During the autumn of 2011, OCA Curriculum Leader for the Painting degree, Linda Khatir and Michele Whiting were offered a joint artists’ residency at Oxbow Michigan (affiliated with the School of the Arts Institute Chicago). Each year only a small number of residencies are awarded and Linda and Michele are the first to be invited from the UK.
Linda says: For over a century, the Oxbow retreat has been a place where professors and visiting artists from Chicago and New York could spend time away from the stresses of everyday life, a peaceful place for them to create new work inspired by more than a hundred acres of woodland, sand dunes and a beautiful lagoon. When we arrived, we were immediately struck by the embedded history of the place. In an environment far from the nearest town with no traffic noise, no light pollution, no television or shops, you really do feel as though time has stood still, and the lack of distraction means you have a lot of time to think about and make art.
The colourful wood cabins dotted deep inside the woods are filled with old furniture, fancy ornaments, rag rugs and patchwork quilts, and the Indian burial ground deep inside the forest is surrounded by an ancient and natural ring of trees. The spirit of this quiet place is kept alive by the natural inhabits; tiny jumping frogs, giant centipedes, black squirrels, chipmunks, turtles and deer.
Our methodological approach was to travel light, to find our ‘material’ and ‘subject’ there in the place, to wander off, stray from the path so that we could physically and psychologically encounter the lesser, intimate and open spaces of the land rather than the grandiose visual space of a land-scape . This meant listening, touching and collecting as well as running, falling and getting lost.
Throughout our stay, we both wrote freely about our experiences of ‘being-in’ the place, and the multi-sensory experiencing of its lesser spaces. These two texts were then combined, and this merging of two voices seemed to offer itself up for supplementation by another, so we invited Young Joon (a Chicago -based artist) to collaborate on a third performative text. The performance was to take place at the end of a long journey deep inside the forest. Since the beginning of our stay we had tried to find the Indian burial ground, only coming across it on this, our third attempt. Once the fire-pit was aflame and smoking, we left Young Joon alone to read. This sound work ‘little elegy’, was inspired by a small gravestone found deep inside the forest at Oxbow, and will be part of a large installation at the American Museum in Britain during Summer 2012.