Home: the space in-between us all by Rebecca Swift
How co-creation and confluence create a sense of home through shared experience.
It’s difficult to concretely map what is mostly a sensed, creative transaction, often described in esoteric terms as the ‘movement of energy’ between people. This ‘play of energy’ between us all undoes the presumption that the focus of attention is only on the case of the person who is the ‘participant’ – ‘participant’ being a word the creative work itself erodes. Although our ‘emerging artists’ receive attention in their work, we also accentuate the space between us all.
Highlighting this ‘third space’ between everyone encourages a shared responsibility for stories rather than an ‘othering’ that can happen if we locate experiences, especially those around change and loss, in just a few. Entelechy’s work brings attention to the quality of creative connection between everyone, whatever our description or label, paid or unpaid. This approach cultivates a curiosity for moments of mutual – learning and its consequent influence on the living fabric of social connection, as cultural outcome.
Seeing the potential confluences between people includes bringing people together who otherwise wouldn’t have connected, and how that might ‘root’ us in a new place:
Two older men are sitting far apart at each side of a large table. They are new members at a new programme called ‘Meet Me at the Albany ‘- a cultural social hub for isolated housebound elders. One man is visually impaired, used to be an engineer, and was born in Barbados. The other man used to be a watchmaker and repairer and was born in Greece. They are Londoners and both men are alone and not speaking to anyone.
They are introduced to each other. What follows is a conversation that lasts an hour about the similarities and differences between engineering and watch repairing and how this reflects on technology today. Inquisitiveness aroused by good debate attracts others to the conversation. The two men’s knowledge and expertise become visible, held in a public space of the Albany café. We all begin to feel a sense of home, through communion created by good debate and social connection.
Identifying artistic process and product as dynamically shifting and occurring in the space between people has its parallels in Winnicott’s concept of the ‘potential space’ and’ transitional space’ and in Gestalt therapy – Martin Buber’s ‘zwischen menschliche’ (between people); or in psychoanalysis on inter-subjectivity (Daniel Stern) relating to our ability to non-verbally sense another’s actions and intentions and identify with this.
Work that is co-authored could paradoxically better highlight the individual and their contribution to the evolution of an idea. The devising process within co-authorship can involve a multi-layered form of mapping which more explicitly names different threads of influence from different people towards the fruition of a piece. Leadership also begins to rove between people. The skill of the artist as animator is then, being able to recede in the background as much as move into the charismatic foreground, to let in something new as well as help catalyse something, to see what happens.
Ideally, unexpected confluences between others can produce a communally owned culture that voices something pertinent to the present era and moment. Confluence has the potential to incubate at its core (where lines cross) something that was already on the threshold of emerging. In this way unanticipated, unspoken resonance, across difference, can tangibly surface; drawing from the points where different people interconnect can bring into relief hidden often unarticulated communal (even hidden from ourselves) thought and experience, that can more intimately and authentically juxtaposes difference with similarity. Often this approach delivers information that is potent, alive, with the possibility of it being applied elsewhere.
Consequently, within our work, paid artists are encouraged to bring themselves into the equation whilst also being free to not know, which in turn stabilises us to listen and receive – to genuinely let in what is in-front of us. Ideally, this shift in listening frames the transaction of mutual learning; of the fine weave of different identities in informing an art form. Through the skill of the artist to receive, allow and manage their own vulnerability, as well as those of the group, there can be shifts in the balance of power between people that are often deeply subtle, but radical.
“If I was to write a song, I could draw on my methodologies and skills in that moment and produce something that delivered the goods (to a high standard); whereas here at MMA, I also work with the opposite of this, where sometimes I’m chatting and in the background, letting go of my methodologies, letting in something new, allowing for messiness, which creates space for something unexpected, from the quality of relationship I have with the elders” Entelechy Arts associate artist, Chris Green, 2014, whilst working at Meet Me at the Albany
Image below: Chris Green and Joyce chat about life – there is no pressure to create a product or form an outcome – it’s a chance to get to know each other. Joyce encourages Chris to paint and they share a few of their thoughts which Chris then paints onto paper, having not really held a paintbrush since secondary school. Here, he is completely letting go of his methodologies.
A wise saying by Joyce and painted by Chris, 2014
From notes, and quotes captured by Rebecca Swift, 2014, drawing from her observations at MMA, Ambient Jam, and residency’s at SDDS and Manly Court care home.
Photos: Rebecca Swift