LaunchPad Blog the Second by Martin Palmer
There’s going to be a wee theme of time running through this little digression, and I’d like to start out by saying that I had already written some of this when a computer update forced a restart, and I lost my draft. I’m not, however, complaining, but it serves to highlight my point that in a hectic life, things aren’t stacked up to help you with your goals. That doesn’t make them impossible, but it can certainly sap motivation. Conversely, it can encourage us to try again, and say ‘if I really want this, I’ll not be stopped by anything!’
It has been, what, four months since my poetry exhibition? Six or seven since the Launch Pad series started. I had been keeping up with the meetings well, and feeling like I was in charge of things, but then in January I started a new job, and this made things more fraught. I’m talking about these things because I believe they embody some of the central struggles for any artist, some of the struggles that some of the artists on the course (including myself, to a smaller degree) have sought to explore. It’s the tension between time and/or energy, and money. Even those self-employed artists for whom their practice is their main/only form of income, there are still questions about what their art is, and what their audience will pay for. I suppose these are themes echoed when Anthony Padgett came to visit us and talk about artists’ unions. There’s a difference between value and price - and I’m saying that what gives us value in being an artist is not always what we get paid for.
To get back on track a little bit - what I am getting paid for in this moment is taking me away from my artistic projects somewhat. It happens, as they say. But I’m not letting it stop me. I’m here, I’m still ruminating and percolating on my ideas. Ideas! Shall we talk about them? Good idea…
We had a kind of debrief meeting after our exhibitions, which looked at what we’d done, what could be done better, and what we were thinking about going forward. It seemed that there was a sort of misunderstanding when I was talking about my work, but, as the popular misquote of Joyce goes, ‘mistakes being the portals to discovery’, and in this same sense, I found that this ‘discussion askew’ bore great fruit. What happened was that I had been performing with the local community group that I help run (The Nib Crib at 5 West Street). We wrote (well, Val improvised) and performed a half hour piece comprised of three vignettes, heavy on the comedy and drama elements, that explored life in the alleyways of Morecambe. In our post-match critique, the show was being talked about as if it were my exhibition (for example, my exhibition was about experimentation, whereas the show was more traditional in its delivery, so I was asked what happened to the elements of experimentation).
From left: Jim Lupton & Martin Palmer performing in the Avenues and Alleyways performances photograph by Elisabeth De Beznac
The way that the talk went essentially took me back in time (see, there’s the theme of time again, tying a neat and in no way seamful bow around this post) by making me think of the alleyway performance and the experimental aspects. When the Agora project was first mooted, I wanted to try and assert my own artistic identity by coming up with a poetry-in-place performance. This fell through due to me not managing my time correctly, and I wasn’t too bothered in the moment because I knew I would be part of the Nib Crib project. However, not quite as far back in time, when I applied to join the LaunchPad, I had stated that I was trying to assert myself here. Life and other commitments had eroded my own practice, and I wanted to get back to that. My poetry exhibition went some way to doing this, but I considered the audience very much, rather than being art-led. It was a very positive and valuable experience, for sure, but a far cry from the real ‘cage rattling’ works that are, in a word or two, less readily accessible in terms of ‘meaning’. I realise this sounds like waffle, but the combination of me thinking back to trying to assert myself, the experimentation and the alleyways, it came together in a mental brew and produced an idea to make a short multimedia performance that would take you under the sea, while being in the alleys, into a mystical, Atlantis-esque Morecambe, with recorded sound, live performance (even other actors, which would be a big challenge for me. I’m used to being given direction, not giving it to others), and lights and projections.
This idea gave me a thinly delineated space to charge at, like a creative bull in the proverbial china shop, and I was all charged up. Then life happened. Life is, after all, what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans, as John Lennon said. The idea is not dead, though. I still believe it has legs, merit, and quality - quality that wasn’t as evident in the poetry exhibition in December. It’s an idea that is filled with gaps in my knowledge, too. If the LaunchPad process has taught me anything, though, it’s that Morecambe is filled with a vibrating diversity of talents that have already helped me produce an exhibition, and, if willing, could help us achieve anything.
Sadly, our time is up for now. Stay tuned to find out what happens next!
*** The LICA x GTC Launchpad is funded by Santander Bank, as part of a programme with Lancaster University encouraging responsible and innovative enterprise. The participants, a mix of Lancaster fine art BA graduates and Good Things Collective members, get studio space, their first art commissions, business support, and professional mentoring over the course of 12 months.