I write this now, back home in London after my residency at the Ventnor Exchange (I came to the island for two weeks at the end of May to explore the themes and content for a new solo show I’m developing); I’ve taken a break from the project temporarily to work on another show which, much like MZD’s book, has begun sprawling off and looping back on itself, connecting inevitably to themes and content present in House of Leaves and some of my purposes in originally coming to the island. It’s getting tricky to separate the ideas. You can’t tell creativity which room to wait in – it’ll roam the whole house like a cat until it finds the most tricky spot to curl up in, like out of sight at the top of the stairs or around your ears while you try to sleep.
The two weeks were fantastic. During my time at the Exchange I met two writers (one, the author of a book on crows who works the rides at Blackgang Chine by day and writes by night, the other a playwright who has a brilliant scheme which involves getting a bus from Southern Vectis as far from the island as possible), two designers (one who inspired the name of the my first blog ‘Opening the Door’ and the other who creates entire worlds that young people can step into), an visual artist (who’s recently been building wooden monoliths), a writer/actor (who used to play a dinosaur and can often be found reviewing bands), a musician (who sees notes as colours), a photographer (who found a brilliant way to explore the world through story), a choreographer (who let me try on the burial clothes of a dead man), a local writers group (who drew pictures of their homes for me), a filmmaker (who played me hypnotic images of dark woods) and three individuals who willingly blacked-out and locked themselves in a bathroom with me while I sat, blocking the exit, telling them ghost stories.
This was my first time beginning a project entirely alone. I learnt a lot from the experience, not just about how to work by myself but also about the importance of never doing it for too long. The brilliant range of people I met, local to Ventnor, kept my ideas fresh and helped me stay on track. The chance to be entirely out of my usual environment gave me a huge amount of mental space to be able to really focus down and to explore feely.
My next stage with the project is to take stock and apply for funding as well as reaching out to some new collaborators. I can now do this with a real sense of purpose and direction thanks to the time in Ventnor. I feel very proud to have been the Ventnor Exchange’s first Artist in Residence. I hope, once the thing emerges, it’ll get a chance to return to the place it began in it’s finished form.
(If you’d like to follow Simon’s progress as the project unfolds, you can find him on Twitter: @SimonLyshon)