Edge and Shore

Visual artist Helen Carnac and dance artist Laïla Diallo present a new work in process: Edge and Shore, exploring the edges and boundaries of making and working, performance and installation.

Working in architecturally distinct spaces the artists investigate place together and in close proximity to each other, considering the commonalities and tensions between seemingly disparate forms of creative practice.

Edge and Shore offers an insight into the different states that a work might take in a process of live making, inviting the audience to become part of the dialogue to inform the work as it develops.

This work is a development of Side by Side (2012), a six week residency initiated by Siobhan Davies Dance where the two artists were invited to investigate the act and process of cross-disciplinary making.

Edge and Shore is commissioned by Siobhan Davies Dance and supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England. Developed with support from Battersea Arts Centre, Bristol City Council, Bristol Old Vic Ferment, Quay2C and Stroud Valleys Artspace.

For further details about the work visit:http://edgeandshore.wordpress.com


‘Connections were made, in the moment, then overtaken by forces of gravity or the sheer random waywardness of the objects themselves…what lingers is an incentive to look and listen with fresh awareness.’ Mary Brennan, The Herald


Edge and Shore at Whitechapel Gallery , Thu 4 Aug 2016


Edge and Shore at Siobhan Davies Studios, Fri 26 Sep 2014
Edge and Shore at The Goods Shed, 30–31 Aug 2014, 5–6 Sep 2014
Edge and Shore at The Control Room , 1–5 Oct 2014
Edge and Shore Workshop, Mon 2 Feb 2015
Edge and Shore Artist Talk, Tue 3 Feb 2015
Edge and Shore Artist Talk with Iain Biggs, Wed 8 Jul 2015
Side by Side at Crafts Study Centre, 11–29 Jun 2012
Side by Side at Siobhan Davies Studios, 16 Jul – 3 Aug 2012
Side by Side Talk, Tue 24 Jul 2012
Edge and Shore at Arnolfini, 8–12 Jul 2015
Edge and Shore Public Walk at Arnolfini, 11–12 Jul 2015
Edge and Shore Workshop at Arnolfini, Mon 13 Jul 2015
Edge and Shore: Acts of Doing at Dovecot Studios, 30 Jan – 7 Feb 2015

Side by Side

For six weeks in the summer of 2012, we invited two artists to investigate the act and process of making, by working together as part of a residency programme. It was initiated by the insatiably curious Siobhan Davies and developed in partnership with the Crafts Study Centre, the artists and Programme Manager, Alison Proctor at Siobhan Davies Dance.

The project has grown out of continued enquiry into dialogues between dance and other art forms which Siobhan Davies Dance has been championing since 2008. This project is research into how art forms can grow and evolve, and is also an initiative directly supporting two artists in their journey as makers.

This website documents the period of investigation between dance artist Laila Diallo and craft artist Helen Carnac. During the residency it acted like a sketchbook, where they added images, text, audio and film each day. It was also used as a public space where visitors were invited to pose questions and share observations whilst the project unfolded.

some reflections on side by side so far…

IMG_0159Laila and I have written some thoughts about the side by side project. I have posted mine below but you can also find Laila’s on the side by side website

We are working on the next stages of the project now and so more info will follow soon…

Helen’s reflections so far…

This piece of writing is an amalgamation of just a few things that were and are important to me about Side by Side: some of the materials we used; what we were doing together (on reflection) and what this may mean to me now.

 ‘Language is like a road: It cannot be perceived all at once because it unfolds in time, whether heard or read’[1]

 ‘The front or visible parts of things often depend on the back or hidden parts’[2]



Standing in a field…where paper is one of the currencies.

Paper: a chosen material, the ultimate material perhaps: you can send it, share it, fold it and recycle it and it’s a vital tool for communication and communication is part of our focus.

‘A form of external memory and the means by which we forget’…‘it allows us to be present when in fact we are absent’; ‘it both breaks and bridges time and distance’ and ‘It is both adequate to communication and inadequate to thought’[3]

Currency “A medium of exchange, a transmission from person to person, a state of being current’[4]

Encountering the world through body, space, material: together; alone; collecting marks; measuring; listening; making marks; marking out space; rolling in; rolling out; testing; bounding space; counting; collecting words; marking a place; marking territory; collecting shadows; bounding body; paper as landscape; collecting the marks of making; moving together; moving apart; at the edges; off the page; in the margin; paper amplified through movement.

