Following the completion of her Art From Elsewhere writer's residency, Lizzie Lloyd, tells us a bit about the work she developed.
How did you find the residency?
The residency posed a particular challenge; to forge a single text-based response to an exhibition that was so explicitly about multiplicity. It was great to be given so much free reign to do as I liked over the three months but I always find that my work needs certain restrictions before I get going with it. In a sense all the works exhibited in Art from Elsewhere had this as a subtext: how to make art from within very particular and often restricted parameters (whether they be cultural, physical, geographical or whatever).
Were there any themes in the exhibition you found interesting?
What most struck me was the notion of ‘elsewhere’; it’s such a loaded and in many ways psychological, though one that can sound quite throw away. I love that it works on a very personal as well as physical and geographical level. I like that about it, the way that the notion of elsewhere exists within us, as well as apart from us, as the term implies. I’ve been reading Claire-Louise Bennett’s Pond again recently; in it Bennett’s narrator describes how ‘[her] head is turned by imagined elsewhere and hardly at all by present circumstances’. I really relate to this the idea. And in terms of ‘Art from Elsewhere’ I loved what happened when a series of elsewheres are brought together in a space, the way they communicate and miscommunicate, align and diverge. Part of the programme involved a screening of ‘Ici et ailleurs’, a film-essay and documentary by Jean-Luc Godard, Jean-Pierre Gorin, and Anne-Marie Miéville which was brilliant, it really helped make sense of what I’d been intuitively working on.
What sort of approaches did you explore through your writing?
I began by thinking about systems in writing. I started thinking about making Venn diagrams to map the language that ‘Art from Elsewhere’ used to support the works on show. In another instance I restricted myself to five word associations about each piece to later build into a larger work. But neither of these felt quite right. So instead I just spent hours in the galleries, just hanging out with the work. I spent a long time with Józef Robakowski’s A View from my Window, Rashid Rana’s Language Series 3 and Lothar Baumgarten’s Unsettled Objects. And I particularly liked Yael Bartana’s Summer Camp and Yeesookyung’s Translated Vases at Bristol museum. I started thinking about why these works should be brought together here, and realising that rather than try to impose on them a single response or a single narrative thrust I wanted to retain a sense of their disparateness, a sense of the piecemeal ways in which work (be it art or writing or whatever) is made, bought, displayed and consumed.
I’m often frustrated by the static, solidity and certainty of black letters on a white page, to be read from left to right and understood absolutely. For this exhibition in particular, this absoluteness felt quite wrong. So I played around with layering texts, with multidirectional vectors of words that overlap and veer off across the page. Vectors being inherently directional I felt like I could really break up the solidity of my response that way. But even when the texts I was playing with overlapped and became largely incomprehensible there was still a sense in which they could be grasped.
That’s when I started thinking about sound and intoning the text I’d been working on. I recorded myself reading the text that I’d been working on (50 or more times I think!). Each time I would try to read it slightly differently (I didn't just want to play the exact same recording over and over). The more I read it the more foreign the text became. I set up what speakers I could gather together or borrow and arranged them around Gallery 1 of the Arnolfini and each speaker played out my multiple readings all together. Because of how I had recorded them, already out of synch and with multiple spaces between each recording, when played out in the cavernous space of the gallery they gave the effect of a swarm or murmuration. This was partly due to my using a single repeated voice, so that you’d get a relatively continuous tone or the regular sibilance of ’s’s that drew sonic lines around the space. I also read live in the gallery, moving all the time. As I paced, I realised that I was making decisions all the time about the direction I took, drawing more imaginary lines between the works and the sound of my voice. It felt like I was at once forging and following a trail of voices and words that I knew were mine but, when overplayed like this, became somehow other, as if coming from elsewhere, as if these were someone else's words and someone else's voice. It was a very strange feeling.
What are you working on next?
I’ve had a really busy 18 months so I’m trying not to commit to too much for a while because I really need space to let things mull. There are certainly ways that I’d like to develop the performance at Arnolfini so at the back of my mind that’s still chugging along. I’m also working on a PhD, which is semi-practice based on the performative possibilities of criticism and art writing so that’s always ongoing. And I’ll be collaborating with poet Andrew F. Giles on a new piece to be performed at ‘Feel It’ festival at University of Bristol in October.
We are pleased to announce a new callout for a writer-in-residence to work with our forthcoming exhibition Daphne Wright - Emotional Archaeology. For further details, see our jobs and opportunities page.