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Notes on a Speculative Studio

Last Friday saw the opening of my current Speculative Studio Spaces exhibition at Access Space, Sheffield, and features an instillation of a fabricated studio space of the Halifax-based artist Jo Brown.

The exhibition takes one of Jo’s exhibition pieces and attempts to construct a studio space that considers how the artist arrived at the idea. The result is a speculative studio space that simultaneously acts as a portrait of the artist and reveals notions around how identity is perceived based on public perception and what happens then creative choices are seized from the artist and given to informed interpretation and critical subjection.

The instillation reads like set design, with each object positioned in a way simultaneously considered and spontaneous. It’s all too easy to make the whole thing look contrived, though, and early in the instillation process I found myself positioning objects in a way akin to curating. This approach needed to be abandoned if the piece is able to hold any authenticity and, over the course of the instillation process, I found a more intuitive way to place objects, allowing a comfortable sense of naturalness to occur – as if the artist is fully embedded within the space:


I have tried to withhold my own intuition and come to informed conclusions as to how Jo would exist within the space – taking into account both her speculative creative output and how artists adapt to the spaces they find themselves in. And yet, for all the attempted removal of my own hand, there is evidence of introspective elements. I suppose it’s no surprise that a few patterns have emerged with each studio space I have constructed. Chiefly around the positioning of the artworks themselves.

Are these patterns all part and parcel of the process? Do I conclude that there is something innate about creative processes, even if the work you are doing is attempting to re-imagine creative processes? Or do these patterns represent flaws in the project as a whole? I’d probably plump for the former, especially when I consider that overall, the project is well received and understood. However, it’s something to think about when developing the project further.

You can see ‘Speculative Studio Spaces’ at Access Space, Sheffield, from 22 September to 15 October 2015. It’s open Tuesday to Friday, 11am to 5pm. I am also planning to run an event that futher explans the projec. Watch this space!


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