From February to November 2013, the Leverhulme Trust funded an artist in residence position at the Centre. During his time here, artist Jonty Lees created several works of art that have had both profound and lasting effects on the Centre and its staff.
Jonty Lees is a highly respected artist whose broad range of methods include performative art, sculpture, video and installation. Jonty lives in a remote part of west Cornwall, and has a deep connection with the environment formed through experiences from his previous work and way of life.
As the Centre’s Artist In Residence, Jonty was fully immersed in the Centre’s activities. He attended weekly presentations by researchers, held individual meetings, and attended conferences, allowing him to build a comprehensive picture of the nature of research, and the people who conduct it.
Armed with this unique insight, Jonty was given the time, resources and freedom to explore his interpretation of the Centre’s research and people, and create work that was both challenging and accessible.
Jonty created several short videos that consider some of the scientific techniques used at the Centre. In his exploration of principles such as ‘sonification’ and ‘horizon scanning’, Jonty gave researchers an alternative interpretation of their work that would later go on to be used at international conferences.
In a walk along West Cornwall’s coastal path, Jonty brought the Centre’s team members together in an effort to “walk the walk” rather than just “talk the talk”. The activity cemented Jonty’s position as one of the team, and helped to develop important bonds between all staff. In another interactive example, Jonty hosted an exhibition at the Newlyn Art Gallery which encouraged visitors to participate in the ‘interpretation of data’ by making sculptures out of pieces of wood.
Drawing on several interweaving elements, Jonty’s residency also created tangible works of art that included a crafted walking stick for each member of staff – to encourage real interactions with the natural environment. He also created a pair of tables titled ‘Healthy Happy Parents’. Informed by ideas around healthy ageing, active healthy workplaces, and the idea that the Centre is a ‘family’ of researchers, these tables provide a focus for discussions and reflect several of the Centre’s defining values.
Jonty’s residency has encouraged and challenged members of the Centre to consider their work in different ways, and imagine how it may be perceived by others. The programme was the first opportunity for many staff and students to interact with an artist and has raised the Centre’s profile in the local arts community – providing a springboard for further exciting collaborations.