CLAIRE BRIEGEL


PROPOSAL

'My idea for time well spent in BCCA residence would be to present and discuss research to bcca full-time residents Kate and Duncan. This will involve writing and reading mainly (texts and images), the sharing of learning processes and an evaluation of time spent on the Masters of Fine Art course, as well as looking at possibilities for the future. This time will be an opportunity to explore alternative, but very real, peer learning, as well as advice-giving, goal setting and use of time. One of the defining features of the investigation will be how to reconcile breadth and non-identity (and sometimes unfocused-ness) in research with presentation to publics (the digestive publics of bcca). Themes of research are as broad as care, faith and responsibility, framed by a consideration of implications particular to artistic and creative practice.'


ARRIVAL

Claire arrived at noon on May 11. She'd not long returned to Dundee from a week-long Buddhist retreat where there was no access to current affairs. On going into a newsagents and reading a headline that told her the Tories had been returned to office, she burst into tears. Claire is aware of the damage that ideological cuts are doing to social welfare.


DAY ONE

At an appointed hour the three of us meet in the conservatory for a conversation which we hope will have some focus. With just over three months to go before the MFA (Art, Society and Publics) Degree Show, Claire is looking to decide what she will work towards. She has been doing a great deal of reading and writing (for example, around the concept of 'care') but remains undecided how she will present this research.

For the last year, most of which has been a negotiated break from the MFA course, she has been closely involved with the community café within Roseangle Church, which is adjacent to DJCAD (Duncan of Jordanstone School of Art and Design). She's been the cook there, and the co-manager, and has come into close contact with the volunteers. This interests her and, with her permission, a volunteer was going to be the subject of a film, a plan now put on hold. It's also at Roseangle Arts Café that a group which is investigating 'If the City were a Commons' meets every fortnight for the whole of Tuesday evening. Claire is part of that group, as are Kate and I, and so we know how inclusive and discursive it is. There is going to be a week-long Commons Festival from 24-30 August, which directly follows on from the dates of the MFA Degree show. Claire would like there to be a cross-over here, with her work for the MFA show and the Roseangle-situated, Dundee public festival.

We discuss this in terms of a triangle:

  • Roseangle Café, which is full of potential for good (responsibly sourced food, voluntary positions and cooperative labour, community spirit). The place is currently somewhat muddled with changes to management, requiring lots of negotiation between the church, new management, staff and volunteers.

  • The Commons group, which is full of goodwill between a wide assortment of creative and/or political individuals who have a festival to plan that will stretch all across Dundee but who have yet to step out of the café.

  • The MFA course, with its more formal and institutional educational structure; the course is full of creative talents, with often divergent interests and differing approaches.

As several of the members of the Commons group are ex-MFA (at least four of them). One idea would be for Claire to invite them back into the gallery. There is the feeling that these Commons members' grasp of Art, Society and Publics would inject this year's MFA show with community values that would fit well with the philosophy of the course. In other words, let the white cube be filled with a rainbow of ideas and ideals.

Another suggestion that comes up - not entirely serious, but not totally facetious either - is for Claire's show to consist of the cabbages that she says she reveres as a kind of utopian vegetable. Claire's work might form a triangle. The cabbages close to the MFA point of the trainagle may all be individually and exquisitely decorated. Those at the Roseangle café point would be battered and served (literally and metaphorically). While those close to the Commons point would have formed themselves into one giant cabbage, full of positive energy, each cabbage being equal to every other cabbage and contributing to the ONE BIG CABBAGE.

An hour has passed. Has our chat been enjoyed by each of us individually and severally? There has been a lot of laughter but some earnestness too. Imagination has been at play and not always at the expense of logical development. Oh, and there has been a fair bit of umming and ahhing.

Has the conversation been useful to Claire? We don't know. But we schedule in another chat for tomorrow.

Later, I realise I have made no notes nor take any photos of the session. I resolve to do better next time and in the meantime I come up with the above from memory. I then draw the following:

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Blast, I've made my circle bigger than the other two. But that's all right for a couple of reasons. First, I talked the most nonsense. Second, inevitably, the way the brain works - mine anyway - it's mostly my contributions to the discussion that I remember.


DAY TWO

When will we three meet again? In thunder, lightning and in the same seats in the conservatory.

Claire wants to say something about her writing and the MFA. She is thinking about the idea of presenting research writing as part of, or as the focal point of her MFA Degree Show. As we know from Kate's experience of the course, at intervals students are required to write a positioning paper, literally positioning their practise in relation to contemporary art, society and publics. On the MFA at DJCAD, PP1 is expected to be in the neighbourhood of 1000 words. PP2 is about 3000 words and PP3 is, as I recall it, 6000 words. These are worthwhile exercises, providing one is comfortable writing about art and their position amidst it, and we at the BCCA think it might indeed work well for Claire to produce another piece based on this, since 'positioning' and relational working is integral to her approach. Claire and Kate both agree that positioning their practice in this way has been one of the most useful requirements of the MFA course.

