Abigail Reynolds







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City breaks
(Nov. 2004)


City breaks
(Jan. 2005)


City breaks
(Mar. 2005)




The Group Process





Timeline of how the show happened
Abigail Reynolds, Mar. 2005

2003 spring: I do a show called ‘Infomatic’ in London. Taru comes to see the show and suggests doing a show based on the city – as a way for me to go back to Helsinki I think, as she knows how much I like the place. At first I think the show is called ‘City Limits’.

2003 summer: Taru and I discuss the idea of the show – it will be to reveal the process of working with the city. I say I am sick of residencies and projects where you have to make a piece on the spot and present it before you leave – which means you can never adequately develop any of the ideas or technicalities in the work and it’s always frustrating. I suggest breaks back in the home city to ponder and make work, separating the residencies and the shows, rather that showing work immediately. The working title ‘City Breaks’ is suggested by Taru. She proposes to make it a 6 person show with 3 Helsinki artists and 3 London ones. It’s my job to find the London ones. I ponder the following things: who do I think will be good to work with and generous to the project? Who seems to work in a way that would suit the project? Who seems to make work that might be stretched by the project? I think of Irit and Isaac because they tend to work to a very specific idea, though I don’t think they have done any projects like this, and I really like to discuss with them. I know they will respond very generously to the project. I am a bit stumped after this because I want to find a non-Goldsmiths artist as well.

2003 autumn: I call Chris after New Contemporaries opens in London and suggest that he might like to come in on the show. I tell him that I know he doesn’t work to project but I could see how it might be interesting for him. He sounds vaguely interested. I think we all have a meeting with Taru. It turns out that Irit and Isaac have heard her speaking at the Tate.

2004 early spring: Richard, who I know from Goldsmiths, tells me that he is co-running the Whitechapel project space. Oh I say, now all your friends will be asking you for shows, what a nightmare. Next time I see him I say um – actually, I’d like to introduce you to Taru …and feel slightly embarrassed.

2004 late spring: I am horribly busy doing shows and making new work. While I am really pleased about this, I feel as though I spend all my time researching new work to an over-tight deadline, not getting time enough to resolve the aesthetics of what I am doing. I feel like I’m losing sight of myself in an avalanche of art deadlines. In a week long fit of anxiety I call off a number of things I am committed to and think about ringing Taru to say I don’t have time to do this project properly, so I’d rather pull out. Then I realise that I can’t do this because I am already in up to my neck and having got Irit and Isaac and Chris on board I can’t leave without feeling really shit about myself. I feel a bit trapped and then decide that instead I will (1.) really focus on the process aspect, which is gaining in interest for me month by month and (2.) use the show as an opportunity not to make irredeemably huge and awkward sculpture for a change, but to make something that is manageable and fun to make. Something which I can do on the move and on my own. I haven’t made something like this for a few years. At the OED I start to make collages and decide I really like it. Collage, for me, is all about decontextualising photographic images, so they get new meanings. I really like this. I think about how I could make collage work for City Breaks.

Taru and I go to meet Richard to convince him to take the project on. He is very resistant to the idea and I feel depressed at the start of our meeting as it seems that he has already decided not to work with us. Taru does not seem to be put off by Richard saying that they have decided to only work with solo shows, and speaks very persuasively for an hour. The week after she calls me to say the project has been accepted.

2004 summer: I think about the experience I had in spring 2003 of making work in response to a housing complex Zurich and how frustrating it was because I remained an outsider to the situation. In trying to pick up on that city to make work, I felt I could only pick up clichés. This feeling is heightened by having work included in an exhibition in Marseille called ‘Mind the Gap’. The French thought this was a great title but as a Londoner it really makes me wince. I decide that the most honest thing I can do is to put the tourist view or visitors view at the centre of my response this time. This is a very very different approach for me as all my methods of research are based on spending a lot of time trying to get an insiders view… which I often sort of manage, but it takes a long time. A very long time. I decide that I want to spend this time making the work instead of thinking about it. This makes me glad because I have felt really strained by this recently, and anyway, it feels quite risky to change my approach, though I feel at that it’s an easier approach in many ways.

I am spending the whole summer in hotel rooms. Mostly in Eindhoven, where I am doing a solo show and in Colchester where I am doing a solo show. I don’t really like hotel rooms. I am also in Braziers for 2 weeks and then find myself in a hotel room in Nottingham to participate in a workshop on data. I am in Oxford at the dictionary a lot, when I sleep in my sister’s attic. I am never in my flat. I don’t get to see my friends. I don’t like this. I feel as though I am never really anywhere and that I am becoming blind because I am never anywhere long enough to actually see it with my eyes properly. I just blur through it on my way to somewhere else. I feel sorry for myself that I never get a real holiday that would allow myself to come back into focus. I start to think, for City Breaks maybe I can do a work about this nowhere state or in-between state. I have tried to do this before and in 2002 made a video/text piece called ‘Pink Armadillo’ which is based on what taxidermy is – an animal and yet not an animal. A real animal and yet a sort of fiction. Two things at once. I think about being in two places at once; Helsinki and London, and whether I can make hybrid images of them.

