Artist Anthony Shrag and I have been talking for a while about a publication. Whether that will indeed take the form of a book, or may manifest itself in a different way, key to our conversations are the conversations themselves. In his own practice as a socially engaged artist, conversation is an integral aspect. Without it nothing happens, as, after all, he is supposed to engage with people, and like for many artists whose practice is social, communication is at its core. The reality though is that much of that kind of practice is also surrounded by assumptions, misunderstandings, lack of infrastructure, or simply different expectations and agendas often creating (sometimes insurmountable) hurdles and/or confusion among parties involved, from commissioners, to funders, to communities, to the artists themselves. So for the moment he and I are just talking about how his experiences, in recent projects, but also in his practice as a whole and other artists’ practices in general, can be translated into something that may make sense to other people, and from which we can take something away in some shape or form.
We’ve noticed that when we talk, both our thinking shifts, becomes more precise or things somehow click into place, so that how we can possibly think things through becomes clearer. This collaborative process is something that tends to not be talked about, but we realise is important for many people, and many practices. We started our conversation ‘proper’ when I spent a day with him in July 2016, when he was on his way from Huntly in Aberdeenshire to Venice, as part of his project Lure of the Lost, commissioned by Deveron Arts. On the day I met him in Langley Mill in Nottinghamshire, we walked and talked for 8 hours solid. He kept a blog during his pilgrimage and I kept him company mentally and musically by posting a tune a day on his facebook wall, which he subsequently put up on his blog. After he finished, we decided we should keep talking… We’ll let you know when we get to wherever we’re going with this.