Year in review: 2019

SSW is 40! Photo: Felicity Crawshaw

Time in Lumsden is intangible, fickle and slippy – but we have all made another cycle around the sun! Working on the rural peripheries, with a proximity to material, weather, the more-than-human and each other, time is felt and marked here in the temperature of the workshops, the hours of sunlight, funding cycles, and regular Cake Monday (thanks to the wonderful Max). Today is one of the shortest and darkest days, which tells us it’s nearly the close of SSW’s 40th year, with 41 on its way.

SSW is 40! (2019). Photo: Felicity Crawshaw

As artist Ilana Halperin writes of SSW, there is “a new eruption every time the human constellation in Lumsden reforms”. Thank you to all of the artists, thinkers, crafts folk, makers, families, young people and communities who have formed these constellations this year! Everyone who has come on residency, worked with us through projects, spent time on open access, Clay Group, courses, internships, student groups, come along to our public events and to those who have supported and funded our work here. And to everyone in our wider networks who has connected with us, towards collectively making change in this year of ongoing environmental and political upheaval.

Simone Kenyon, Into The Mountain (2019). Photo: Felicity Crawshaw

2019 has marked some significant moments for SSW. In June, we saw the culmination of long-term project Into The Mountain by artist and choreographer Simone Kenyon. Guided walks and performances offered other ways of coming to know mountains, beyond traditional narratives of conquer and peaks. Drawing from Aberdeen writer Nan Shepherd’s unique embodied approach to being in the Cairngorms, Simone’s choreography and a new score by Hanna Tuulikki worked with the ecologies of Glen Feshie as active agents and collaborators. Christiana Spens wrote of the work: “With its dismissal of gallery space, of convoluted explanations and expense of experience, with its lack of traditional material expression, Into The Mountain is triumphant”. Following the performances, our Into The Mountain Traineeships ensured two more young women would have access to the mountains in coming years and a short film by Simone and Lucy Cash, How The Earth Must See Itself, opened the project up to online audiences as the lead production for National Theatre of Scotland’s digital channels.

Winter Residency 2019. Photo: SSW

Throughout the year we have been joined by artists from as far afield as South Korea, Australia and Israel, as close as Aberdeen, and places in between. All have come to SSW through our various residency programmes, or project-specific calls such as Edythe Woolley’s significant DIY, towards, “a momentarily shared point of grounding” in an art world where the artist is, “required to be perpetually globally mobile for increasingly short phases”. Indeed, 2019 saw the pilot of our North AiR residency programme with partners in Scotland and Finland. Together we are seeking other modes of mobility and production within the arts and questioning the role of remote and rural artists’ residency in a time of climate breakdown. We shared the learning from this pilot via land, sea and screen at the Finnish Institute in London, in (re)constituting residency: with/in other centres, and excitedly anticipate how we can, as our Infrastructures Intern Finn Arschavir writes, “turn this ecological awareness inside out”.

Eothen Stearn and Lumsden Primary School, Lumsden Residency (2019). Photo: SSW

With active awareness of the environmental implications of travel, we remain committed to the importance of making relationships, locally, nationally and internationally, through face-to-face conversation and learning. Inviting artists to SSW to work collaboratively with young people in our locale through the Lumsden Residency and Forging Futures programme has fostered new perspectives, skills and an appreciation of the power of making together for all involved, be that a den, dance or wobbly map. Over the next four years, we will be continuing this learning through a Creative Europe Large Cooperation Project with nine partners across Europe. The project, BE PART, looks towards a long-term shift in how we work collectively and co-create artworks. We also aim to bring this collective ethos to decision making and governance here at SSW, turning collaboration ‘outside in’, through our Director Sam’s participation in another EU network, RESHAPE.

SSW is 40: Community Making Sessions (2019). Photo: Felicity Crawshaw

In November, we welcomed over 300 people to celebrate our 40th anniversary with a joyful weekend of process, performance and partying. We kicked off the weekend with a spectacular performative iron pour and presented works in progress developed through residency including a new performance by Letitia Pleiades. Across the weekend we shared skills held here at SSW through community making sessions and open workshops, and reflected on 40 years of living and working together, making relationships, skills and art.

SSW is 40! (2019). Photo: Felicity Crawshaw

With this, we were excited to reveal our ambitions for the development of our workshops over the coming years; a ground-up development that utilises local materials, skills and knowledge to “ensure our workshops continue to be places where relationships are made, material experimentation is foregrounded and new worlds are conjured into being”. To make these buildings, we will be collaborating with Collective Architecture and the newest member of our team, Capital Project Manager Jane Robertson. Crucially, with this development, ambient temperatures in the workshops will be above freezing in the depths of winter and our site will be fit for purpose, artists, organisational needs and ambition.

Summer Residency 2019. Photo: SSW

It’s not possible to cover everything that has happened in this brief round-up, from this cycle around the sun – some of it is public and visible and some is held between the constellations of people who have come together here. We haven’t even dipped our toes into the tangles of next year’s Winter Residency and Public Talks programme! However, take this as an invitation to follow the links and threads above to read more about our 40th year from multiple voices who have been present with us through our collective learning and making. As we close, or ‘go dark’ for two weeks, we look to SGSAH Researcher-in-Residence at SSW, Naomi Pearce’s fieldnotes, in which “the compressor is turned off and as it sighs quiet the neighbour’s breath exhales. Rain unleashes. Doors slam.”

See you next year and we hope you all have a wonderful winter solstice.

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