I was invited by Creative Scotland to speak at an event commemorating the life and work of Anna. This is what I said:
"When I first spoke to Emma about the possibility of commemorating Anna’s work and her legacy in an event such as this, I tried to make it as clear as I could - that due to the impact she had on my life in the short year and a half that we got to know one another, I knew I could only really speak about her latest work, the impact she had on my practice and how she altered my view of the world.
For that reason, I would like to thank Steve for giving us the context that lay the foundation for the work you will see later and ultimately, I’d like to thank him for being the person who introduced us.
I’d also like to thank Mary Brennan for joining us today, as it meant a lot to those that knew Anna that you have seen so many of her projects throughout the years.
Anna and I met in for the first time in Stereo, Glasgow sometime after the Fringe in 2016. Steve had introduced us via email, as he thought I might be a good candidate to support her work.
Following Steve's introduction, Anna and her team led successful funding campaigns that led to me formally working as Anna's producer for the first time. Working alongside Kim Simpson, we produced her last project Untitled #0.5 - Who, What and Where is Anna.
I'd like to introduce you to the work by using Anna's own words from an unpublished interview that took place in the weeks prior to the opening of her work at Dance International Glasgow.
This work, Untitled 0.5, is a three-screen installation, worked as a triptych, and the content on each screen captures a sense of its own time and space. All three screens explore a different scene and a different format relating to filmmaking. It’s quite an emotional work – it still exists within my minimalist aesthetic, and is not emotive, but I think people might be touched by it. Not in a didactic way, because the ideas behind those emotions have been abstracted, but it still retains a sense of emotion, and also a sense of the sculptural. It’s not as dance-based as my previous works, and even though I’ve used video in my previous works it’s new for me not to be live in the work. Through these three screens, I’ve tried to create a realm, built around a single figure. She’s called Anna – I’ve used my own name – but it’s not me personally. I’ve taken elements of the personal but they’ve been abstracted, they’ve been reduced, they’ve been, in some ways, ridiculed. There’s a lot going on in the work. I’m looking at elements of truth, the body, the idea of object and body as object.
I didn’t want to directly link what’s happening on the three screens, because performing or being on stage is only one aspect of my life, but it’s been a really important aspect. Making work has been the main thing I’ve been doing, but as I get older, I need also to experience small things or other things. If one is not performing, there’s that question when people ask you what you ‘do’ .Do you say you’re not a performer if you’re not doing it, even if you have been doing it for 25 years?
Does that mean everyday encounters are now performance? Are you my audience now? When does one perform? To some extent of course, we all perform: putting on makeup, presenting ourselves in a. different way for different people. How you respond to a child is very different from your interactions with an adult.
But for the most part, this is about performing on stage, because I love it so and it’s actually quite sad to think that I won’t do it any more.. As a performer I need an audience, so there’s a tension there. How do I hold positive and negative together, and support them both, yin and yang, and let them communicate?
That was Anna's own words and I feel there is no better way to contextualise the work than through her own framing.
Throughout my time of working on #Untitled 0.5, I would often say that I “fell into the world of dance”. Working with Anna and Kim was a crash course in what the dance sector looks like in Scotland. Prior to that I had mostly worked on large scale projects that looked and felt very different to Anna's practice.
Working with Anna, an artist who had been courageously vulnerable in her work highlighted the importance of the artist/producer relationship being centred around trust.
Anna taught me a lot about the needs of an artist within an increasingly independent sector.
Spending time getting to know one another and what the work meant to her (on a personal note and intellectually) meant that I could consider the implications of how I choose to conduct myself. When working with independent artists and practitioners, I have learnt that often the way you operate can mean more to individuals than what you do in practice for them. As independent artists, often individuals come up against ‘the institution’ or ‘the funder’ in a way which feels intrusive to the process of making art. Working with Kim and Anna has shown me that it is important to meet the artist and audience where they are - to make them feel welcome. Once someone feels welcome they will be in a better position to deliver their best work and fully engage in the opportunity presented to them.
I was supported to work with Anna through the FST Producer Placement Bursary, and without it I would have never gotten to know Anna in the way that I did. It is hard to talk about my placement from an objective perspective as throughout the last few months of Anna’s life I had begun to realise how deeply she had influenced me - as both an artist and a human being.
She was capable of producing incredibly detailed artworks while remaining truly open to the needs of her collaborators. To work with someone so fiercely independent yet so wonderfully open, allowed me to think about how I should move forward with my producing practice. How do or should I hold the responsibility for the financial, and at points the critical success, of an artists work while at the same time not removing myself from the emotional highs and lows of a creative process? I do not think I would have reach the clarity I now have about the boundaries I must put in place for myself to thrive as a creative individual who approaches the art world through a lens of entrepreneurship had it not been for Anna.
She always responded positively to my contributions toward her process, and would regularly reference how much it meant to her to have Kim and I looking after her interests. I feel so honoured to have produced her last work.
Before we watch her last work, I’d like to read out the questions we presented as a prompt to our audiences. It is particularly the last question that I hope we can focus on as we watch Untitled #0.5 - Who, What and Where is Anna?
What was the first word that came to mind when viewing the installation?
What word would you assign to each screen?
How did the installation make you feel?
What does the installation remind you of?
Where did you prefer to stand in the space?
What would you ask the artist if they were here?"