It’s Not a Workshop – Hamish MacPherson

I’ve been trying to avoid calling these things that I’m doing workshops.

Perhaps this is me being a bit awkward. They do after all involve a group of people coming together to learn through activities and discussion.

But for me, this implies a certain degree of expertise, or a certain type of expertise and experience that supports others. When I list these events online for example I do put them in the workshop category but the other listings are often either classes (one or two hours long) or longer events run by people certified in an established technique.

But my ability to create these event spaces comes from a strange mixture of ignorance, knowledge and – most importantly – enquiry. So the people that came to the first two events (21 and 27 June) came without exception with a huge amount of experience as artists and people that I don’t have.

This could sound a bit like Jacques Rancière‘s The Ignorant Schoolmaster but I don’t want to pretend I don’t have a particular role in them at the moment; I designed them and run them after all.

But I am trying to find spaces that people can operate freely in and eventually structures that people are able to alter and co-design.

So, where I can, I’m calling them events rather than workshops.

The word ‘event’, is so open that it hopefully invites the possibility that this collection of processes, discussions, actions, and structures could take a number of different more known forms. So in the first event I said to participants that they could think of the day however they wanted – in multiple ways – as a workshop, as a rehearsal for a performance, as performance making, as a performance, as a meeting, as a social place.

If I need to be most specific I’ve also been calling them art/life events, inspired by Anna Halprin‘s practice*. (I’ve only recently discovered that ‘Life/Art Process’ is a registered trademark but hopefully I am no infringing on this). For me this term highlights that what is happening is both an artistic practice  – so in some sense artificial or removed from day to day life – but also a life practice – there relations and processes are really happening, are influenced by our histories and will continue in different ways into the future.

All this is true in the most traditional workshop but it feels important to state that up front. And it feels already that although we might be doing familiar things (like different walking, speaking and dancing exercises) we are using them to find genuine, albeit temporary, ways to assemble and exchange.

*Something else I’ve borrowed from Halprin is sharing food which feels like another important act, not just of generosity but of enlarging what Hannah Arendt depicted as a private sense and the political potential that this implies.