Magnetic North Blog
As I sit with this idea of reflecting on Stories from Here - a live series that took place online for 30 minutes each day for a week in early May 2020 - I am conscious I am tired of hearing about the pandemic. I want to read, watch and listen to almost anything else, I’m sure I’m not alone. That is however the timing of this collaboration with Magnetic North and somewhat of the instigator. It materialized quickly following a trip home to the UK in March, Charles, my long-term collaborator, and I were in the first wave of travellers back to Canada to be asked to go into immediate isolation. A few days in, on a video call, a trusted friend and curator asked candidly and somewhat expectantly 'what are you thinking? What are your thoughts about working in these times? How is your work responding?’ Back then our honest answer was we were still sort of stunned, stumped, as an artist who works within the public realm, what do you do when that realm is shrunk to your bedroom, what is and how do you work with this ‘context’? His question however continued to touch a nerve (as I think he intended). Over the next couple of weeks Charles and I talked a great deal about art and the idea of social practice and what it means in this global and equally local context? We returned time and again to something a City of Calgary lead flood management strategist said to us in the cafeteria of the municipal Water Centre a week after the 2013 devastating floods in the city: ‘we need artists now more than ever’. He didn't mean filling sandbags (although artists did that too). Of course in my heart I knew he was right, art is no less vital in these times, perhaps it's more so. We had spent our professional life as passionate advocates that art is not just a nice to have, but part of living.