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Saturday, 19 December 2009

The Family Event 2009

The Family Event, 4th of July 2009, Denmead Hampshire
The Family Event is an artwork with two elements, a multi sensory installation and a participatory event in which participants were asked to respond to the installation, in this case through discussion and making in groups. Creating The Family Event began with my choice of participants, my extended family. The desire to involve my family in my work was in part down to it's sensory nature - when participants have responded to my previous work the sensory aspect of it evokes memories and feelings that often relate to aspects of the family, such as their own childhood. In effect I was bringing this particular response to my work 'full circle' by asking my family to participate. I also knew that only by participating would my family have the opportunity to understand 'what I do'.

The Family Event Installation itself, explores the idea that knowledge of 'a family is intangible. There are layers, pieces brought together in the memories and feelings of each individual within that family, but this information is constantly changing according to complex relationships and the passing of time.
What conclusions can the trails of objects, memories and myths; the remnants of a family's presence bring us to? The work takes the participant on a journey in which at first they encounter the surreal visual flashbacks associated with a childhood memory, followed by a process of searching then unearthing objects, juxtaposed to form the start of narratives where fact and fiction are unclear. To experience the work as a whole the participant must interact with it, moving and opening various containers, seeing, touching, smelling and listening to what they may find.

In the early stages of making the artwork my family would respond to, I had to consider whether or not it should be 'about them' and decided against this. In my work, I use trickery by juxtaposing sensory elements, objects and ideas to divert from the obvious and expand upon the possible narratives I am leaving to be discovered, as well as the ways of responding to them. Creating work that is in some form already 'known' to my family would have closed the experience rather than opened it up to interpretation. Therefore there are aspects within it that are drawn from my own memory, but they lie amongst and outnumbered by invented fragments of other stories, borrowed, found and imagined.

On the 4th of July around 30 members of my family (ranging in age from 1 to 86) gathered in a village hall near to my family home. Here they experienced The Family Event Installation. I then asked them to respond to the work by making their own, in groups. Asking this of participants comes from my own desire to see how far my artwork can be taken beyond my own understanding of it, to know it's 'response' it's continued story. I see this process as a collaboration between my imagination and that of my participants. Within the two hours of making and the resulting artworks my family produced, an insight into my own family was revealed. Their relationship to one another and to me was exposed in a way only possible through this situation. The Family Event Installation was also shown at The Storey Gallery, Lancaster as part of the seminar 'Sensation' in July 2009.

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