Creative Arts academic is waiting to choose social dreaming over distancing

While many people have found time for creative pursuits during COVID-19 lockdown, that’s been a challenge for some of our most creative.

Bendigo Campus Creative Arts lecturer Dr Andrew Goodman has spent his isolation time transitioning his subjects to online learning and facilitating home schooling for his child, plus applying for some of the new arts funding opportunities.

However he is keen to return to his collaborative project with Canadian artist Erin Manning, titled Collective Fabulations: Propositions for Social Dreaming, 2019-.

It consists of the construction of three quilts in three locations; Montreal, Sydney, and Andrew’s own home. Ironically, it’s a work that does suit the slow nature of life right now. Who can’t relate to the notion of time to dream, undercover…

“The work does require care and attention on a daily basis from its ‘minders’, which is a part of the core idea – a work that needs looking after rather than existing purely for the brief entertainment of a viewer,” Andrew says.

“It’s designed as a very slow project, with a six-to-eight-month duration, so again this is quite different to many artworks that have an instant connection or appeal. In a way it’s a bit more like tending to a garden than a lot of art-viewer relationships.”

On her website, fellow artist Erin Manning writes of how the quilts are constructed and, crucially, how they sense the dream worlds of those who slumber under them.

“Once the duvets are sewn, sensors, small speakers and LEDs are added, and a final cotton layer sewn on the undersides of each duvet to hide them,” writes Erin. “Participant-sleepers will be invited to spend the night, dreaming these textures into being. As they dream the sensors will interweave the rhythms of their movements and sounds and utilize these to feed generative algorithms that will then compose subtle vibrations, sounds and colours that are sent into both the duvets over a duration of several days. The dreams will become doubly ‘social’: shared both between participants and between participants and the larger physical environments in which they sleep. Viewers visiting one site during the day will be able to experience the connection to the dreams in the night from the other site by lying briefly in the beds.”

Andrew’s practice draws inspiration from science fiction and philosophies of science. His artwork focuses on participatory and interactive installations and includes sculptural elements, sound, video, performance, electronics and algorithmic design.

He says the making of the quilts was a wonderful challenge. “As with much of my work this required a lot of building of custom electronics, there was a real learning curve in real time code sharing via the internet, and there was a lot of work put into the coding – building the generative algorithms that share via the internet, this was a big learning experience, it took my tech collaborator, Tony Falla, and I over a year to solve the technical issues involved in that aspect.”

Andrew says there are many benefits of collaborating with other artists, and the Bachelor of Creative Arts in Bendigo helps introduce students to these.

“We do a lot of small collaborative projects in visual art, balanced with individual assignments. It’s a great way to extend your practice, to learn to think through ideas in multiple ways and to test ideas.

“I work with a number of collaborators on art projects, including a couple of people who I’ve worked with since 2009, and it’s always exciting to me. When I work collaboratively it’s always a case of everyone developing the idea together, not portioning out the work to suit everyone’s area of expertise, so we all get pushed into new areas. It’s also a very supportive way to work – art making can be very isolated otherwise.”

Andrew hopes Collective Fabulations will be a conduit to reconnect with the outside world post-lockdown.

“We hope to find a live arts or fine art festival to put the quilt project in – one where members of the public might volunteer to host a quilt for a few nights or a week, sharing their dreams with two other anonymous hosts,” he says.

“Although we have had enthusiastic responses from a number of curators, the work is yet to find a home, but we are quite happy to take it slowly (as the work itself moves slowly). But in another way, as a work resolutely outside of the gallery system, it’s already active in its current form.”

Image: Erin Manning (Canada) & Andrew Goodman, Collective Fabulations: Propositions for Social Dreaming, 2019-
Fabrics, dyes, thread, custom sensors, speakers, custom electronics, computers, generative algorithms.

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