From February to June 2016, I worked with Joshua Sofaer on his project 'Workshops in People's Homes'. The other 11 artists taking part, hosted their workshops in their homes or studios, the idea being that this would enhance or add a new facet to a participatory experience. Workshops attendees would be entering the personal space of the artist, as well as undertaking the unique workshop that the artist had devised.
The phone interviews
I wasn't sure about using my home at the time, so I came up with the idea of carrying out the participatory element of my workshop over the telephone. Participants would not be required to leave their own homes to take part.
I devised a script that would take the participant on a journey, to a home they once lived in, or to the future home of their dreams. I called the work Dreaming of Home. With the help of Joshua and the ANDfestival team (who were running the project), I trialed and edited the telephone script several times, to ensure that I made myself clear and understandable, and that the interviewee would feel confident and able to explore their ideas easily.
The actual telephone interviews were then booked into slots running from May to June. There were 20 in total, with people taking part from all over the UK.
The second part to the Dreaming of Home process involved me making a pen and wash picture of the home that had been described to me. During the process, I found it was important to me, to transcribe every last detail the interviewee had communicated to me, the same as I would do if I were trying to get a conventional portrait absolutely right. The only difference was, I was carrying out some sort of interior portrait. The interior of a person, that is.
The pictures were then sent to their 'owners'. I placed postcards in with the pictures, to request feedback. In most cases, people felt that the painting matched the image they had in mind. Some commented on how enjoyable the telephone call had been. I agreed with them. I too had enjoyed these interviews. Over those half-hour conversations, I felt I had started to get to know the 'real' person. I felt, in every case, we had also located a common ground, some aspect of the past or the future that we could both relate to.
An opportunity arose in September 2016, for me to show copies of the 20 paintings, as a collection, as part of Rheged's Cumbrian Artist of the Year exhibition. People were able to connect with some of the content of the pictures. However, divorced from the original content of the interviews, and without an elaboration of what these pictures 'meant' to their owners, the work was now perceived as slightly surreal.
So.... this work is in development. There will be more pilots and exhibitions. Any comments, suggestions or sign-posting on this work so far would be greatly appreciated.
Thank you for reading!