to these images?
Or do it the other way around: connect words to objects that are already there? Write a text around these words. Walk the route and by seeing the objects, remember the text?
Could this process be turned into a performance of some kind? I bet it could.