Archives for the month of: August, 2012

Linda Murgatroyd led a session of guided watercolour painting with meditation. We painted onto wet watercolour paper with our eyes closed for a while, and then opened them to work further into the painting we had started.

Linda asked us to consider our journeys to get to the space that day, and what is happening in the wider world at the moment, and also to listen to the sounds we could hear around us. Then we started painting.

After we had finished we each said something about what we had done and how we had found the experience. We then composed a poem together.

During the woskshop we had the door open to the street because there is no ventilation in the room otherwise. This meant that it was quite noisy, and also someone came in while we were talking about our paintings. He stood and watched but refused to join in. Some people didn’t mind this, but after a while I started to find it too threatening and we asked him to leave. It seemed to confirmed my worries that space is a difficult one to use for a workshop activity where you dont want to be disturbed. But it also made me wonder about whether the activity could happen in such a way that people could come in and out. It seems to me that the more you create a scenario where people can come in and out, the more proscribed the activity has to be, and the less room for participant input. I wonder if thats really is the case.

The participants all seemed happy with the workshop, and said that it had given them something, either a break from their busy day, or something to think about, or both.


Ling came today and conducted her Feedback interview/questionnairre. It looks like a page from Facebook, and asks questions about how much you use digital devices and how you feel about being with them and without them. This is an experiment for her. I asked if she was going to do something with the data, or if it was more about the experience for the person filling in the form, and so more of a performance, and she has not decided that yet.

I found it interesting to consider what the idea of being present means in terms of lo-tech and high-tech. Do people turn off their phones and computers to be more present? And if so, what about being present with people remotely? via skype for example, does that count?

Julie Stevenson brought in two photos with captions that were about what being in the present means for her, one is an image of a cake she made, the other is a view of beach and sea. I put them on the wall and then I drew her portrait while we talked.

Sam Watterson came in and asked if he could show his book in the space. I asked to see it and he went home and brought a copy back. It is a small book with minimal text and colourful illustrations of his journey along a pilgrimage route in Spain. I think his book is a beautiful description of the experience of being on pilgrimage walk, and found this interesting in terms of the theme, so I invited him to do something more with it in the space. He is going to come on Wednesday with more copies of the book to share, and talk about how it was done and the walk itself.

Chris was here again today and we talked about ways to invite people in. He suggested making a simple questionnaire on a single sheet of paper, inspired by the one Ling brought, to give to passers by. I asked him what being present meant to him and he told me about a quote from the film Kung Fu Panda, which he has promised to put up on the wall.

Ling and Chris both offered to do something on paper to bring back and share on the walls, reflecting on the day and ideas that had been generated for them.

We now have a calender in the space. Now we just need some more things to fill it with.

I heard that Davies Lane School was getting rid of furniture and that there was a bookcase going. I went and picked it up and cleaned it up and now it is in the space. I have brought in some books that I want to share with people, and hope that others might bring books that they want to share, or that it might even turn into a book swap, which has been suggested by a few people. It also has leaflets across the top that are to do with things going on locally, so if you have anything you want to leave here please bring it down.

Today Takako and Sophie came and we started drawing each other. Then Hilary and Sarah came in and Sarah talked about the ideas the project had given her so far. Hilary then started to take notes of points she thought were salient, and Takako drew Sarah.

I decided to try putting all the writing and drawing up on the wall to see if that might enable us to keep a record of what we were doing, and enhance the discussion. The space was instantly transformed into and art school studio like environment, and drew a lot more attention from passers by.

Two women came in with their young children and we drew them and carried on talking. I was amazed at how the girl I was drawing was so excited by the drawing and recognised herself and her mother. It was a beautiful moment for me.




present from insearchofsilence on Vimeo.

Study of the space by James Bull.
Work in progress – there might be sound to go with it later on.

Elliot and I gave the whole shop a coat of white paint. The space is transformed. It looks much warmer and more like somewhere you would like to spend some time. I am knackered now though.

I went to St Johns Church 9am to borrow 20 stacking chairs from the vicar. He helped me carry them the 2 minute walk to the shop, which gave me the opportunity to find out what he thought of my Listen idea.

He said that an ‘oasis of calm’ would be a good thing to have there. He said that the church offers people the opportunity for calm and reflection, but organised religion has a stigma attached which stops people form accessing that opportunity. However, he warned that the space needed a focus, that its hard to do it on your own without something to hold your attention, such as a painting or a candle.

His words were playing over in my mind as I walked back to the shop when it occurred to me that the underground should be the focus. This quickly into the idea of making a shrine to the underground, which I thought about that idea for a couple of hours until realising that I didn’t really want to go there. This left me bereft again and desperate for a plan.

chairs in concentric circles

I phoned sound artist/composer Sonia in Canada on skype. We talked for 2 hours about ideas for the project.

Then I went back to the shop and met a friend from a recent drawing and meditation retreat. It occurred to me that listening is a way of connecting to other people, or to yourself, a way to be more present. We talked about the word present for a while and I decided to change the name of the project to that. It seemed like the most relevant word because it can work for music, but also visual art, and dance, and other areas of life. The shop also used to be a balloon and gift shop which is an interesting play on words for people who know the area.