Artist Sophie Huckfield reflects on the Summer Lodge she attended this summer at Nottingham Trent University. Her participation was funded by an Engine Micro Bursary.
‘Summer Lodge’ is an annual event hosted within the Fine Art Studios at Nottingham Trent University. Over 10 days in July the studios and workshops host a gathering of thirty diverse artists, consisting of current NTU staff and selected artists working nationally and internationally.
The ethos of Summer Lodge is to provide a unique space without constraints. Artists can use the space in whichever way they choose, using their time to undertake experiments and pursue new ideas. It is an opportunity for artists to use their time freely, relieving the pressures of developing a set outcome.
Each year the Lodge adopts a theme, this year’s theme was ‘Deceleration’. Which culminated in a symposium at Nottingham Contemporary, with invited academic speakers to respond to how we can combat a hyper-accelerated culture and encourage artists to take on ‘deceleration’ as a mode of artistic practice over the course of the residency.
Rather than ‘slow down’, deceleration was an invitation to rescind from the process of production, exploring alternative modes of dislodging from the pressures of an accelerated culture which demands us collectively to do more and more. This underpins our culture of immediacy and superficial engagement, which in reality has resulted in less and less. An accelerated society pushes immediate gratification as opposed to delayed and more meaningful outcomes. The residency invited an alternative, contemplative mode of artistic practice.
Throughout the two weeks, I found that adopting the philosophy of ‘deceleration’ cultivated and increased my creative output. Working in a dedicated space which invited experimentation and risk taking, but at your own pace, was freeing. The works I had initially proposed, became a secondary concern, as I used the workshop facilities to explore new materials and processes and dedicated time to meaningful conversations with the other residents around our practices.
The residency gave me the opportunity to work with a range of materials, processes and concepts. I spent time in the ceramics studios, where I was able to make a collection of sculptural objects. Using crude methods, I pressed clay into tools, machines and handheld technologies. The impression of the object is taken but also the impression of the hand which holds and interacts with it. The clay acts as an intermediary between our interaction with the object and the hand. I wanted to create a self-awareness of the material nature of the objects we use and convey the universal gestures of the hand in relation to these things. The residency was also able to provide a space to curate the works in different display settings, experimenting with colour and lighting effects.
I also staged a performance piece, which revolved around sculptural performative objects I made in the mould making workshop. I vacuum formed various handheld technologies in foam, to produce yoga mats. A yoga session took place, with performers following a YouTube yoga tutorial played from a Macbook pro. I was able to explore different mediums. I had never incorporated performance into my practice before and the residency enabled me to discover a new dimension to my practice.
Working alongside the diverse pool of artist practitioners, whose practices encompassed different modes of production, was inspiring. Each day new events were staged, such as an invitation to twist one morning. Fellow artists were continually invited to collaborate. I participated in a performance piece with artist duo Timber and Battery, who curated the event ‘Radio Play’. A studio was turned into a radio station with invited artists given 45 minute slots to use in whichever capacity they choose. I used my time to explore how my experimental writing practice could be performed. Alongside inviting fellow resident Collette Raynor to have a conversation around writing as material.
The residency was invaluable to my practice and I was able to move outside my comfort zone. I explored different processes, collaborated with other residents and pushed my practice into unexplored realms. I worked with a variety of materials and processes, from clay, foam, writing and performance. I made lasting friendships and have continued to work with artists following the residency. Summer Lodge was able to provide me with a test bed to imaginatively experiment and engage with a community of artists, who were open minded and able to provide critical feedback and discussion on how to develop work during and following the residency. The residency gave me a space without constraints to freely explore. It has pushed and continues to push my practice.