Spike Island

The Syllabus: Spike Island retreat

Ten artists chosen for The Syllabus were recently at Spike Island for a weekend retreat. The Syllabus is a ten-month programme developed in collaboration with Wysing Arts Centre, Eastside Projects, New Contemporaries, S1 Artspace and Studio Voltaire. The artists chosen for The Syllabus 2015/16 are Simon Bayliss, Noel Clueit, Susie Green, Mathew Parkin, Rory Pilgrim, Jessica Sarah Rinland, Tom Salt, Lucy Steggals, Tom Varley and Rafal Zajko.

The weekend started with an experimental life-drawing class,Fluid Medium, led by The Syllabus participant, Susie Green. Over the weekend, a series of intensive seminars and one-to-one sessions took place, led by artists Pil and Galia Kollectiv, and Andy Holden.

The first full day of The Syllabus was run by Pil and Galia Kollectiv and specifically addressed art and creativity in relation to post-Fordist labour. Following an introductory lecture, they led a discussion on a selection of texts and films, including Josephine the Songstress or The Mouse Folk by Franz Kafka, The Man Who Sleeps (1974) directed by Bernard Queysanne, and Paolo Virno’s text, Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus.

The final day of the retreat was led by Andy Holden and started with a visit to Spike Island studio holders, Harrison and Wood and Linda Brothwell. Richard Long led an afternoon tour of his new exhibition at the Arnolfini, TIME AND SPACE, and finally, to round off the weekend, each Syllabus artist presented a piece of their current work to the group for discussion.

We asked a few of The Syllabus artists to reflect on the experience so far:

Rory Pilgrim

I can’t think of a better way [of meeting the other artists] than at Susie Green’s beautifully intimate and raw Fluid Medium life drawing event. Posing while speaking into a microphone, the evening provided a confrontation that generously brought those present together on a very human level in a way that today we are perhaps often lacking.

The next two days of The Syllabus continued to unfold in an equally challenging way through the presentations and discussions led by Pil and Galia Kollectiv that brought many issues concerning work, labour and some of the most urgent issues of our time. I have great respect for their firm and uncompromised position which confronted me to affirm and realise how I both share and fundamentally differ in my own experiences and thinking as a person. To be challenged in such a way was exactly why I applied for The Syllabus and I am excited to see how it progresses over the year with the other artists I have met through participating. 

Simon Bayliss

I felt the whole weekend was great and I've come away with a great deal to think about. Susie's event was a brilliant way to start as it offered a shared experience of an artwork which we all participated in. Perhaps the shared experience of participating in an artwork is a more profound way of connecting a group, than visiting an exhibition, say...

I enjoyed meeting Richard Long - it was interesting to witness how he responded to questions.. I've since been wondering whether his generation had to be impervious and not show any signs of self-doubt as a way of defending what was, back then a very niche and improbable thing.  I also really enjoyed Patrick Staff's film. I've been thinking a lot about it...