Katrinka Wilson - (h)edge kelektiv
with Jack Brown, Jo Thomas and Katy Beinart
Caravan, In Dialogue, Primary Studios Nottingham
Katrinka: I’ve really enjoyed being able to present. We communicate better through our art than we do in any other way... that’s been really fantastic... it’s made more sense
JB: Good being able to do that, to be able to have contact with your peers afterwards because quite often you will do something like that and the audience has gone and you’re kind of like I don’t know what they thought of it
KW: Use the things that are going on around and reflect on what you’ve done so partly as a result of that we’ve.. It’s been quite transformative for our partnership.
JB: Can you just say which organisation you are with
KW: (h)edge Collective
JT: and it’s Katrinka Wilson
KB: Do you just want to tell us explain a bit about the work…
KW: We were experimenting with a subsidiary of Hedge Collective which we call Hedge on Site mainly what it consists of is wearing boiler suits which gives you permission to be somewhere. So you wear these boiler suits and you have a sort of gravitas because of the uniform and so that is sort of a performative act... but we do unannounced performance so we don’t really like anybody to know that we are doing a performance. Obviously the fact that we are wearing boiler suits mitigates against that in some way but it makes us feel better because we’ve got the boiler suits on. And er we wanted to do two things with that particular piece of work. We wanted to find out whether our working practice/ collaboration had moved to a point where we could collaborate in silence ... because what we do is we are site responsive artists that go into a space and we also make work, sometimes have to work quite fast/ really quickly and we also have quite different practice bases as well. So sometimes the thing about being a collaborative duo has been fairly testing in a lot of respects, the whole thing about ego and ownership, all of that stuff is really true with … we really want to see where we’ve got to after three years because we can now do work on a project in two different cities and put that project together you don’t know whose work is whose and we can now do that with only one meeting or only a couple of phone calls. So we thought it would be really interesting to see if we went into a space and didn’t talk whether we could create something that had some consistency, authenticity and it turns out that we can. ..
KW: But the other thing we are very interested in is institutional languages, particularly civic languages like signing/signage and way finding and all that kind of stuff and the way buildings order people’s behaviour and signs have this change effect on people – you see a sign and you like do it. Our main way of working is trompe l’oeil with me that comes from a performance background with Mitchell that comes from a visual arts background. What we do is we kind of copy things and you don’t know if it’s real or not. We can recreate things so you don’t know if we’ve made it or not including in performance I used to be a mime artist. So the tromp l’oeil is you mess with signage and you change it or you reorganise it so it looks like the institutional signage or you rename a space and that’s all the playful stuff and we were testing that as well. And then a whole load of other stuff came from that and so our minds were just going ere r ere r...
JT: It’s really difficult to talk about something sometimes when you’ve just done it.
JB: What was that artist we listened to David Harding he taught at Glasgow. He did the Environmental Art course at Glasgow it’s become quite a big thing and that’s where a lot of the Turner Prize winners are coming out of. One piece when you were talking about the way people respond to signs and one of his early works which was a beautiful piece was basically do you know when people walk through a park and they make their own patterns path across the grass and it’s called ‘desire lines’ which is like proper paths he just made the reverse of that which is lovely.
KWB: Yes that sounds lovely very beautiful. Well this is this whole thing about when we went to look at Nottingham Contemporary what we liked and what we thought about were these things called dwell spaces – I don’t know if you have come across them or a meanwhile space.
KW: which is a posh way of saying foyer. So what we are really interested in all our work is being on the verge – that’s the thing – things that are on the verge you know is it isn’t it... spaces that are something but are not – so we really wanted to – and there wasn’t a gallery 5 and we thought it just should have a gallery 5 instead of these different dwell spaces. So we tested these different dwell spaces which were just the foyers and then decided that the downstairs one should be Gallery 5 and so we installed Gallery 5 and we put in Gallery 5, created the gallery and had an installation as well which means we’ve now exhibited in Gallery 5.
JB: Yeah I like it because Gallery 5 doesn’t really exist..
