Hello Friends, Hello Partners, Hello Lovers, Hello Family, Hello Colleagues,
It's Ben here, typing out these words that you are reading now. I hope that you woke up well this morning and that your day has been or will be filled with things that bring you joy. I wonder where you are? in bed? at your desk? having breakfast? in the garden? on the train? at work? Maybe let me know.
I'm currently sitting in the studio space of Sasso Residency, an artist residency in a small village called Vairano on the Swiss side of Lago Maggiore. I climbed a mountain today and got a bit sunburnt on my cheeks and my neck. I arrived here without a singular plan which led to a flurry of thoughts and not a lot of action. During this time, I was mainly exploring the area and settling into a new routine with people whom I had only met for the first time moments before. Luckily, everyone here is wonderful and caring so it didn't take too long to feel at peace. So far I've swam under waterfalls, baked many breads, listened to weather satellites, read books, drawn landscapes, visited cities, recorded thunder strikes, and jumped off diving boards, amongst other things. Most recently I've begun cloud watching. If you're curious to know what myself and the others are doing you can read about it here and here.
I'm writing the Extra Practice newsletter for July but, to be honest, I haven't been at XP in a full capacity for quite some months. Either I've been away from the city of Rotterdam, not in the country at all, or engaged in excessive writing where the solitude necessary was only available in my little flat. I miss the studio and the people within it. I miss the lunches outside, the people who pass by the windows and wave, and the feeling of being part of something bigger than just yourself.
From my position here in the Alps, I see the studio as a little model far in the distance. I see the walls and floor, the desks and the chairs and the little figures going about their day. Recently, we've heard a few times that XP could be thought of as a model for studio life, whatever that may be. But it's taken until now, whilst I sit 717.78 kilometres away (as the crow flies), that I see the model. Not literally the miniature version, but the way of doing things, the values, the connections, the support and the collectivity. It's a model for a way of being with one another in a world of precarious and anxiety-inducing events that often feels like the warmth coming from your home's open door on a cold winter's night.
At Extra Practice, sharing our work, our struggles, our achievements, and our lives with one another is part of the deal. Over the last weeks I've been reading up on Love for a course that will begin in September (spoiler alert for kabk students). The book that's struck me most so far has been All About Love by bell hooks. There are so many quotes I could copy and paste into this newsletter to give you an idea of the book but instead I would urge you to read it yourself. Instead I will just paste one quote that I think summarises the ideas about love quite succinctly:
“Love is an action, a participatory emotion. Whether we are engaged in a process of self-love or of loving others we must move beyond the realm of feeling to actualize love. This is why it is useful to see love as a practice. When we act, we need not feel inadequate or powerless; we can trust that there are concrete steps to take on love's path. We learn to communicate, to be still and listen to the needs of our hearts, and we learn to listen to others. We learn compassion by being willing to hear the pain, as well as the joy, of those we love. The path to love is not arduous or hidden, but we must choose to take the first step. If we do not know the way, there is always a loving spirit with an enlightened, open mind able to show us how to take the path that leads to the heart of love, the path that lets us return to love.”
I believe that XP does love pretty well. It's a practice that has no real finish line, ending or conclusion and I think it's certainly a good thing that we can all have a little extra of it.
Part of this love is our sharing with one another. I feel like it's actually the fundamental part of it. Since I’m so far from home today I have asked each of my friends at the studio to send me a photograph taken in the month of July that they would like to share with someone they love. Below you can find the photographs chosen:
23-07-22 themes and play and food and clichés are such sweet ways to connect and love and celebrate so let’s create more of those lovely days ok?
This parsley leaf, left on a salad plate after Emma’s fancy 30 party, had also gloriously conquered the transition from twenties to thirties.
Emilie, when life gives you lemons…you make some delicious tomato dish. A corner shop somewhere in east London.
Ursa Major on the 4th of July
And for the one I send back to you
I saw this cloud and I thought of you
There are a couple of things coming up at the end of August and in September that you should keep your eyes peeled for. You can follow us along on Instagram for more information, but we'll also include more details in the next newsletter. So this is what you can look out for:
I leave you for now with an album recommendation – Claire Rousay's everything perfect is already here.