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Conference Themes
Artists & Speakers
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G Boddington
& Mukul Patel
S Jeyasingh
& Peter Gomes
R Layzell
& Jane Draycott
R Lee
& Michael Donaghy
G Miller
& Peter Wiegold
E Wallen
& April de Angelis
Conference Credits
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Conference Dates
Richard Layzell and Jane Draycott

Richard I met Jane through the work I have been doing in industry. You live locally to the company where I was based. Jane is a poet and a writer, and I invited her in to do some lunchtime workshops with people who write software all day. I sat in on these and felt a real connection with how you were working with people, in the kind of instructions you were giving them, I related to strongly, although you are from a completely different discipline. Kind of the way you dealt with the people. I suppose I felt, without really talking to you about, almost until now, I felt there was some connection in the way we thought creatively.

Jane I think the very first workshop which I did was for a mixture of people. There were secretaries and Chief Executives and all sorts round the table, the thing I remember doing them was an exercise in – what I call a dislocation exercise. Which was about taking images, which you wouldn’t normally put together. It is a game where we tear up pieces of paper, put together two images, two ideas, which wouldn’t normally go together. And make the third thing, which is the interesting thing, and which in some cases is this thing which seemed to have always been true. It didn’t exist until those two images were put randomly together but somehow the third thing that is made when that happens, we recognise it. And they recognised it as, oh, yeah, that is true.

Richard Could you give an example?

Jane Yes, for instance. We might come up with an image, a concrete image of something – a window, with these torn pieces of paper, we might come up with a line like, a window is a key you can open many doors with. As a result of coming from two different definitions of a key and a window. Very, very simple, but what was exciting for them was they were able to start with something they knew. They were able to define a key, they knew how to define a window. But the exciting thing was when you put them together. Absolutely. Very basic description. But I think it is the whole business of dislocation, the whole business of looking at things sideways or strangely, is what people now recognise as artistic endeavour. So we are starting with the familiar, and we do try to label it with words that we already have. But somewhere in all that is this darkness which is such fun. It is the darkness which is fun.

Richard I might call it chance. Do you ever use that word? Do you ever think of yourself as using chance techniques? Because I would say that that was a chance technique that you –

Jane Yes, absolutely. I think looking away from the thing that you are interested in, away from your subject. It is a bit like, you know the group of stars called the Pleiades. The seven sisters. They are so subtle and so faint that the best way to see them is by looking slightly away from them. There is something like that about them. If you look too hard at something, it won’t give itself up to you, you have to look sideways at it. You look sideways at something else that happens to be beside it. Yes, I think chance has a lot to do with it. What you then might do with it, you might call craft or art or technique – but you only get it by heading off, deliberately heading off somewhere else. So that was a lot of fun. I am doing a lot of talking – you can talk… It strikes me, looking – I think this is a fantastic image – (holds up NightWalking card) I am sure everybody realises this is Richard.

Richard They won’t realise. That’s me.

Jane That was Richard. What strikes me about this. The most obvious difference between your practice and mine is that mine is a very solitary thing. I don’t have any equipment. I do work collaboratively but it is literally me and the kitchen table and a piece of paper. And yours sounds as if you get involved with a lot of people – it is very audience interactive, but when I look at this photograph I think you look so lonely.

Richard I would define my practice as mainly solitary actually. so, I identify – I think my most fertile moments come in a café with a notebook. You know, at art school, you work in a sketch book. That is what you are taught to do. And I just use a notebook now. It doesn’t seem so different to what you describe, really.

Jane I wonder whether – a conference like this is actually important because the criss-crossing and the networking the artists were talking about earlier. It is vital and very exciting and it is where the energy is. The process is where the energy is. That lovely description of the potter’s wheel as opposed to the beautiful pot. But the importance of this is because we are very solitary. Even if we are collaborative artists, sort of, on the bottom line, the unknown, what you are looking to, is your own imaginative life. Why one does that. You could talk for hours about that. So in a way, collaborative activity is about. I don’t know, defining oneself as a real person with a unique imaginative life. And perhaps the only way you could do that is in relation to other people.

Richard But do you get lonely then? Sitting at your table?

Jane No, I love it. I think the question of whether you can trust the ideas that are coming to you through that door which is just to the side where you have to go to get them – I get quite scared that unless I – it is a question of audience I suppose – unless someone else tells me that this is interesting in the end, yeah, you might get lonely. But I love being on my own in my head. Partly because life is so busy.

Richard Don’t you think it is a bit selfish?

Jane Yes, I do. I think it is great. I love eating too. I eat a lot when I am writing. They are definitely connected. There is something very primal about the whole thing of feeding yourself. I think that is what you are doing, you are sort of watering the garden in your – you know, of yourself.

Richard Doesn’t that put a pressure on your relationship though?

Jane My relationship – with my garden, my gardener?

Richard With your husband.

Jane Oh, yes, but I only do it for half an hour at a time, and that is when he is out.

Richard Seriously

Jane Yes, it is actually difficult to find – I think one can seem precious if one starts to – if one starts to not bring enough money home actually. That is the other thing, the whole business of how you make a living. How do you make a living.

Richard I thought that was something we could talk about because, in the way that we met through the other things that we do. And I sort of felt this chord. But we were both giving ourselves to other people, freely and for money, I guess. We paid you, differently. Paid quite well, I think.

Jane Yes, it was good. I think his number is in that sheet actually.

Richard I think you were going to ask me this, not that you have, so I’ll ask –

Jane Do you want me to? No, ask yourself, go on.

