Colin Hambrook talks to Adam Reynolds bursary winner Noëmi Lakmaier
Meeting Noemi Lakmaier for the first time, she comes across as someone whose responses are finely tuned. She has a delicate and enigmatic aura underneath which lies a powerful resolve.
Recently awarded the Shape London Adam Reynolds Memorial Bursary, I was keen to find out more about the motivation behind her work. Her piece adapted from Store Room called Appropriated Accounts – a bright red baby’s pram in a white clinical space – won one of the first Dada-South GoMake! Bursaries and was exhibited back during Dada-Souths inaugural period in March 2005. Much of her work is about control and containment – to the point where she periodically builds herself out of her own installations. I was intrigued about the motivations of an artist who likes to play with ideas of physical constriction. This notion appears – in sometimes alarming degrees of severity - as a theme both within her installation work and her sculptural objects.
Unsurprisingly her audiences’ reaction to seeing her inside the Weeble (an affectionate title based on the 1970’s children’s toy) were for the most part pretty incredulous. There were three main responses to the photo of this artwork titled Exercise in Loosing Control. The majority of people thought it was digitally enhanced. Fewer numbers thought she was either someone without legs or with restricted growth. She told me “I don’t think there was anyone who believed I was actually in it. I don’t quite believe it myself!”
For the bursary she plans to build on the ideas within her sculptural objects: “I felt, since my degree show, that I was getting further and further away from a sense of being personally engaged with the work. This was the first time I actually put myself in a piece and I’m intrigued about how far I can take it.” As part of her award, the doors of Camden Arts Centre - including a massive studio space – are opening to her from March until May next year. The residency will include a promotional package, with the potential to lead to further exhibitions.
Noemi told me the use of physicality in her work, happened by chance as she was preparing her first big installation The Institute for Temporary Containment, which she made for her degree show in June 2003. It was only after she’d got the plans that she realised how constricting it would be to engage with (apparently the health and safety bods had a field day). To enter the work you had to crawl through a 3 foot high archival space. This space contained a hundred boxes of items of found clothing, logged and filed within this lower space. You then had to make your way up a narrow staircase to a second floor, where you would find an empty blindingly white space overlooking a nature reserve.
Noemi says “I started to really enjoy the process of working in such a physically constricting and difficult environment. Primarily my spaces are directed by what would be best for the work. If I think the work requires something that excludes me, then that is fine. I enjoy the challenge of doing things in a way that really makes you engage with the environment you are in. I find that if I can get around an environment easily – with straightforward access, ramps etc. It is easy to lose that here-and-now sense of my surroundings. I also enjoy the process of controlling peoples’ movements within the work – once they have made the decision to engage with it.” I look forward to finding out how Noemi resolves her ideas. Her intention is to bring the sculptural objects into context within a larger environment – bringing the two aspects of her work together.
In her role as Dada-South’s Artist Development Manager Noemi has recently run two successful workshops for disabled visual artists. Her idea was to provide an opportunity for artists to receive in-depth critiques of their work to help move it on. All visual artists understand how isolating it can be to try and develop your ideas in a vacuum. This isolation is especially poignant for deaf and disabled artists for whom there is even less opportunity for getting feedback. Without it you can so easily remain stuck in the same way of creating and responding to the creative process – the point being that it is impossible to progress without being challenged in some way to try different things.
Alongside the first of these peer critiques Noemi ran a day in critical thinking – getting the ball rolling by asking Ronda Gowland to talk about her essay Freak, Representations of Sexuality in Disability Art
In developing the programme she hopes to run a course or seminar structure with a greater number of elements built into it. Part of this programme would be engaging a series of theorists who may never have been involved with disability arts or a disabled audience – to present mainstream ideas to throw up for discussion.
For more details of Noemi Lakmaier’s work please go to www.noemilakmaier.co.uk
For details of the Adam Reynolds’ Bursary go to www.adamreynoldsbursary.org.uk