By Jessica Bradley
Our project has a number of different artistic and research outputs. This has been in part why working on this endeavour has been so invigorating and exciting. It’s also why – as the weeks go by – it’s so consuming. For all of us!
Here’s a quick summary of all the different ‘things’ we’re currently working on.
Small silk paintings
The first outputs are the small silk paintings that the workshop participants made themselves. These were handkerchief sized and were taken away by the participants to keep. We asked the groups to consider the word welcome, and what it means. We asked the participants to think about welcome in different languages, in their own languages, or in pictures. One that Bev Adams was particularly drawn to included a washing line. Where are you welcome? Where you can hang your clothes. Where you can take them out of your suitcase.
Large silk paintings
The second outputs are the larger silk pieces which were painted for the organisations themselves. With these, we tried to incorporate the images and words from the original silk paintings. One of the participants, in week 2, talked to me about preserving the language of his tribe. He wanted me to sketch out the words ‘Zaghawa language’ in Zaghawa. He wrote it on a piece of paper and I transferred it onto the silk. This now appears on the larger piece which will be given to RETAS to hang in their offices.
Artists Helen Thomas and Stephanie James led the painting workshops. You can check out some of Helen’s other work here on her blog: http://www.toastedorange.co.uk.
The vocal score
During the final two workshops, local composer – the wonderfully talented Maria Jardardottir – led singing and vocal workshops. She also recorded our singing and vocal work and will be using this to create a soundtrack. This will be a vocal piece around the theme of welcome and the city. You can hear more of Maria’s work here: http://www.maria-jardardottir.com
Paul Cooke from the Centre for World Cinemas at the University of Leeds produced a short film for us, based on the workshop at RETAS, Leeds. You can watch the film here:
I am working on a short book, or rather pamphlet, about the process – focusing on ‘welcome’ and what it means to be ‘welcome’ in utopia. This , I hope, will take the form of a fold out map of ‘utopia’. In this I will include extracts of conversations we had across the different workshops, in which we discussed the idea of welcome and what it means.
Faceless Arts, with performers from the University of Leeds – the Schools of Performance and Cultural Industries (PCI) and Languages Cultures and Societies (LCS) will develop a performance based on the idea of migration and home, and of welcome. This will be previewed on the University of Leeds campus on 22nd June, and then taken to the Utopias Fair at Somerset House on 24-26 June.
We’ll be updating you over the next few weeks as work on the performance progresses. Please keep an eye on this blog!
More info about the fair is available here: http://utopia2016.com. Do come and see us if you’re in London that weekend! We’ll be sure to offer a warm welcome!
But, while we’re not only creating these threads, we’re also trying to weave them together. And it’s got me thinking about what it means to be welcome, and how we welcome. How does it feel to be welcome and how do we know that we are welcomed? How do I want to be welcomed?
A few weeks ago a school friend invited me to come to a gig with her at Unity Works. She had a cold drink waiting for me on the table as I arrived at the bar, half an hour late, in a flurry, after struggling to leave the house in time during the tricky teatime, bedtime ritual (or dance) that having small children entails. The gig itself was Threshold – songs and stories of hospitality (do go and see if you get the chance). We all filled in pieces of paper describing when we feel welcome and what it means. Some alignment with our project – a nice alignment. Why are we thinking so much about welcome during these times? Is it as the referendum approaches and we think about staying together (or, for some, leaving) and how we all rub alongside each other in the day-to-day? Does reflecting on what it means, and how we do it, and how it feels mean we’ll change the way we do it? Will we do it differently? Or will we simply be more aware as we continue to welcome people in the ways we always have – just thinking about it a little bit more.
Some further reading on hospitality includes Derrida on Hospitality (a useful short summary is available on this webpage which offers an encyclopaedia of philosophy); Thomas More’s Utopia and Zygmunt Bauman’s Liquid Modernity.