Richard It was the question of how much does that take away from this solitary thing that you have just described. I thought you were going to ask me this, so I have prepared an answer.

Jane Oh right, do you want to give it now?

Richard I think I’ll give it. There are two answers. I suppose I think that working in all sorts of other contexts creatively, whether it is with young people or – facilitating is a word I use, experiential learning is a phrase that I found a revelation having been to a boring grammar school and then discovering other ways of learning, sharing that – Open University course that Elspeth here is from. We did these amazing summer schools that were so cross cultural and people who worked in offices were African drumming. We were all meeting over coffee and sharing. Collaborating between Tim Hunkin in building a self-destructive supermarket with the drummers – this was in the 70s, 80s, opening to other ways of working with people. I just found, and still find enormously challenging and creative. And I don’t see it as really so different – and this is what I often say. I don’t see it as so different from my own practice – which is an art term, a visual art term, practice, that I don’t particularly like, but I will use it. But on the other hand, me struggling away in this room at the Greenwich Dance Agency, to make some meaningful situation that is actually quite dense and difficult and, it will probably also be a bit funny, but it does feel different. At the same time, the lonely, in the café with the notebook also feels a long way from the more collaborative sharing interactive form of making.

Jane Would you feel content only to have done the collaborative, the first model that you described. Would that be enough?

Richard If I hadn’t had a taste of the other, I probably would be, actually, but having started with the other, and – I think it quite good to talk about the famous art school. It was really tough, because there was no teaching. We were just left on our own, for weeks, months, the occasional tutorial if you were lucky. Yeah, incredibly challenging.

Jane It is a rip-off, or was it?

Richard I don’t know. Who can say? But it is not all fun, at all. It is a genuine struggle with your own being as a person, the way you are in your life history. You are 22 or something. That is all that you got to go on. Your resilience maybe comes from the fact that I was an asthmatic child who spent a lot of time in hospital. I don’t want sympathy.

Jane That is so sad –

Richard But I think there are a lot of people who are sick as children who become artists, I don’t know why. Because you are used to being on your own a lot. You are used to coping on your own. What about your history? How did you come to be so happy to be alone?

Jane I just had children, it is easy. No, I didn’t start writing – this is very conventionally the case with people who come to writing poetry later in life, I didn’t start writing until I had a hell of a year. My brother died, my mother died, I had my first child, all kinds of things collapsed. I had written at school, always done a little. And it was the only way, and I did it, the poems wrote themselves, it was the only way I could –

Richard Could I just interrupt you, on poems wrote themselves. Because I think that sounds like a cliché to me. People say, oh, the painting just painted itself. I just don’t believe that, I am sorry.

Jane Well, those ones did. Actually, I paid someone else to write them then – no, they did, because they were written, those poems did, because they were the only way I could get the words out that I wanted to say. Nobody, obviously you can’t burden people with stuff. The only way I could work out the pictures in my head which were kind of taking place there. And they did. I don’t remember making them. That is more accurate, it wasn’t self-conscious. And that is important actually. Don’t you long now, now that you are part of this, don’t you long now for the days when you just did things and people loved it and you didn’t know how you did it?

Richard That is a really interesting question. Ironically, what has happened through this process for me, it has actually put me back into that process more, not less. Because it has given me permission to make – to look into making in a way that, as I said, I probably wouldn’t have done. I have tended to – the money, worked to commission, or done a residency and feel the boundaries of economics and also product. So, ok, got a poem to write before next week. We commissioned a poem from you. And we paid you well for that. But to have some support, we get some financial support for this, it is not huge, but it means that this is about what it is about, and that has actually put me more in touch with, I guess, some really early celebratory feelings about it is ok to fool around. Or it is ok to explore, to take risks ultimately. I think for me, risk is absolutely fundamental to changing creatively, to moving creatively. But I think I kid myself a lot about the risks.

Jane So what is the nature of the risk. You say taking risks. We all talk about imaginative risk-taking. What is the risk?

Richard It is a bit like the dark space you mentioned earlier.

Jane But what could happen?

Richard What could happen. Well, I have been famous for crissakes. I have got my reputation to think about. There is truth in that, you get known for something and if you change, well, so, is that going to work?

Jane Is it about feedback? Is it about audience? We have to put the audience into this, very importantly. This notion of risk which we all applaud, because it makes work totally original, and audiences know that too. That is what works best. But you talk about risk-taking. That is a very self-conscious aspect of making. Which is something that you recognise – is it something that you recognise you have done afterwards?

Richard Probably actually, yeah. I think it actually happened yesterday. I don’t want to keep talking about Greenwich, but suddenly I lost track of why I was doing this thing, having got involved in all the nuts and bolts. I wrote down a few notes of what it was about now, and the fact that I pushed myself into this kind of corner, and allowed these connections to happen between various things, which meant that something had changed, not only in my idea for the thing, but in the thing itself. And it was actually quite elaborate and interesting all of a sudden, and I hadn’t thought of that, until that point. So I think it probably is looking back.

Jane Also, coming back to the question of audience, can we agree that they are important? Can we agree on that, perhaps not?

Richard I suppose if I am really honest with you, I am confused about audience, because I have really reached, really reached – reached out hugely to audience, and I think sometimes to my detriment, actually. I am a great believer in considering audience in all sorts of ways and what I wrote in my book, 100,000 people visited that exhibition, because we monitored it. Light has gone out –

[end of recording]






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