KW: It’s gone now it’s in the back of my car. The exciting thing is you could put Gallery 5 anywhere. You could put Gallery 5 up in here and this would be a gallery – so we had the desk I don’t know if you saw and we called the desk the office and people, you know, would come to it so just by putting that sign
JB: Yeah, obedience, people are very obedient,
KW: Our idea is if you could change people’s, if you could get them to believe something that isn’t for a moment then they people might start thinking they shouldn’t believe anything which means they can believe in the positive stuff, it might be a crack with a bit of glitter in it, maybe there’s a seam of gold under there and if you could get people to believe that for one second – then they could believe you know – that’s roughly speaking the idea..
JB: Is most of your work made in an urban environment? Do you think it would be different if it were in a rural community where signage isn’t really part of their life as much...
KW: We are about to
JB: Where’s that going to be?
KW: We’re hoping to set up, though we haven’t named it so far though its roughly called the gathering space, it is in a field in Cornwall..
JB: The Gallery 5
KW: Yeah the Gallery 5 virtually and the idea came – people would be able to come down and spend some time in this field – we’ve got a field we’ve secured a field, and I make, the emphasis being on making rather than talking – obviously there would be conversation – a lot of dialogue – but it would be an opportunity simply to make and come together with the idea that you could test whether what - you were making, whether it was relevant or whether it was change making and that would be the very broad focus
JT: So how’s that emerged?
KW: It’s emerged, to be fair Michelle’s driven that more than me, it’s a bit of a shame she’s not here to talk about it. We work a lot with Airspace in Stoke
JB: Oh Anna Francis
KW: Yes, and there’s a big drive around politicizing art work through ecological issues and bio-diversity issues and that’s been really exciting and sort of sustainability issues – working with these artists but we’re not entirely sure if that is what we want our social impact to be. Personally speaking I’m not sure that is how I want my social impact or social contribution to be – but we both really believe in art as a vehicle for social change. But we’d like to explore that a lot more and find out how - people take it as a given but we don’t always sit down and think about how.
JB: I am interested in the notion of artists and when we are talking about artists and the others we don’t allow ourselves to be considered like citizens like everyone else. So working with artists is as good as working with a non-artist, it’s as useful.
KW: There is a thing that somebody said to me a long time ago which has always stuck in my head which is that you have this idea of being a community artist so you go become a community artist get paid and be a community artist like the old school idea. There’s a much nicer way of thinking about it which is being an artist in the community. That’s always been my practice and I’m with the others and that’s my tribe more than this tribe to be fair.
JT: So could you explain the difference..
KB: I just wondered if you could repeat the last bit you said ‘You identify more with the community there, more my tribe’
JT; So could you talk a little bit more about that?
KW: It’s to do with places I’ve lived. So I’m a girl from the estates and I have that background I’ve always lived on estates – council estates basically. And though I’ve always aspired to a terraced house I’ve never quite made it – there’s a cultural value set around that 70s council estate the 80s/ 90s council estate and so whoever.
My community has always been the kind of people you find living on that kind of estate – nurses, taxi drivers but I’ve not compromised as an artist so invariably what tend to happen is that I arrive – I move in somewhere – people treat me and my family with quite a lot of suspicion on account of all the weird things I’ve taken so for example I built a very big backside with an anal tract in my back garden last summer – it was huge.
And so what happens is people are very conservative and they are quite concerned that someone is building a big pink arse with an anal tract but then because you live there and your kids go to school with those people and everything you get to know each other and then after a while you can kind of say – well the last estate I was on ohh a friend of mine set up a group for children with visual impairment because her daughter was visually impaired so she did something voluntarily, from the ground up, set this thing up – a lot of hard work a very difficult group of people, talked to me and I went and provided the creative activity and that’s how we did it together.
That’s what I see as being an artist in the community.
There wasn’t any funding exchanged there, there was no organisation – no forms nothing just Katrinka get your arse into gear we need some artwork down here – and in communities – all kinds of community there is trade and currency which isn’t mediated or being organised or funded.
Being an artist in the community is when you are engaging just like your mates, typically an electrician, and you say come down I’ve just managed to completely blow a fuse box and I’ll buy you a pint – so, I think, and I’ve operated on the basis that I’m not going to mend a fusebox but there’s quite a strong chance that their kid might need a costume – so I don’t distinguish between doing that kids costume as being anymore more or less important that say doing this conference ….. have I described it put it well?
