In October, artist and independent curator Trevor Pitt put out a call inviting artists from in and around Exeter to join Preston Street Union, part of Trevor’s recent residency at Spacex.
The call-out offered 12 spaces but arriving at the first Tuesday evening workshop I found we numbered almost double that – and it felt like an affirming welcome to all of us, that so many had been accommodated.
In his introduction, Trevor spoke about his Cannon Hill Art School Project at mac, Birmingham and the possibilities that an experimental approach can bring to learning and making art.
Trevor said of his work that, “the idea of setting up PSU was very much influenced by my interest in the work of artist and educator Josef Albers. During the programme the group were encouraged at all times to embrace one of Albers’ key principles for developing as an artist – “look with open eyes””
The four evening sessions lasted only 2 hours, but the pace of each was quick and exhilarating. We were encouraged to develop a relationship of exchange with the project through the direction of bringing along something to each meeting (images of our own work; an “object, material or item that… encapsulates… current thinking or ideas”) and, for me, this had the affect deepening my sense of being an active participant.
Sessions were launched quickly, opening with a presentation from a guest artist/group (Cathy Wade, Juneau Projects and Clare Thornton) and we then followed Trevor’s ideology of learning through doing, splitting into small groups and having a maximum of 20 minutes to create a collaborative response which was then shared to the whole group.
In the final session, a day-long event facilitated by artist Emily Warner, PSU took over the Spacex building and presented the results of our whole learning through collaborative experience.
Trevor brought a lightness of touch to the PSU project enabling trust to develop from our easy and quick connections as we formed, shifted and re-formed our small groups each session. In our responses, had no time to over-think, but just enough time to act – we needed to be spontaneous and confident and to go with our ideas.
For me, the process has been hugely beneficial. I hit absolute exhilaration, a massive buzz by the end of the final session and it came from the realisation of the ease with which the PSU Associates embarked on our final creative actions.
The principle of peer learning is vital to artistic practice at any stage – and it was a privilege to explore the potential of pushing the boundaries of our current ways of working through collaboration. We are now post project and working independently to develop PSU as a group of associates who have come together because of a shared interest in collaborating with other artists and we are strongly committed to keeping Preston Street Union going.
Kate Paxman, Artist and Producer at Smooth Space