How to be an artist: The Embassy gallery at 10

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With the Edinburgh College of Art degree show deadlines looming, and The Embassy's Annuale festival arriving in June, we take a look at the practices of some of the founding artists of the Edinburgh based gallery, along with some of its more recent members.

We revisit the site of Craig Coulthard's 2012 project Forest Pitch, a football pitch constructed in the middle of a spruce forest made to host a day of amateur football matches before being replanted and left to grow back as a three dimensional representation of the pitch that existed. Jenny Hogarth and Kim Coleman discuss how their collaborative practice functions despite the physical distance between the two artists. Brian Cheeswright and Gordon Schmidt each discuss their practices and the importance of success and failure in a career as an artist.

The films were created as part of the Edinburgh College of Art's Film & Television course by Andy Ashworth, Beth Woodruff, Indeana Underhill and Alia Ghafar.

Craig Coulthard transcript

“You’re tuning in to listen to live coverage of two very special football matches, which will be played on a specially designed football pitch in a section of the the Duke of Buccleuch’s forest just outside Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. And it’s the culmination of so many people’s hard work, I’m sure we’ll hear from Craig Coulthard whose idea this was way back a couple of years ago. It’s really made this happen in the year of the Olympics bringing arts and the Olympic ideal together. And here we are as one of a number of creative projects in the Scottish Borders taking place during the Olympics, but this one has extra special significance.”

Craig Coulthard: “Forest Pitch; it’s quite hard to be brief about the project, but in summary – I built a full size football pitch in the middle of a spruce forest, and we found groups of amateur football players, pretty much all of whom had been granted indefinite leave to remain or British citizenship since the year 2000 and in August 2012 they took part in football matches at the forest pitch. And then in December of 2012 after these games, we re-planted native species of trees along the lines of the football pitch, so that over the years to come they’ll grow into this 3D representation of a football pitch.
“I played football in the village team in Germany when I was a kid, and to get to the football pitch I had to cycle through this big forest and then the pitch was in the middle of the forest so when I went back to Düsseldorf for a residency I also wanted to go down to the football pitch. I went along with my sister, she came along, and we went down to the pitch and it was abandoned, and now it was covered in grass that had naturally grown and quite overgrown. And that was kind of interesting to me in one way or another, it kind of challenged my romantic view of the place, you know it had changed into something else and I was both happy and sad about that.
“It is over but what I really like about the project is that I and anyone else can continue to go back and there’s still something happening, and something happening that is not entirely within my control, which is particularly satisfying because it takes on a life of its own, quite literally. When you’re involved in a project that’s that big and that much work, it’s quite hard to step back from it. It has the potential to outlive me and I think that’s something that I was quite interested in; to allow it to take its own path and to grow or fail to grow, but when I die there’s still potential for it to have taken another form. I guess I wanted to create something permanent but which changes.”

Jenny Hogarth and Kim Coleman transcript

Kim Coleman: “People often have said to us ‘Oh, you know, how do you manage to collaborate when you live so far apart’ and I have always said ‘It’s not actually, that is not a problem at all.’”
Jenny Hogarth: “We would talk to each other numerous times a day, just filming lots of little things, collecting lots and lots of clips of film.”
KC: “Or she might video something and I might take that idea and do something with it.”
JH: “This idea of a sort of tag team video blog, where it’s more about a conversation.”
KC: “Humans communicate to get things done and it’s difficult to know what’s going on in someone else’s head and how they see it. To evidence how someone understands the world, even compared to you, even through a video but actually the video gives you a kind of place marker of the way someone interprets the same concept.”
JH: “Nearly all of the things we’ve made have some sort of reference to the fact that it’s made through collaboration.”
KC: “Our relationship has to be part of the project in some way so it’s better to each of us if it’s part of the project because then it kind of becomes a more natural thing to make. It’s partly to do with technology, it’s partly to do with the fact that we’re very capable communicators, that’s a strength of ours that we’re both very good at communicating ideas.”
JH: “As a collaboration you can have somebody else to talk to all the time.”

BRIAN CHEESWRIGHT TRANSCRIPT

“I did kind of think that by the age I am now, you know, something would have happened but now I'm kind of like, okay, maybe it will have happened by the time I’m 40. But it won’t, then when I’m 40 I’ll be like ‘Oh God,’ you know proper mid-life crisis, well that’s kind of like what’s happening now.
“I want it to be really, disgustingly tasteful, you know, like I say my mum would say, ‘That’s a nice picture, you should be smiling a bit more though, it would be nice if you smiled a bit more but apart from that, it’s nice. You should enter it into the BP Portrait award, it’s nice.' I’ve made a nice painting.
“You just have to work and work and work at it for years and years and years and even then there’s no guarantee that you’re ever going to sell anything or ever be taken on by a gallery or ever be written about by the art press. So really, the only reason to do it is because you love it and because it’s rewarding to yourself, that’s it really, I’m just doing it for myself. It’s a very selfish thing and I enjoy doing it and if I don’t do it I get to feeling pretty bad and annoyed and grouchy and if I do this for years and years and years and nothing ever comes of it then I’m still not going to regret it, I’ll be grouchy, I’ll be like ‘ oh, you know’ I’ll be one of those people who says ‘I’m just so great, don’t they know how great I am?’. It’s better than, ‘I took a safe route, I gave up making art, I gave up my dream, I wonder what would have happened’. So it’s better to know what happened and think:it didn’t happen, than to always wonder what if. That’s what you realise after a while so I’m just doing it, and yeah, I can look myself in the eye and say ‘You gave it a good shot.’”

Gordon Schmidt transcript

Gordon Schmidt: “Look at that. That’s like failure on top of failure, on top of failure, on top of failure, on top of failure, on top of failure. You put that text on top of it and it’s just like, it somehow has some poignancy.
“I feel really emotional, I’m not ashamed of that, I think people should feel more emotional about the work they make. And I don’t think people should feel bad about saying ‘I just did that because I feel like it’, that’s an answer for me, thats a good answer. You know? Like, why did you do that? What does it mean? I don’t know, I just did it because I felt like it. That is like my favourite answer almost.
“I think people are really apathetic, I think they either want to have like-minded politics or they want to force other people into apathy. You either like something or you have no opinion, and I just don’t think that’s the way I want to negotiate my opinions on things. If somebody doesn’t like something, then maybe they’re right, I think maybe the worst mistakes I’ve made in my life are when I think I’m right about something, you know, and thought that I was really right about something. How can you really know that you’re right, why would you want to say you’re right about something, that’s just absolutely ridiculous, I never want to say I’m right about something, and then you come back to it and think ‘Oh my gosh, I was really wrong.’”