What does the Human Futures theme of re-evaluating how we see our surroundings mean to you?
The notion of re-evaluating present surroundings is important, and revealing the connections, tensions, politics and possibilities. For my piece I was working within a sub-theme of 'cognitive space', which is familiar territory for me in the sense that I enjoy work that involves collecting peoples' memories or perceptions of shared spaces.
What did you learn from your residency in Canada?
I learnt the limitations of art to represent the complexities of a city and the groups within it - at each stage of the process, from recording, to design and finally to exhibition. I learnt that the arts are a key tool in the gentrification of a city, and that sex culture is a valid form of culture as much as arts (Meech's project involves interviews with owners of sex shops in Montreal). I learnt that if you place knitting in a public space, you should not necessarily expect it to be there the next morning, and that not all art should be consensual. I learnt that Canada is a country still struggling with the legacy of colonialism, and that Quebec places a high value on arts as a part of its cultural identity. I also learnt that Montreal is a wonderful, wonderful city.
Well we're glad that you enjoyed the experience! As a locally-based artist, how does it feel to exhibit at FACT?
It's something i'm very massively grateful for and I think it's important that city galleries 'show off' the artists working locally - the MAC in Montreal does a very good job of balancing international shows with big exhibitions of local artists work.
Is it important for artistic development to undergo residencies like this?
I think so - any new experience is important, but to go to another city, with another language, and try and think what you can bring to it in terms of a perspective is a real challenge. It's also a huge, huge privilege. Its also massively helpful to meet other artists and organisations and see how they do things.
We live in a digital world, so why choose knitting as your medium?
There are many parallels between the two, aesthetically, and in terms of design process. You can explore many of the same ideas - resolution, data, encoding, encryption, sharing - through textiles. I was working with a local artist and knitter Marilene Gaudet who has been putting knitted artworks around Montreal for a few years - it's a good way to put work back in the public space. People will engage with knitting, and in a weird way its easier to develop trust with people when you are discussing a piece of knitting rather than a projection - it's disarmingly familiar. It's also more fun and you can thank people by making them a scarf.
As mentioned above, you've also made some recordings of local communities in Montreal - what are the similarities with Liverpool?
Both cities have a real mix of rough and smooth - very creative, lots of tourism, but not too sanitised (yet) either. Both are big student cities with a radical sense of politics. Both have lots of arts venues, homelessness, tourists, drugs, great places to eat, festivals - its a real mix. There are overlapping concerns too - the effects of austerity on jobs, the funding of arts, the ownership of property, the rise of development, the importance of small business, the fly-postering cartel. Downtown Montreal, where the Quartier Des Spectacle operates, was (is) essentially the red light district - a famous place for strip bars, brothels, sex shops - but it is being changed rapidly over the last five or ten years, and the arts plays a key role in that gentrification process.
What do you hope that people learn / take away from your work (/the exhibition)?
That the real work is the hours on foot walking round the city and trying to make interviews. The real richness of the piece is the peoples' experiences as told through their stories. Everything i've made after that is a poor distillation of the research and is only there to look pretty.
Human Futures opens on 6 November at FACY. Join us for the preview and drinks reception from 5.30 - 7.30pm