Mix of participants
For me it was especially interesting to get to know the young (but not exclusively) art scene of the South West. It was also very interesting to see how diverse the practice of each participant was. ‘Local’ participants were very active in different fields, running (at the moment or in the past) their own spaces, involved in publishing or distribution, and there were a lot of artists experienced in curating. That was personally very interesting, especially as at the moment I am researching artist-led spaces in Poland in the 70s and 80s and today’s complete disappearance of these kinds of initiatives.
The addition of the international participants opened up completely new dialogues and viewpoints on what everyone was doing in their own spheres. It created new awareness of contexts outside the South West, which in turn grounded the South West in a larger sphere, helping to compare and contrast the concerns of both and possibly cross-fertilizing through this process. It also brought high ambitions down to regional level and regional worries became contextualized in larger narratives from other contexts. Very fertile for both parties I feel.
Having such a diverse mix allowed for conversation to move all over the place; I ended up talking about a generation of fathers with alcoholism in Poland, Mexican gangs with massive cowboy boots and the role of the Warehouse in gay porn. Somehow all of this fitted somewhere in the overall conversation and made sense.
It was also important to have a cross-generational element to the workshop, where the sense of artistic agency is felt across a wider timespan and in other constrains and environments other than here and now. This is sometimes hard to find in a college or academic basis.
Two of the best parts of the programme for me were presenting ourselves in a way via what we find important in someone else’s texts, and the task of updating a questionnaire for local artists. Those two moments were also the closest to curatorial tasks – maybe that’s why I felt the most ‘in the right place’ then, which does not exactly mean I felt comfortable, or it was easy.
It was very refreshing to do a practical workshop like Ellen’s, where we were placed under some pressure to produce work. I found that all participants responded very positively to being asked to create something. It seemed to me that reading and writing are things that straddled all of our practices and were of interest to everyone. Furthermore, I think we gained a lot from learning about each other’s reading interests and writing styles.
The fact that there was some geographical focus to the event meant that we had something in common and a definite subject/terrain to explore. In this respect it was helpful that we used the local landscape as an anchor for many activities. While this ensured some site-specific discussions, it was also interesting when parallels were discovered through international participants. It helped me to appreciate that many of the concerns relating to historical and contemporary arts practices in Cornwall are more wide reaching.
Taking part in the workshop has literally changed my sense of geography. Distances are mentally closer now.
There is no way round the situation of ‘Lizard Miles’ being longer than regular miles, staying at Kestle, and that’s fine by me. I even quite liked the smelly bus.
Fact remains that it is different being an artist or curator in Cornwall than it is to be one in Rotterdam or anywhere else. Therefore I found it very enriching to talk about the different ways of trying to be an artist or curator given the place you find yourself in.
The workshop gave all participants, and especially those from abroad, an insight into the less ‘obvious’ and glamorous landscapes and industries of Cornwall.
The conversations we had during ‘down time’ – at dinner, during walks etc. – were fascinating and were a chance to continue some of the discussions we had been having during some of the more ‘programmed’ activities, in a more in depth way.
I think, as an artist, and especially one living and working in a remote area like Cornwall, it is always valuable to meet other people working in similar fields – not in terms of furthering anyone’s career, but in terms of placing.
The informal approach to the whole event helped relationships foster in their own way and also allowed discussion to guide itself.
The last night, we all had a party and dance and this cemented friendships. When we all parted on Friday it was suddenly clear how much we enjoyed being together; without this, future correspondence and collaboration would not work.
Jesse Leroy Smith
I found the walks to be a quite transformative experience which left a lasting impact and definitely affected how I experienced the rest of the workshop – in terms of a ‘slowing down’, experiencing place and landscape in a quiet and reflective way, feeling connected to a group of people.
I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with Hamish and to discuss much wider ideas (society, geographies, personal and cultural beliefs). To understand how such an artist has reached an uncompromising and original way of working was surprising and uplifting.
Jesse Leroy Smith
It’s wonderful to see an artist so entirely connected to his practice but one who allows others in as well.
It was also incredibly rewarding to spend some time with Hamish around Kestle Barton, as knowing his character does, I feel, contribute to an understanding of his work.
Simon’s relaxed and democratic teaching style was especially interesting to me; the way he seemed to trust that the group would generate rich discussions, without imposing his ideas or overly guiding things.
Ellen Mara De Wachter
Getting to know Simon Starling’s work more closely was a privileged opportunity. Plus, he was able to create an excellent mood that facilitated communication.
Pedro De Llano
One of the most useful points for me was a question Ellen Mara De Wachter asked about my work’s relationship to its surroundings, which seemed like something I should be thinking about.
What took place on the workshop has changed the way I think about what I might be able to do, both in terms of initiating small projects, where I encourage others and provide a platform for them to make and show work, and in the new work I am beginning to make for my show at Newlyn next Autumn.
I know I will make different levels of connections but I anticipate the most striking and profound outcome will come from an unexpected situation. I have found such intense gatherings always provide exciting repercussions that continue into the future.
Jesse Leroy Smith
I left the workshop feeling privileged to have met some exceptional people. I had an extraordinary sensation of having been lifted, rattled around and then replanted in my studio. I hope it leaves me with a lasting need to see my practice through a longer lens.
The importance of the Workshop
I think the Cornwall Workshop is essential to a dynamic art ecology in the South West – its ambition, and its position as an independent organisation, allows a unique standpoint, and Teresa’s vision enables it to be critical, international and sensitive to the context of Cornwall. At a time when it is becoming more difficult for artists to sustain practices and artist-led working, I feel the Cornwall Workshop plays an integral role in supporting the development of artists in the region.
I believe that residencies are important for artists, curators and writers. I am saddened to see how little importance institutions grant them, and how difficult it is for curators, in particular, to get time away from the desk or gallery. This is a problem that leads a lot of curators to burn out, and it comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the contemporary art curator. I feel very strongly about this. It’s simple: if curators participate in group activities, discussions, residencies, they will be better curators, and this will have a positive effect on artists and the public’s perception, understanding and appreciation of contemporary art.
Ellen Mara De Wachter
Many impressive shows and projects in Cornwall suffer from a lack of critical input and feedback and the infrastructure to invite appropriate artists, writers etc. This workshop provides the seeds for more connections and a sense of belief in establishing new ways of support.
Jesse Leroy Smith
I am confident that this experience will make all of us better at what we do and the world needs better artists, writers and curators. There is also the responsibility I’m sure we all feel to share any extra knowledge and insight gained at the workshop with fellow practitioners, professionals and students.
I felt this workshop was very beneficial for building new social networks and relationships in the region and even internationally through a structure that creates an environment of equality and lacking in everyday pressures and concerns.
There is a solid basis already, and the work that has been done in the previous editions [of the Cornwall Workshop and Conventions] is cumulative and exponential, creating many possible outcomes in the future.
Pedro de Llano
We are all still perhaps lazily relying on urban centers, centralised institutions, and foregrounding certain traditional types of social connection… how can a structure be devised for the truly dispersed, peripheral, individual, grass roots? I do think Teresa’s workshop goes a very long way to presenting these various broken up, remixed formats – one to one conversation, round table discussions, lectures, dinners, blogs, practical sessions, screenings, car journey chats, I am only wanting more of it!
I think it is crucial and precious to all parties that initiatives such as the Cornwall Workshop create the time and space for artists and curators to engage with each other outside of a direct working relationship and without the need for any further commitments or collaborations. This kind of free space for interaction is rare and precious and it can be incredibly stimulating and enriching for all involved.