2. September – 30. November 2021
// Invitation //
Rita Evans lives and works in the UK. For the artist with British-Canadian roots, space is a stage, for which she develops objects from ceramics, textiles, water, wood and metal that move at the intersection of sculpture, display and instrument. The musical performance lives from the communication between audience and collaborators who play the same instrument together.
She studied Fine Arts at The University of Brighton and completed an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art and Design in London with additional studies in sound and anthropology. Her work has been shown internationally in Europe, the UK and Canada, and recently in institutions such as Tate and Towner in their International biennial. Rita has performed her work at Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, Archway Sound Symposium and Tate Britain in London. She was recently commissioned on engagement projects with The Drawing Room, Camden Arts Centre and South London Gallery. She has led recent workshops at The Royal College of Art MA Curating Contemporary Art and Open School East in the UK. Major awards include the Stephen Cripps’ Studio Award, an Acme Residency & Awards Programme with The Royal Opera House, Henry Moore Foundation, and Stephen Cripps’ family. Rita has received major arts grants from Canada Council for the Arts and Art Council England for her work with Chisenhale Dance Space.
How would you describe the centre of your artistic practice?
My background is also as a musician and I am very interested in the idea of instruments as tools to commune with others. The source of my work is sculptural, in the sense that I consider the multiple aspects of space and how we might move through it and create it together through touch, sound, movement and close contact with materials. Many of the sculptures have elements of musical instruments so that they are playable. I might research and work on this on my own in the studio for a while, and then there’s the moment when my sculptures go out into the world to be played by others including audience members and other collaborators. This interaction is often very spontaneous and new ways of playing them quickly become apparent. I then feed these back into the sculpture’s form by adapting them. In this way, the sculptures are continuously evolving in response to being playing by others.
When you thought about your upcoming time in Dessau-Roßlau in the past, to what extent will the new environment influence your work?
I felt that I would be very influenced by the stage work by Oskar Schlemmer, his combination of colour, sound, movement and material, and to absorb his sensitive attitude towards space taking my work down a fresh route. Now I am here, that all still applies, but it has shifted now that I am around the physical presence of the architecture. For example, recently I had the opportunity to stand on the restored Bauhaus stage, to experience the details of colour, lighting, fabrics and surfaces and the importance of each in the overall setting. I was very fascinated by the way the back of the stage opens out onto the student’s beautiful canteen area with its natural light. I found this expression of the continual flow of the auditorium and stage space into everyday life very exciting.
In the Master’s Houses (one of which I am living in during the residency), I have become quite preoccupied with the doors, (there are so many!) they give me a lot of options each time I enter the house. Each room can open into other rooms in different ways that offer a completely different aspect of light, colour, shape as well as acoustic resonance. I love how Kandinsky and Klee, my next-door neighbours, continually painted the interiors, further complimenting this attitude of the continual fluctuation and movement of space. I think I am drawn to these built-in options for changing a space, because this is also present inside my own practice, as the performers of my sculptures have a lot of agency as well as my own continual adaptations of my sculptures – no one sculpture is ever in the same configuration twice.
How does it feel to inhabit an entire cultural heritage site?
Believe it or not, sometimes it is very quiet! In the early mornings and evenings, I get to experience the site only with the wildlife. There are birds that love chipping the bark off the tall trees, revealing the red fresh bark underneath. At first, I wondered what the sound was, a kind of organic crunching, I was hearing the sound acoustically bounce off the flat surface of the house which amplifies it. The other week, a butterfly flew into the window and I helped it outside again, where it opened its wings to amazing colours. I keep having all these surprise experiences, but this must be down to the backdrop of the site sensitising everything.
The experience of living here while there are visitors to the site outside reminded me of many years ago when I used to have a job as a gallery assistant looking after artworks in a major gallery in London. Often visitors would take photos of the artworks and I must have accidentally been in so many photos over the years in the background next to the artworks. I am not sure if the visitors to the Dessau site can see me through the window sitting in the studio or eating my dinner downstairs while they photograph. However, the sightlines from outside where visitors generally take photos of the buildings can feel from the inside like I am more exposed than in reality.
The protection of historical monuments demands certain restrictions in dealing with the building. Especially if you live in it. How do you feel about this fact?
I feel it is important that the houses should be preserved so they can be seen and experienced by people as the original artists had them, but also that they are inhabited and re-experienced by artists today. Living here there are certain things I have to adapt to, but these might also apply in general to care for the place that you live in. For example, I am restricted from hanging out damp washing in the house because of the water evaporating into the house and causing damage. I do enjoy going down to the main museum to do all my washing in their basement. I need to make sure that I keep the house aired from condensation, which can build from things like boiling a kettle, cooking dinner to taking a shower.
What are you planning to do? What project are you planning to carry out in the Masters House?
My project is a new series of sculptural objects and thinking through how they might be playable by others specifically in Dessau. I am experimenting with materials and forms and how they might make a sound as they are played and moved by this group of people or an audience consisting of the public. It will be very interesting to do this as society is emerging from the pandemic, the current comfort levels of people’s distance from one another I think will play a lot into what happens.