Wednesday, 18 May 2011

The Astrolabe and the Heart

The new season is well underway now, though blogs and other things have been being neglected whilst two members of the Collective turned up and parked outside HQ for months! From late in January on and off until this week, they have been around, coming in and going out, making things, offering things, mending things, weeding the garden and painting their big purple truck, making it ready for serious travel (rather than a large, comfortable, but rather stationary affair), bestowing on it a motorbike rack, welding, creating, chopping wood and generally being the hive of activity they usually are. It's been strange having them around again for so long. The Collective was born (as I'm sure has been said in previous posts) of various people/artists living together in the same space, either at the same time or sequentially, and knowing one another through that, and coming together to form an artist's collective on the strength of - if you live together, then perhaps you can work together. The original eight members were all folks who lived at HQ (including ourselves the storytellers - writer/poet/actor/collage artist and philosopher/maker/historical cook respectively) and six of us kind of at the same time, which provided the initial impetus for forming the group. Sadly, two of these core members moved to New Zealand a while back, the jewellery and clothes maker, and the roundhouse/eco-builder/wood sculptor/musical instrument maker. Known collectively as 'The Crew', those four all went to Bicton College and met during the now-legendary Environmental Arts and Crafts course, save one, who went to Dartington and was partner of one of the three.
   Since then, the Collective has expanded into friends-of-friends, as the two remaining of the original 'Crew' introduced two of their fellow students from Bicton, or rather one, (cob/wood/willow artist) and his partner (costumes/textiles/banners/rugs/weaving), an artist they met from one of their own projects (carnival floats/public art textiles/large scale banners) and another from their circus days (juggling/fire juggling). Meanwhile two of the early members have fallen away - the issues that evolve over time after having lived together sometimes straining as well as cementing bonds! So music is now under-represented.
   However, incredibly, what with two of the original members moving to NZ, it still meant that we had eight active members, who worked together and in combinations at festivals and events! Quite an achievement, we felt, given the potentials for trouble, what with friendship / housemates / couples / singles / money / relationships / art / egos / work / stress / weather! and heaven knows what else, all mixed up in a heady cocktail. Others with whom the Collective are allied and sometimes work are a pair of stilt walkers (also from Bicton) and an environmental artist (Bicton).
   So for the last three months or more, to live with two folks with whom you have lived twice before, with whom you have done so many workshops and festivals, whom you have been with in good weather and bad, for whom you have cooked and who have cooked for you, who have given you many things and whom you have given many things, with whom you've gone to dinner at dodgy beach bars and danced the night away at parties in questionable venues...with whom you have been through and done so much, and who have brought you through bad times, and find themselves doing it yet again: With whom you have lived in a seemingly endless gift and favour exchange economy where one always needs what the other has to give, storage space for some plastering, willow for electricity...with whom you have unwittingly forged and fashioned something uncomfortably close to a family. Who treats you like a hotel, but in the nicest possible way. With whom you have the ease of ideal flatmates, work colleagues, helpmeets, fellows in some cause...good friends. - Has been strange. Strange because you think that eventually you must get sick of the sight of each other! And yet it doesn't happen, despite the fact that you all have edges or points of non-contact, and come up against them from time to time. Despite (from my own perspective) the endless mug-finding, mug-rinsing, floor-sweeping, the lack of parking outside, the fur on the carpet, folks around getting in the way of admin. and work and making one late...but none of it matters, ultimately. What price the always-chirpy greeting, the friendly smile, the ever-readiness to help, suggest, be positive, cheer up, the know-how to draw upon, have pleasantries with...folks you can get drunk with, without worrying if you'll make a fool of yourself in their eyes.
   And of course, why they were here for so long was to get everything sorted and ready to go to the Continent - perhaps for good. They will stay Collective members. Just as if someone offered thousands of pounds of work to build a house, the eco-builder might return from NZ for a time, so they could perhaps post some of the smaller items which they make, and so will stay with their projects online. But it does mean that in effect, and for now, we storytellers are the only original members of the Collective available for work and working collaboratively now. And that IS strange. The Collective was five years old. Is this the end of an era? Who knows.
   But as of yesterday, they caught their ferry and have gone, having spent from January's end until Easter, then meeting in Easter in London in glorious summery weather and going boating, them surfing behind on the river, and other crowded scenes, almost adolescent in their colourful intensity, and then parting there, only to have them return a week ago...
    And so all this explains why the recent Spoken/Written editions have been late, why e-mails arrived after they were meant to (although there have been server issues too!), and why this blog has been neglected for a while. This wasn't what I intended to write, but perhaps it's only once written, that the business of this blog or online journal can commence.
   Although the Crew and Collective are of course or have been intertwined inextricably with work - until now.....................

   On a lighter note, HQ has been somewhat transformed, with new licks of plaster and paint, much weed and bramble cut away, impetus to get me tiling (an intention which had never yet materialized into action!), thrown away rubbish and junk left by many upstairs, and inspiration to sort spaces that had turned into lumber piles...and perhaps most startlingly of all, their parting artistic tributes to the Collective. A heart shaped hurdle fence with a chandelier crystal set in the centre, and a huge metre and a half high astrolabe sculpture made from cast iron rings...I won't forget this last three months. Bon Voyage, mes amis.

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