The vitality of thought is an adventure. Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them’.

Alfred North Whitehead

Jude's collection

I have an idea that won’t keep. It has been simmering away since November and now it’s reached a fast boil I need to do something about it! It’s an idea for a project to explore if creative activity online can encourage participation in arts offline. It’s been keeping me awake at night! I am fascinated by the many possibilities of using Web 2.0 technology to consider how digital media is affecting the creation, distribution and consumption of the arts. The project is going to involve many of the things that I am passionate about including

  • Creative thinking
  • Collecting
  • Collaborating
  • Participating
  • Random encounters
  • Afternoon tea

My son Jude is the main inspiration for this project and the idea comes from his obsession with collecting. As a toddler, it was bricks which he would stash under his push chair. More recently finds have included an oil drum and car exhaust but generally his collection comprises of tiny treasures found in the street.

On a wet November afternoon the idea was born as I walked from Grange Town to Chapter in Cardiff and felt strangely compelled to make a Jude style collection. I suspect that the urge was born out of a form of auto suggestion as my mind made a subconscious link to the reason for my journey. I was going to see Gruff Rhys’s secret installation ‘Hotel Shampoo’. During his time touring with ‘Super Furry Animals’, Gruff collected 15 years worth of freebie hotel toiletries which in the absence of a diary became soap filled memory triggers.  After the collection threatened to colonise his house Gruff used the many miniature bottles to create his installation. ‘Hotel Shampoo’ both catalogued his transient existence on tour and reminded him of the buildings he’d stayed in and the people he’d met.

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Two months on and I can still associate each object that I found with the memories of that day; the damp air, soggy leaves, large dog barking behind a gate, hot chocolate and cake, patient boyfriend  pockets filled with my muddy finds. It has led me to consider that fact that if I didn’t blog, I wouldn’t be sharing these associations or my collection and if it wasn’t for twitter and @chaptertweets I wouldn’t have made my journey or be inspired to create. The way that I work has changed profoundly through engaging with social media. Online networks have given me the opportunity to share and respond to creative thinking and to collaborate and create content. My challenge now is to see if this online collective activity will extend to create and share something tangible offline for a physical audience that may see the arts and culture as something that is not for the likes of them.

The project that I would like to propose will involve my professional, personal and social networks (and I hope some random encounters too) and I will be encouraging people to send me small found objects. I will accession, photograph and catalogue these objects and create a dedicated blog, Facebook group, You Tube channel and Flickr account to share contributions.  If an object has inspired a creative response this could be captured through prose, poetry, photography, film, animation or sound for example and there will be space to share this too. Collecting can be an individual or group activity but all involved will become part of a collective effort.

The second part of this activity will take the form of an interactive exhibition in an empty shop. I am hoping to find a venue in Boston, Lincolnshire to respond to the town’s lack of cultural opportunities and access to the arts. I hope to use the online content to support and augment the audience’s experience. Marcel Duchamp once said

‘The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contributions to the creative act.’

Taking Duchamp’s philosophy in a very literal sense I will be providing an empty space within the exhibition for the audience to contribute objects of their own which will reposition them as part of the collective and hopefully overcome some of the potential psychological barriers to participation. My career started in Boston 10 years ago as a community artist and I will be using my local contacts with schools, businesses and community groups to encourage visits. By using an empty shop and borrowing from the many excellent activity ideas from @artistsmakers and the empty shops network (including afternoon tea) I hope to create a welcoming environment as an alternative to a traditional gallery space.

Kesteven Morris Dancers collected objects on New Year's Day

This is a DIWO (do-it-with-others) project and will rely on the generosity of all involved. I think that the Arabic proverb: ‘if you have a lot, give from your wealth; if you have but little, give from your heart’ is particularly relevant to the current economic climate and cuts to arts funding. I am already very grateful to Nigel Blackamore, Senior Curator of the Brecknock Museum who has offered to curate the exhibition and A&K Markham Photographers who have offered studio time and the use of a macro lens. HUGE thanks go to Kesteven Morris who have made the first contribution of objects.

If you would like to contribute to this project please write ‘I’m on board’ (+ where you’re from/ what you do as an optional extra), in the comments box below.

For details of how to get involved please subscribe to this blog and I will post more information within the next 2 weeks.

Your support is really important and the more ‘on boards’ I have the easier it will be to make things happen. I will also be tweeting updates as @K8ieSmith

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