In November 2020, we began a new series of week-long artist residencies to support and test new ways of making and sharing work within times of restriction, limited access and limited resource.
Testing Ground was developed as a direct response to impacts that COVID-19 continues to have on the arts and artists.
In November 2020, In-Situ began a series of artist residencies to support emerging and established artists as they trialled new ways of making and sharing work. Testing Ground was provided as a direct response to impacts that COVID-19 continues to have on the arts and artists. Testing Ground is, as a platform, experimental by nature; allowing us to test contemporary ways of working in the context of COVID-19, where geography, access and public engagement are considerably altered. This platform encourages creative risk-taking, prioritising learning as its outcome, and this allows for ideas to fail, be reflected upon and adapted.
Testing Ground residencies will continue until the end of March 2021, marking a full year since the pandemic began to drastically impact the way we live and work. With this in mind, the conclusion of these residencies will provide an opportunity to pause, as we learn from the challenges of the experience. To open this reflection up to artists and the community, so they can share their experience, is a privilege and something that is key to the In-Situ way of working.
Each artist has taken a different approach to creating work and sharing the process with audiences. These outcomes and processes are shown below, where each artist has a space to share the trajectory of the work created, and their further responses to it. Expect to see new artworks, reflective texts, experiments with Virtual Reality, activities to be carried out at home and unfinished works too. We embrace and support the transitionary tone of work made by artists at this time, as they have looked to adapt their practice and research new ideas.
Image Credit: Dr Amy Cutler, Bethany White, Dr Amy Cutler and Lydia Griffiths
Bethany White (16-22 November 2020)
The first of our eight Testing Ground residencies was carried out by artist and illustrator Bethany White. Bethany’s work involves an illustrative approach to exploring history, mythology and co-creating with nature.
Staying on a socially distanced, week-long residency at The Garage (Brierfield), Bethany worked with Cyanotype - a historic photographic process using natural sunlight to develop print-impressions of objects which she collected on walks up Pendle Hill. Keen to offer a moment of creativity to residents, Bethany produced a cyanotype activity pack which was posted to participants. The pack was all-inclusive of instructions and materials, encouraging each participant to refresh their experience of a local landscape, whether it be a back garden, park or forest, as they collected objects to create their own unique artwork.
Dr. Amy Cutler (30 November - 6 December 2020)
Dr Amy Cutler, a trained geographer and artist, was the next practitioner to participate in Testing Ground, exploring Pendle with a particular focus on its fascinating past as an innovative place of experimentation. An example of this experimentation is the Barometer, a scientific instrument used to measure air pressure, that was central to influential tests on Pendle Hill during the 17th Century and used by Amy, in 2020, to distort camera lenses. Collecting documentation of our experience of the landscape, through sound recordings, photographs and a rain gauge that holds the winter’s first snowfall, Amy developed a prolific body of material.
It was our plan to share Amy’s work as an installation inside Corky, our travelling art space. Central to the installation would have been a spherical projector - invented and built by Amy - that projects images of the wilderness in all directions. However, Amy has adapted the work to be shared online, as COVID-19 restrictions will not allow for us to gather around an installation. An experimental planning diagram has now been made, using illuminous inks to map site specific light projections. Through the diagram, Amy welcomes audiences to travel through scientific and artistic findings that document an adventurous week in Pendle’s landscape.
Andrew Wilson (7-13 December 2020)
Our last Testing Ground residency of 2020 took place at The Garage, right before the third national lockdown. Over a week, Andrew Wilson worked with Pendle residents around the subject of Do It Ourselves (DIO) journalism. Andrew’s practice seeks to empower people to tell their own stories and to listen to one another, to come together and make record of stories that matter.
Andrew looks to strengthen networks of solidarity by facilitating peer-to-peer investigation methods that will inform a radical, bottom-up approach to journalism. Across two free, public workshops on Zoom, which explored the news around us, a group of participants collectively reflected upon their experiences of story-telling within news media. To identify narratives that may be missing and develop alternative approaches to journalism, activities ranged from honest discussion to drafting up fictional headlines.
Lydia Griffiths (18-25 January 2021)
We started the New Year with our fourth Testing Ground Residency. Lydia had to carry out her residency from home because of the nation-wide lockdown. This was a difficult position for Lydia to navigate, however, with the right support, she was able to commit to and realise exciting new work. Through experimental use of photography, film, installation and VR, Lydia explores light as its own artistic material and notions of the sublime in the natural world.
Lydia had visited Pendle back in November, for a research visit, and so looked back through the photographs, audio and film she had collected during her visit. This informed the development of an installation in her attic, through which the Pendle Landscape became an immersive experience from home. Lydia also ventured into experiments with Virtual Reality, again enabling us to explore an unfamiliar landscape without having to leave our areas.
