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RESILIENCE LAB, a residency and a public programme Bristol 2015


Residency and Public Program, Bristol
April – October 2015
Commissioned By Tessa Fitzjohn and Aldo Rinaldi


“Just as psychoanalysis reconstructs the original traumatic situation in order to release the repressed material,so we are now being plunged back into the archaeopsychic past, uncovering the ancient taboos and drives that have been dormant for epochs… Each one of us is as old as the entire biological kingdom, and our bloodstreams are tributaries of the great sea of its total memory.” - J.G. Ballard,The Drowned World

Resilience Lab was a research residency using performance as process to explore the scope of “resilience” in the psychological sense, environmental sense and in relation to ideas of resilient communities. The project included developing a public program bringing audiences and publics together across the city to commune and explore notions of resilience.

Resilience Lab was set within the context of Bristol being named the Green Capital 2015 and the Rockfeller Foundation nominating Bristol as a resilient city. We were asked to unpick the notions of resilience within this context and the city as a whole, reflecting on processes and drawing from our practice from further afield.

Our processes gathered materials, singers and speakers for an exhibition and public conference, back to where we have not quite been, that took place at the Arnolfini, Bristol in November 2015. People involved in our process included academics at the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute, Perspectives from the Sea, Bristol University, Gail Barker and The Island Folk Choir.

Several key aspects framed the lab including these starting ideas about resilience:

The test of time
Physical composition
Residue action
Manual and physical
Labor and aesthetics

Processes of resilience included , ‘shared surface making’, ‘culture-exchange’, ‘rhythm study’
‘trust-carrying’, ‘public dreaming’, and ‘land-moulding.’

Our methods experimented with forming a collective social imaginary as resilient matter. This social imaginary blurred formats of professions and knowledge, with a focus on ‘acts of care’, the revival of the myth, oral storytelling and tactile engagement.

Two analogies featured throughout this process;
‘the beginnings of culture’, an ongoing collection and fermentation of water kefir – That was handled, cared for and passed on.
We also used the behaviours of the Mola Mola fish as an analogy and a way to create a mythical tale between diverse groups of people. 


Finally the the work was exhibited as a solo exhibition and a programme of events, back to where we have not quite been, at Arnolfini. More about the exhibition can be found here.

During the process Dr Ben Cranfield, Director of PhD in Humanities and Cultural Studies Birkbeck University and Sarah Deco, Group Analyst, Psychotherapist and storyteller joined us as researchers in residence within our practice. Ben and Sarah both wrote texts about the themes, which can be found here.

Read our report on Resilience Lab here

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