Cotton cloth


I remembered only later that I was thinking about currency before. At the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford I had observed a roll of cotton cloth which was marked ‘Kuntu – Roll of native cotton cloth, formerly used as medium of exchange, now in part payment of bride price’ 1932 N.Nigeria. Bornu Province, Potiskin Divison.

When I first spoke to Sue Davies about the residency she had asked me to think about early memories of movement…looking at my notes now I had recalled running down a hill in a field as a child in Wales and holding and moving around, in my hands, my mother’s ever full purse of small change: I would open it, empty it and move the coins around making rows and layers of them.

Bits and bobs

‘It is one thing to say humans identify with things. But it is another thing to go farther and say that humans only exist in their relation to things’[5]


I have started to make sense of the way I move things around. Laila helped me to do this…had anyone ever seen me moving things around? At the end of the day perhaps before leaving the studio: a way to let some thoughts linger or to take them away in my head for the night and re-find them there in the studio when I returned? Perhaps it wasn’t until now that I realised how important this was and is. Having someone in the room, side by side, bearing witness to what you do. Realising through watching, watching what’s important and listening.


I have been reading: reading to make sense of something that I now observe and I have found some information about epistemic actions (physical actions that make mental computation easier).

‘We often arrange the external world to help us in our cognitive actions. For example, in repairing an alternator we may take it apart but place the pieces in linear or grouped array so that they reassembly is easier () or playing scrabble we physically order and re-order the tiles in order to prompt our own neural resources. The fact that we find this useful suggests that our in-the-head computational resources do not work so well on their own – they need external prompts. So thinking comes about as an interaction between brain and world’ (Clark 1997:68)[6]

‘Thus in handling a thing, moving it around, feeling it, looking at it, we come to understand how our body works, how the different parts interrelate, how we can be co-ordinated. There is thus a two-way dependence of human bodies and things’[7]

‘we thus come to what is arguably the most radical contemporary take on the potential cognitive role of nonbiological props, aids and structures: the idea that, under certain conditions, such props and structures might count as proper parts of the extended cognitive process’[8]


The residency and working with Laila have helped me question. I have thought hard about body and material. It’s clearly not all about the hands, for when my hands are at work what is the rest of my body doing? It seems that craftsmen are often defined through their intelligence in making by hand: of the hand and brain co-ordination but what about the intelligent use of space, of moving around and of moving things around and how this is done in oder to remember or even forget? One of our visitors to the project Roanne Dods noted on one visit how fluently I moved around a printing table we used in a studio at Farnham, tellingly I have the same sort of table in my own studio and I navigate it in the same way, mainly working on my feet.

Laila at table


Back to the hands for a moment. I realised that something was happening through being in the room with Laila…that looking back, watching the films, it looks to me now like my hands are not mine…they are thinking alone, hovering before making a decision and Laila’s hands are different again – of course they are different – they seem to be operating in an entirely different way.

I have been reading about explicit memory and single recollections – the knowing that of something and inter-corporeal memory – how bodies interact with each other – a bodily knowing of how.

‘Body memory does not represent the past but re-enacts it. But precisely through this, it also establishes an access to the past itself, not through images or words but through immediate experience and action’[9]

Laila and I have explored and navigated multiple territories so far and by doing so side by side and together I think I have made sense of so much other stuff – I can see that we are using different parts of our brains at times in the process and I wonder at this and at what is going on at a subconscious level when at times across the room we seem to end up doing the same thing at the same time.

Whilst we have moved material around and I have realised the importance of this to me and the way I think, we have also moved around without external stimuli, making movement together, side by side. We both use attentive listening as a tool, a much used resource in our individual practices, we can perhaps now put our listening skills to use together.

Our work now continues. I don’t want to say much more. This was and is a precious time. We have laid bare our thoughts – shared and alone – there is vulnerability. Laila and I set up a shared language that gave me a confidence in sharing with her…a rare thing that I value immensely…but the vulnerability is in what may be taken and where…our raw ideas…(that we continue to explore now) and that are there waiting for us to take somewhere but they are also out there in part for others to see and share too – perhaps too early in the process.

