London, a myriad of invigorating and distracting stimuli, does not always conduce productivity. I hadn’t made anything in months and the release of ideas from the cells in my brain didn’t match the rate at which new ones were being conceived; incarcerated in what was becoming an overcrowded, head shaped prison.
Three months in Tartu were an opportunity to escape and to focus. An opportunity to let some of the inmates out and avert the ensuing riot (whatever that would be). So I got my head down and emptied it into my first ever solo show. As is becoming standard with my work, this involved a joyous interval of experimentation and investigation, followed by a long, arduous period; monotonously and laboriously dragging a concept to something that resembles its logical conclusion. I love it.
Unfortunately, this mode of practice – whilst lending itself to the exploration of ideas, does not translate to the exploration of cities. My time in Tartu was so focused on the manufacture of my work that I am much more disposed to give advice about its hardware stores than its many restaurants or cafes. For some reason your friends give you an odd look when, having disappeared for three months, you come back with more to say on laser cutting at a Makerlab than which sights to see.
That’s not to say that all I did was work. In fact, a surprising amount of time was made to get to know Tartu’s fauna. It was a strange day when, instead of being woken by the tumultuous ringing of church bells, I was stirred by a distinctly desperate rustling. Clumsily arming myself with a wooden spoon I searched for the source of the disturbing sound – thoughts of combat with large men in balaclavas flashed through my mind, the imagined adversary getting smaller as each room in the flat was cleared. Only the bathroom remained. I took a moment to steel myself and entered. Nothing was there, but the feeling I was being watched came over me, unnerved me. My eyes locked on the shower vent, the only place left unchecked, and with hands shaking and spoon raised I removed its cover. A small, feathered, and delightfully calm creature looked back at me – I quickly named him Terrence and we became good friends. I don’t know whether it was the bitter blizzard raging outside, or the pigeon’s equivalent of a smorgasbord that I laid out for him but, Terrence seemed quite content in his vent. Later, he politely made his way to the living room, shunning my offerings of water and bread in favor of dates and raisins – a man after my own tastes for sure. Turning his back on the open windows, adamant that he was staying in the warm for a good deal while longer, he took up a perch and stared at me inquisitively whilst I went about my day – as though I was the weird one. It was clear Terrence wasn’t like other pigeons; his relaxed demeanor, penchant for the great indoors and unusual tidiness set him apart from the rest. Nevertheless, I knew the relationship couldn’t last – and so with words of encouragement, and bribes of nuts, I led Terrence outside and commenced our teary goodbye. Knowing that every time I opened a packet of dried fruits, his memory would grace my thoughts.
With all of that silliness aside, some genuine thanks are in order. The time and space provided to me by the residency allowed me to achieve something I had never done before. As such, I am indebted to everyone at the Printing Museum for making me feel so welcome in a city that wasn’t my own, to Käty for allowing me to use her beautiful gallery space Ag47 and lastly to Timo who, for three months graciously shared his studio space, his tools and his invaluable insights with me. Thank you!