How the residency helps artists to develop their practice. Interview with Laura Denning.

This short interview with artist and CSRes participant Laura Denning illustrates how works which started during the residency unfold and develop through time and contacts. Laura went on to present a body of work investigating water resources in the area of Cambridge and came back to further develop this work in a recent art festival.

CSR_ Laura, when did you start researching into this topic in Cambridge?

LD_ When I learned that I had been successful with my application to be part of CSRes15 I immediately started researching. It quickly became clear that Cambridge City Council were innovative and focussed in terms of implementing solutions to the city’s water issues, especially in relation to climate change, and ever-increasing urban populations.

CSR_ How did your participation in the residency help with developing the project?

LD_ The residency helped in so many ways! Firstly, I got to meet Simon Bunn, the Sustainable Drainage Officer at CCC. It doesn’t sound like an exciting job, but the responsibility to meet increasing demands requires imaginative and future-facing solutions so there is a lot of cutting edge work taking place quietly, behind the scenes and beneath our feet. Simon also knows his stuff and gave me a couple of hours of his time, pouring over old maps and discussing the history of the city from this point of view. The other artists on the residency, the programme of events and the studio time were all crucial to my development as an artist. This was my first ever residency and I didn’t know what to expect. The experience was amazing and I have may fond memories – a highlight was sitting in the outdoor eating area of the Sainsbury Lab with all the other artists on a beautifully sunny day, having the most amazing conversations.

CSR_ Did you keep in touch with the contacts you made in Cambridge?

LD_ I have kept in touch with a number of the artists who took part. And I kept in touch with Simon!

CSR_ How long did it take for the work to fully mature?

LD_  The work is still maturing, but I have been able to punctuate its development with an interactive, city-wide installation that is part of Art Language Location 16. This is a walking tour (self-guided) using augmented reality: at various spots around the city it is possible to scan an image that links to sound works which tell you a little about why that spot is strategically important in the management of the city’s water resources.

CSR_ How was your experience of coming back to work in Cambridge?

LD_  It was great to return to Cambridge – to meet up with friends made on previous visits, and to explore the city all over again. The piece for ALL called Simon Says uses Simon Bunns recordings and in order to install the work he took me on a guided tour through the city, revealing places (and facts) that I would otherwise not have discovered.

CSR_ Is this project going to develop further?

LD_ On our walk we encountered Simons boss who loved what we were doing. CCC is now keen for me to develop the project further so that it is permanent. With this in mind I am currently developing a project that will include specially designed manhole covers that are visually beautiful, and which talk to you. My relationship with Cambridge has only just started!


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