But sharing is a profound thing and through sharing with Laila what I have found most invaluable is that I now have insight into what more we could do and how this could move into a whole new world of further potential.

Helen Carnac

May 2013


[1] Solnit, R. 2002. Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Verso, London, p268

[2] Hodder, G. 2012. Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things, John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex, UK p51.

[3] Sansom, Ian. 2012. Paper An Elegy, (various Quotes). Fourth Estate, London, UK.

[5] Hodder, G. 2012. Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things, West Sussex, UK: John Wiley and Sons, p27

[6] Clark, A. 1997 Being There. Putting Brain, Body and World together again. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press In Hodder, G, 2012, Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things, John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex, UK p36

[7] Hodder, G, 2012, Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between Humans and Things, John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex, UK p30

[8] Clark, A. 2008. Supersizing the Mind. Embodiment, Action and Cognitive Extension. Oxford University Press, New York, USA.

[9] Koch, S. Fuchs, T. Summa, M. Muller, C. 2012. Body Memory, Metaphor and Movement. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam, Netherlands.


Maker and Academic Helen Carnac, aims to provide a forum for open discussion around the contribution of contemporary craft to the philosophies presented within the slow movement. We feel that these philosophies reflect many of the current concerns and interests that makers are exploring within their practices and the evolving identity of craft. It is an opportunity to connect some of the emergent discussions within craft and its recent movements to the slow debate.

The blog Makingaslowrevolution has formed the thread which runs through a research project exploring ideas of slowness within craft. The aim is that this project is a reflexive process that informs ideas, future thought and has informed the curation of a major national touring exhibition for Craftspace, which launched 17th October 2009 at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Connecting with the blog we have developed and continue to develop a number of live events open to interested participants.  These events move our thinking around the nature of slowness and craft beyond text and the written word, through participation, shared activity and process. The blog offers an opportunity to follow in real time, and have insight into and around our current thinking and the process of developing the exhibition.


Intelligent Trouble

Intelligent Trouble (IT), ia a London based collective of makers who have sought to explore the possibilities of working together whilst ‘shift(ing), change(ing) and remain(ing) the same’ IT began when a group of 4 makers, (Helen Carnac, Lin Cheung, David Clarke and David Gates) decided that they wanted to work together, with no particular outcome but as a response to showing works together during the exhibition In Transit in 2009 in Munich, which was installed in a working foundry. During its four day duration they responded to each other and their works, (re)positioning pieces, toying with juxtapositions and modifying works. ‘three days in there bored…for 35 hours and out of that came the conversation that gave rise to this’ (Intelligent Trouble, 2010)

Consequently IT’s first project began in August 2009 with a walk and a boat ride in London. ‘It was there that we decided that each of us would make an edition of four small works or assemblages of materials that we felt represented an aspect of our own practices to exchange with each other. These were, a month later, simultaneously exchanged, retaining one for reference, and working on or responding to the others by the other members of the group’

Intelligent Trouble shifts, changes and remains the same, in different formations,  exploring the possibilities of working together. So far seven artists have made work between them: suggesting, prompting and responding with objects, materials, sounds and words.

‘Helen Carnac, Lin Cheung, David Clarke and David Gates. Four established makers who are known for their inquisitive and challenging approaches to their disciplines have come together to make work for this unique four-way collaboration.

This project began as with so many other things in a conversation, we found that we wanted to explore the possibilities of working together having realised that beyond the visual and material differences in our more visible outputs there was a space where our practices and our thoughts overlapped. In collaborating and working together we have used words and objects. Passing and exchanging half formed ideas, starting points and statements, making and waiting for responses. This dialogue allowed for conversation to be part of the workshop toolkit but it also quickly and purposefully located the centrality of making as a way of thinking through things. We want to use a gallery space to further explore these ideas, to engage the viewer – if a gallery is a space for thinking about objects is the finished object enough of a thing to show? The fluidity of the process will be carried over into the gallery where exchange, joint-authorship and trust will generate further iterations in an overlapping space of thinking, making and showing’

Words David Gates

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