I’m excited to be starting a residency project in conjunction with Arts Taunton this month. Earlier this year, Taunton was awarded ‘Garden Town‘ status by the government, and will be implementing a 5-year plan to make the most of this privilege and financial support. I’ll be artist-in-residence over the course of the next few months with Taunton Deane Borough Council. They’d like me to find out from local residents what’s so special to them about the green spaces and waterways in the town.
To me, this is a mapping project of sorts, and as a stranger who doesn’t know Taunton at all, it seems obvious that I need to discover the town through the recommendations of the people who live and work there. I could go and ask them via social media, and other remote channels, but that potentially precludes a whole chunk of the population who are of an age where the internet isn’t a big part of their daily world. It would also keep me removed from really finding out what’s so special by actually going to the places people love and experiencing them in 3 dimensions for myself.
So, I want people – groups of people ideally – to not just tell me about their special places, but to show me them too. It’s easy to make theoretical recommendations, but walking to a place – making a special journey – requires you to put your energy in too, so the place needs to be worth it! The project will be based on a series of walks – artwalks if you like – to special places, led by the people whose special places these are.
Along the way, we’ll take a photo or two of special things we notice. And, we’ll use Michael Eldridge‘s wonderful tool of playing photographer and director, where if I want to take a photo I have to give you my camera and you take it for me. To do this, I have to tell you exactly what I’d like to focus on, where the edge of the frame should be, what to leave out, etc. It’s a beautiful process, seeing through someone else’s eyes.
With Ann Jones from Arts Taunton and Ian Clark from TDBC, we made a list already of potential groups of people I can approach to come walk with me, ranging from guerilla gardeners to young mums to people in hospital. I have no idea who will say yes or where we’ll end up going it’s a real adventure and I’m excited to start walking.
I made a map at home before I left – just to get my bearings, of course.