I had the pleasure to spend the winter months of 2010/2011 conducting a residency at Nes in Skagaströnd. As part of my artistic practice as a visual artist, I am interested in the spatial capacities of narratives to allow for environments to become sites of self-positioning for various actors. Frequently entering and acting within public spaces, I understand artistic interventions to hold the potential to question the historical meanings of spaces for various actors and to offer the possibility to address and challenge other authoritative everyday understandings that play out within these spaces.
Producing site-specific and participatory art within the small community of Skagaströnd in north western Iceland involved, for me, communicating in ways intended to overcome the borders of spoken words and, simultaneously, the creation of situations in which to share the authority to verbally define my art practice with community members.
One example of the work that I did during my residency is the first project that I undertook – a performative-drawing event called ‘Drawing a Straight Line’. The project took place in the schoolyard during recess, with weather conditions undermining the very plan to draw a straight line over the length of hundreds of sheets of paper hanging on a clothesline. I understand this project to be “social cartography” in process. In its minimalist approach, the children that were present could easily grasp what was taking place in the schoolyard: fighting the impact of the wind, I was trying to draw a straight line using black ink and a brush. However, only if the children who decided to participate in the project held the paper sheets in place, with their hands behind single sheets providing me with “a drawing board” would I able to draw a somewhat straight line. If they decided to participate differently, for example by moving the papers even more, the line drawn depicts the movement created. When looking at the sum of the paper sheets lined up, the line that was drawn can be read as a map of social interaction. As this example elucidates, within participatory work, traditional conventions of art production, notions of the artist as the sole actor within the making of art, and ideas about the spatial belonging of artwork and art shows are subject to challenge.
The very friendly and wonderfully open community of Skagaströnd allowed me to jointly reflect on my artistic projects and to have the opportunity to make art as a means of collaborative community activity and social interaction….
I am very grateful for this experience.
Aimée Xenou http://aimee-xenou.com/