Conversations on a sculpture

MeetingRoomAt the end of April I spent some time at Leeds Art Gallery interviewing people, using the sculpture ‘Atom Body Was Light’ by Lilliane Lijn as a starting point. This was an incredibly interesting and enjoyable process. I spoke to 16 people in all from a range of backgrounds. They included a masseur, an RE teacher, a theoretical physicist, a designer, an artist, a museum assistant, a lawyer and people with no single profession or easily definable role. I am very grateful for the time that everyone gave to talk to me.

Now the question I am wrestling with is, what did I do the interviews for and how am I going to turn the conversations into some form of outcome? My plan is to make an artists’ book and the form of this is starting to take shape but it is quite different from what I initially imagined.

The way that I articulated the project initially was that it is to do with value (something which is of course incredibly pertinent at the moment at a time of cuts). Do we/how do we/why do we value art? Do people from different backgrounds value it in different ways? Also how do people value their own roles in life? Does what they choose to do as a career or otherwise represent more generally what they think is meaningful? I asked people a rage of questions, starting with asking for their initial response to the sculpture and asking them what it reminded them of. Then I asked about whether they were able to use the sculpture as a metaphor to describe their own role or profession. Following this we talked about what they value and find meaningful within their work/role and lastly some discussion about whether they thought that art, in general, was of value.

Some time has passed since I conducted the interviews, partially because it took longer than expected to listen back to the interviews and review what was pertinent and partially because in the life of a freelancer it’s easy to get sidetracked by more time-bound projects and applications for things that need to be done NOW! Anyway, I am now getting back on track with the project and am starting to realise that saying it’s about ‘value’ is slightly the wrong framing. Having said that I haven’t quite found what the right framing is! Words that keep coming into my mind at the moment are: utility, meaning, language, embodiment, play, participation. Can it be about all of those things?!

Over the coming days I will post some more reflections on the project thus far and updates on what I am doing with it now.