Isabella Streffen

25SG
16th – 21st May 2011
Aeronauts

Balloons, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, photo: Arto Polus

Balloons, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, photo: Arto Polus

I approached the residency with some trepidation. Carole and Hannah had asked me not to preconceive any work, and the only way I had of doing that was to be very careful not to think about the forthcoming time, or the space. This meant that I responded quite intuitively-systematically even- to the space when I arrived. I made quick decisions, trying to enter a state of suspension where my experience of working in other locations could be swiftly harnessed.

Being invited to send in images and a title for an event-teaser was a bit counter-intuitive though, as it demanded that I develop something in advance of the residency….. and of course, it was very difficult to stop thinking about what I had suggested after that. Knowing this, I tried to focus intently on my methodology and make defining that methodology the key to the first few days. Fortunately this worked out very well- analysing my approach so closely enabled me to identify the beginnings of work that I might otherwise have overlooked.

Balloons, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

Balloons, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

When I arrived for the first time, I could not get anyone to let me in, so I decided to approach the house from the front. This had something of the air of a journey into the unknown, which I liked, and the surprise of the view, and lushness of the undergrowth revealed a really hidden beauty. I found the space genuinely engaging and intriguing. I found it hard to separate the space from its inhabitants, it was friendly and unusual, and easy to make work in.

I tried very hard not to have any expectations- those that I did have were of myself. I hoped perhaps, to get more done. I would have liked to hand make some of the balloons, and experimented a little more with their form, but the residency is actually quite short.

Balloons, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

Balloons, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

I found the whole set up quite challenging, as I don’t usually make performative work. The whole residency acted as a challenge to my (usually) very research-driven practice. Being in such a short-term environment demanded that I work through questions and problems very fast, and that I was very responsive and instinctive (which is all to the good). Having been involved in mainly long-term projects over the past 3-4 years, it was a welcome release to work improvisationally and with immediacy.

I found the final event quite stressful as I am not a natural performer, and I think I would have preferred more time alone in the space directly beforehand (though I probably could have had this if I had made arrangements earlier in the week). I always find it incredibly hard to evaluate something so close after the end, but I’m delighted that Carole and Hannah found it so successful. I learnt a lot from the event about the work that I premiered, and about how my approach to making work can be adapted for different contexts. I found the informal discussion with Irene Brown very useful, and a really good way of focussing and ending the day, and I am looking forward to
turning the audio into a text. In general I thought that the event went quite well, and I made a good beginning with new work.

Manifesto, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

Manifesto, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

I really enjoyed working in a new space with different rules and an entirely different context to my last residency. I enjoyed the fact that Carole and Hannah took a risk with inviting me- and I wanted to produce something quite unique that I thought would respond to that investment. I particularly liked the support given by the 25sg team, and their willingness to engage with my ideas and into dialogue with me. There was nothing that I didn’t enjoy- the only thing I found mildly frustrating was the amount of visitors going about the daily business of 25sg as an art/domestic space. It seems churlish to complain, as it wasn’t a huge issue, but less would have been nice. Having said that, I found the interaction with the team really valuable.

Manifesto, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

Manifesto, Isabella Streffen - Aeronauts, at 25SG, photo: Arto Polus

There’s a lot for me to take forward from the residency, the most important being a feeling of reconsideration: trialling new work and moulding it into a form for this type of location, making it performative- less arm’s length- has been a real development for me. Trying out the new piece of work let me know just how much needs still to be done with it to prepare it for exhibition, and how much critical thinking still needs to be done on the project (that will affect its final form). The nature of the residency also reminded me to be open, to trust my own judgement, and to try to get the most out of every piece. I have quite a few things to still put together to complete the work: a textual account of Aeronauts; a page of useful links on hospitality and a bibliography; a series of photographs from my time at 25sg; transliteration of audio interview with Carole, and my conversation with Irene Brown which I plan to edit into a formal paper.

More photographs from the event: http://www.artopolus.net/isabella-streffen/

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