Sophia Moseley has recently completed her residency in Canada. While there, she intended to work on a project surrounding the ‘deregulation’ of language through the mediums of art and storytelling. In this last of a three part series on the residency, Sophia describes her final weeks of the residency and her continued travels around the country.
My last entry comes from my travels through Vancouver, where I found myself bound along the Rocky Mountains, winding through snow-topped trees and racing to beat the freight trains that gingerly meander alongside the twinkling rivers.
In the midst of all this beauty sits my studio. It was open house last night and it went well – milling with human bodies, who clustered around a collection of works hastily pinned-up earlier the same day. I think it was down to the luck of my location being right inside the studio’s entrance that encouraged a busy evening. I was thankful for busyness, as discussions between the artists over lunch had pondered whether anyone would in fact turn up.
Afterwards, we hung out in the woods. A collection of Latino artists then invited us to their studios to view their work. A Columbian sculptor and a Mexican writer welcomed us with champagne and nibbles. It was an evening well spent in the company of the shivering pines and dimly lit log cabins, discussing our ambitions as artists, and how thrilling it was for us to have been given ID cards with the title ‘ARTIST’ – as though for a short time we had been welcomed into society as functioning, contributing humans.
The last two weeks of my residency were spent finalising publications and prints. My thoughts constantly drifted back to the stories and inspiration I found from the Fluxus movement. I find the appropriation of objects and spaces an interesting approach to take, and as such felt the desire to make an incognito publication inside a matchbox.
I remember going to an exhibition in New York years back. Located in a crumbling building in Soho, I walked up a shabby stairway and entered a room full of… nothing. I remember walking out confused and a little embarrassed, but decided to turn around and walk into the room again. There must be something there. Indeed, the exhibition turned out to be the room, filled with miscellaneous objects and human bodies. It was one of the most memorable exhibitions I have ever been to; a contortion of the idea of space, a reinterpretation of traditional ideas. The matchbox publication was to be a miniature version of this very concept.
Along with my secret matchbox publication, I started flicking through the remaining National Geographic magazines, picking up the dog-eared pages for missed photographs I could use in my slightly larger publication. It became an enjoyable process. A time spent physically piecing imagery and dialogue together on my paint-splattered floor, underneath the watchful eyes of the mountains, and then in the dusky evenings perched on a swivel chair in the computer lab glued to my laptop.
In the manner of Fluxus, I printed an accompanying publication to fit inside a little wooden box alongside letterpress prints – the content playing with the form of the word ‘Ladybird’. I like the idea that each publication could work independently but also as a collection inside a little wooden treasure trove, as an interactive and tactile piece of work.
After spending this very intensive month nestled away in my studio, leaving was a welcome thought. It meant not having to think of art or printing or painting or scanning or cutting and pasting. It meant I could become a mere speck of human existence, and ride away from this mystical and sometimes overwhelming place.
After spending a few days in Vancouver, I travelled south to Portland where I chanced to meet an architect from Los Angeles. We spent an evening wondering the open galleries and discussing modern architecture and the role artists have in appropriating spaces within cities.
Portland is a rainy place, so I felt quite at home – that is until waiting for my greyhound coach back to Vancouver when Zachary the Portland Tramp wiggled over to sit next to me. Zachary from St Louis, Missouri, asked if I would be his friend and made a great effort of finding a pen and paper to write down his phone number for me. Before he scuttled away, he told me in his gentle twang that he intended to go to the library to write a poem for me, and that when I returned to Portland we were going to swap poems and become lifelong friends. I think I still have his number screwed up in my notebook somewhere.
Looking back, I think the most interesting way to travel is to do it alone. You manage to come across so many compelling characters that always have something memorable to tell you. I was surprised how many travellers from Birmingham I came across, yet in all the times I’ve travelled I have never ever come across anyone from my hometown.
As I stepped off the greyhound into Calgary and the last chapter of my travels, I joined a friend who was there to do a live performance at a local gallery. The gallery owned a beautifully decorated, wooden house for the artists to stay in during their visit. Here I met yet another midlands artist who had escaped the drudgery of everyday life for a yearlong stay in Canada. I was very jealous. The night before my flight I spent eating pirogues and poteen and dreaming of England. An apt way to whisper my goodbyes to Canada I thought.
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