I never have a fixed agenda when I embark on a new piece of work, especially in a new location. My work is informed through conversations and exchanges, be that with people who use the space or the location itself. This is not a process that can be rushed, it is imperative to listen to what you are being told and I employ all my senses in this.
But how do you engage with a building? It is a bit like meeting someone for the first time who you know you are going to be friends with (though you might not necessarily like each other). A lot depends on how things ‘Feel’ for me, this will lead me to the next step or question and I take my lead from there.
This residency was different in that I am familiar with cultural spaces, the gallery, the cafe, the cinema and I understand the language of each those. However, this was a different unfamiliar landscape and the nuances of the language were different. In addition I knew very little about the language of architecture. This was when I realised there was a difference between ‘the space’ and ‘the building’.
The Engage Residencies were focussed on disability and engagement. There are obvious differences between visible disabilities and hidden disabilities. This extends to how people engage, react or think about those who experience the hidden ones. This is further complicated because sometimes those hidden disabilities are more present or visible than others.
From walking through the massive sliding door of DCA I had to ask myself how do I negotiate the space to the front of house desk and beyond. Learning the language of the space and building was not straight forward. DCA as a place is not static. I like to know if a wall is a wall – permanent, still – but in DCA what looks like a wall could quite easily be a closed door – and knowing this affects how I would engage with that space.
Bearing all this in mind – the multi use building, the different cultural and social spaces, the psychology of architecture and urban spaces – I worked in the print room to produce responsive works from my conversations and observations.
Some of the works reference disability directly and others play with the notion of what is acceptable or normal or a disability per se. Similarly, some are more obvious or visible than others.