Gudrun Filipska/ Katie Nowakowski
(excerpt of conversation).
Artist Gudrun Filipska and writer Katie Nowakowski have known each other since they were small, their fathers and Grandfathers were also friends. Here they discuss their creative practices, parent hood and their shared Polish heritage....
KN One of the subjects of your 'Beating The Bounds' work is the battle to carve creative space for yourself out of the all-encompassing experience of motherhood. How does that space feel? Does it feel different to the creative space you inhabited previously? What are the differences, what are the continuities?
GF That's an interesting question-the space feels much more contained and protected-I am constantly trying to re-coup and reclaim time. I feel like my practice exists as an enclave beneath the surface of the linear time my children demand. This leads to a self discipline that was unfamiliar to me before- I work every moment I can, I set deadlines and have targets. I think I used to waste a lot of time, and sit and think more and be bored which led to a different way of working, maybe one day I will go back to that-there is a certain value in staring at walls for a while, you create different types of work.
Time has been an interesting thing which has become more present in my work as a subject-when I started the 'Beating the Bounds' film project I had an idea that I would film my daily walks with the children and each film would be in real time, when I watched the footage back I found it so tedious and anxiety making- re-living stressful walks, pushing a buggy with a crying child in it, another one walking next to me- I was trying to get the walks over as quickly as possible! I needed a new approach so I started working with much more still footage and the films became very much about stillness and recouping time, I have used quite a lot of prolonged and still shots in the films. I used the motif of one minute, teaching my daughter how long a minute is by counting to sixty with her- as way for us to bring our very different perceptions of time into some kind of dialogue, a sixty seconds which can either be expansive and calm or tedious and frenetic and gone in a flash.
KN There is a sense of nostalgia, of memory, evoked by both the style of some of the work, with the lens vignettes of the images, and the media used. What leads you to this?
GF I'm very interested in the idea of nostalgia but I think its a tricky one: its not something I would want to be contrived or tokenistic, it seems to come from my interest in using technologies which are considered to be anachronistic, I enjoy working with film stock, I think film has a level of depth to it that digital cannot match-when I use a digital camera I slow the speed down so that it mirrors film as closely as possible and shoot through old camera lenses which I custom attach. The vignetting affect is often a 'mistake' or by-product of a view through an attached lens. I enjoy combining old and digital technologies, I like the idea of making technology work for me in this way, and I think the tensions between film/analogue and digital mediums are very interesting. Using old Camera's and equipment certainly doest feel like a nostalgic act, the Cameras and lenses feel solid, reliable, digital equipment fills me with anxiety-I worry about the speed at which things need updating-become incompatible with software/operating systems etc. I am interested in trying to make these technologies work together and get them to do what I want them to do.
KN How has motherhood affected your sense of what the future holds for your creative practice and its probable / possible trajectory?
GF Being a parent, as well as being restrictive in some ways has opened up a very expansive and useful space for me, I think I am a much better artist for having to adhere to and work with distraction and limited time constraints. I read an article recently by the writer Frank Cottrel Boyce where he talks about Cyril Connelly's quote "There is no more sombre enemy of good art than the pram in the hallway." and totally discredits it, fighting a very firm case for the distractions of family life as a place where unexpected creativity can take place. This really resonated with me, it seems so natural to take children on research trips, make them your critics, or collaborators. I think there is something suspicious about people who need allot of time 'to themselves' or those who are too precious about their work. Cottrel Boyce says in his article that making things should be fun – people can be so 'careerist' about their creative practices and it doest mean their work is any better! In fact I think there is a real ethical implication to being distracted and I am quite interested in exploring that- I feel that I am making work I never would have made if I had allot of time on my hands, I don't over think things any more, I just get on with it in whatever haphazard manor is possible.
KN The wrapping/enveloping done by your daughter and featured in your work seems to me to have echoes in some of your other work...in amongst the tangle of grass, a single orchid is found and precisely framed...in amongst the tangle of motherhood, moments of creativity are located, carved off, carefully preserved. There is a microscopic way of looking at things. Do you recognise this? Have your observations of your daughter’s modes of activity led to any insights into your own creative practice?
I think there is some interesting reciprocity there between my daughters activities and my recent work. The work you mention Enveloped Objects was bourne out of a real desire to make sense of and gain some tenuous control over the way my daughter hoards, wraps, collects. According to Piaget's Play schemas she is a real 'enveloper' and I have often felt myself struggling and drowning amongst, pockets and shelves packed full of driveway pebbles, beads, dried flowers, sea shells, bits of anything shiny. You use the words, 'carefully preserved' and that is exactly what she is doing when she plays, elevating these objects to the status of 'gift' and keeping them safe. In turn I document them and preserve them by photographing them before they are ripped apart by her and reconfigured or given away. That is my carving out and framing a moment amongst chaos and I do really recognise what you say about the microscopic, I am very interested in small things, close up perspectives that lead to some kind of partiality of view.