Claire has her PP3 with her. It amounts to a conversation / interview between Claire and various writers, thinkers and artists. The document has a circular format with no clear place to begin and no end. It was presented as a literal circle, on a round mirror serving plate, alongside a shadow positoning paper, and a guide. As well as exploring circularity, the piece also explores the concept of 'grounding' and 'triadic' dynamics of three.

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The BCCA has not read much philosophy, as such. Kate has dipped into Walter Benjamin but his intellectualising about a personal archive didn't seem to do him much good, as he ended up walking into some hills and never appearing again.

Soon we are referring to Claire's PP3 as a mud circle, an idea which the BCCA runs with. PP4 could be PP3 resting on a table within a mud hut enclosed within the four walls of the Cooper Gallery which could also be covered with blown-up pages from Claire's PP3. The effect on the visitor to the MFA Degree Show would be what, though? The experience of reading the text would be echoed in the set up, hence the muddiness and the circularity would be immersive. The muddiness and the circularity would seem to go on for ever.

Claire is not at all sure she wants to do any such thing, but she is too polite a guest / resident not to go along with the scenario. Much talk of mud ensues. Claire asks to take the plate of coffee dregs so she can make a folly mud hut. What more could she ask for from her BCCA residency?

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Claire wonders if she shouldn't research the concept of 'dissonance'. The BCCA understands that Claire has already researched the words 'care' and 'exchange'. We suggest that researching another word would be for Claire to move back into her comfort zone rather than forward towards the production of a degree show.

OK then, let's take a step back. Does Claire want her text to be circular and ambiguous? Because an alternative would be to break into the circle and create a beginning and an end point. For argument's sake, the starting point could be the Cooper Gallery at the time of the MFA, and the end point could be a week later at the time of the Commons Festival at Roseangle Church.

What does Claire think of stretching the circle into a straight line? She tells us she needs to think about that idea.

That's fair enough. But also fair enough is the fact that the BCCA has been blessed with the presence of a visiting tutor today, courtesy of the Saturday Guardian magazine, and that he should have the last word. Not sure if it's clear from the next picture what David Hockney's words of advice are.

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In case they're not clear, the words of wisdom from the bluff Yorkshireman cum L.A. bohemian are these:

"GET ON WITH IT, GIRL!"


DAY THREE

We've slightly changed the set-up today. It's still the three of us sitting in the conservatory but Claire and I have swopped places, she is beside the table in the more central position.

The session starts with Claire telling us where her thoughts have got to about her forthcoming degree show in the Cooper Gallery. She mentions making use of the fake interview format that's embedded in her PP3. As well as the PP4, she talks about giving space to texts and documents that foreground the concept of 'dissonance'. And she wants to juxtapose all these words with a film made at Roseangle.

Roseangle re-emerges as a key word. Claire would like to make available kimchi, a sort of fermented cabbage, that would point MFA show visitors in the direction (straight across the street) of Roseangle Arts Café and the Commons.

Also pointing the way to Roseangle would be items on a noticeboard. Actually, Claire envisages there being two noticeboards, one containing theoretical texts and the other displaying practical information.

Suddenly we are talking cabbage again. Would it not make sense if Claire's degree show space contained a number of raw cabbages? Their year-round availability, affordability, roundness, greenness, earthiness, sameness. (Perhaps even red cabbages and white cabbages as well as green ones, as they are all equally 'green'.} And the whole process of turning the raw cabbage into kimchee could be on display.

Claire seems quite keen on this. We can all see her sitting in the middle of her showing space, making kimshee with a variety of garnishes or seasonings, offering it to people, giving people directions to Roseanagle (straight across the street, you really can't miss it) and introducing them to the concept and programme of the Commons.

Claire would be sitting there making kimchi out of cabbage, talking Commons, while surrounded by texts about exchange and value and secular faith. Texts such as 'My Life as a Cabbage' by Baudelaire. This ignorant remark is met with warm laughter, so that's all right.

We're reminded of the food that Claire made for the picnic that was held on Kate's grassy mound in the middle of her degree show in summer 2014.

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"I'm thinking this is a good idea," says one half of the BCCA.

"It's not up to us to think it's a good idea," says the other half.

Claire must decide for herself if our suggestions - if our group discussions - have been of any use to her.

We talk at some length about the importance of Claire making a decision as to what she is going to do, whatever that decision is. The metaphor of the hill is introduced. There are many starting points to climbing a hill. The climber shouldn't waste days and weeks choosing the best route. All routes will take him or her up, so just start out on one. And get up there.

If only David Hockney was here today to offer more advice, his own unique blend of sage-yet-blunt kimchi. But he's not.


DEPARTURE

Claire is baking fish in the kitchen. I ask if I can take a look at what she's been doing in the summerhouse. She answers, yes, and tells me she's spread some documents out, and I soon see that's true. 'Affect and the Politics of Austerity,' reads the headline next to the bunch of pens.

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My eye plucks another page out of the dissonance. If Kate and Claire agree, having read this piece and amended it as much or as little as they care to - let it have the last word.

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