Part of "no longer being a BOM Fellow" has been thinking about what sort of support structure I need to have around my work. What was I getting from BOM, what wasn't I getting, and what could I do to put whatever that was or wasn't in place for the future. So far I've joined the local hackspace, Fizzpop, which gives me access to tools and a community who know how to use them, and the Black Hole Club, which will give me regular deadlines to produce work for their group shows. These should hopefully give me context and structure within to develop my work.
But one of the nice things about BOM as a venue was the randomness of the people you'd meet and the conversations you'd have. The rule is anyone in the co-working areas could be interrupted at any time, and that serendipity was something I always wanted to develop in a slightly more, but not too, controlled environment. Things tend to be very "project" based, with specific desired outcomes, usually dictated by the funding which enables them to happen. And that's fine as public funding needs to be justified. But, as anyone who's done the conference circuits knows, the best stuff happens on the edges, in the corridors and bars. The formal events are often just as excuse to get a bunch of like-minded but still diverse people in the same place, chatting over coffee.
I've also realised over the years that I really benefit from attempting to explain my work to others. It's less that I need them to understand, though that's always nice, but more that the process of putting ideas into words that make sense to someone else forces me to really get to the bottom of what's floating around my mind. It always amazes me that something I thought I had a grip on is revealed to be extremely vague when I try to explain it. The internal monologue always fools you into complacency. To be sure you understand, make someone else understand.
A couple of years ago on Stirchley high street, about 5 minutes from my home, a couple of brothers opened P Cafe which, with their encouragement, has developed into a meeting place for local artists. They have frequently changing visual work on the walls and regular meetups and events, mostly for poetry but open to pretty much anything. I asked if the folk who frequent there ever get together to talk about their work. No, they don't, but that sounded like a good idea. If I wanted to organise it... And of course, I did.
One thing I've learned over the last few decades is setting something up is damn easy. Keeping it going sustainably and closing it down without acrimony is bloody hard, but starting is a piece of piss. Dangerously so, sometimes. But setting us is easy. So I picked a date and wrote some blurb:
Show and Tell at P Cafe is a new, monthly meet-up for artists and anyone working on a personal or non-commercial creative project to talk about their work in progress and get valuable feedback.
When you're working on a new thing it's easy to get lost in your head.
Sometimes just explaining it to strangers can help you find the clarity and focus to move on, and seeing what likeminded people are working on and struggling with can be inspirational and reassuring.
Show and Tell is very informal. You don't have to prepare a presentation. Just sit in the circle show us what you're doing and talk about any problems for a couple of minutes. The only condition is you listen to everyone else!
After the showing and telling, which should last half an hour, we'll break for drinks and feedback with people who caught your attention. And that's it!
Show and Tell is a new thing and will evolve based on what artists in Stirchley actually need.
P Cafe put in on their Facebook (yuk, but what can you do...), we farted it over the Twitter and eight people came. Which was a good number. And I only knew five of them already. ;)
(One person had to go early and another arrived late, so it was seven at any one time.)
Everyone seemed to get something out of it and wanted to see it continue, which was great. The interesting, yet not that surprising, thing was how most people had the same problem of lacking structure and feeling bad that their creative or artistic workflow didn't want to follow the kind of workflow a "proper" job has. And that when you're essentially making work to satisfy yourself, being pleased with that work is really hard. And alongside the group therapy stuff there was also practical help for people looking to shape work in progress, from film editing to event curating to figuring out how to electromagnify a steel sculpture.
In short, it was an opportunity to get out of the studio or away from the screen and vocalise the demons, and it succeeded at that.
The next one is Feb 16th, 3pm, same place. See you there?