25.08.2012 - 11.09.2012
When Nina offered me an opportunity of taking up an art residency with my daughter I was very excited. I was also slightly hesitant about being able to make the work and ensuring that both of us enjoy our time in Switzerland. Erring therefore on the side of caution (and due to my other commitments) I booked two weeks at Trelex. I can only stress that two weeks is a short time and I would recommend a stay of a month or longer at this unique residency.
Being picked up at the airport and invited to share the initial meals eliminated any travel concerns. As I only had a couple of weeks, I decided to focus on exploring the immediate surroundings of Trelex and nearby town Nyon in favour of sightseeing Geneva (although this would be easy to do with kids). I found going shopping to Nyon easy, and my Nina loved these little train rides. I combined these trips with strolls around the historic town, relaxation at the lakeside and nice coffee. There are some attractions for kids in Trelex (walks, playground, exercise circuit in nearby woods, visits to local bakery for morning rolls) and plenty more in Nyon. The most surprising however is the house itself – large with numerous rooms often connected in a maze-like fashion. Combined with an enormous garden with a hidden play house, vegetable garden and swing/hammocks area, it creates an amazing adventure ground for kids.
The family was very welcoming and little Nina quickly made friends with the other children - they all were sharing toys, films and even a few evening baths. The family invited us to join in their trips to the lakeside for an evening swim or to have a barbecue picnic in the woods. I will definitely miss drinking afternoon tea with two little girls who would kindly accompany me in a lady-like manner.
The living/working space felt very comfortable and easy (all I needed to do is ask). Spacious studio areas were easy to rearrange depending on my needs and provided inspiration to keep going back to making. There was a variety of art supplies and tools to hand, plus and interesting range of materials in outdoor sheds which were great to use for temporary structures. I brought some materials with me including packaging and fabrics but also used the contents of the sheds and garage.
I found making work in Trelex easy, at the same time enjoying trips out, playing with kids and experimenting in the studio kitchen. I also managed to squeeze in a fair bit of late night writing for my university essay (though sometimes I found it hard to stay away from the artwork). I was particularly keen to capture the lighting conditions in the afternoon and having my daughter nearby proved beneficial. She was happy, in exchange for a chocolate reward, to perform for my photographs and short films.
I arrived at the beginning of the residency with few ideas I wanted to test and possibly develop towards my upcoming show at the Slade. Much of my past work has referred to the idea of home as a spatio-temporal concept and the more recent inquiries dealt with negotiating perceptions about art, labour and the domestic. In a way the situation of the residency was a form of negotiation in itself. I have become intrigued by boxes as packaging but also temporary structures: Emptiness offers itself up as the box opens its folds. The surprise of the flat pattern, the icon both familiar and unidentifiable. Then the folds collapse back and carve out a bit of space. Walls are formed around a promise of home. For a short while the structure lies to us of its solidity until it dissolves again.
During the last days of my residency I overlapped with Yuki Aruga and we started to strike up some great conversations. I would have loved to continue these as well as the conversations with Nina which I feel have also only been started. The final presentation to Nina, her husband David and a few local residents was not only enjoyable but it became a constructive critical debate. I particularly liked David’s comments on loose artist talk and contrasting these with his philosophy background and a need for making the arguments clear and understood (paraphrasing “you may not need to agree with me but I need you to understand me”). Many of the points raised still echo with me and I only wish I could have stayed longer...