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Displacement activity Noun: a human activity that seems inappropriate, considered to arise unconsciously when a conflict between antagonistic urges cannot be resolved

Lou Baker


This is a record of what I have been doing during Synecdoche’s month-long [dis]place residency at The Vestibules, Bristol September 4th - 29th 2017


I am a compulsive knitter. I had expected to spend any spare time during this residency knitting but, unfortunately, probably as a direct result of this obsession, I have tendonitis in my left wrist so have had to stop, for a while at least‌..


….so, for this residency I have been spending my time exploring what I’m calling my displacement activities:  responding to the spaces by experimenting with a series of temporary installations and interventions  writing down comments and conversations that I have with visitors and my reflections on that feedback  documenting the residency by photographing the ways that the spaces change with time


Day 1, 5.9.17 Drawing with netting and elastic and setting up Safety net


Day 1, 5.9.17 Safety net


Day 1, 5.9.17 Displacement activity 1: Pill packets and Post-its

(Working with these makes me think of my mortality and how fragile life is. It makes me realise how many of my friends have to take tablets to stay well.)


Day 3, 7.9.17 Displacement activity 2: Mobile soft sculptures

‘Do you ever do anything that isn’t sad?’


(I hadn’t intended to bring my soft sculptures here, but I’ve loved taking photos of them in such a wonderful setting. They feel at home in the spaces.)


‘They’re like oversized coats or jumpers hanging on oversized hooks.’


‘This looks warm and wearable.’


‘Is she bleeding? I wondered if her heart was bleeding?’


Day 3, 7.9.17 Safety net On being open to the public: ‘It’s a serendipity; if the Universe wants to send you something, it will.’


‘It’s about being interactive with the art exhibition, being part of it. It’s glorious!’


‘It looks like a lot of fun in there.’


Day 4, 8.9.17 Displacement activity 2: Mobile soft sculptures

‘Guts?’


‘I’m very impressed with the little blocks you have under the hooks to protect the stone.’


Day 4, 8.9.17 Safety net


‘I’m meant to be grown up. Is it ok for me to go inside?’


‘I don’t know if I’m brave enough to go inside.’


Day 6, 12.9.17 Displacement activity 2: Mobile soft sculptures

‘DISplace? DISturbing!’


‘It makes me think of Jesus, the side wound of Christ. It depicts what he went through. It’s beautiful.’


‘It’s like a chrysalis; as if something’s emerging. It’s a bit discomforting. It brings up a mix of responses. The meat hooks make me think of carcasses.’


Day 6, 12.9.17 Displacement activity 3: Roaming sleeping bag


Day 6, 12.9.17 Displacement activity 4: Drawing in space with elastic‌. (and a monkey)


(I’ve loved the challenge of finding unusual ways to respond to the space. I used the monkey to throw the elastic over places that were difficult to reach.)


(How can I use the upper 2/3 of the space?)


(This is like a giant version of Gina’s elastic installation. Cat’s cradle?)


Day 7, 13.9.17 Displacement activity 5: Helium balloons


‘ Ah! It’s amazing.’


‘It would be cool if you had a room full of balloons and you could walk through all the strings.’


(Sadly I had to stop these explorations as the balloons accidentally set off the fire alarm. My art displaced everyone from the City Hall! How can I get funding to fill a similar space with helium balloons?)


Day 7, 13.9.17 Displacement activity 2: Mobile soft sculptures

‘I find the knitting sad, disturbing. It’s almost as if someone’s died and left. Nobody will finish it.’


‘Is this what I think it is? All I know is that I’m not big enough for it!’


‘A soft thing. Like a wound.’


Day 7, 13.9.17 Displacement activity 6: Helium balloons and mirrors


Day 7, 13.9.17 Displacement activity 7: Look up, look down Mirrors, site responsive installation (When I was a child I used to lie in the top bunk and imagine that the ceiling was the floor.)


(Navigating this upside down world in my imagination was a delight to me; the doors and windows were impractically high, pendant lights become pedestals and curtains and furniture defied gravity‌..)


‘This place belongs to us, the people!’


Day 8, 14.9.17 Safety net

‘ I used to hide in little spaces. I remember one time hiding under the bed and seeing my mum leaving the room. I worried that she’d leave me, forget me…’


Day 9, 15.9.17 Displacement activity 7: Look up, look down Mirrors, site responsive installation


Day 9, 15.9.17

Displacement activity 8: Pill packets and hair

‘The hair is really creepy.’ (‘Dirt is matter out of place.’ Mary Douglas)


Day 10, 18.9.17 Safety net


‘It’s therapeutic to me. It shuts everything else out. Dreaming of everything. I like things like that.’


