RA Late: Summer Pleasure Gardens Proposal
30 May 2019
Following a successful residency with the National Trust this spring I would like to continue to develop the work at the RA Pleasure Garden event. The work invites guests to contribute to a collaborative sculpture. By the end of the evening guests will have created their own garden sculpture in clay. The work explores the idea of creative making being a route to connection with others and to being happier in oneself, allowing oneself a moment of simple pleasure.
Guests literally make their own "pleasure garden".
An Invitation to all Guests
The guests are instructed via an invitation that says "Today you are an artist. Choose a handful of clay, one colour or a few. Make a flower or a symbol of a flower. Use just your hands or the tools provided. Place your creation on the wood pile plinth." The wood pile plinth is a naturalistic pile of foraged wood placed within a steel surround, the plinth is placed on artificial grass which forms the frame of the work. There is a soundtrack of English bird song playing in the background. The installation is lit with spot lights that create a dense forestry feel.
Visitors to the National Trust are encouraged to return to see how the sculpture grows and review its progress in this photo gallery.
Mindfulness is a pleasure
I have found that inviting people to make with you with clay also invites them to a place of mindfulness and contemplation. I have training in psychotherapy and am fascinated by how people confess true feeling and memory while making. I am also astonished by how talented the general public are at making little clay flowers, insects, mushrooms, frogs, spiders, snails...
The Cave Garden at the RA would be an interactive activity to which all guests to the Pleasure Gardens could contribute. It is my hope that guests will have fun making the garden and revisit it during the evening to see how it has developed and grown. I would expect to see a sense of ownership and community develop. I would also hope that my message of taking time for a moment of mindfulness shines through.
A Safe Pair of Hands
Because this interactive activity has been tested it has a higher chance of success.
I am experienced at running events. Most recently I led a project team to propose, win, install and run a major exhibition “Postopia” with 34 artists at the Ugly Duck gallery space.
This project will provide great value for money, since the costs of creating the work have already been met.
Developing the work for the RA
How would I develop this work from a National Trust event to an RA event?
1) The National Trust is a natural environment so the clay used was in natural colours. For the RA I would consider using mostly white clay and punctuate the garden with the occasional bright coloured clay. If the RA is considering a branding theme for the event then possibly the colours could align.
2) I would light the installation with more colour and if using white clay would consider using florescent lighting in order to make the white clay glow.
3) I would collaborate with the amazingly talented costume designer students are Wimbledon College and dress myself and my assistant (s) in an updated version of Georgian London dress that was suitably eye-catching.
4) I would create a more sophisticated version of The Cave Garden for the RA since the audience will probably be more urbane.
My team will number 2 or 3 (although if The Cave Garden is placed on a main walkway or in a very busy area, I would like advice from the RA on if they feel this is enough. Potentially more than one or two assistants will be needed.)
There are small stools and a little table to work at. Wet-wipes are provided for guests to clean their hands once they are done with their creation. A rubbish bin will be available for discarded wet-wipes. Cookie cutters are also provided for those guests needing a little help.
The plinth measures at minimum 3 meters squared and is made from three parts. It is totally collapse-able so very easy to transport. It is currently installed at the National Trust in a room measuring approx 5m / 5m.
I would man the installation at all times along with an assistant. Certain rules will apply that will enable us to keep The Cave Garden looking great. All these rules are explained in the “Invitation”. For example if someone doesn’t make a flower it will be quietly removed. If someone puts their creation somewhere other than the woodpile plinth, it will be removed.
Costs will be approximately £200 - £250. This money will be for transport of the installation to and from the RA, labour to help carry the larger pieces of wood, and for the clay needed to make the garden. Lighting may also be needed depending on where The Cave Garden is installed. Because this is a project that has been tested, the installation and organisation of the work should be straight forward and be very limited in costs, since everything is made and ready to go.
Why is this opportunity important?
I am writing up a proposal to apply for a PhD at UAL and am hoping Maria Walsh will be willing to be my supervisor. This project, part of my MFA, and the research it is connected to, will allow me to continue to increase my understanding of how collaborative making impacts the makers and how art changes the way people feel.
The graduating BA Costume students at Wimbledon College show a strong flower theme in their work, here being installed in readiness for the Graduate Show 2019. I would hope that everyone who invigilates The Cave Garden at the RA will be wearing one of these creations.