Meaning ‘soul’ in Scots Gaelic, ‘anam’ creative describes itself as ‘a collaborative platform working with young musicians and artists based in Scotland’. If the pandemic in some sense dematerialised, for a period, our working relations as artists, what can be reclaimed of the word soul—this word for the spiritual or immaterial element of a being? In Nilling (2012), Lisa Robertson speaks of ‘videosoul’ as a ‘perceiving perfume’, a sensory tint equivalent to ‘melancholic phantasy’, capable of combining its ‘received media to make something free’ (54). Following the lockdown of 2020, anam creative began in July of last year: founder Michiel Turner secured funding from Nurturing Talent—Time to Shine Fund and Creative Scotland to foster a new space for artistic collaboration, pooling resources and remote collaboration. If our ‘received media’ are increasingly those of the Zoom window, the chat box, the file share, anam have taken such media to a magical place and offered it freely.
It’s a frostbitten evening when I arrive, shivering through remnants of a supercold to the cosy gallery space of The Alchemy Experiment on Byres Road, where the anam crew are hosting their debut exhibition. Through the big glass shopfront, I see bodies arranging objects, cans of beer exchanged between hands alongside cameras and guestlists. There’s a deck set up the back which the iconic [underthunder] (aka Nasim Luczaj) will later jump on to play us all out with an eclectic, high voltage set of techno, trap and dance.
The exhibition is the culmination of several month’s work between founding musician Michiel Turner, Breagha Charlton (lever harper), James Mackay (jazz guitarist), Ben Deans (sound artist/producer), Niki Zaupa (audiovisual artist), Lily Garget (sculptor and textiles artist) and Alice Hill-Woods (writer in residence)—all creatives in the 18-25 age bracket. Accompanying an online and text-only version of the exhibition, this in-person setup features sound, textiles, animation, film and text, making use of the exposed brick walls to showcase intricate playful shapes detailing forms of growth and mycelial development, inspired by earthforms and elements. Downstairs, I watched a film of Mackay playing guitar in the summer grass. His was the videosoul from a suspended time, blue-skied and still. People take their seats around me, others depart or pause while talking. The place was packed—moving around the two rooms was to pick up stitches, taking new turns and loops in the shape of a human contingency. New conversations threaded around observational pause. Here, a tapestry inspired by wildflowers and arpeggios; there, a splash of colour, a gesture of thread.
What anam have made is a dreamscape of sorts: shifting and somehow above the material fact of an instrument, a tapestry, a little blue plasticine figure in stop motion. There’s the sense of nourishing conversations and exchanges suffusing the aura of everything. At the exhibition, through the fog of my cold I’m in the hubbub of voices, laughter, announcement. The night was basically a celebration and taster of what the platform are capable of, and a chance to glimpse the warmth and rapport of emergent artists. We’re first treated to a set by Breagha Charlton, who mesmerises on harp, and then Charlton is joined by Turner and Mackay on guitar for a rich and intuitive set. It’s a pleasure just to sense how each musician reads the other.
Three key words that gathered the work were: àite (place), gluasad (motion) and àrainneachd (environment). What’s lovely about this project is the way it displaces familiar locales of art and music: its settings slip between the floorboards of a tenement to vicarious, glacial scenes and earthy understories. Even as lockdown makes it difficult to leave our domestic enclosures, these works offer a possibility of dreaming elsewhere in the here of a moment. It’s remarkable that such seamlessly interwoven works came together virtually, and testament to the members’ commitment, talent and camaraderie.
For those who didn’t make the physical exhibition, anam have provided a generous online space for showcasing videos, images and text from the work. This includes sketches, hand-written notes and snaps of chord sheets, foregrounding the importance of process, materiality and detail. Alice Hill-Woods has also written text-only accompaniments for all the work, some of which were mounted on display at the exhibition. Blending audiovisual description with a motional and textural poetics, these prose fragments document objects in transience, emotional residues, the intimate relation between the multidimensional works. Sometimes this offers a way in or out, ‘The angle invited the viewer to surrender’; and other times performs its own lively sense-scape, ‘The wet sound of hands squishing the rich earth of a wormery’. Within the exhibition and beyond, plugging in homespun and digitally innovative approaches, there is still plenty of anam creative to explore, compost, digest.
Maria Sledmere is editor-in-chief at SPAM Press and a member of A+E Collective. In 2021, The Palace of Humming Trees, an exhibition with Katie O’Grady and Jack O’Flynn, was shown at French Street Studios. Her debut collection, The Luna Erratum, is out now with Dostoyevsky Wannabe and in 2020 she co-edited an anthology, the weird folds: everyday poems from the anthropocene, with Rhian Williams. A collaboration with Katy Lewis Hood on the works of Etel Adnan, Tangents, was recently long-listed for the Ivan Juritz Visual Arts Prize. The three part tangents: letters on Etel Adnan for MAP appears below.
Arts collaboration exhibition, The Alchemy Experiment, Glasgow, 24-29 November.
The arts collaboration online exhibition from anam creative is available here.