I read Avalanche because I am tipped off by an art professional that it will interest me – it’s artists getting to talk about art instead of just letting all those other art professionals do it. I see a TV science programme about time travel because the editor of the OED tells me I would like it. In June Irit calls to tell me that she is pregnant. I am really happy and excited. I don’t have any friends with children so this feels like a big landmark. She apologises for not being able to come on the surfing trip we are about to make because she pukes all the time. When I put the phone down I remember ‘City Breaks’ and think what if they can’t now do the project.

2004 September: I have finished the last solo show. I feel crap. Now term has started at Chelsea and I have to write new lectures. I feel empty. I think I am going to rest but somehow there is more stuff to be done – events to organise, talks to give, re-crating of previous work to do, storage to be organised, tax returns to be filled in. I start to collect second hand picture books of London and Helsinki. It’s great. I really like tracking them down.

2004 October: the Finnish artists arrive in London, apparently. I am really worried about Irit and Isaac. I call them and ask about the project and whether they can do it. I am so absorbed in lecturing and this that I forget about the Finns. When we see them at Irit and Isaacs they complain that we have neglected them and I feel guilty. I have started to cut together images of London and London rather than London and Helsinki. The event at the Whitechapel project space is tricky because I have to present documentation rather than a work as I only have unreasonably large sculpture that I could show. I make a wall drawing with copydex and dirty water which is very satisfying to peel off but scary as it’s very last minute. By the time the Finns leave I feel I know Simo best because we both worked in the gallery for 2 days. Invariably Simo had already consumed 2 beers by the time I arrived. Then he would offer me one ‘but it’s only 2 o’clock’ I would say.

2004 November: I fly to Marseilles for another show, another hotel room. As I write this I feel like I winge a lot to myself about this and I’m an ungrateful old bag.

2004 December: I arrive in Helsinki and feel really elated to be there. It feels like a kind of miracle that Chris, Isaac, Simo, Taru, Minna and I have all managed to converge in this one place in the world. We almost immediately go to an office party. After three days in Helsinki I am utterly exhausted by talking and drinking. On Sunday night I do ‘The Leave’ from a pool bar called Corona because I am about to fall asleep on the bar. Issac and I joke about making a complaint that we are not left alone enough. For the rest of the week I prioritise staying in bed reading the trashy airport novels that other artist visitors to the Cable Factory have left on the bookshelves. I feel absolutely wiped out and glad to not be in London and therefore able to ignore the things I should be getting on with there. I realise that Chris and Isaac are in a very different energy space because both are developing loads of ideas after having had a relatively fallow year. I decide not to mind about this and vicariously feel really pleased that they are getting so much done. I do manage to collect more material and then scan it at Muu over two mornings, so I can start to work on some ideas.

On Wednesday we gather at Muu to see the space. During the discussion there I realise that it would be better to show ‘The Universal Now’ on a table than on the wall. I feel amazed that I haven’t realised this before. We continue to the Cable Factory to discuss the works we are planning. This is a big deal because we haven’t really talked directly about our plans before, though it seems that we all know each other very well by now. We make dinner and start to show bits and bobs of ideas. It’s really interesting and exciting to see works that are becoming a reality. The comments made about ‘The Universal Now’ in process are generous and useful. By the end of the evening I feel really excited about the show, as well as very fond of the group. At the end of the evening we are all feeling flushed with excitement and sit around shrieking with laughter over things that probably aren’t funny. There is nowhere I would rather be. Before we leave Helsinki I have a long conversation with Chris about routering out display areas for the books from a door, which is on trestles in the studios, being used as a work table. This solution to the display appeals to me because ‘The Universal Now’ is made by converting pre-existing artefacts by cutting into them, and so would this be. Chris is one of those artists who are blessed with the ability to see how best to move from idea to physical manifestation. I ask Taru to persuade The Cable Factory to lend us their table/door to cut up.

2005 January: Back in London I have moved into a new flat. I go back to Marseilles to re-crate Mount Fear on 6th and then fly to Helsinki on 12th. This is not an ideal situation, but manageable. Before my flight to Marseilles I feel nervous about fucking up my precious books by executing the technicalities badly, and making an irreparable mistake. I call Richard who does a lot of work with paper and scalpels. He very sweetly comes over to give me a crit. We choose 3 designs that work well together from the 10 or so that I have prepared and he gives me some immensely helpful technical advice about acid free tape etc. Once back from Marseilles I have 3 days to cut 3 designs before catching my flight – and this is on top of teaching and Christine visiting from Berlin and more flat sorting out and general life-crap. I manage to cut the designs far better than I had hoped and just in time.

I feel extremely happy to be able to shut the books and put them in my bag. I am accustomed to having to work with shipping companies and crates, which is all very stressful. Isaac comes over when I am still in bed at 7.30 am to drop off the newspapers that he and Irit have been making before work. We have already had extensive discussions about the installation but we discuss it again and I show him ‘The Universal Now’, which he says is ‘working’ – which is pretty high praise from Isaac.

2005 January. Taru and I spend a whole afternoon in Muu with a hand saw converting the door. The end result is very satisfying. I like the way that for me art involves both talking to people (making ideas together) and working with people (making things together). Even though what we are doing is not utopian – like peacefully tilling fields or something, it still feels attached to that, somehow.64