AGA LAB Top Ten – 4, 3

4.  De Bouwput Galerie

AGA LAB is part of a community of businesses housed in the reclaimed school.  From what I’ve understood, each studio contributes to the payment, running and upkeep of an on-site gallery space, De Bouwput. 

Artists-in-Residence are invited to show their work in this space at the end of their time.  This was an amazing ‘bonus’ for me, especially as it came with the wonderful support of the AGA LAB team, especially Geert, Serena and Silvia (AiR Advisor, intern, and new AnR).  I have no hanging or curating skills and was happy to have their guidance, support, and ultimately, to let them make all of the decisions for my work. 

The evening was lovely, and I was able to give away 60 or so pigeon prints as part of my ‘Free to a Good Home’ project, re-evaluating the value of pigeons as an art-bird trope. 

3.  The residency programme

Which brings me to the Artist-in-Residence programme itself.  I loved it.  I was going to write something more sophisticated, but truth is, I loved it.  It was exactly right for me – a condensed, concentrated period of working and thinking, living right in the campus, with minimal distraction, and a welcoming and do-it-yourself ethos. 

On the other hand, if I reflect more critically, it is not for everyone.  The AiR may not suit anyone who isn’t already confident in their technique, and through my discussions with other members and the team, ‘confidence’ can vary. 

Those who have practiced print in University, or in a highly staffed technical space, will find the freedom of AGA LAB challenging.  You are able to develop your own physical workflow, to modify and mix your own baths and chemicals, to set your presses to preferred heights.  You are encouraged to work at a pace that suits you and, outside of the 9 to 5, Monday to Friday working hours, you are often alone.   If you are not fully independent, there is an element of sink or swim, and the risk that you’ll spend your first week or two learning, rather than making. 

Additionally, sourcing materials can eat into valuable studio time.  I was in touch with Ayesha, the technician for etching, in advance, and on her advice, brought everything with me.  I travelled by Eurostar and carried only 3kg of clothing for the whole month.  This was so I could bring as much plate, ink and paper with me as possible, as well as a caulking gun,  disposable gloves, mystrol, Lascaux products, scrim, etching tools, apron, registration acetates, tissue, newsprint, tape, permanent markers, etc. 

I did not want to spend my first three days wandering around Amsterdam sourcing materials, or worse, finding out that some things required ordering and then waiting for delivery.  I suppose if I had never been to the Netherlands before, it might have been an opportunity to get to know my surroundings.  For me, however, the trip was a real indulgence of being in the workshop as much as possible, with only occasional excursions beyond Sloterdijk.