This went on for about two months, in which I achieved absolutely nothing, because I was constantly distracted/interrupted. I explained to the Community Centre that I needed somewhere stable and fixed, as well as access at to the building on my own terms: ‘working with people’ does not fit into office hours, but happens at all the odd times people are being ‘a community’, including weekends and evenings. The Institution, the Community Centre and I therefore had several meetings and we worked out a deal to give me a more permanent location: the Tinkerbell Room in the image above.
It was a room that I could not lock, as it is actually a thoroughfare between two other rooms. I therefore had no privacy, and people randomly walked through the space every twenty minutes. I could not leave my computer unattended, nor was I allowed to change the room in any way, as it was still used on some evenings for Social Work interviews and as a place for counselling and discussion. There are no windows, nor sockets, no direct working space, other than the small desk I nicked from a storage locker. But at least it was a fixed space.
I decided to try to make it work, but it highlighted the many issues that arise when a ‘host’ – the Community Centre – has never hosted an artist-in-residence before. They do not know the needs of a regular, traditional, object-producing artist, let alone someone who works within participatory settings. How could they be expected to tend to the needs and requirements of which they had never had any experience? And, from that perspective, I can understand why I was sitting next to Tinkerbell: I needed a space, and this was the one they had available. The Community Centre cannot be faulted, as it is neither their remit not expertise to host artists-in-residence. I wonder, however, if The Institution could have done more research into what the Centre could or could not do to support the visiting artist? The situation described underlines why organisations need to be present within communities over long, entrenched periods in order to be able to communicate who needs what, why, where and how. The organisation must have ground knowledge and plan the minutiae of projects effectively, because how is an artist expected to work if there is nowhere for them to work from?