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CAN (Circular Arts Network) – In the studio with Katie Shannon

CAN (Circular Arts Network) is a tool for sharing surplus or used materials, exchanging skills/labour and coordinating transport. The aims of CAN are to help to reduce waste within the arts sector, encourage sustainable practices within the arts, and to address some of the economic and practical challenges for people working in the arts. The platform has been developed by Sculpture Placement Group working in partnership with SCAN (Scottish Contemporary Art Network).

To help understand the benefits of the project, we have spoken with various artists whose work aligns with the aims of CAN and sought to explore the arts through reuse, repurposing, collective practise, ecology and innovative models of sustainability.

In this studio visit we talk with visual and sound artist Katie Shannon. Her practise spans across different disciplines utilising self-organising networks and repurposing materials to create objects and moments that are imbued in intimacy and nostalgia. Her work represents the communities that exist between and within the different disciplines her work incorporates, shuttling between fashion, print-making, music and sculpture. It’s this movement that creates a dialogue between the generous lexicon of visual ephemera that’s collected and their reuse, reinterpretation and the reflection of the shared experiences that informed them through performance, music and spoken word.

How would you describe your work and what informs it?

I make work across the mediums of print, sound, sculpture, video and performance – rooted in printmaking. I use an archival lexicon of image and audio imbued in feminist and collective modes of working. There’s a phenomenological approach to how I approach, collect and piece together these varying ephemera. Images are processed many times and feedback onto themselves. Reverberating tensions between the digital and analogue. Much of my research to date has been concerned with the liminal space between changing class structures and tangible economies and an individual malleable sense of self. What roles do we inhabit? How do we navigate these shifts? It’s this inert in-betweenness that I feel a form of elongated adolescence is present, where youth both pushes forwards and recedes back. Spectral concepts of future whirling around in a hauntological visual and sonic soup.

Could you talk about your process and how you make things?

I work with a bank of collected things, images and film shot usually pretty off the cuff, usually at night, often at club nights and afterparties. This one in particular [referring to the video used in Last Song for a Waterbaby] is a piece of film of two friends in a bathtub in Berlin, perhaps a Monday … I think. It feels like a found piece of film as the filming was unconscious. I looked back on it about a year later. The moving images are paused and projected back onto themselves and some of the results were formed into separations for printing – worked over or collaged together. I then began working with latex, degrading the image further as it snapped off the printing screen. I’ve always found printmaking to be quite tight medium, theres a level of taught perfection which I actively find ways to work against . I’m drawn to latex as it acts like skin in a way and I’m interested in its relationship to fetish. On a practical front you can’t keep it in one place and every print, even if editioned is a one off as it stretches and moves. All these bubbles of the parts that weren’t printed appear and the material degrades, it’s a way to again feed the image back on itself between one form to another, from film to digital, back to a physical, analogue process.

Last song for a waterbaby, 2019. Installation view, latex, steel, video projection, vinyl deck, record, headphones.

 

What can you tell us about your last project/exhibition?

A recent exhibition was entitled Last Song for a Waterbaby. It showed distorted prints derived from digital feedback of film stills and a sound piece pressed to vinyl and a metalwork sculpture. The video showed two friends bathing, an intimate act of a shared disposition made public. It initially began by looking at the transformative powers of water and the act of bathing as an event in of itself – the relationship between water, otherness, intimacy and folklores.

The audio track was a collaboratively produced ‘end of a night track’. These were gestures, visual and musical, articulating periods of liminal time lived outwith normative familial structures. The latex garments were made to yellow, rot and decay. I’m interested in notions of permanence versus impermanence , how time can be held within a work and of fashion’s (fading?) sociological relationship to subculture.

 

 

How do these ideas end up as clothes? Could you talk about the circularity or connection between your work that involve these different mediums and disciplines. There’s music in there, there’s print making, and they’re not separated out but have a relationship with eachother.

I see these things in an egalitarian way, all these pieces of clothing were patched together from things that were written in my sketchbook, from conversations, pieces of songs and responses to  music. I’m interested in how a sound may be mimicked within an image, how it can be degraded, fall away. Almost like the process a voice might go through if it was pushed through a delay pedal. They become symbiotic in a way, I guess if making a piece of music or a visual work, all these different influences come through, it feels to me to be the same kind of methodology.

The works are all very personal tho, they’re snapshots of different friends and people I’ve met. Who are living through varying periods of flux in their lives, and in my life too. I’m interested in how music can hold that similar sentiment or quality. The piece I have hanging up here [points to a trenchcoat in her studio], shows a manipulated photograph made from a party at Christmas time, of two friends holding each other up – I think they were too drunk to stand actually. But I was particularly interested in these images now, right now while everyone is so disconnected from intimacy. Working with these images conjures a memory of that.

Some of them feel quite funny and camp in a way – working titles for things like “touching top”. Some pieces were prints in shows that I’ve now made into party wear, or that I’ve given as presents to people who are on them. It’s quite cyclical in that way.

A performance in Belfast in which a really pitched down version of Higher State of Consciousness by Josh Wink appeared, was also worked into a print at a show at Collective gallery, then formed into a piece of clothing. It ended up as a bra with two tiny pockets on the inside, and sold to a friend who worked as a dancer in a strip club, with some quick release pockets so she could get her tits out while she was dancing. Perhaps you’re not probably supposed do this to an artwork, make it something that’s an item of fashion, somehow it degrades, it’s imagined worth is lowered by making it into a “thing” or object again. But at least in a way it’s re-usable, I like working with fabric and metal for that reason … and I made quite a few things for party people in Berlin last year, managing to live off the income for a whole summer. Making all this clubwear and selling it to people at an afterparty in Germany was actually a way more profitable way of doing things.

This was sparked because my friend had this club night called CLIMAX and she invited me to make an installation there. I made a big metal work sign that was really really heavy with the Glasgow based feminist welding collective Slaghammers, who taught me how to weld. We made this massive sign, it was ridiculous, but looked really great in the club. It was 50kg or something and I didn’t have a suitcase to transport it to Berlin so just lugged it onto the place in a sports bag. When the event was over we took down all these prints from the club space and this one-piece kind of underwear set for the dancer. We were at a party afterwards and I had the patterns (which were cut by a friend Celia Philips) with me and people were asking “can you make me one?”. It was so nice, people were helping me at the afterparty and I made them all this underwear [laughs]. Some  photographs taken on that night are on a coloured trench coat that I feel is like the kind of coat you need to walk you home the next day, it’s titled Kissing Coat. Two pals kissing each other. An intimate image centered around friendship, a lot of the images I work with are.

These clothes feel like they have come full circle and I feel like I won’t make them any longer.. That they will turn into more sculptural forms, they’ve really been through the process of being clothing. Currently, I’m playing around with wiring and setting things in them. Partly because I haven’t been able to access a print studio during this period, everything’s being made rather small scale. Perhaps they might end up as quite large steel figures, rotting sculptures, the latex will degrade, but the steel stands still, eventually they’ll be a skeletal web of what’s left set inside them. Rotting in a way that’s a bit of a pointless practise, to make something that’s going to disappear, but maybe they shouldn’t be worth anything anyways, perhaps that makes more sense in this (capital system) … something that’s going to eat itself into nothingness whilst in the in-between time getting some wear.

♻️

CAN: Circular Arts Network can be used to redistribute unwanted, excess or surplus materials. It can also be used to offer skills and peer-to-peer training within the arts community – like the metalwork training and services mentioned in this interview provided by Slaghammers. CAN can also be used to organise the transport of artworks, staging, and studio furniture for collection and delivery.