Written Round Up

by Helen Barker

Don’t you just love Saturday mornings when you have the house to yourself? Time to make a fresh cup of coffee, load last night’s pots into the dishwasher, put on a record and kick off your slippers before filing the week’s papers and clearing out your inbox. The clean scent of promise wafting through the window. The clean taste of an idea buzzing through your mind.

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, and I’m starting to see this space as a lovely little ‘check in’ zone for my baggage. As per my last post, I’m still struggling through the muggy waters of a clogged up, blocked up brain. There have, however, been a number of projects for my writing – and I do wonder if this is not the reason for my deficient visual output.

I’d like to reflect on the writing I’ve done, briefly. It’s waiting to be published – which has made for a slightly frustrating couple of months as I’ve effectively been generating a thus-far invisible work load! Anyway, here’s what to look out for….

1. Burlington Magazine Art Writing Competition: Status pending

– For this competition I rose to the challenge and wrote a review on the exhibition Time & Memory, by Cecilia Edefalk and Gunnel Wahlstrand at Parasol Unit, London. I can’t upload it until I’m sure that it either was or was not successful. Either way, I enjoyed this piece of writing and it forced me to consider the formal practice of writing about an exhibition for those who have not experienced it for themselves. This writing called me to create a new context for my words, enabling them to exist within the contemporary conversations of art criticism. Blending this slightly more ‘academic’ approach with  personal insight was demanding.

2. Verities Magazine: Status pending

– For their second annual publication I wrote my second piece for Verities. This time focused on the theme of ‘The Muse’. By far the hardest piece of writing I’ve had to do this year, this diverse, vast and never-ending topic confounded my research and left me bereft amongst essays, articles and various clippings I’d amassed in an attempt to focus my argument. In the end, though, it was a stimulating piece of work to produce, and whilst I’m convinced it falls short of anything I had hoped for, it was a great learning curve. From this I learned the value of planning, writing even when inspiration has deserted you, and the need to simply ‘show up’ at your desk regardless of your mood.

Again, I cannot upload until this article is published – which I hope will be shortly.

3. Designer Maker West Midlands: Status pending

DMWM commissioned me to write an article covering their ‘New Contexts: Contemporary craft in historic settings’ conference, which took place at MAC, Birmingham. I attended the symposium and found out lots about the work of Kate Stoddart, Laura Baxter and Linda Florence. It was a genuinely enjoyable day and I left feeling inspired and invigorated.  On the agenda were the practicalities of showing work in National Trust properties, heritage buildings and private listed properties. As well as how to promote your work, skills required and the benefits/difficulties of working within this sector. After the event I wrote a sort of summary/review. This was a very different type of writing, which demanded much more ‘fact’ and less creative manipulation. The biggest challenge I faced writing this was enabling my ‘voice’ to resonate through the data.

The article will be published on DMWM website and www.a-n.co.uk shortly.

4. Spana, Riksutstallningar: Status pending

Spana commissioned me to write an article covering a recent event at Design Museum, London. The event was on Sound Design, and featured Condiment Junkie. I had a very interesting conversation with Scott King, one of Condiment Junkie’s founders, about the nature of sound design in relation to society, art and science. I always enjoy writing for Spana who offer such interesting correlations between art and science. The features are always slightly more weighted towards Design and Fashion, which is a little out of my comfort zone, but as a result I find myself able to see my own work from an entirely new perspective.

This article should go live on their blog any time now…

5. Culture Cat, Exposed Magazine: Status published/ongoing

– Well this is my regular slot with the Sheffield magazine Exposed. I love writing it and it gives me a kick in the right direction every month, as I have to stay abreast of contemporary art in Yorkshire. It also allows me to meet some wonderful artists and organizations, and – when I get my act together – attend a number of fascinating events. The column is printed in the mag every month, and the blog goes live at around the same time. I’m in the middle of writing April’s edition and it’s going to be exciting. I absolutely love the art scene in Sheffers, and believe it’s got so much going for it. My plan for 2012 has been (and remains) to produce a body of work for which I can find a context. Sheffield is providing a pretty good one so far. But in the near future I need to push a few more doors and get some more of my projects up and running.

In the mean time, check out Culture Cat here.

_____________________________________________

Therapeutic as it is to summarise the last couple of months in writing, finding one’s way in the world as an artist and a writer is no easy task, and I’m left with the distinct feeling that there’s so much more to be done, and it would be nice to spend some more time developing work that is fuelled not by an impending deadline, but by a creative impulse.

Working for yourself is a pretty demanding task, and deadlines act as anchors along the sprawling sea of time. But sometimes, as has been the case for me, they take over. When deadlines stop producing succinct regulated phrases and start firing out an abundance of short, sharp clauses then it may be time to momentarily suspend all forms of grammar. Perhaps I need to take a deep breath, include occasional comma’s, or goals, and regain the rhythm of my working practice.