What makes a healthy creative community? By assembling together ten artists and one arts collective to make presentations at GENERATORprojects, the Mappa Dundee event sought to find a few answers. Participants were fortified by generous servings of stew, cheeses and mulled wine, and they each told stories of individual progress since art school and experiences of professional practice. Their tales proved to be fascinating and sometimes poignant, spanning cities, countries and continents.
Dundee is a place whose art population has been thriving of late, and curator Jonathan Baxter invited artists from a variety of ‘sites’ within the city. However idealistic, their experiences were laced with a measure of compromise and pragmatism. While individual responses were often diverse, the question of maintaining a productive artistic output and still having enough money to pay the rent was a familiar one. Respondents interpreted the task in a variety of ways, with Fraser MacDonald chiseling a lump of wood to create a monument to all the people and places he has worked with over the years. Kirsty McKeown made a ‘Fucket’ list of her various artistic frustrations, and the Tin Roof Collective presented a board of offcuts gathered by their individual members to create an all-over composition of artistic collaboration. Owen Daily handed out a list of ‘witness statements’ detailing artists’ activities in Dundee, all carefully itemised according to positive and negative experiences. What’s evident from these replies is the sheer variety of artistic practices calling Dundee a home. Textile designers, printmakers, jewelers, video artists, painters and sculptors are all muddling their way through a crowded and competitive field, but still manage to make their way through as a cohesive community. That this happens at all is testament to Dundee’s spirit of camaraderie, which is perhaps the central point in its cartography. To its many artists, Dundee’s map is a shared territory.