'Interview with Frontiers In Retreat artist, Carl Giffney', The Scottish Sculpture Workshop (SSW), monthly, [UK + Web]. 2014.

Artist Carl Giffney joined us for a two week research residency from 2 – 16 June 2014, and is the second artist to attend SSW as part of the five year EU project Frontiers in Retreat. Three artists are working with SSW over 2014/15 – Fernando Dory Garcia completed his research residency in May and returns to us in September, and Brett Bloom joins us in July.

Where are you joining us from?

The last project I did was in America, with a great artist called Andreas Kindler von Knobloch. It was a three month residency in a place called Paul Artspace, in St.Louis. The work involved excavating a huge 268kg quartz crystal, which is piezo-electric. We then transported it in a ’98 Ford Ranger to sites of crystal meth labs, or former crystal meth labs, and also to bars and supermarkets. We used the quartz to generate electricity and manufactured piezo-electric crystals from scratch too. Piezo-electricity is created when you change the mass of the crystals, like in a little clicky lighter, and quartz in watches do the same thing. If you hit it or vibrate them, they releases energ- and visa versa too- if you give a crystal an electric charge it changes mass and vibrates. So that was the last project, and I also just had a solo show in the Galway Arts Centre in Ireland- of previous and new works that are to do with mining- using mining as performative research and engaging socially by going underground.

What have you been exploring at SSW so far?

I’m on a research residency for two weeks as part of Frontiers in Retreat, which is a five-year project funded by the EU in seven different countries: Finland, Serbia, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Iceland and Scotland, which will be followed by a six week production residency in September. In my two weeks I’ve been looking at the facilities, bronze making, looking at equipment, I’ve been taking generators out to sites, for filming and lights, I’ve been using ladders and bicycles to explore the local area, and looking through a lot of maps – there are a huge amount of maps here in my studio. CGiffney_Soutarain_webI’ve been outside a lot and down in some good Souterrains. I have also been to Church. Aside from general exploration, my main focus is the Scottish Independence and the upcoming vote, so I’ve been conducting primary empirical research- talking to people and setting up little situations where we kind of have to talk about it… things like getting lifts from people while wearing certain clothes, and bringing certain reading material and objects with me. CGiffneyVoting_webI’ve been looking at religion, as well, and the effect of Scottish Independence on the Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is huge – and everyone’s silent about it, because they are worried about what will happen. I think Ireland, after Scotland, will have the most implications of either a yes or no vote, and it is very interesting that everyone is staying quiet about it, so I’m not going to stay so quiet about it, I am going to try and make something around these issues, try and negotiate them somehow. There are all sorts of things to do with religion, money, history, resources and solidarity going on.

And will you be doing that to make people talk about it, or are you voicing your own opinion, or are you doing a combination of both?

I think it’s a combination to some degree, as I’m interested in the issues. Although I don’t necessarily have a position. I am trying to position myself in as many positions as possible, underground, overground, with people, without people, and trying to figure out a new vocabulary of materials that can be used to discuss this, visually and physically.

Have you found enough material and ideas for further exploration when you return in September?

Yes, definitely. When I come back I will be in production mode, so I will be exploring more physically and visually through video, bronze, performance and more empirical research, which will be recorded this time round. I have started to record this performative research which I used to be against. Now that I have carried out this first two weeks of research I am planning on going back to my studio briefly. I should have about two weeks to spare at some point when the research goes cold, and then I will look at it again and take it from there – figuring out what I have and what it means – then come back to SSW and drop straight into production.

As I understand, you co-founded and direct The Good Hatchery in Ireland, could you tell us a little bit more?

Yeah, that’s where I am going back to now, I spend a bit of time there between residencies. The Good Hatchery is an artist-led space, founded by five graduates straight out of college, including me. It is now directed by two of those five members, myself and Ruth E Lyons. We have sixteen board members, studio artists and we also run residencies, events and curated projects. We are largely unfunded, although we have had funding from the Irish Arts Council and the Arts Office a couple of years ago. We are homed in a 19th century building which we sourced through the internet – from free-cycle. Originally we put up a wanted ad for a building in Dublin, but we found on in the middle of nowhere, which was quite amazing. We renovated the place, wired it, plumbed it, put the windows in, using materials we got for free. It was the time of the Celtic tiger in Ireland, everyone was churning up their houses and putting in new fancier things, and getting rid of their stuff, so it was very easy to get things. After some curated projects and collaborations we attracted a little bit of funding for things like windows and insurance. The place focuses on, its main aim, which is to support the development of ambitious art practices that have to do with their own relationships to place or are context specific in some form.

And is that something your practice is involved in?

Yes, I carry out all my research empirically on site, and through performance, or performative actions, which are usually quite subtle things, like mining, building, hitch-hiking, stealing, bee keeping or cycling with a ladder – things that generate relationships to place. CGiffneyBicycle_web This kind of non-academic activity allows me to learn about people in places now, the ultimate aim is to investigate social capitals and to negotiate things like the implications of Scottish Independence.

Do you see any commonalities between SSW and The Good Hatchery?

They are both very rural, here (SSW) is a bit more established, obviously, and has a lot more facilities than we do. I think we’re quite – because it’s artist-led initiative without much funding – we’re kind of footloose, so we can kind of do whatever we feel is good, and we are very able to adapt to economic change. I am not saying that SSW isn’t, but just because we are not as formalised and not as funded, it’s a lot more fluid and things change very quickly. You know, that’s going to be very interesting for SSW, with the vote. What SSW is doing is far more substantial, in terms of production and residencies – it’s nearly a project, The Good Hatchery, rather than a residency or a centre. We find it hard to write it down. We’re not ever sure what it is, and that’s part of it, its very healthy for us as artists and curators. We are trying to set up a situation where the artists who use the space direct and steer what the place is through their art practices- and so the function of the space is secondary in many ways.

We look forward to hosting Carl again in September.