Collaborative Projects

Postcards for Perec:  Two Hundred and Forty-Three Postcards in Real Colour,  2021 to 2022. Curated, inspired and brought to life by Linda Parr. The project has been installed in three locations in the UK— Bower Ashton Library at the University of the West of England Bristol, Winchester School of Art, and The Street Gallery, Bath Spa University. The postcards will travel next to the Bristol Artists Book Event (BABE) in April 2022 and Cardiff in May 2022. Georges Perec’s postcard messages, dedicated to his friend/writer Italo Calvino, were written as the text for 243 distinct hedonistic holidays without a single image. Written in 1978, they were translated into English by John Sturrock in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces in 1997. The holiday-makers of Perec’s “postcards” revel around the globe, relaxing and sunbathing in absolute contrast to the stay-at-home restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic during which the project was conceived. The aim of Parr’s Perec project was to respond to the texts by inviting 243 artists and writers to make each  postcard, adding the missing image to the message, and posting the physical postcard. Postcards were offered to the project from twenty-two countries, from Russia to the USA, Finland to the Isle of Wight. My postcard text “We’ve just done Dahomey. Superb nights. Fantastic swimming. Excursions on camel-back. Will be in Paris on the 15th.” was chillingly à propos, the suggestion of ruthless frivolity in a place whose history was built on conquest and slave labour while waves of civil protest exploded in the United States , fuelled by the murder of George Floyd during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020. It has left me asking what has really changed in the aftermath of those times—what happened to the nascent revolution—has the status quo settled again, that energy now subdued in the failure of our times to keep the wheel of change moving towards progess.

Lockdown and Light , landscapeandlight.org, created by Jane Watt Projects and David Baldry. Lockdown and Light called on artists to create temporary light installations from their homes around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. My contributions to the project included a video projection called “No Words” in which light was cast through a moving player piano roll of the eponymous song. It was projected during the UK’s first pandemic lock down. I was challenged to find words for the level of alarm we were experiencing—alarm that was amplified by the unhelpful approaches governments and people were choosing in response to the pandemic unfolding which disrupted every core sense of safety. Simultaneously I discovered that a room in my home was a natural camera obscura. In the early morning it projected the outside on the inside—walkers walking, the hedgerow greening. It inspired me to work with light in a different direction: to seek comfort, engagement and simple wonder in the space I was locked to. I shared photos expressing this awareness to the Lockdown and Light project as a reminder that there might be opportunities to see the world through an optomistic lens, despite what might, in part, feel like insurmountable challenges. My final contribution to the second iteration of Lockdown and Light was a broadcast in Morse code from my rural garden in England—on a rainy, somewhat bleak, January night—of William Carlos Williams’ poem, Peace on Earth. The raw need for sleep was in constant pursuit, for at the level of survival, it was how we met the challenge to our systems, our beliefs, our fears about safety, doubts of our courage and tenacity, to bear up to it all, while our fragile parts were laid bare to endure full catastrophe living during the UK COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.

Peace on Earth
William Carlos Williams
The Archer is wake!
The Swan is flying!
Gold against blue
An Arrow is lying.
There is hunting in heaven—
Sleep safe till tomorrow.

The Bears are abroad!
The Eagle is screaming!
Gold against blue
Their eyes are gleaming!
Sleep!
Sleep safe till tomorrow.

The Sisters lie
With their arms intertwining;
Gold against blue
Their hair is shining!
The Serpent writhes!
Orion is listening!
Gold against blue
His sword is glistening!
Sleep!
There is hunting in heaven—
Sleep safe till tomorrow.

