ArtHouse Jersey overcomes barriers to international collaboration

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The​ ArtHouse Jersey Virtual Retreat ​came to a close on a high this weekend after a hand-selected group of multi-discipline artists, from as far away as Greece and Nigeria, completed a five day experiment via the video conferencing platform Zoom asking the question: how do we make collaborative art through an online portal?

Facilitated remotely by Sue Hill (Associate Director of Wildworks and former Artistic Director of the Eden Project), and Francesca Duncan (Punchdrunk), this new virtual retreat was created to support artists – who would normally rely upon being physically together in a space – to find meaningful ways to connect and collaborate on artistic works when only online interaction is available. As we move into an increasingly digital age, questions are raised about the effectiveness of online platforms to present legitimate and meaningful creative interaction.

We all know that no matter how brilliant a feat of technology platforms like Zoom might be, an online conversation with a loved one will always feel like a poor substitute to being together in the same space; the same is true for the collaborative process.

An initiative such as the Virtual Retreat allows ArtHouse Jersey and artists alike to learn more about these modern ways of working together, where the boundaries lie and how we can best harness the technology available to us today to create meaningful, interconnected digital experiences within the artistic process that can then be presented and shared with the public in the future.

While exploring these themes, the Virtual Retreat also opens Jersey up to a rich network of multidisciplinary artists from further afield, creating potential for partnerships, learning and opportunities for programming. With artists from Jersey, Scotland, London, Greece, Nigeria, Bristol, Cornwall and the US, the group spanned disciplines such as sculpture, digital art, theatre-making, dance, music and visual arts and enjoyed a programme of fast-paced exercises and activities designed to motivate, engage and reawaken creative muscles.

These tasks would either take artists away from their screens before returning with their results, or breaking off into partner groups to share, discuss and create collaboratively. These exercises enable artists to trial new methodologies, which will help shape their work intended for an audience in the months to come.

ArtHouse Jersey has been widely praised for its adaptive digital approach to much of its programme this year, with this retreat being yet another example of how current technology has been wholly embraced in order to produce high-quality experiences and opportunities, despite ongoing restrictions.

Director of ArtHouse Jersey Tom Dingle said ​“This year has been a real eye opener for artists not just in Jersey but right across the globe. The sudden loss of many typical physical opportunities and stimulation, not to mention funding and resources, has left many creators thinking seriously about what their next moves ought to be. This virtual retreat offered to help artists take a step back from the ongoing anxieties and practicalities, and instead offer a portal to explore creative themes with like minded people without the immediate expectation of finished outcomes.

All processes such as these are in pursuit of ultimately feeding the public with engaging artistic content; such experimentation at an early stage will push boundaries of what is possible, and rather like with technology, this then results in new products that consumers want to enjoy. These initiatives also open Jersey up to fresh relationships with international talent, relationships we hope will flourish in the future”.

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