Abigail Reynolds







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City breaks
(Nov. 2004)


City breaks
(Jan. 2005)


City breaks
(Mar. 2005)




The Group Process







The Group Process
Abigail Reynolds, Mar. 2005

City Breaks begins with two related questions;
Q1 How can our individual relationships to the evolving cities of Helsinki and London be visualised?
Q2 How can the two processes (of the group and the individual) in considering this question be represented?

The point of this text is to look critically at the aspects of the paths taken in the show and to speculate on some of the factors influencing the decisions taken by us individually and as a group. Exchange is built into the project on two levels - an exchange of views as in a re-location of site and an exchange of views as in a debate/discussion between artists from two European centres. This text is written in the spirit of Q2 (above) – and is a partial attempt to offer an answer to it. The rest of this leaflet offers individual reflections on process. It seems useful to explore the questions that have been raised by our journey to this point and also the ideologies and structures that have prompted certain directions taken across the terrain of time and space that all of us have shared.

We all set out to respond to the very particular nature of the two cities; one that we knew well, one that was unfamiliar. One first point to notice then is that none of us responded fully to the inherent difference in our experience of the two cities in question. The intimacy that we have with one, the lack of intimacy we have with another is not an aspect that seemed to open up in the work.

Our works remain to a large extent inside the walls of the gallery. There were three notable exceptions to this, but they all remain as adjuncts to the main work inside the gallery space. This is mainly due to the pre-existence of a gallery space as the known final destination of works made from the very start of the project. The gallery privileges the production of objects that can be shown in them. This pull as an artist is very hard to resist, and maybe should never be resisted as the gallery is, I believe, a very efficient means to generate a discussion/set of thoughts. As a group of artists we are far more familiar with the specifics of gallery showing than any other set of conditions and it makes sense to work with what you know, especially in the face of so many risky factors of responding to place so speedily.

The nature of our researches into the city has resulted in each of us making very individual works. We have, in a sense, not worked as a team, and this perhaps was never fully intended by the project outline, or fully grasped by the participants of the project. As artists we are trained to work in very individualistic manner. There have been of course numerous challenges to this model of the artist throughout the twentieth century, but it remains remarkably tenacious, as this project has shown. The very strong tradition of studio practice does not privilege exchange and collaboration. As artists we are trained to spend time in a private space producing objects and images. The studio itself (which is portable, as an attitude) is often fetishised by artists as having enormous ideological value in terms of a sense of worth/personal freedom. It becomes a space saturated in the self, and is often the only non-shared space in a life full of compromises. This structure, promoted by art schools, means that as artists it is hard for us to privilege 1) exchange and discussion over the production of objects and 2) group work over private, individual work.

We are able, as a group, to meet to very effectively and supportively critique the works being made by the group members. This was done quite formally as a stage in Helsinki. As a group we were much less good at thinking through the two research questions in a more general pre-production focus. The nature of artistic research is that questions and problems remain in the personal domain of the maker. While Q1 is very adequately addressed by us as individuals. It would be impossible for Q2 to be addressed without sustained group thought over time. This is because Q1 can be addressed from inside very familiar patterns of autonomous artistic practice whereas Q2 has no ready models to draw from. While sporadic attempts to address the issue of Q2 were attempted by fractured members of the group, the solutions proposed remained unconvincing. Also it would not be possible for a single member of the group to resolve Q2 without it becoming a ‘work’.

Q2 then remains as the most challenging aspect of the project. To address Q2 fully would mean an agreement, across the group, to spend the same amount of time resolving it as spent individually on Q1. The demands of making a work in response to a brief demands considerable time and focus from the individual. To extend this to be able to also encompass Q2 as a group would have demanded equal time in making plus added time to try to dismantle our established ways of thinking and working as determined by the studio/gallery structure. While then this City Breaks experiment has not entirely succeeded in it’s address to Q2, it has clearly flagged up the structures which govern artistic practice. City Breaks at the Whitechapel Project Space is still only one stage of the exploration of these questions, which is an ongoing process. It operates as a platform from which to survey this terrain, by what has been realised and what has not been realised.

Abigail Reynolds