The Cornwall Workshop, day 4 – Writing

Fischli and Weiss, How to Work Better (1991)
Fischli and Weiss, How to Work Better (1991)

Tuesday was dedicated to writing. Each participant had brought bring a piece of writing that had in some way influenced their practice, to share with the group. Our long morning was spent taking turns introducing and reading our texts out loud, and discussing them. The discussion ranged from the influence of science-fiction on art practice, to ancient Irish mythology, via artists’ rules and the merits or otherwise of object-oriented ontology. Here is the list of what people brought:

Anna Best – Frances Stark’s Collected Writings and Dave Eggers’ The Wild Things
Beth Richards – Ilya Kabakov’s The Man Who Never Threw Anything Away (1977)
Bryony Gillard – Donald Barthelme’s The Balloon
Jesse Leroy Smith – Albert Camus’ Ephemeral Creation
Naomi Frears – Fischli and Weiss’s How to work better
Oliver Sutherland – Kafka’s Amerika, Jean Baudrillard’s Hyperreal America and Jorge Luis Borges’ On Exactitude in Science
Rachel Rose Smith – DH Lawrence’s On Cézanne
Simon Bayliss – Siri Hustvedt’s Mysteries of the Rectangle
Simon Morrissey – Edgar Pangborn’s The Judgement of Eve
Nick Davies – John Dewey’s Art As Experience
Nicola Bealing – Ingmar Bergman’s Each Film is my Last and Mark Rothko’s writings
Pedro de Llano – the text from Jimmie Durham’s Pedro del Rio
Sean Lynch – Seamus Heaney’s Sweeney Astray
Agnieszka Pindera – Susan Sontag’s Regarding the Pain of Others
Samuel Saelemakers – Douglas Coupland’s Life After God and Padgett Powell’s The Interrogative Mood in Novel?
Paula Santoscoy – Sueli Rolnik’s Micropolitics: Cartographies of Desire
Phil Rushworth – Mark Hutchinson’s The Four Stages of Public Art
Teresa Gleadowe – Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop

We spent the afternoon in two groups: the artists worked on an exercise that had begun on Sunday, directly after the second walk by Hamish Fulton. I had asked each participant to jot down their impressions of the walk as soon as it finished. The aim was to record anything they noticed, without layering on interpretation or analysis, and to avoid the distortions wrought by time and feeling. We shared our notes and then broke into smaller groups to assess the usefulness of each statement, with the aim of eventually writing a letter about the experience to a sympathetic reader. Interpretation, poetry and feeling found their way into the finished letters in a natural and balanced way and the artist produced letters that conveyed the experience with sensitivity, humour and accuracy.

The other group, made up of the ‘non-artists’, or curators, writers and researchers, worked on an updated version of JP Hodin’s questionnaire to artists working in Cornwall in the 1950s. Rachel Smith had shared this piece of research with us a few days earlier, when talking about her PhD on the subject of artists in Cornwall between the end of World War II and 1960. The group had found the questionnaire a fascinating but problematic tool for gathering information, and it was decided that it should be updated for today’s artists in Cornwall. The resulting questionnaire was distributed among the artists participating in the workshop and once they had completed it, we read them all out as a group. The new questionnaire had been formulated in such a way as to be relevant in any place, not just Cornwall, and it was decided that participants would forward it to artists they know, working outside Cornwall.

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