MAstars 2010: Rosalie Schweiker, MA Fine Art

MAstars 2010: Rosalie Schweiker, MA Fine Art Rosalie Schweiker, Rosalie Schweiker in the new home for the Emely, a garden shed, 2010. Performance

Emma Dean selects Rosalie Schweiker from Camberwell College of Arts for MAstars

For the MA Fine Art degree show at Camberwell College of Arts, artist Rosalie Schweiker presents her final work in the form of an unbound, black and white photocopied publication. This publication documents the realisation of three of Schweiker's recent projects culminating with 'The Emely Showroom', the latest incarnation of 'The Emely', a workspace that evolved in the studio at Camberwell over a period of ten months. 

Comprising short texts and notations by Schweiker with photographs, illustrations and writings by artists including Thomas Hirschhorn, Harrell Fletcher, Hannah Arendt and Phyllida Barlow, the publication outlines how 'The Emely' took shape, but also reveals some of the Schweiker's thinking around the process of making work, what defines the work and her comments on and responses to the various rigours and demands of the MA course structure itself.

From September 2009 to July 2010, 'The Emely' workspace offered a residency space, a café, a research centre and a plant nursery. Arranged with functional but crudely made furniture, produced from cheap materials, the workspace hosted a programme of talks and events including a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, a sale of drawings, a three day research conference – 'How to figure things out with the help of potatoes' – where potatoes were used to 'structure and organise thoughts', artists' talks, a Christmas market, a workshop in donation box making, and an exhibition in 'The Emely' display cabinet by artist Rachael House. 'The Emely' also went on tour with a residency at the Triangle Space in Chelsea, and a café providing tea and cake at Space Station Sixty-Five and Auto-Italia in London. 'The Emely Showroom' presents a collection of photographs, drawings and objects, associated with or resulting from the activity and the events facilitated during the last year.

Schweiker works for a specific audience and context, responding to her environment. She invites others – students, the public, or private individuals – to make work and observes and documents the processes behind this making. There is emphasis on collaboration, a social or shared experience, with often unexpected outcomes. The construct of the workplace also provides a framework within which Schweiker can investigate, position and define her own practice. In the publication, she describes 'The Emely' as her 'day job'...'Never-ending labour such as preparing food or making environments habitable'. The work then perhaps lies in the end product of this labour, the tangible results of any activity: the objects that are made or displayed, the engagement of visitors and participants in talks and events, and the utilisation of the workspace itself.

Schweiker's practice could perhaps be described as socially engaged or participatory; she openly draws on methods of working explored by Hirshhorn, Arendt and so on. The texts by artists included in the publication provide a frame of reference. However Schweiker's approach is playful, and less directly political. After a cup of tea and a slice of cake, she reveals that 'The Emely' is named after her grandmother, and that a Belfast kitchen sink, which is part of the showroom display also belonged to her. This adds a further layer of meaning, of memory, domesticity; it anchors the work in Schweiker's personal history, providing 'The Emely' with a context and importance that extends beyond its usefulness and function as a social space. In her artist's statement, Schweiker suggests her practice sits somewhere 'between object-based Fine Art and time-based Performance Art'. 'The Emely' perhaps embraces both, and the unfinished, exploratory, 'open source' nature of the work collapses any distinctions.

Due to a fire at the fine art studios just a few weeks before the degree show, some of the MA Fine Art students' work was either badly damaged or destroyed. The students affected will now graduate at Chelsea College of Art in September.

Selected by Emma Dean
Published September, 2010

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