Place as Matter
Place as Matter was the first research theme that Rejmyre Art Lab explored through a residency and a workshop with the Canadian/American glass artist Jocelyn Prince.
In a way it was just about the three of us (Sissi, Jocelyne and I) wanting to do something together but it was also about bringing some of our former students together from the different institutions where we’d been teaching around the world. We were beginning to develop this notion of ensemble research, working collectively to open a theme, that has become central to our pedagogic philosophy. The ensemble is a common form in the performing arts but in the visual arts it is mostly reserved for a few exercises in the early years of artistic training. There is a clear progression in most arts curricula from the group to the individual, so there was something transgressive, or perhaps regressive, about using these methods with advanced artists who had finished their formal art educations. This is important to the formulation of our pedagogic space, that we saw as a kind of release-valve, a chance to return to the origins of our interests in making and to exercise alternatives to the thick individualism and emphasis on export in most advanced contemporary art settings. The workshop lasted for eight days and we asked the participants to do a series of quick assignments, individually and collaboratively, aimed at developing conceptions of and conversation around the notion of place. We didn’t have much in the way of facilities or materials so they were mostly working through site-specific installations and interventions with available materials. Some of the participants, who were mostly from craft-centered MFA programs, were not accustomed to working in these ways. The opening assignment was to erect a monument in Rejmyre, from conception to unveiling in 12-hours. I remember looking around and all of a sudden there were fourteen artists, who’d never heard of Rejmyre a few months ago, going around town making things - in and about Rejmyre. I remember feeling how powerful and transformative that was, but also potentially very invasive. For me that was an important moment in my understanding of what we were doing there, realizing we’d made an art school, in this little town - and the responsibility of that. When you’re putting up a new physical structure or you want to add on to your own house even, there are all these regulations and processes of approval, but there is no process to approve new social behaviors.