On returning from Barrow-in-Furness, my Digital Media Lab experience was somewhat truncated by the immediate need to retrieve my daughter from her grandmother’s, pack her off somewhere else again to enjoy her ongoing workshop programme with Networked Narrative followed by a sleepover at a friend’s, and meanwhile run around town myself buying her birthday presents, booking tables for sushi lunch and baking secret lemon meringue tarts. As if that wasn’t enough to wipe my memory, I was then called to Blyth, for a meeting to map out the community engagement structure for the six month residency I am about to begin with the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art in partnership with Bait. On the train journey back to Sheffield I finally got the time and headspace to return my thoughts to the previous week and reflect upon how lucky I had been to have six days to think of, and do, nothing other than what I wanted; to not have to concern myself with the daily tasks of parenting or the things one has obligation to deliver when working a contract.
Over the weekend I had had a conversation with my partner, who works as a cultural producer and so has great interest in the form of the Digital Media Labs, in which I speculated over what each artist may have specifically gained from the week: for some, it was clear to my mind, that the time and context had given them a tangible creative path or tool that they would not have encountered without meeting and working alongside the others of us there; for others, and I include myself here, the week seemed to give us breathing space. I found myself saying
I didn’t really get anything out of the week in and of itself, as in I didn’t use the time and resources to make, explore or discover tangible processes or artistic products, but what the Lab has done for me is made it clear to me what I have to do next, from now on. The experience has added a clarity to my own thinking about my practice, which I now see has been lacking during recent years
For a long time now, I have perceived my practice as split into a number of discrete and disparate streams. I work with moving image and animation, creating short films and producing live, expanded cinema performances. I knit and crochet and make lace, sometimes I knit binary code. I make, or hack, cultural artefacts and leave them in public places. I make drawings. I examine and critique, through practical investigation and application, the relationships between global market forces, entrenched systems of food production and population health and wellbeing. For me personally, lodged within my own motivation and understanding, there are fine threads that run from one stream to another, but I have struggled with presenting and disseminating all streams as within a coherent whole; I guess what that means is that I have not known how to evidence and make visible those fine threads.
In the imperceptible way in which any experience that pulls us away from our day-to-day habit shows us the things we couldn’t see, the things that hang around the edges of our awareness but always elude our focus, it seems that being part of Digital Media Lab 2015 has shown me that this is what I need to do; to look at the spaces in between the seemingly disparate areas of my practice, to pull out the fine and invisible threads that I know are there, and to make them visible.