Leap Then Look Active Archive Digital Residency 


Black Mountain College, the legendary liberal arts college in North Carolina, functioned between 1933 and 1957 and hosted many of the most influential artists, teachers, and students of the 20th century in America and beyond. At BMC there was a commitment to the connection of theory and practice, interdisciplinary activities, and the value of direct experience. It’s isolated location and tightknit community produced a particular atmosphere and focus.

How can we create spaces for ourselves to make? Unplug the computer, take off our shoes, hide our phones! Set ourselves a simple task, don’t worry about the end result. Invite someone to join in, go outside, try not to talk, let it happen. For us, this is the beginning of a time of concentration, physical thinking, using eyes and hands as tools, and learning how materials perform.

“We do not always create ‘works of art,’ but rather experiments; it is not our ambition to fill museums: we are gathering experience.”

Josef Albers


It’s July 2020. Lockdown is easing, but we have spent the last 3 months as a family living, working, and learning together. The experience has primed us for the coming 10 days. The kids are here, they join in if they want to. We use what we have around the house, or things we have fetched from the bags of reused materials we keep at our studio. The experience has been intense, fruitful, at times fuelled or hampered by anxiety, claustrophobia, and worry, but it has also created new types of time for making and spending time together. Long hot days of relative inactivity or persuading our children to help us to make a film in the garden, or play around with materials together, sleepless nights where ideas have fallen into place.

Most of all, this has been a time for us to experiment and learn. To create activities for ourselves that we usually facilitate for other people. To be our own workshop participants. To blur the lines and become both students and teachers, artists, and researchers.

Instructions to self. Work with what’s around you. Gather materials. Find new ways of looking and unexpected combinations, using phones to document and enliven explorations. Keep it simple at first, spend some time looking, layering, and arranging. See what emerges.

Images credits: Leap Then Look, BMCM+AC permanent collection, Estate of Hazel Larsen Archer, Western Regional Archives.