Helen Knowles, following on from my mentoring session with her at the Birth Rites Collection, kindly put me in touch with a friend of hers, the fascinating artist Julia Vogl. Julia generously agreed to a call to discuss her practice and my own plans for my DYCP funding.
Julia makes 'social sculpture', and her Social Sculpture manifesto states:
THE ART MUST RESPOND TO SITE OR COMMUNITY
THE ART WORK MUST INVOLVE OR ENGAGE OTHERS
THE ART WORK MUST EMPLOY A STRATEGY OF DECOR
I could see immediately we shared similar values. We had a wonderful conversation discussing how an 'innocuous question' could be the start of bringing people together, how story sharing can become data and how data contains stories, the use of small interventions to create connection between people and how pattern, colour and codes can transform public space through large scale public artworks.
Julia shared her creative journey with me, starting with her early admiration of Christo and Jean Claude's wrapped sculptures and the realisation that they were temporary (only two weeks long) but they left a residue, and that public art doesn't have to last forever. Julia is interested in alternative ways of thinking, and how public interventions can aid that process: from clowns commissioned to perform on dangerous street corners in Bogota to reduce crime, to meditating performance artists as security for Woodstock festival.
For her MA at The Slade, Julia used the architecture of the very building to create a large scale public artwork (1,000,000 | 1000 Options, 2011 - pictured), and talked about the opportunity to utilise all current resources to showcase what you can do now and what you want to do in future.
We also talked about the importance of having a drawing / print practice alongside projects, public art and larger commissions, to maintain that reflective time and space for our own mental health to be nurtured but also as an opportunity to weave one into the other.
For Julia, identifying the boundaries and ethics between artist and participant way was important: 'My job is not to make other people artists'. I have also written about this issue in my undergrad thesis and have come across it in my own practice over the years, but found that sensitive navigation, clear roles and structures in projects is vital to everyone understanding their part to play, and what they can expect to contribute and get out of a project.
Collaborating with researchers and scientists has been key to Julia's work, as I have also been pursuing over the last 5 years or so. Working with researchers and participants who have experienced different health conditions has been a core part of Julia's recent projects: 'breaking stereotypes about different conditions' and, as the artist, utilising your position to challenge researchers in new ways.
Transparency is key in Julia's work - another value we share. Being clear about what you are asking someone, and knowing why is vital. Having clear outcomes, building trust and compromising are all key elements to the process.
Again we circled back to the idea of residue - what does a project leave behind? It could be a small souvenir like badges or keychains related to the project which might live on with a new function. For me, booklets and zines are a way to capture the process, participation, contributions and outputs of my projects, whilst also acting as an archive of the work for posterity.
Julia prompted me to think about 'What are the things you've always wanted to do?' and to steer this year of DYCP funding towards that. To take risks, think big, consider what you are saying, who you are inviting in and what the residue will be.
Find out more about Julia Vogl: juliavogl.com
Julia Vogl, 1,000,000 | 1000 Options, 2011