Ruth Macdougall

2007 – 2009

Youth Arts Programme ‘OURS’

This project finished in July 2009. Please visit the youth arts group blog and Ruth’s blog from her time with us.

Programme
This two-year programme is designed to engage young people in the area with a young, practising, contemporary artist. This will be through a series of taster/introductory sessions, then primarily through a range of projects targeting particular groups and individuals.  A primary objective of this programme is to work with young people in developing their own ideas and ownership of the projects.

Eg 1. a project with young people in a drop-in/youth centre to design and improve their own space.

Eg 2. a project with a group of young people to commission and curate an exhibition for Timespan’s gallery; taking roles as director, curator, technician, marketing etc.

Eg 3. Apprenticeships with 16-18 yr olds, possible considering art careers, 1 or 2 at a time, working as ‘artist assistants’.

Eg 4. a web-page on www.timespan.org.uk

Artist
Ruth Macdougall is an environmental artist from Glasgow. Last summer she successfully completed a 3-month visual arts residency for the Mackay country group in the North Coast community of Skerray. This summer she has returned to Sutherland as Timespan’s artist in residence for the next two years. This developmental post will allow Ruth to concentrate her time equally on leading the youth arts programme and developing her own practice.

Row 2006

Artist’s Statement of Practice

Ruth Macdougall – Timespan

I am committed to exploring narratives of time and place, expressed through acts of physical endurance, with the intention of opening up a dialogue between social, historical and geographical boundaries.

My environmental art practice has developed through my experiences living, studying and working in locations as diverse as Beirut, Chile and the Scottish Countryside.

At the heart of my work is the engagement and participation of those communities amongst whom I live. As a primary source of information and guidance, I rely on evolving relationships and subtle collaborations to arrive at a work that not only tells a story but also characterises the community that tells and retells that story.

I choose to undertake the performative element in the majority of my own works, thus inescapably addressing the notion of female fragility; a relatively modern myth. Consequently, the live performances to audience and camera, which have formed the body of my work over recent years, have been described by others as having a ‘’mythic quality’’. I welcome this description.

Subsequent video installations and text bear witness to the temporal nature of my work; but myths and narratives evolve, grow, are embellished and edited by the communities for whom these myths are a work in progress.

Ruth

Insaka International Artist’s Workshop
My name is Ruth Macdougall, I am from Glasgow and I joined Timespan at the beginning of August, embarking on a two year residency that will allow me to concentrate my time equally between developing my environmental art practice and the Timespan’s new youth arts programme,‘OURS’’. Open to all interested youngsters in Sutherland, ‘Ours’ is designed to engage and develop long-term relationships with young people who have limited access to artists or galleries in this remote area; supporting them in developing and managing their own projects.

3 Artists
Having successfully completed a three-month residency in summer 2006 with the MacKay Country Group on the North Coast, returning to work in the Highlands has presented many familiar challenges. Yet, this is very much a new beginning, not only for myself but also for Timespan as an organisation. My new position coincides with the remarkable redevelopment of the museum, additional workshop, community and archive space that will benefit the entire community.

Even in its unfinished state, I find the all new workshop space to be particularly exciting. When finally completed its bright, spacious dimensions will fit perfectly with the scale and ambition of the new youth arts project, enabling its young users to expand and achieve their creative ideas.

At the heart of my work is the engagement and participation of those communities amongst whom I live. As a primary source of information and guidance, I rely on evolving relationships and subtle collaborations to arrive at a work that not only tells a story but also characterises the community that tells and retells that story.

Tribe
My environmental art practice has developed through my experiences living, studying and working in locations as diverse as Beirut, Chile, China and the Scottish Countryside.  I have now just returned from Insaka 2007, a two-week International Artists workshop held in Siavonga, Zambia and sponsored by the Triangle Art Trust. In the middle of the African bush, 20 artists from Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, USA, India and Scotland!, came together to exchange ideas and cultures under the banner of ‘’artists working with communities for environmental awareness’’. Many of the artistic disciplines were represented: painting, sculpture, illustration, video and photography.

The African bush provided an intense and at times, dangerous environment in which we worked alongside each other, the local tribal communities and reptiles of all shapes and sizes. The local tribes welcomed us openly, allowing us to observe their daily lives and learn more about their basic, self-sustaining and vibrant cultures.

At the end of the two weeks we held an open day on site. I exhibited a video documenting our experiences with the local tribes people. These short documents focused particularly on the female population of the tribes, who appeared to do everything: farming, teaching, cooking, and raising families. Many of the older women (understandably) complained that they suffered from back pains, and so the video opens with an amusing, yet informative lesson in several yoga stretches as taught by Aditi, our Indian artist on a hot, and slightly surreal morning in the middle of the village. The video then switches to the regular evening dancing and singing round the bonfire and the daily chore of grinding finger millet , which is then boiled to a solid substance called nshima, the staple food of Zambia.

Though seemingly quite traditional in many ways, through discussions and presentations, the African art scene at large unfolded before me, into a complex dialogue between self-expression, the value of art in society and survival as an artist. For any other artists reading this, these will appear to be issues common to all of us. However, when considered within the context of Africa and its various political and economic situations, these themes evade regular analysis. For an experience such as this to be presented internationally by a country that as yet has no art school, not only underlines the desire of Zambian artists to evolve their techniques and ideologies but also the awareness that they too have a great deal to teach.

Still Grinder
Insaka 2007 was a truly memorable experience for all the artists involved, forming firm friendships. We 20 are now a community and it is my endeavour to enable any one or all of them to complete a workshop here in Scotland. Our works will be shown together in a forthcoming exhibition in the Zambian capital, Lusaka.

The Zambian workshop provides a fascinating precursor to the workshops I intend to hold with the youth of Sutherland, beginning with a series of workshops in the October school holidays.

For a weekly update on the progression of the Timespan residency, please see.www.timespanours-ruth.blogspot.com.