It’s gonna take years: On the virtue(s) of taking your time

Convener(s): Simon Bowes

Participants: Joanne Hartley; Steve Ryan; Bethany Pitts; Alex Lehman; Matt Ball; Daniel Pitt; Ros Williams; Maddy Costa: Dachel Davies; Steve Pitman (and others); Greg McLaren

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations: 

Note that the session was called to try and identify a dissatisfaction with two (seemingly pervasive) orthodoxies:

  1. Edinburgh-once-a-year-or-you’re-invisible;
  2. Scratching-it-will-make-it-better

This is what we come up with:

  • Maybe we NEED urgency
  • bound up with who you have to ask for the money
  • gestation periods can be too long (lost-in-gestation!)
  • “...being okay with your shit ideas”
  • “we should be practicing all the time” (perhaps a painter who produces one painting a year is automatically going to be a shittier painter than one who produces ten a year)
  • Scratch culture often ensures that by the time an artist “…considers the work finished, everybody’s seen it…”
  • Can early-career / emergent artists afford to work privacy?
    • Is there an alternative to scratch that is artist-led, rather than venue-led
    • fairly enclosed, invitation-only
    • free, not pay-what-you-can?
      • EXAMPLE Uninvited Guests just can’t do anything quickly (Mr. Dufty and Mr. Clarke have FULL TIME JOBS)
  • necessitates short, infrequent working patters (presumably with plenty of time for reflection)
  • they might not be prolific but they maintain their profile and never look seem to look hungry
  • how do we find dedicated time?
  • Who says audiences knows better than artists what the work should be?
    • Audiences notice things the artist may have overlooked, but often give artists BAD ADVICE about how to develop their work
  • contrast all this with EXAMPLE Song of the Goat (Poland), or other comparable European companies: length of time spent developing the work permits depth and intricacy
  • “What’s the life of a show?” / “2 years to make, 2 years to show” / crossing over
  • “‘time’ is a question of efficiency…
  • “wider than one individual process”
  • "there is no ladder to climb”
  • “…we’re not footballers (only as good as our last game)|” – No! – “…We’re as interesting as our entire body of work…”
    • but if let’s say, the reviewer / writer sees a bad one, they might miss a show or two before they go back
    • “…you’re as good as the last thing you did and the thing you’re going to do next…”
    • is it possible to write to support a work / artist in another way?
    • getting a little review (well-starred or not) isn’t always that helpful –
    • “…I’m discovering that I’m a slow thinker and a slow writer…” (becoming Okay with that)
    • SPILL Festival salons/ dialogues / ‘stings’: commissioned writing
      • all pretty encouraging
      • EXAMPLE: “…Frayn had a five year hiatus before ‘Copenhagen’…”
  • MONEY BUYS TIME – but fuck the money 
  • “…you have a duty of care to the work…” (you have a duty of care to the audience)
  • long timeframes permit continuities, sustaining the discourse around the work (documentation, critical thinking)
    • “…the little commitments make up The Big One…”
  • if we want to slow things down, there’s a value in that…if we make the process part of the show…a long process doesn’t necessarily mean a slow process
  • “the luxury of time”
  • “…we’re working in an industry where everyone wants to be working in that industry…”
  • “if you’re going to do something, really fucking do it”
  • “…if you can do it for £300, try getting 6…”
  • talking about getting Lyn to see your stuff: “…be sure that you’re ready to invite me along…”
    • generosity towards emerging artists (or: to an emerging / developing work, even if it’s made by an old artist)
    • giving time to something can buy you out of that economy
      • EXAMPLE: Simon from Rough Fiction – a permanent ensemble, by consensual agreement – free space donated by the Actor’s Centre, for six hours every Saturday
        • core artists working on skills, founded in an open space, leading to a deep sense of collectivity – nobody got paid
        • has resulted in a finished show developed over eighteen months, equivalent of nine weeks of rehearsal spread out
  • in some circumstances the work itself is its own reward
  • what else are you spending / investing in, if not time
  • some kind of TRIANGLE DIAGRAM, like an equation Quick = Money, Good = Time
    • yeah: it can’t be cheap AND good AND quick!
    • “…long time-frames are all well and good, but you’ve got to have outcomes, and you’ve got to stand by them…”
    • the work asks you: what kind of artist do you want to be