Karen Christopher, Thinking Space: Writing In Public, 2010. Image courtesy of the artist.

Karen Christopher, Thinking Space: Writing In Public, 2010. Image courtesy of the artist.

Karen Christopher
Thinking space: writing in public

Friday 17 September 2010

Undisclosed Location

This project was part of DIY 2010. DIY is a Live Art Development Agency project, an opportunity for artists working in live art to conceive and run unusual training and professional development for other artists.

Thinking space: Writing in public was a workshop that took place on 17 and 18 September 2010 that focused on placing the writer to work in public contexts as part of the process of writing, as a mechanism of inspiration, and as a tool toward multi-vocal writing. It was an exploration in the way space and context and proximity to others affect the writing experience and the product of writing. 12 participants took part in the workshop. The following paragraphs are written by Karen Christopher, who conceived and led the project.

We undertook to understand what public is and how we wanted to approach it. We thought of writing in terms larger than words on paper, we called it composition. We walked in silence for two hours stopping at specific points to write in response to questions. We found alternative ways to compose from our written notes. We found ways to involve others whether or not they were conscious of our use of them. We took our shoes off. We listened to an elder from the town give us an oral history and show us amateur film footage from his archive. We watched and listened in the working harbour. We thought about intention. We smelled the fresh whelks. We ordered coffees and teas. We designed working plans and chose locations, quietly working separately together. We took over the cafe. We set out separately to put our plans to the test. We reconvened. We saw that sometimes the plan is the creative act and is in fact better than following the plan. We saw that sometimes the plan takes you too far away. We read another’s work. We heard our words read by another. We began to understand how we are affected by place and by proximity to others, and by colours and smells and shapes. We understood something more about intention. We made the town our workspace. Everything was included.

As project leader of Thinking space: Writing in Public, I became aware of how hard it is to tell whether or not the participants of your workshop are enjoying themselves or not. I spent the entire 2-hours of a planned silent walk fearing they were all miserable only to find out later they’d been very engaged and excited by the experience. Good I hadn’t lost heart and shortened it based on their stern looks and reluctance to move from the resting spots. Also this workshop drove home how important the proximity to others engaging in a similar activity can be to ones’ own productivity or feeling of engagement. I was able to practice the skill of saying enough and then getting out of the way. Perhaps I got a little better at it in the process.

The participants seemed to sense an expansion of possibilities and a few new ways of looking at composition and use of space, also a recognition of a love of communal working systems. It is possible to use what is near in very intentional ways that turn unwanted distraction into some kind of fuel

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