1 October 2008
a-n Magazine (p.23)

The most recent Braziers International Artists’ Workshop enacted a purposeful shift, away from the idea of a residency as undisturbed individual activity, to that of a collaborative disruption of existing modes of practice. This required artists willing to “place themselves and their practice into question”, to open up their usually internal workings to varied forms of interaction, participation and collaboration; to take risks with previously unknown others.

Braziers has taken place each August since 1995, acting as a meeting point for artists from across the world. The workshop briefly joins this community, a place set up as a conscious experiment exploring the advantages and problems of living together. Braziers intentionally provides a context removed from the artists’ routine studio practice, and has always sought to enable a similar shift in artistic thinking. However, they also recognise that “the success of the workshop has sometimes led to artists creating extensions of their existing practice and the focus has often moved away from artistic risk-taking”. The challenge: to redress this contradiction, moving the workshop closer to its original intention and also to the guiding principles of its host venue.

This year, Braziers brought together nineteen artists to live and work alongside each other for sixteen days. Greasing the wheels of collaboration, Braziers Park initially put forward a number of manual tasks (useful to the community) that created impromptu groups based on individual preferences for well building or pond digging. Tasks provided space for exchange and conversation, both systemic to collaboration, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the relationships that ideas emerge from. Literally, in the case of a conversation discussing what it would be like at the bottom of the well prompting an audio recording of time spent together in darkness and installed as an audio installation in situ.

The open day allowed visitors an opportunity to engage with artists and their work, either through artist-led tours or by simply wandering around the house, outbuildings and surrounding land. Work ranged from a video installed in the chicken house, stimulated by a rumour of impending slaughter and showing the birds feeding on a brown rice Colonel Sanders, to the words SUPER and NORMAL (the Braziers Park founder’s compound term for people who had almost achieved perfection) cut out of board and installed in the side of a ramshackle barn, to what might fittingly be described as the debris of this time spent together.

Some works hinted at a variety of forms of collaboration and negotiation of group practice. Others suggested that collaboration had been put to one side as artists returned to individual ways of working; failures maybe, but perhaps inevitably so given the challenge that the process set up. Ways of thinking are not as easily left behind as the more physical constraints of a studio. However, such attempts and failures are part of the challenge. According to 2008 participant, Ellie Harrison, “I’ve come to realise that the purpose of an artist’s residency is to allow you to experience things that you would not otherwise get the chance to, rather than to make new work. These experiences become the anecdotes which you relay with interest in the future and subconsciously inform future developments in your practice”.

Niki Russell