Christian Bell (15-21 February 2021)
Pendle based artist Christian Bell was the next artist in-residence. Christian set out to create work with a number of local young people. Reflecting on challenges, exasperated by Lockdown, that young people face, Christian looked to create opportunities for collective thinking inspired by Pendle’s rich history. The origins of Quakerism were of particular interest, so Christian looked to use Pendle Hill - the site of Quaker founder George Fox’s vision - as a source of inspiration in a contemporary context. Christian asked: What message would you write across Pendle Hill?
Two digital workshops took place over the week, exploring the creation of abstract sentences and interactive maps. Christian delivered the workshops over Zoom and has noted that this was a particularly useful learning curve for his practice, as interacting with young people digitally is distinctly different from delivering a face to face workshop. As Christian’s practice involves much research and reflection, he has prepared a report of sorts to document the learning, experience and future of his ideas.
Jasmine Calland (1-7 March 2021)
How does our landscape dance? How does our environment sing?
Observing the landscape that surrounds me,
I catch myself thinking,
How nature dances so effortlessly.
I look around,
I see a playground,
A discotheque of the great outdoors.
The closer I look,
The more I find,
I stand and spectate,
Letting the performance unwind.
One small look,
Is all that it took,
To see my own world in a whole new light.
Experimental filmmaker and dancer Jasmine Calland is staying at home to carry out their Testing Ground residency. A specialist in Screendance, a genre of choreography made specifically for film, Jasmine hopes to share the joys of movement with audiences, regardless of prior experience. Jasmine made a collection of three films, inspired by landscapes across different sites that Jasmine visited, close to her home, including Fairy Glen (Wigan), Beacon Fell and Nicky Nook (both in Preston).
Developing choreography that is responsive to the landscape, Jasmine has spend her time on the residency creating new work that brings our attention to the interconnectivity and beauty of nature. This choreography has been filmed across different camera types, including super 8. You can see the different approaches and aesthetics Jasmine enabled through each camera choice, with the quality and textures of the films shifting depending on the camera in use. The films are accompanied by an immersive soundscape and poetic transcript to ask: “How does our landscape dance? How does our environment sing?”
Georgia Lomax Thorpe (15-21 March 2021)
Local sound artist Georgia Lomax Thorpe has been carrying out a week-long residency from home, whilst exploring the Pendle Landscape safely to create new work. Georgia looks to intertwine sounds of Pendle Hill environments with stories from people who have a connection with the hill to create an immersive audio work.
Georgia tracked her movements as she walked around the Hill, capturing auditory sensory experiences that will be manifested as an interactive map. Having published an open call for audio recordings and meeting people, whilst maintaining social distance, to gathering recordings, the map will also include local reflections on the landscape. When out walking Pendle Hill, Georgia would stop to begin conversation with strangers. Asking open ended questions, Georgia stimulated conversation to better understand people’s relationship and understanding of the place. Whether locals or visitors new to the space, Georgia would ask questions like: What brings you here today? Is this your first time visiting Pendle Hill? What brings you back? Do you feel a sense of history here? Do you feel connected with nature here?
The video extract above shows original sound and footage collected from Pendle Hill. This was part of Georgia’s creative process, as they played with manipulating different frequencies of wind sound, informing the development of the sound map of Pendle Hill. For optimal listening, use headphones!
Explore the final outcome, an interactive sound map, here: https://pendlesound.uk/
Eva Sajovic (28 March-1 April 2021)
Our eighth and final Testing Ground residency was completed as Eva Sajovic stayed on a socially distanced, week-long residency at The Garage, Brierfield. With a practice that combines research, participatory social action and weaving, Eva set out to explore local people’s relationship with textiles and the area’s local plants.
To gain insight into properties and histories of local plants, Eva met with herbalist Danielle Kay. Together, they safely walked a route that showcased Pendle’s diverse offerings of herbs, roots and other plants. Samples of these plants were then collected and used by Eva to create and experiment with natural dyes.
Eva also met with local group Mums2Mums, to talk about the group’s relationship with textiles, community and the influence of Pendle’s historic mills. Sat outside in the sun, with social distancing in place, together they discussed the contemporary relevance of weaving, shared work and past industry in Pendle.
Now, Eva’s research and ideas have began to develop into a game. The game, which will offer players a chance to use questions about the past, present and future of work in Pendle to stimulate conversation, will offer a chance to better understand and perhaps connect with one another’s histories and hopes.
Funded by Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Fund through Pendle Hill Landscape Partnership. It makes up part of The Gatherings programme, connecting people and place.