Sunday, 15 September 2013

Joining the Mottisfont Residency Team

Anna Heinrich and Leon Palmer (see their website HERE)are conducting a three-month artists' residency at Mottisfont, a National Trust property with a long tradition of making spaces for contemporary art.  They have drawn around them a group of artists and students to foster a range of creative responses to the site.
The Mottisfont Plane tree

Rather late in the process, I have joined the party, and my daughter Alice (a recent graduate in Cultural Studies) has decided to come along for the ride.

We arrived at the artists' studio in Mottisfont on 5 September, having never been to this part of Hampshire before.I could tell from the co-creative session we joined that the earlier workshops had already generated a great deal of activity and diverse interpretations of Mottisfont.
Drawing of the co-creative workshop, made without looking at the paper
When we finally got out onto the site, to explore the house and grounds, my first impression of Mottisfont was of a place insulated from the cares of the world by a genteel cloak of wealth and privilege; a retreat and refuge from the harsh realities of life. If it was that kind of sanctuary in the past, when it was the home of a succession of wealthy families and their celebrity guests, it still seems to retain some of that character today.

The visiting public were predominantly retired, white, middle class couples with the occasional grandchild. I imagined they were daydreaming, as they perambulated in the sunshine, about the luxurious lifestyles of the former owners, admiring the walled gardens, riverside walks and 'great tracts of land'.

Window within the Cellarium
around which the current house has been built
Now it is owned by the National Trust so I have to wrestle with the paradox of the estate's privileged past and it's ostensibly public-serving present. 'Forever, for everyone' (provided they can pay to get in).

Scheming with an ice-cream
However much I tried, I couldn't get excited about the place on this first visit. The artists, on the other hand - now there was something to get excited about; with their creative ideas buzzing around in a subversive maelstrom of inventiveness.

Alice in the Cellarium
I wondered at the task Anna and Leon had taken on, of orchestrating this rich mix of responses into a cohesive presentation within one small and idiosyncratic exhibition space. I wanted to see how this played out and to engage with it, be involved and learn from the experience. I'm in.

The Cellarium houses a soundscape installation,
with overlapping loops of sound composed by Hywel Davies

Who is this? Pan?

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