Notes from Lockdown: The Making Of mink

Julie Lovett, Take me to the countryside, solve all my problems and make my life easier, 2019; HD video, colour, sound, 8 mins; courtesy of the artist and mink

MIEKE VANMECHELEN AND JENNIFER REDMOND TALK ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF THE KERRY-BASED MOVING IMAGE COLLECTIVE, MINK.

Mieke Vanmechelen: Well, I have been working since 2017 as Kerry Filmmaker in Residence within a community context almost exclusively with young people. My own practice has expanded and developed considerably during this time, benefitting immensely from the contact I had with LUX Critical Forum in Cork, led by Maximilian Le Cain and Michael Holly. Attending the ‘No Longer Peripheral’ event, organised by aemi last November, gave me the incentive I needed to reach out and connect with artists working in film and moving image from my home county. Everyone I approached was enthusiastic and I began to plan an exhibition, which was due to take place at ANAM (Arts & Cultural Centre, Killarney) from 7 – 28 May.  As the atmosphere began to change, and before ‘lockdown’, I moved all my work online. Subsequently the residency was placed ‘on hold’, and rather than give up, I conceived mink (Moving Image Network Kerry) in early March.

Jennifer Redmond: I have always been interested in writing and publishing as an art practice. The concept has been developing in my work over the last few years, particularly in relation to the creation of digital objects. We had agreed that I was going to write a text to accompany the exhibition at ANAM and so collaborating on mink was autogenetic. We got together (frequently on Zoom) and started to flesh out what was important to us.

MV: In a way the physical restrictions have opened up new possibilities, by facilitating the creation of an arena where artists can expand relationships and partnerships, irrespective of geography. Initially, for me, it was about reclaiming and subverting a peripheral status. Now, it has developed into something far beyond that initial idea.

JR: I have my own ‘hot-take’ on this; I believe that we have all become so inculcated into the neoliberal idiom that we aggressively guard our ‘patches’. The culture of competition that pervades (not only in the art world) is an impoverishing dynamic for creative thinkers. My way to dispel this is to create a digital object in the form of a magazine. To me, the platform is a creative petri dish; a place where artists can come to show their work and to play. They can experiment and expand their thinking with others, if they choose to. Both of us would like mink to be a democratic and collaborative initiative. We would like to extend our reach to encourage a global ‘riffing’ of creative minds. It is a concept, based on ideas of collective being and of collective empathy. Mink is a toolbox. It contains the where-with-all for artists to experiment with reformulating their habits of self.

MV: Yes, working together remotely has demanded a lot more reciprocal trust and empathy than I would have thought might be possible when utilising digital technology.

Michael Holly, A Weary Man’s Space Travel, 2020, HD video, colour, sound, 9 mins; courtesy of the artist and mink

JR: That has been a big surprise to me also. Who knew that technology could spotlight a compassionate side of humanity? It has opened up a completely new and spontaneous way of thinking about our collective and individual practices – a recognition of a potential new self.

MV: Certainly, and we would like to extend further into the experimental dimension. We are planning to give prominence to artists’ film and moving image in conjunction with innovative writing and progressive thinking.

JR: In addition, we want to explore the affordances of online publishing and broadcasting media. To create film podcasts. To live-stream conversations, seminars, reading groups, sound recordings and interviews. We would like to publish artist books. And to create an online archive. The magazine is currently promoted twice monthly on social media. There is a subscription option for those who are social media shy. New material will be published and broadcast once a month. Transcripts and show notes of the episodes will be made available on the website, mink.run.

MV: I think we are entering into a new space of synergy and action. The fallout from the pandemic will make public and private funding tighter than ever (at least in the short term) and this will affect the ways in which artists are compelled to make and to show their work. The experience of viewing work in a gallery context or at a screening is not equivalent to the personal digital encounter. I think it’s important for mink that we also generate offline opportunities for showing work, perhaps in partnership with other groups, organisations and curators. As useful as the internet is, it’s not without fault, nor ‘immune’ to threat. My own practice is very grounded in the physical experience, but I think as artists we have to be adaptable and not become intractable. I think it’s the balance between these two worlds and how we navigate them that will be critical, as we are entering into a new space of ‘being’, individually and collectivity. Ideas of who and what can contribute to the production of culture are changing and I’m excited to see where mink will take us.

JR: We are interested in hearing from artists and from writers who share the ideas expressed here, and who are willing to use the mink platform to collaborate or just to add their aesthetic to the collective archive.

Mieke Vanmechelen is a visual artist based near Kenmare, Co. Kerry. The Kerry Filmmaker Residency is co-funded by Kerry County Council, The Arts Council of Ireland and Creative Ireland.

Jennifer Redmond  is a writer and artist who is interested in digital objects and in publishing as an artist practice.  She works in Cork and in Kerry.

The artists currently involved in mink are Treasa O’Brien, Laura Fitzgerald, Lisa Fingleton, Michael Holly, Lorraine Neeson, Julie Lovett, Sean Rea, Mieke Vanmechelen and Jennifer Redmond.

Mink is supported by the Arts Council of Ireland COVID-19 Crisis Response Award.
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