LB x a-n Artist Bursaries: Grace Collins and William Lang

Posted on 9 June 2021 by Guest Blogger

LB x a-n Artist Bursaries

As part of a shared commitment to supporting artists across the UK, Liverpool Biennial 2021, a-n The Artists Information Company and Open Culture have joined forces to provide five support and research bursaries of £1500 each for artists over March – June 2021, within the 11th edition of Liverpool Biennial.

The selected artists are Youngsook Choi & Taey Iohe, Grace Collins & William Lang, Sophy King, Daksha Patel, and Rain Wu.

In Focus: Grace Collins & William Lang

Building on recent immersive performance and installation Host of Nothing (2020), Grace Collins and William Lang will return to hosting each other's practices to create a short film In the Belly. Host of Nothing was an immersive performance and installation created for the winter solstice, wherein Collins and Lang hosted each othersʼ practices. They will develop this piece by reflecting on Imbolc (meaning “in the belly”), a festival of anticipation, which is thematically relevant to the wider biennial and their own research. Re-interpreting both of their process-led participatory practices through video provides a relevant option to share immersive performative artworks with audiences within current restrictions.

Grace Collins is a participatory artist from St Helens who works with other people to create new artworks about magic, mental health, and chairs. William Lang is a performer and dance artist based in Liverpool, whose practice explores queerness, the un-trained body and the ephemeral through improvisation scores. Both Collins and Lang currently live and work in Merseyside.

Learn more about their practice:

Below Collins and Lang share a first extract from their bursary collaboration. Keep checking back for more updates on the project. 

Shepard Tone
by Grace Collins and William Lang

Two people, one night, have the same dream. They meet through an online message board for people whose dreams have a partner. They’re sure that someone else must feel the anticipation of waiting for flowers to bloom, nestled under the ground you are told not to walk on,

“This is an orchid field.” There is yellow and there is purple and there is yellow again. There are the grand plans of fabric in the wind, a pattern of migrating birds aligned in a perfect circle, a man eating a sandwich perched in front of an audience. The idea of a dream is most itself in the instance of half-remembered forgetting.

We met in virtual and physical realms, discussed our dreams and tried to make the two align. The verbal was quickly rendered inefficient and swapped out for four hands framing squinting eyes to the overture of,

“Wouldn’t that look nice?” We are sat on a park bench under a sleepy afternoon sun. 

“I think just there, by the canal,” the hands re-position themselves again.

“Oh, I see it now,” a murmur of agreement.

I look up at the sky. The clouds form a halo above me. Those are the dark clouds. Brooding, waiting to give birth on the earth. We are filming in a secluded field in the park in Warrington. Today the weather is the teacher. It tells us how to navigate the process and hurdles of making. It shapes the mood and style of our output.

Making art usually feels like waving a net and waiting for something to catch. We are grasping at words that fail us, fumbling with tools for reality-building and putting out ads for someone strong enough to help lift it. There is something sacred in the sharing of a sentimental, half-formed something-or-other. A whisper in the close dark.

Our process in capturing this dream has been rooted in feeling, with hands physically in the soil. The idea that we would learn how to make a film was the important part, however, the growing question became “How do we make a film and keep a sense of play?”

Hail shatters down on our white umbrella. We are trying. We are trying. We’re taking a break huddled under the tree. We are trying.

“Host of Nothing” was a short play performed for the winter solstice to a small group of friends. We’d imagined this artwork as a performance and installation, a melding of mine and Will Lang’s practices as participatory and performance artists. We hosted each others’ practices in front of an audience, guiding the crowd through the dark space and each others’ imagery. It began with a bicycle covered in fairy lights, leading to a text read aloud, a glowing chair strapped to the wall and a collection of gifts given by candlelight. One photograph documents the performance.

The next instalment of this project explores the next turn in the wheel of the year. While physical life begins to restrict us all in different ways, it feels pertinent to imagine growth. In conversation with Michelle Williams Gamaker, we decided that to keep our sense of play was our main challenge. Additional concerns flitted about the corners: To make something beautiful, professional, a progression. At the same time, we want to capture something better forgotten than our dream; How to respond and react to other people with overlap, joy and spontaneity.

Weather changes like the news does. It’s terrifying and absolute. Feeling powerless in the face of it and having to submit to let it pass.

Editing our footage via a video call screen-share after both of us had finished long days, worrying about the precarity of housing, about where our work might take us next and if this film would be The Thing we had imagined it to be, if it would be worth the platform, the support, the kinship we have found among filmmakers and film fans. We stare at each other from different cities;

“Oh, I see it now,” and we are back by the canal again.

Find out about the six additional artists in the Bursary Programme via our Liverpool Biennial 2021 portal here.