Hazel Powell AIRetc… 11

Now the residency is finished, it feels like a good time to go back to the beginning.

The AIRetc residency at Edinburgh College began eight months after graduating from Edinburgh College of Art. I took that time to gather stories, collect ideas and reflect on the work I had made throughout my education. It wasn’t until I sat down in the studio for the first time that I began to look at where I wanted to take my work next.

The highlight of the residency was the time spent with the HND Contemporary Art students. Being involved in Crits throughout their projects allowed for great discussions about their work and the wider themes of contemporary culture. Following their work from conception through to exhibition was a great insight into how different people work and how ideas develop.

Artists, I find, have such unique ways in which to look at things. They choose vastly different topics to pursue and this creates a really colourful creative exchange. I felt very lucky to be part of that and found it helped me to think about my own work in context too.

My practice is steeped in local history and memory. People, folklore, song and Scottish fairy tales are all employed to look at the layers of history that surround us. Film, tapestry, drawing and conversation form the backbone of my work, and during the residency I began to introduce elements of performance.

This residency really allowed the time I needed to fully unfold concepts and follow ideas (occasionally up the garden path). It gave me the all-important space to try things out, sometimes over and over again. My first steps towards performance art weren’t taken tentatively, but rather ungracefully, wearing giant bird feet.


Artists Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich invited me to make a work for an event they were hosting at Glasgow International. The Circus Between Worlds was a site-specific performance weekend based in the dilapidated Alexander ‘Greek’ Thompson church in the Gorbals area of Glasgow.

Upon visiting the space I was immediately captivated by how nature had been allowed to reclaim this inner city space, birds and foxes had very much moved in. On the other hand the history of the circus was really fascinating, especially the idea of the Freak show, and how this piece of history had been both a positive and negative experience for the performers.

This led to the Unfledged Birds, a costumed vocal performance in four parts. The costumes were based on the sideshow belle Kookoo the bird girl and the song developed from live recordings of the birds inhabiting the church.

Listen to the performance here:   https://vimeo.com/173627863

This project really informed what went into Spooling, a solo exhibition at Dok Arts Space in Leith. The show was the culmination of all the work developed while at the college and took the form of two large-scale films, a five part vocal performance, a weave and a silkscreen print.

The work looked at how we make sense of the world through storytelling and conversation. It explored the ways we communicate, our relationships, and the subjects we all have in common, such as certainty, doubt, life and loss. The work wove together fragments of stories collected throughout the past year. It looked to the landscape as a memory archive, giving a voice to the water, and considering the land as a sounding board. The installation strived to create a space for reflection, one in which to think about how we are all the same.

Watch an excerpt from Spooling:  https://vimeo.com/183819530

I had an amazing amount of support from Edinburgh College staff and students, throughout the making process and in showing Spooling. I’m really grateful for that, and for the opportunity to develop my practice.

Sharing Secrets Festival:

In May the head of Dalry Primary approached the college, inviting us to get involved in the Sharing Secrets Festival that takes place over a week in June. It aims to bring the community together through the arts and the inclusive act of making together.

Four of the HND students got involved and we devised a day of workshops for a keen group of pupils at Dalry Primary school. The short projects were based on the theme of Storytelling, and involved making short films, drawings, poems and mathematical sculptures.  It was a really interesting day for everyone, and really rewarding to see young people engage so strongly with contemporary art.

Finally, I want to wish every student on the Contemporary Art course every success for the future. You’re a very talented bunch.

One thought on “Hazel Powell AIRetc… 11

  1. Pingback: Hazel Powell reflects on her AIRetc… experience. | Contemporary Art ETC.....

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