Ruth Beale // Artists’ Lunchtime Feedback

Great crested newts, a jade rabbit, care & labour, taste & senses, and the earth from space. Live video editing, improvised jazz, teach-ins, a food enterprise, and a collective performance. In two hours, we had time only to try on all these subjects and formats for size, glance in the mirror, compare them to our own wardrobe, and consider complementary accessories. If I had to neatly stitch them all together (and apologies for the strange outfit and the over-laboured metaphor), there were threads around collaboration, working with others to make and perform the work. Also agency, meaning the context which gives the work traction, makes it make sense and have impact.

Pallete to Palate is Lydia Lee’s new food enterprise, to open a gallery which offers specially tailored meals inspired by the artworks. She is collaborating with a chef to devise menus, and she served us sweet potato balls with little jewels of salad, which responded to the work of Ji Min. We talked about sustainability and where the food has come from, how closely she should work with the artists, and how adventurous she could be with her presentation.

Leonie Roushar & Ishwari Bhalerao showed us their website for their project Kneed. Their teach-ins during the university strike have explored labour, process, physicality and time; as well as ‘kneading’ conversation around “needing” as necessity, nourishment, or obligation, including a questionnaire-cum-equisite-corpse game. The group thought the contexts they had been working in were relevant and interesting, and they could talk about these more on the website (rather than trying to present as professional / not students). 

Masha Rozhnova shared two films that were documentation of live performance, where she had been live mixing video with music – collaborations with live musicians improvising jazz. The double improvisation was beautiful and mesmeric and I particularly enjoyed the one about planet earth as home – oddly sentimental. We talked about whether the viewer would catch all the same references as she had intended, and if that mattered.

Youngsook Choi presented a script performed by the group with veils over our heads. The Emperor’s Jade Rabbit weaves the mythological tale of Chinese Moon Rabbit, the immortal creature living on the moon, into the recounts of female migrant cleaners and western superstition/folklore around the use of a broom. Youngsook wanted to know if might be exploitative to ask people to perform, and how different audiences and performers might influence the reading of the work. The group talked about the power relations at play in art galleries, and being implicated through the text.

Finally, Sophie Blagden shared her radio play, a ‘domestic drama’ set in a pond, which considers the relationship of a pair of Great Crested Newts. Could the play be extended? re-recorded with professional actor? workshopped? Could placing it in a wider context of development give it more agency and urgency? We talked about how the newts operate on a different economy and ecology, but one which intersects with ours: ‘well known to property developers and ecologists alike, these elusive creatures can grind building projects to a halt.’ The power of a tiny newt to grind capitalism to a halt.

Many thanks to the generosity of the artists and those who joined the conversation: Jennie Foot, Michael Balamwezi, Robert Lovejoy and Holly Graham.

Images: Artists Lunchtime Feedback, a session led by Ruth Beale at Turf Projects (November 2019). Photos © Turf Projects.