Being in one headspace

Just a quick note, really, because over the last few days I’ve been really struck with something I only worked out when Samantha and I were on the train down to our interview. Since we set up two.5 in May 2011, about 3/4 of a year ago, in New York, Samantha and I have not been in the same physical location until she came to Newcastle at the end of January. This means that the entire of the apparatus of the collaboration- setting up the webgalleries, choosing the wording for the ‘about’ section of this blog, sharing work and discussing our thoughts on it – has been done without being physically present.

All the usual pointers we take for granted when negotiating with another person- eye contact to hold their attention, touching someone’s arm to reinforce a point, subconsciously mapping their body language onto the tone of their voice – have either been garbled onto the small screen of a Skype or Facetime or simply not present. Email is notoriously difficult to read emotions into. Both Samantha and I are very tactile people- we’re used to sharing joy, frustration and sympathy through hugging people. Walking with linked arms. High-fiving.

I do my laundry when I talk on the phone, or I sort the piles of paper on my desk. At best, the person on the other end of the line has about 60% of my attention at any one time. Thanks to the wi-fi in my flat, when I Viber Samantha I have to remember not to wander into the kitchen to make a cup of tea during the call or the connection cuts out. When Samantha was visiting last week, for the first time since we started collaborating we were actually in the same space and able to dedicate full attention to all the nuances of creative planning and administration which accompany any undertaking. We set up our Facebook and Twitter accounts, we prepped for the interview. We conceived and trialled a new online space called The Peripatetic Studio as a participatory environment for other artists to join in an area of discussion which meanders across the posts on this blog: what does it mean to work at a distance, on the move, without the safety/security/limitations/provision of a dedicated and permanent workspace such as a studio. We set out detailled plans for projects post-Dirty Laundry, and discussed time management should we get the residency. We talked through our trial run of the next project and made major adjustments to the form of work we’d be producing as a consequence.

All these things would have been possible at a distance, but being in the same room together (with our ever trusty iphones and laptops) made them happen much, much faster and more cleanly. The space to work at our own pace, without interference may be exceptionally broadening in terms of creative practice, but in order to get all the small, niggly details that need to be tidied up round the edge… they’re much better done in tandem, in person, without the lag of being in different time zones. And talking through plans for future projects was, quite simply, a lot more fun in person because we could gauge each others’ reactions more easily. Which meant that we could really share the excitement once we realised we were on to something.

Samantha was already one step ahead, but I was mildly overthrown when I realised we hadn’t had a conversation like that for the best part of a year – a face-to-face conversation about the work we were doing. Which made me all the more proud that we’d managed to get as far as we had, keep up momentum, keep excited for the future, and keep working together to produce work that neither of us would do separately. All through the joy of The Internet.