Joshua Sofaer

Learning

Artists and their Families

A workshop devising contemporary performance for individual artists and one non-artist family member, either biological or chosen, or someone they consider as close as family.

Produced by Prototype Paradise, September 2017 at Guling Street Avant-Garde Theatre, Taipei and further developed out of the Live Art Development Agency’s DIY programme of professional development for artists at Tate Britain, August 2018.

Does your mother complain that she doesn’t understand what you do?
Do you think your grandfather has an amazing story to tell?
Have you always thought your sister was a natural dancer?
Would you like a shared experience with your boyfriend?
Are the dinnertime conversations with your daughter better than theatre?
Is the best friend who is really like the brother you never had desperate to try something new?

These are just some of the reasons why artists might have wanted to participate in ‘Artists and their Families’, a workshop devised and facilitated by British artist Joshua Sofaer for Prototype Paradise.

Over the course of 5 evening workshops, artists (in any field but with an emphasis on contemporary performance practices) were invited to consider what it might mean to work together with a non-artist family member. Through a range of exercises, they were encouraged to begin develop a professional collaboration.

Each evening started with a collective dinner. Eating together was an important part of the workshop. It gave us a chance to get to know each other as a group in an informal, conversational setting, and to share something of our hopes and expectations. We then stepped into the studio to explore ways of drawing on personal, familial relationships in the creative process. We used family histories and anecdotes for storytelling; interviewed each other about our lives; took turns in directing each other; artists shared their practice with their family member as an equal collaborator.

We aimed to create a safe, confidential, group environment for people to share their hopes, dreams and fears. At the same time it is important to recognise that this was not a group therapy session.

The participants in Taipei were:
Shin-Yi Huang and Joe Huang (sister and brother)
Ray Lee and Betty Hsu (college schoolmates)
Jing-Yi Bai and Deng-Yuan Bai (daughter and father)
Blue Chen and Bugs Chen (sister and brother)
Corinne Hsiao and Tina Hsing (daughter and mother)
Yulia Chen and Sow-Yee Au (partners)

The workshop was conducted in English with full Chinese translation.

The workshop was repeated in London the following year over 5 days at Tate Britain as part of LADA’s DIY scheme.

As in Taiwan, the days were emotionally charged, and often draining. In turns we were laughing together, crying together, sharing hopes and dreams. The intersection of close family relationships and an often ‘foreign’ artistic practice for family members, meant these emotional moments were often intense.

The participants in London were:
Amy Pennington and Dianne Edwards (daughter and mother)
Geraldine Heaney and Michael Heaney (daughter and father)
Lena Drotleff and Anna Schmidbauer (daughters of twin sisters)
Matt May and Janet Evans (grandson and grandmother)
Rory Beard and Shona Beard (son and mother)
Sam Reynolds and Michelle ‘Chelle’ Voss (brother and sister)
Timothy Hopkins and Nigel Hopkins (son and father)

“I discovered that not only is my mum completely invested in our artistic collaboration she also has better ideas than me! I’m worried, but also very excited, that I have woken an artistic monster in her.” Rory Beard

“The gamut of emotions expressed within the group felt truly palpable, moving between tears of sadness to tears of laughter and everything else in between. I came away utterly exhausted but definitely exhilarated and creatively inspired; long may that continue!” Shona Beard

“…one of the most interesting and fulfilling experiences I’ve had. It’s hard to imagine that five days could have such an impact, but the workshop was crafted in a way that meant each day felt rich with opportunity.” Matt May

“…a very unforgettable time. Anyone attending a workshop would firstly be lucky to be chosen, learn a great deal about themselves and any creative future works.” Janet Evans

“It made me really value the relationship I have with my dad. […] I’m so glad that we got to take part in this. Every day felt exciting.” Geraldine Heaney

“As a ‘family’ rather than an ‘artist’ participant I was pleased that all persons were treated as individuals and all contributions were equally accommodated and addressed. It was a challenging and rewarding five days….” Michael Heaney

“I enjoyed the workshop lots and feel I got a lot from it!” Sam Reynolds

“I really enjoyed it and learnt that I still do have my creative side and to not be so shy all the time!” Michelle Voss

“It didn’t kill me and it may even have made me […] stronger.” Nigel Hopkins

“I hope I never forget the memory of my mum in Tate Britain, standing on a chair in the middle of Anthea Hamilton’s squash piece and manically swinging a pritstick attached to string claiming they are trapeze pugs.” Amy Pennington

“I didn’t want it to end as I felt alive again. […] I loved the time with Amy, it was fantastic to be in ‘her world’ and have an insight to how she works.” Dianne Edwards