What makes Red Bridge tick? In conversation with Alice she emphasises the fact that Red Bridge is ideas led. Taking this a bit further she gives an example of the genesis of Black Beauty. She had the idea that she wanted to make a children’s show for mid size theatre spaces. Andy Manley had an idea that he wanted to make a show from the book Black Beauty. Bringing these two ideas together made a space for the team to create the show Black Beauty. The artistic power and commercial robustness of the project come from the mash-up of both. Inspired.
I remember a talk by Murdo MacDonald*, Emeritus Professor of History of Scottish Art, University of Dundee. A student asked a question about how to start making a new piece of work. Murdo only missed one beat by thinking this was more of a practice-based question than a historical one. He then suggested a Hegelian approach of taking two starting points – thesis and antithesis. The work is then to create the synthesis from the opposing positions – a new higher truth.
In the case of Red Bridge, the ideas are usually complementary rather than oppositional, but the mechanism still works. In the case of Black Beauty, complementary in the sense that one has it’s roots in the context, ecology, bigger picture, the other from the wellspring of the artist. And also complementary in the sense that each enhances the other leading to the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
The word idea comes from the Greek idein, to see. There is clear seeing at the heart of Red Bridge – seeing opportunities and gaps, paying attention to the ideas of the artists and their potential, seeing good combinations of complementary ideas, seeing future opportunities on the horizon.
My previous post focussed on the context being half the work. This then in return can beg the question, what is the other half of the work? Here is where we can focus on people and ideas. The good news is that, as in all human endeavor, the context is only half the work. As individuals we have agency, we can make a difference, play our part and take on roles to borrow a theatrical metaphor.
As an ideas led organisation, how is Red Bridge different from an artist-led one? How do we think about the core team who are creating the conditions for ideas to lead, work to thrive and artists to prosper?
We might revisit the partnership of Christo and Jeanne-Claude from the field of environmental land art and the wrapping of the Reichstag fame. For many years Jeanne-Claude’s role in the partnership was completely unacknowledged in the public realm. Yet she was an equal creative partner in creating the conditions for the work to materialise. The partnership has now been completely reassessed and they are now referred to as a ‘conceptual duo’.
The notion of a conceptual duo could be very helpful in thinking about the roles of the different ‘actors’ in Red Bridge projects. In this way of thinking the core team are creative practitioners equal to, and complementary to the troupe of artists.
* As I wrote this I had a mental image of the talk by Murdo MacDonald. It took place in the Glasgow School of Art Lecture Theatre. Writing this piece took me back there. At the time I edited out the reference to the location as it made the sentence clumsy. It seems appropriate after the fire to make a mention of it and to show a picture of how it was.
Header Photograph of lecture theatre in the basement of the Mackintosh Building thanks to GSA Archives