All: Yes yes
KW: So you’re incorporated, you’re not other even though what you are doing is quite other.
JB: Yes, and your interaction with that community is not like hello I’m an artist I’m the artist and this is the artist. Here you’re in the community first and then it kind of seeps out that you’re, people are likely to find out because you’ve got a big arse in your garden and then you do a costume and that’s how people would find each other in normal communities…
KW: Yes, we ran a physical performance theatre company for a long time and we used to have jugglers and stilt walkers and people wearing great big green dog costumes coming and staying all the time so the house was very busy – and that can be kind of quite threatening the difference in behaviour can be quite threatening in a close community. But exactly as you say if you are known, as yourself before as an artist, that then you may become involved in something more social with more gravitas. Then on that particular estate they were going to build over a patch of green – which was the only green any of our kids had – so there was a whole group of people who wanted to do something about that and I led them and I lent my kind of creative skills to that event and to that campaign. And so that’s politics from the ground up. Very important, though that wasn’t a big issue, a patch of grass – it was only a little estate – but people’s voices are really important – my kids played on it - just the same as anybody else’s.
KB: One of the things I was wondering is how you then feel about what your audience is and whether being somewhere like this – is it more important for you just to make the work? Are you not that bothered about the audience here – or is it more important for you’re audience to be the community you live in…
KW: It’s a struggle we don’t know. We’ve been talking about it a lot today. Some of the stuff it’s given us a bit more of an opportunity to talk about it. What we’re doing? Why we’re doing it? It’s a really big question we’re both a bit unhappy with the emphasis on networking...
KB: Here you mean?
KW: No, not here you know when you get on those Arts Council training things you know….
JB: Oh I see – it’s all about building networks with other artists..
KW: Not just artists – there’s an emphasis on forcing the artist out in front and the sort of currency of being able to talk as an artist. And so it’s about having a language and we’re a bit concerned about having the right language. We’re not sure, feeling like outsiders. We’re not outsiders here which is very helpful – so what’s that mean? Who are we identifying with? How is that helpful?
JT: It’s really interesting what you’ve been saying. It’s almost like you’re operating as an insider artist – in that you’re inside your community – and that if you like gives you your right to be there. What is at risk if you start moving away from, moving outside your community if say someone says “yeah they were brilliant help in this project”, and you’re invited to other communities – does that happen? How would you envisage it happening? Is it more important to be where you are?
KW: It’s quite risky, it is but there’s also some risk in not moving outside the community – in that then your art can start shrinking which means that you’re not bringing anything more to the community than say a GP who never updated their practice – So if you’re genuinely going to be good at your profession, and as an insider be good for your community, you still need to follow all the other professional activities that any other professional career would do. You still need the same training. My friend who’s a nurse has to go off and have her training because she has to update her skills. And I have the same onus on me – If I’m going to treat my career the same way as all the other people I know treat theirs means I have to come out and do this kind of work it’s really important that our work grows so when we go back it brings more. But talking about Anna Francis, is a good case in point, and Anna and Airspace are doing a lot of work in Stoke because they’ve invested a lot in being in Stoke and they stay in Stoke and do work in Stoke
JB: They’ve just bought a pound house..
KB: Yeah yeah
JB: A house for a pound. It’s kind of like regeneration. I don’t know if it’s technically a pound in the end but...
KW: Yeah, I genuinely think it is…
KW: And Anna and Andy and all that crowd are investing back in the community a lot and that’s fantastic. And also they all work around the country so it really works – and I’m not sure that some places can’t become a little bit parochial after a bit...
JB So not all artists work as locally as you, so maybe other artists are dotted about and also some artists don’t feel as connected to a community as you might so they might just work as an artist who is publicly engaged, but that to them is like working in a school in this bit of London and then next time it’s a project over here and it’s that dropping in an artist and taking them out again. So maybe for you and other artists who work locally like Anna that time away from it is continued professional development … you get your training outside that community and you come back in.