The Coigach + Assynt Collection: Visual Artist in Residence Brief

“this frieze of mountains, filed on the blue air –

Stac Polly, Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven, Canisp – a frieze and a litany.
Who owns this landscape?”

‘A Man in Assynt’ – Norman MacCaig

Background

Coigach Community Development Company (CCDC) and Coigach & Assynt Living Landscape Partnership (CALLP) have been working together successfully for many years. Together CCDC & CALLP have built paths, restored historic buildings, commissioned oral history projects, supported young people playing and recording music, and are currently working on a project to design a heritage trail for Coigach and Assynt. The ideologies and work ethic of the two organisations are very much attuned, core values being the preservation and improvement of the natural environment and heritage, making this stunningly beautiful corner of northern Scotland an attractive and viable place for people to visit, live and work.

New project – The Coigach and Assynt Collection – will strengthen the relationship between the people of the two communities.

Project aims

This new residency sits within a wider context and project which highlights a sense of place and celebrates the stories and people of the area with new music being commissioned which will be installed in the landscape. Additional info about The Coigach & Assynt Collection is available, on request.

The residency is part of a growing emphasis being placed on the importance of creative exchange with the communities of Coigach & Assynt.

The Coigach and Assynt Collection project involves two phases and will take place in 2021 over late spring and early autumn. Activity involves:

End May       2- 3 days + nights to walk + explore Coigach + Assynt

  • visit key outdoor sites with input from project team
  • identify areas of interest + research
  • begin to build connections with 8 musicians
  • begin to develop relationships in the communities

Off-site        

  • liaison with key contacts locally
  • follow up with musicians
  • new work developed
  • liaison with technical support to determine how best to present outdoors
  • ideas agreed with project team which link in with the wider programme
  • final artwork edited/recorded/shared with key parties + made ready ready for public presentation
  • some liaison with project team over marketing + publicity + print + risk assessments

Early Sept    minimum of 7 days + nights

  • work on site
  • artists’ talks
  • participate in final stage of the project

Ideas involve thinking afresh about place, memory, sound and developing new work for remote rural contexts. C-19 provides an added impetus to think creatively about our communities, to explore what our places mean to us and to find new ways of expressing this.

Process will involve:

  • regular Zoom sessions with members of the community to share memories & build relationships;
  • researching unusual sites and recording sounds;
  • supporting the formation of new collaborative relationships;
  • breaking down stereotypes about trad music & contemporary visual art & the Highlands
  • being experimental about the ‘where’ and the ‘how’;
  • running one workshop + giving a talk*;
  • acting as a mentor for one young person*;
  • being sensitive about using local resources & liaison with people locally and not bringing in materials from outwith the area if they can be found close-by;
  • using C-19 as an opp to be genuinely innovative and experimental;
  • having access to a wealth of research material which has been recently researched and made available by Coigach Heritage Group (history fishing industry, testimonies about life on the island of Tanera, etc).

*NOTE to be agreed with the appointed artist/s. Whether the artist is involved in a workshop or mentoring will be dependent on the nature and approach of the appointed artist/s. We will match up the young people – the mentees – with suitable mentors.

The visual artist-in-residence will work alongside a number of creative contributors and members of the community. Musicians involved range from award-winning experienced performer/composers to early-stage professionals. There are a number of community members with a broad range of skills, backgrounds and professions who will support the project in different ways. This may range from helping construct work on site, to sharing stories about different industries, people and places.

Creative opportunity + emergent themes

We are seeking a visual artist who enjoys being part of a creative collaborative process and working with people, who is sensitive to rural community contexts, receptive to working outdoors in the landscape, who’s open to sharing skills with others and experienced working in visual art, film, new media and/or who is multidisciplinary in their approach.

The following themes have emerged from a recent piece of oral history research and in extensive discussion about the new arts project:

  • contrasts – history/future; landscape/people; music/visual art; remote/inclusive;
  • thinking afresh about ‘place’;
  • memory + sound;
  • developing new work & performance for remote rural contexts;
  • idea of ‘home’ + what this means.

Collaborative Working

Collaborative working and creative exchange are at the heart of the project. Working during a pandemic adds another element to the challenging environment. We envisage that collaboration will take different forms. In some instances, artists may form close relationships or working alliances with community members. In other cases, collaboration may involve artists connecting with other creative practitioners. We value all levels and forms of collaboration.

The programme will take place on site over two stages – late spring (May) and early autumn (Sept). Work will take place off site between these stages off-site. Project team members have structured the onsite periods to enable the appointed artists to maximise their time, to help the artist/s forge connections and to deepen their engagement with Coigach & Assynt.

During the residency, we anticipate that the artist will:

  • widen knowledge about Coigach & Assynt;
  • form new relationships in the communities;
  • help to support others through workshops/training;
  • be open to working and collaborating with musicians;
  • connect and engage with local residents (informally & more formally through talks);
  • be an active part of a large process of creative exchange.

We are imagining that the artist’s new work will be installed at a number of sites across Coigach and Assynt. A list of key possible sites has been drawn up for artists to visit in May.

On-site activity will go ahead if restrictions allow and social distancing measures will be followed. Provision will be made to implement a back-up plan if on-site activity proves problematic.

Who are we looking for?

We are seeking an artist or artist/film-maker whose practice demonstrates inclusivity and who relishes collaboration, who is open to working with musicians and who actively enjoy/s working with communities. Applications from artists who are currently under-represented in the Highlands & Islands are warmly welcomed.

We are looking for someone who understands and works well in rural contexts and has an awareness of the specific challenges that come from working in remote locations (from being canny about identifying resources to connecting quickly with people).

We are seeking applications from an artist who can respond quickly, who is a good problem solver and resourceful, who has worked collaboratively and is not daunted by the challenges involved in working with a widely dispersed population.

We are seeking an artist who recognises that the communities place importance on creative exchange – a two-way process – and who can work to a defined timeframe, budget, and successfully deliver work.

Fees & Expenses

Residency fee         £3500

Accommodation      to be provided

Materials                 £2500

Resources               people + film + written + recorded research material

Travel                     expenses are available

Project timetable

Outlined stages:

Stage One              20th – 23rd  May 2021 (on site)

Stage Two              June, July, August (off-site)

Stage Three            7th – 13th September (on- site)

Application Process

CV + covering letter (total word count of 1500 for both) to be submitted as an expression of interest to Ann Marie Firth-Bernard at info@coigachcommunity.org.uk by Tuesday 27th April. For further information phone Susan Christie on 07841 591873. Applications to be submitted by WeTransfer for large files or links. Max file size of 10MB for emailed files. Supporting material – e.g. sound, Vimeo links, images, etc. are welcomed. Please limit these to a max of 3 weblinks.

IMPORTANT – Applicants must be able to commit to the May & Sept dates outlined above to fully participate in the project.

Selection panel of 5 members with arts’ and heritage experience will review applications and invite shortlist of applicants to interview by Zoom to take place, week beginning 3rd May. A final decision will be reached by the week commencing 10th May.              

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