At the end of June I was invited to take part in a residency at the Sidney Nolan Trust in Wales. Playing a small part in the organisation team, I had somehow managed to sneak a place under the disguise of a ‘practitioner’, whereas in truth, my thesis is purely theoretical – it will take the form of a written submission. This ‘disguise’, however, wasn’t a complete lie. Lin, the main organiser, had encouraged me to apply, as for her writing was itself a ‘practice’, and there were potentially other aspects of ‘making’ that I could use to draw out ideas within my research.
I have much to thank Lin for.
Because she was right. The residency allowed me to ‘make’ in a space that it felt appropriate. Surrounded by practitioners, beautiful countryside and super informative staff, and all the encouragement and suggestions that come with this, it felt pretty rude not to give making a go. In fact, it was the first time I made book art (outside of educational workshops), probably since college. And it felt good! I started to understand that making book art was a form of organisation, a way of collating patterns between resources and material. Draw to the concertina form, I could see information in its entirety through laying out the book, or fold down pages to have a more focused insight. Lines could connect together information across pages, or the page could become a single unit to cordon off facts or images.
Although I didn’t focus on my thesis research during the residency, I was drawn to an image of ‘Veritas’, a logo stuck on the front of an old shipping container. This highly gendered image soon became a fascination, with research into each of the symbols, the company, and eventually leading me towards the potential of the well (on which the nude was sitting) as something to find (on the old working farm) and as a metaphor to think through (what is at the bottom of the well?). My book art piece became a fragmentary text including: the map pinpointing the location of the well on the Sidney Nolan farm (which I never managed to find), the conversations I had with staff about the shipping container, stories from my mother on Irish mythology and wells, or images imitating ‘Veritas’ poses. The book was a space of mapping and disruption. Those absences (the absence of the well, and the absence of information) were made visible through the blanks in the pages and the creases of the concertina.
If anything, the residency gave me the confidence to use making as a way to ‘think things differently’, and see book art as another tool. Perhaps I will make my thesis into one long concertina…
If interested in finding out more about the Sidney Nolan Trust or the work of other residency participants, visit the website Practice and Research in Action: http://practiceandresearchinactionresidency.harts.online/