April 3, 2019

Our 2018 Self-Identity commissioned artists Sarah Cole & Annis Joslin were invited to Brighton’s brilliant centre for Contemporary Art to continue their collaboration. Below they give us an account of what took place over the residency.

In March we undertook a Making Spaces residency at Fabrica, in Brighton, entitled The Light & The Load. The aim of this intensive 5-day programme was to re-present and explore the work we made during Messy Business with the members of Joining Hands, Joining Hearts. The residency was generously supported by People United and gave us a chance to reframe the work and think about ways to extend its reach.

We are also beginning the process of applying to Film Festivals both within the UK and internationally.

At Fabrica we separated the videos from their linear sequence and experimented with projecting them in different ways, opening up the audio so that there was a chorus of different tones, words and rhythms as you walked around the space. We also introduced unused elements and ideas from the process last year, including a crutch spear made using broken china and sellotape, giant teddy-bears stuffed with balloons, two audio narratives from the JHJH women, broken egg-shells and made new drawings and a video called ‘Under the Table’.

The context of the building offered us an interesting opportunity to explore the space in playful ways, being a former church rather than a conventional gallery space. We spent the first few days testing how the videos operated in conjunction with this architecture, mindful that questions of faith and the doctrines of christianity had been an ongoing conversation with the JHJH women. Having access to eight video projectors, screens, alcoves, the nave, pulpit and stained-glass windows meant we could consider the impact of this (arguably patriarchal) space in relation to the content and aesthetics of our work. The staff at Fabrica were really helpful, offering their thoughts and readings of the work during its various iterations over the week.

We also purchased a LazyBoy chair, a piece of furniture that resonated in a story from JHJH. The chair at Fabrica was a dominant feature, with the viewer able to sit and listen on headphones to a woman describing the habits of her abusive husband. On the Thursday night we had an audience (and an artists ‘Q&A’) and two visitors commented on the way the chair evoked embodied memories of their own grandfathers and problematic family histories.

Another woman noted that although she had had training in working with people experiencing domestic violence, the work offered her a mode understanding beyond the more academic approach, and suggested there could be a way for the material to be disseminated as part of a training programme, a tool for empathy perhaps.

Lastly, we really enjoyed working together again, building something new from this work and are keen to set up other opportunities to show and re-present the material.

Sarah Cole & Annis Joslin

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