FIELDWORK is an annual 2.5 day discursive, residential summer school at Hospitalfield. Between 50 and 80 participants camp in the grounds for a programme of presentations, workshops, discussions and outings. It is an intensive experience, which brings people together to think about the central theme or question. The programme is connected with visual art practice and theory including how this intersects with other disciplines.
2017: Shoulder-to-Shoulder Co-programmed with Gordon Douglas and Cicely Farrer
Shoulder-to-Shoulder drew on the everyday production of art and politics in the contemporary multitude and invited practitioners from a variety of positions to consider these never ending performances. It was an opportunity to dislocate from the activity of individual practice and share new and existing methods of performance that can help us communally devise action within a political climate characterised by division and moralistic opposition.
Shoulder-to-Shoulder presented the first screening in the UK of Lynn Hershman Leeson’s film Tania Libre (2017), documenting renowned Cuban activist and performance artist Tania Bruguera’s experience following an 8-month house arrest in Cuba after her plan to re-stage her performance Tatlin’s Whisper #6 in Havana. Possessing a rare fluency in technologies as they evolve, Hershman Leeson is celebrated for her feminist art practice spanning five decades. Dmitry Vilensky, the founding member of performance collective Chto Delat (What is to be done?) came to the summer school from St Petersburg, Russia. Since 2003, Chto Delat have been producing projects that aim to merge political theory, art and activism. London-based artist Samson Kambalu, introduced his film-making approach, Nyau Cinema, through a new collaborative performance-lecture with Edinburgh-based composer and cellist Atzi Muramatsu. Kambalu’s work is autobiographical and approaches art as an arena for critical thought and sovereign activities. Wojciech Kosma collaborated with a working group towards the facilitation of an open, large group conversation. Always working with others, Kosma develops staged and sporadic performances that aim to collectively draw out and challenge group production of values. Ash Reid produced a role playing game (RPG)-inspired mixtape for communal car/train/bus journeys to Arbroath. Reid forms her research through public and private collaborative attempts at communicating beyond or around the boundaries of language. The mixtape preceded the summer school as part of an instigated carpool, through which participants were invited to organise shared transport.
2016: Not Every Tent is the Same, Co-Programmed with Bisan Abu Eisheh
Not Every Tent is the Same used the tent as a theme provided us with a potent image that bears many and various different associations. The programme drew upon the work of artists whose practice is a vehicle for their investigation of socio-political daily matters and was devised by Hospitalfield with Guest Artist Bisan Abu Eisheh.
Not Every Tent is the Same is a quote from Um Saad (Mother of Saad), a novel written by the late Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, who was killed in Beirut 1972 by the Israeli Mossad. When Um Saad said to her son “Not every tent is the same” she was referring to the similarities and differences between two states. One is the passive state of waiting and hoping, which conjures up an image of a refugee under a makeshift structure; the other, more active state, is about replacing waiting with taking initiative, resisting the difficult circumstances or the status quo.
The immediate image of a tent is of flexibility and mobility; a light weight, convenient, portable shelter. There are other more metaphorical uses of this image: a gathering of people under canvas; likeminded, choosing to be together in a hospitable place; another is of a crowded, fragile, cloth, make-shift shelter, vainly straining to provide protection. There is a conflict of association with this simple everyday image, from desperate tragedy to the romantic.
The programme took place over three days and investigated the diverse roles of art practices in relation to our socio-political daily matters. Contributors to the programme elaborated on cultural and artistic practices, which investigate issues such as: migration & refuge, injustice & the insidious acceptance of stereotypes. The programme highlighted some of the ways that art and its processes engage with, activate and negotiate many different states; identities, geographies and conditions. In considering these conditions, space was added to discuss the questions – personal and political – about the changes in the EU that have come further to the fore.
Not Every Tent is the Same included contributions from different geographies and backgrounds, such as the artist Michael Rakowitz, the artist Neil Cummings and the curator Andrea Thal and her team at CIC Cairo, who generously shared their expertise on a personal and professional level with the rest of the participants. Curatorial Studio took an active part in opening up and propelling wider discussion during the summer school.
Fieldwork 2016 took place mostly at Hospitalfield and offered the opportunity for participants to attend talks, screenings, workshops, walks and performances. There was a lot of attention given to the planning of hosting and catering for such a large number visiting Hospitalfield for these annual events. We had accommodation for some to stay in the house but the majority of participants brought a tent.
2015: Talking About Influence, Co-programmed with Pavel Büchler
Talking About Influence was a programme of conversations, talks and workshops thinking through the relationships between education and influence.
The summer school included contributions from Ami Barak, Penelope Curtis, Bik van der Pol and Pavel Büchler, among others, to discuss the significance of peer groups, visitors, exploration and institutions when considering influence.
The starting points for Pavel’s conversations with his invited speakers were:
- What can an art school be at the time when there are no privileged ways of making art?
- What can we learn from each other when there are as many models of practice as there are artists?
- How can we recover the art school as an open social space where we can do something together while each of us doing something different?