The artist Gail Howard and I have decided to begin a creative collaboration.
Gail founded and runs Milkwood Gallery in Cardiff and the Made in Roath arts festival.
Gail and I were friends when I lived in Cardiff previously, about seven years ago. But I moved away, had children, became embroiled in motherhood and had never (at that point) bothered using the internet. I didn't even own a mobile phone. So we inevitably lost touch.
When I returned to Cardiff, unexpectedly and at short notice, I was offered a house to rent from a friend. I was in dire straits and needed somewhere badly.
It was only after I moved in that I realised my new house is directly opposite Gail's. You can draw a straight line from front door to front door. Our windows overlook, we can wave good morning to each other from across the street.
In addition to this coincidence, we have both in the interim since we last met been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Our illnesses have parallel but mirrored relationships to our creative practices. Gail finds that creative practice can be a stressor which can exacerbate her illness, whereas I feel compelled to make work and express myself as a release from the intensities of the condition.
We have decided to make a series of work together in homage to this coincidence and the feeling it engenders within us that we are part of a meaningful pattern. That our landing up here, facing each other across this Cardiff street, was meant to be.
For the exhibition in my house 'You Don't Know Me', Gail screened home video footage about her ancestral home in Russia from her bedroom window, to be viewed from mine. In part this distanced mode of exhibition was a response to Gail's need to keep her creative practice controlled and at a remove, in order not to feel endangered and overwhelmed by it.
Although this was not a collaborative piece, it marks the beginning of a dialogue between us and our respective positions: geographically, domestically, emotionally and creatively.
We have since completed a short video called Subtweet_Retweet in which we play with a dialogue about our illnesses through using other people's statements on Twitter. This was screened as a part of the opening of the Tate Tanks interactive art space at the Tate Modern.
Now we are working on a new piece called To You To Me in which we are constructing a pulley system which will run between our bedroom windows, above the road below. Turning a wheel will move a large tin across the wire in which we will send each other objects and messages over a period of weeks. The objects and messages will then be exhibited at the end of the project.
Following this project our next planned piece will be a renovation of an old doll's house which I have owned for some years but never had the time to smarten up. Gail's practice has in the past revolved around miniatures, dolls and dolls houses. She makes perfectly beautiful little houses, but authentic: with tiny cobwebs, stained coffee tables overflowing bins and dirty sheets on the beds.
A conversation over the garden fence