A few weeks ago, our Associate Artists Pat and Carl from Broken Orchestra were given the opportunity to be a part of a group of 19 emerging artists from around the world to go to Kosovo as part of the InSitu Hot House.

They have both wrote a brilliant piece about their experience to read below.

But first, a foreword from Mikey Martins:

We’re really excited to have been able to introduce local artists Pat and Carl of Broken Orchestra to the InSitu Network at this Hot House/Residential in Pristina, Kosovo. InSitu is an extremely valuable and important network in the field of outdoor/public arts. The network is the longest-standing large scale co-operation network in the Creative Europe portfolio and it’s great that local artists who we support can be invited into it to create new touring opportunities, gain expert advice and to build their own relationships with this exceptionally talented collection of artists, producers, experts and festivals.

We’ve always been proud of being one of only 2 UK partners in this network and to be able to introduce Pat and Carl into it, makes us even prouder. We cannot wait to see what comes out of this for them to grow their international work, expand their touring networks and for their creative ideas to flourish. Made in Hull, shown here first and then toured all over the world, that’s the kind of success stories we like to read about. A real legacy of our city of culture year back in 2017!

We were selected by Freedom Festival to be part of the InSitu network. In 2019 we piloted a GPS audio walk, along the River Hull, which had music at the heart of it and a spoken word narrative of Hull transitioning forward from Vicky Foster. We have always felt this piece of work can have more impact by exploring the theme of climate change and flooding. Hull lives below sea level with 90% of the city below high tide line, meaning 100,000 properties are at risk of extreme weather events. Only 2% of the city's properties are considered to be safe from flooding. Hull City Council identified this project to have semi-permanent status in Hull City Centre as part of Hull Maritime project, which will allow people to enjoy, be inspired by and be informed by this work.

InSitu is a European platform for artistic creation in public spaces. Hosted by ODA Teatri in Pristina, Kosovo, the Hot House gives a safe space for emerging European artists and programmers to discuss artistic works in progress. Bringing together the InSitu partners with associate artists, we were selected by Freedom Festival as emerging artists along with 19 other people/groups. Joining members from all around the world who are passionately working on projects and installations and touring internationally, we met up with the intention of discussing each other's work and supporting/helping one another through challenges we each face and give honest feedback and thoughts on how things could work or change or inspire each other. This year the focus was put on projects that are connected to the topic of climate change and sustainability.

Five things we learnt on our trip

Artists are passionate -

We were told before we attended that this week would be ‘intense’. When we looked at the schedule for each day we thought ‘OK, it’s long days, a lot is packed into these days, we can see it will be intense’ so we were mentally prepared for this. But nothing could have prepared us for the intensity of a room full of artists, each with their own opinions and thoughts, with the freedom to share these openly. At what first appeared to be actually challenging, fairly aggressive behaviour from people who had only met hours earlier, the very British politeness was stripped away from us as we started to realise that passionate artists will act passionately, even when it's not talking about their project. Initially shocked at the pace and intensity of these discussions, we firmly adapted in day 2 to be more open in the discussions with the acceptance that this was a space we could openly talk and debate, knowing that the session would finish and everyone would be better for having the discussion and no offence would carry over. Britishness never fully left us, we were certainly more careful than others about the points we put across and we were never the most vocal in the room… but it was certainly nice to challenge and be challenged by passionate people!

Accents are OK to travel -

One of our biggest challenges with the work we create has been the idea that it is very site-specific. When we created Fair Winds & Following Seas, it was written about Hull and featured a very Hull accent. We have always worked with the idea that should this piece of work tour or move to a different location, we would need to re-record the words with a local accent to that area, believing this would make the audience accept/trust the content more. However now, we see this to be completely false. What we realised is that the content and the accent is part of its DNA and what makes it so powerful. Actually, what we do by taking the accent to another city is present a connection between the two places that allows the listener to appreciate and link the two spaces that have the same concerns even though they are in separate parts of the world.

Is public space actually public space? -

It sounds obvious to say, but every space in the world is owned or is the responsibility of a person or organisation or government. So where does that leave public space and people reclaiming it? Well the honest answer is, it doesn’t. The discussion of ownership of public space was debated long and hard about, but it's almost impossible to present to a large audience in a public space without permission from someone. Obviously, you can just present in a space and hope nobody challenges you on it, but can we ever fully reclaim a space? We are still not sure.

Should artists be feeling responsible to create work around climate change? -

One interesting thought that was ruminating before we departed was ‘Do I feel more responsible to add climate change into our work because it feels like the right thing to do?’ Interestingly this conversation opened up in the Hot House. As an artist who is creating work, is it my responsibility to be creating work around climate change? There are lots of thoughts around this subject, some say as artists it is our duty to challenge, some say we must not simply crowbar subjects into our work, but actually the answer is probably a lot more nuanced. Yes, there is some responsibility, but we must do this with experts, academics, and scientists, and collaborate in the same way we do on everything.

The simple art of a 3rd place is diminishing -

I had never heard of the term ‘3rd place’. But it was such a simple concept that it totally baffled me how I hadn’t heard of it and how beautifully simple it was made perfect sense. As we all battle the challenges of personal/home life with work, we barely have time for a 3rd place. A space in which you can access (for free) that is unconnected to home life and work life. Sounds simple but when you start to think of it, how many of us actually have this? I have even heard people talk about a walk in the park now tends to be a space where they can organise their work thoughts or plan their weekly schedule. So where does a truly 3rd place exist in which someone can disengage with work and home pressures? For years my 3rd place had been the studio, the place where I feel comfortable, able to create and escape, but as my creative workload increases and I become more reliant on that space to earn money, I now associate the studio with work.

It is a very unusual situation to be in. 3 days with 19 other artists who just focused on talking about projects. It is hard to imagine another situation where this happens. But this is exactly what being part of InSitu does to you.

The most striking impact this has had on us is confidence and belief in what we are doing. It can be quite a lonely world when it comes to creating. Luckily for us we work as a duo, so we have each other to bounce off but even then, we get very trapped in our own views and thoughts. No project goes by without the questioning of if we have got it right, if we have made a mistake, if anyone will care or understand or be interested, or is it just us that love what we do? But this week with this network made us realise that it is quite OK to be questioning what you are doing, and that feeling of uncertainty is OK, providing you are in the position to reflect back on why you are doing that project in the first place and if it aligns with your original reasoning or goals. As artists, keeping this in mind will help us grow. Grow ideas, develop our work for the future, and have the confidence to build networks with artists that we would never have a reason to connect with before.

- Written 10th May 2023 by Pat & Carl