Letters from A Strange Year, curated by Paul Anderson Morrow and Sarah Needham, April 2021, Letters From a Strange Year was conceived as a collobrative artist’s project concerned with the relationship between artists’ conversations and practice. “Letters” and responses were contributed for a touring archive which was initially exhibited at a pop-up exhibition at Vôut Vintage in London in  2021. The William Blake exhibition at Tate Britain in February 2020 marked my last trip to London and final visit to a museum before COVID-19 brought everyday life to a sudden halt. At that moment we stood literally at the precipice between the world as we knew it, and a global pandemic. Two years later, it is clear that the world will never be the same whether we choose to acknowledge that or nor. At the time I had been making studies related to the many spectacular book forms Blake worked with while exploring my ongoing thoughts about A4 paper—standard in my new home—the UK, versus the standard US “letter”—similar but so different. During the UK”s first pandemic lockdown, adapting to challenges which we could never have anticipated— and oft-times doubted we could cope with—many threads of my art paths which were in the germination state took a turn—some were abandoned, some evolved, many were possibly just waiting and resting, as part of me was. The poem my letter extended from my thinking/practice about how we describe where we are both physically and otherwise. I use an app What Three Words which describes itself as “the simplest way to talk about location” as a launching “place” for a poem, or as marker for a place where I have left an offering. The app identifies one’s physical location by three unique words. The offerings I leave might be to the place itself or a person who might find it. It may be tangible as in an artwork, or ephemeral, as in a wish or an intention. The piece I contributed to Letters is a love letter written from a place of heartache in the summer of 2020 when some days held burdens we believed were too great to bear when we were pushed right to the edges of our toleration. 

Lockdown Community Dress, Colchester, UK, 2020 to 2021. Organised by Penny Pancaldi, this community collaborative project became a stunning “ball gown” festooned with thousands of handmade flower crafted from recycled waste materials such as tea bags, fruit sacks and crisp packets. Like quilting bees of the nineteenth century updated for the new medium, ZOOM, participants met virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns to make flowers for a dress not for a fancy affair we would not be attending but for the climate reality we are. It was presented in completion at the Colchester Eco Festival in September 2021 and remains on view at the Colchester Community Hub.

BABE 2021 | The Lost Weekend, April 2021. With delight I contributed several responses to Tom Sowden’s tribute to John Baldessari which will take physical form in a book after its initial presentation during the Bristol Artists Book Event (BABE) at Arnolfni Gallery, Bristol. In particular artist’s responses reflected on Baldessari’s pedagogical advice to notice the backs of things which I felt was particularly wry at a time when some parts of the world, including where I live, fantasised that we had already seen the back side of the global pandemic while I was bracing with the concern that it might be a very much longer expanse before we’d see the  backside of COVID-19 and its absolute alteration of daily life.

The Great Big Art Exhibition  curated by  Firstsite , Colchester, UK,  launched by Andrew Gormley, January to May 2021. This incredible invention proposed the largest art exhibition ever staged, with artists creating installations in their windows and any other accessible space across the UK during the COVID-19 global pandemic stay-at-home requirements. Anyone and everyone was invited to create and display their responses to monthly prompts and share them via social media. All works were later projected at FristSite to celebrate its reopening when UK restrictions lifted. I took particular pleasure on a blustery Spring day, in curating a stay-at-home-exhibition relating to the theme of colour, on the exterior walls of my rural home, its garage and garden wall. It was a breath of connection to the greater world and the nearer one I share with my family, neighbours and environs.

The Poetry Project, Northside Catholic Academy, Chicago, Illinois, 2015. An interdisciplinary poetry project guiding secondary students towards poetry while making “illustrations” that incorporated elements of their maths curriculum. Together we explored the possibility that a poem could be a picture or another object or that maths in particular might become clearer while allowing the mind to be expressed through another route.

Textifying, Frankenstone Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, 2014. Colloboration with Carolyn Aguila creating a series of events for national poetry month with an installation of collaborative visual poems.

Make a Wish, Stone Scholastic Academy, Chicago, Illinois, USA, 2013. A colloboration with 75 eigth-grade students at an inner-city public secondary school coalescing in two 100 foot long visual poems celebrating their wishes and intentions in a milestone culmination.