Day 10, 18.9.17 Displacement activity 9: Sculpting with pill packets and a stapler

(It’s very cathartic, repetitive, meditative, like knitting! Each staple is like a stitch.)


Day 12, 20.9.17 Displacement activity 2: Mobile soft sculptures

‘The one on the right is like a Moomin turned inside out!’


Day 13, 19.9.17 Displacement activity 7: Look up, look down

‘It’s like seeing fragments of space.’


Day 11, 19.9.17 Displacement activity 10: Shadows and light


Day 11, 19.9.17 Displacement activity 9: Sculpting with pill packets and a stapler (It’s like the narrative of someone’s ill health or pain. It feels precarious, like ineffectual mending.)


‘That’s my life. Right there.’


‘It looks like something else and then you get close and recognise what it’s made of.’


Day 13, 21.9.17 Displacement activity 11: Collaborative drawing with Clare Thatcher and Chris Watkins


(I was intrigued by the changes in control during the collaborative drawing. We set rules but we all managed to subvert them. It was funny to see how we all reacted to the process!)


Day 13, 21.9.17 Safety net

‘It reminds me of Louise Bourgeois, Annette Messager….’


Day 14, 22.9.17 Displacement activity 10: Shadows, light and reflections


‘That is so emotive; it’s visceral, almost like the inside out, unzipped. I can feel it in my stomach actually.’


Day 14, 22.9.17 Displacement activity 9: Sculpting with pill packets and a stapler

(It’s like making a patchwork; the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It becomes something ‘other’.)


‘Oh! Thanks for reminding me. I need to take my tablet.’


‘It’s like a dalek…. Or a suit of armour.’


‘It makes me think of armour, protection. You could make a jacket.’


(It’s alchemy; the pill packets are transformed.)


Day 14, 22.9.17 Displacement activity 7: Look up, look down Mirrors, site specific installation


Day 15, 25.9.17 Displacement activity 11: Collaborative drawing with Clare Thatcher and Maura Zukina


Day 15, 25.9.17 Displacement activity 12: Projection


(I love the idea of ‘displacing’ unexpected objects onto the ceiling. I need to develop this further!)


Day 15, 25.9.17 Displacement activity 3: Roaming sleeping bag


Day 16, 26.9.17 Displacement activity 11: Collaborative drawing with Clare Thatcher and Maura Zukina

‘Have you yet found anything you can control?’


(Another transformation, as the collaborative drawings become sculptural. I can imagine a room full of these‌.)


Day 16, 26.9.17 Displacement activity 12: Projection


Day 16, 26.9.17 Displacement activity 3: Roaming sleeping bag


Day 16, 26.9.17 Safety net

‘It makes me think of home. Can I sing a song about home?’


‘ I like the way it’s put together, although it’s a bit cramped in there. It reminds me of war times and people cramped into small spaces.’


Day 17, 27.9.17 Displacement activity 2: Mobile soft sculptures

‘That textiles will deteriorate is a bit like life…or should I say death?’


Day 17, 27.9.17 Safety net

‘There’s a sense of presence in the space. It reminds me of Marina Abramovic’s The artist is present.’


‘Something about the active art is very energising.’


Day 18, 28.9.17 Displacement activity 2: Mobile soft sculptures


‘These are lovely. Beguiling. Inviting. They drew me in.’


‘I like the curation of your sculptures. The 3D-ness of them works really well. It makes the room very inviting.’


Day 18, 28.9.17 Displacement activity 12: Projection


Day 18, 28.9.17 Displacement activity 12: Projection


‘They’re like pouches for protecting babies.’


Day 19, 29.9.17 Displacement activity 10: Shadows, light and more reflections


Day 19, 29.9.17 Safety net


‘Yellow is my favourite colour so I’m taking this one to do at home.’


Day 19, 29.9.17 Displacement activity 2: Mobile soft sculptures


Thank you to our visitors and the other artists for all the thought provoking comments and conversations.


It’s been a real privilege and great fun to have the chance to try out so many different playful ideas in such an amazing space. I’m looking forward to exploring some of these ideas further…..

Profile for Lou Baker

Lou Baker, Displacement activity, Sept 2017  

Displacement activity, noun: a human activity that seems inappropriate, considered to arise unconsciously when a conflict between antagonist...

Lou Baker, Displacement activity, Sept 2017  

Displacement activity, noun: a human activity that seems inappropriate, considered to arise unconsciously when a conflict between antagonist...

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