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Artist Profile: Ali and Megan of M2 AIR

Artist Profile: Ali and Megan of M2 AIR
Each month we’ll be shining the spotlight on an artist that we are currently working with. This month, we’ve the pleasure¬†to introduce artists Megan and Ali who are M2 AIR. Grab a cuppa and enjoy ūüėČ
 
Hello! Tell us a bit about yourselves (and your artistic medium)
 
We’re Megan Clark-Bagnall and Ali Brown and w¬†e share a studio space in Bedminster, Bristol called M2 which is how we met 5 years ago. Since then we’ve collaborated on a few projects together; sharing tools, skills, conversations and cups of coffee. M2 AIR is our first joint brain child.
Megan:  I make fun/ny projects with people.  My work can result in large-scale installations, sensory experiences, almost-performances, events and celebratory happenings. I make work via deeply interactive and carefully curated participatory processes. My interests encompass scale and size, the kitsch, the present day, the past (and historical references), the future, the mundane and most recently, the pineapple, Elvis Presley and Little Chef restaurants. I enjoy making work that is accessible, questioning, fun, humorous and often a little bit ridiculous. My commissions include; building haystacks from shredded anxiety (Needle In The Haystack, first shown at Bristol Biennial 2014), turning commuter routes and public spaces into social meeting spaces (An Everyday Party, Bristol, 2015), establishing positive letter writing dens inside a National Trust property (Type Away, Surrey, 2012) and turning a swimming pool into a pool table with the help of a young swimming team dressed as pool balls (Pool in the Pool, Crewe Council, 2012).
Ali: I am a Visual Artist and creative collaborator.  I create objects, moments and installations with people, through collaboration we create a space to explore ideas, and tell our stories.  These collaborations often happen in creative workshops and result in work for galleries, public spaces, and community settings.  My work is about connecting the threads that join us all and marvelling at the magic that happens where they meet.
What project/s are you currently working on with Creativity Works?
We established M2 Artist In Residence in 2016 to offer children an opportunity to work as a professional artist for two days inside our shared studio space. With time, resources and us acting as Sous-Artists, the children envisage and build a project on a ten pound budget, which results in a uniquely orchestrated exhibition (more often than not, accompanied by Ribena in wine glasses). Look out for our POP UP M2 AIR ART STUDIO, coming soon to Foxhill! We’re looking to work with four talented young local artists to create inspiring new artworks for everyone enjoy. Help us to host¬†¬†the future artists of Foxhill.
Who inspires you? (and why)

Megan:¬†Vivienne Westwood is a long standing hero of mine. Firstly, because she’s from Derbyshire (like me) BUT also because she’s a true beacon of strength and style. I saw her speak about Climate Change at Glastonbury Festival in 2014 and she made me cry. It was my birthday (and I was hungover) and more emotional than usual but she’s so softly and convincingly spoken that when she speaks she paints pictures. I just saw the artic melting in my mind’s eye and the western world filled with fracking devices and I felt full of sorrow. I LOVE that she’s roughed the world up a bit with punk but I love even more how pro-active she is. Her political stunts are brilliant and don’t get enough air time in the media. I love how she truly takes ownership over her brand. I went to the cinema recently and watched ‘Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist’ and I’ve been trying to write a ‘hello’ letter to Viv ever since…. I should have spoken about her below really but Grayson is an equal inspiration to me…

 

Ali: The Everyday Heroes I meet in the projects I make. The people who are curious enough to notice and brave enough to say yes to taking part Рeven though its scary.  In my current project Kindness is Everywhere, I have been blown away by the stories people contributed to the project sharing incidents of kindness that they have noticed. These tiny acts of kindness have been so inspiring.

 

What book or exhibition has inspired you recently?
 
Megan:¬†Grayson Perry is an inspiration to me. I was lucky enough to be invited on the Private View Preview Tour of his exhibition at Arnolfini. He was BRILLIANT. There was something mildly ironic about him saying ‘I want to make art for everyone’ as you peered past the tapestries to the cobbled streets outside where ticket holders were queued round the block waiting to come inside and meet Grayson. But not that ironic, the doors did open and Grayson said he took more selfies that night than ever before. That’s what I like about him. He’s in touch, he watches telly and he uses words I don’t need a dictionary for. I’ve never seen an artist with such a following. It was amazing to see an art gallery filled to the brim with people everyday.

 

Ali & I went together to see his talk on ‘Masculinity’ in Bristol’s Colston Hall. I was super impressed with how he managed to have a dialogue with such a massive audience. Normally art talks are one artist talking and a bunch of groupies listening to their creative leader but Grayson’s brilliant at opening up conversation. He asked the audience to tweet him ‘masculinity is….’ And during the second half he went through as many tweets as possible and sent the microphone to the tweeters in the audience. I just thought ‘what a dude’. He’s not a preacher but a proposition-er.

 

Ali:¬†I am re-reading Maya Angelou ‘And still I rise’ after what would have been her 90th Birthday last week. Her poetry is just amazing, full of heart, rhythm and power.¬†¬†Maya Angelou is one of my heroes and this book is one of my favourites.

 

What’s been your biggest professional, personal or creative achievement to date?

 

Megan:¬†When I was at school in Year 4 I painted a watercolour picture of some flowers in a vase. It was quite abstract. My class teacher Mrs Savage asked if she could keep it and I was SO FLATTERED. My mum even took me to her house so I could see it on the wall in the frame. If it wasn’t for that moment I don’t think I would have considered being an artist. A boy called Adam in my class was so good at drawing that it made my attempts look terrible. Mrs Savage encouraged my out the box thinking and slowly I realised that being an artist is about perspective but not in the drawing sense.

 

Ali:¬†Showing up everyday and creating, listening, responding.¬†¬†I was thinking about this just the other day… For me the biggest achievements aren’t actually the big things – the big projects. The biggest achievement is keeping going even though sometimes it’s really really hard, as well as when everything is easy, brilliant and you feel like you were made to do this. This keeping going and showing up is so often overlooked and deserves some airtime I think, both in life and work!

 

What are your creative aspirations? (with or without Creativity Works)?

 

Megan:¬†Hhhmmmmm…… I want to shake up the education system in the UK and change it from the outside in. M2 AIR is a firm believer in Bob & Roberta Smith’s quote ‘Art Makes Children Powerful’ and we come from the standing point that arts should have equal rights within the educational system.¬†¬†In addition,¬†¬†I recently built ‘The Curiosity Museum’ which is 120cm squared in size and can only fit 2 people inside at one time. Described by one young person as ‘a sort of time machine’ The Curiosity Museum (and accompanying workshop) were designed and created as an alternative outlook to career advice, inviting two young persons at a time to explore the museum and identify their own curiosities to find out what makes them tick. This artistic form of career advice comes from the starting point ‘what makes you curious?’ as opposed to the old fashioned approach ‘what do you want to be when you grown up?’ I’d like to see this change within the National Curriculum.
Art has the power to chip away at something from the outside until suddenly you can see daylight through the hole. I hope I can do that!

 

Ali:  To change the world through making, connecting and creating.  To make more spaces for people to think with their hands and find out what they really think about things. The world needs more voices sharing their own unique perspective and I believe that creativity and connection is the way to find your voice and hear others.

 

What advice would you give an emerging socially engaged artist?

 

Megan: Be Social and listen. It sounds simple but it really is key. Chat to people in the street, extend conversations, watch telly, go to a nail bar, listen to the radio and generally tune in! All of this helps to keep you socially informed. You need to connect to the world around you and the people who live in it.
I also find it really useful to build/create a basic framework in which various unfoldings can happen within.

 

Ali: Notice what you notice, then share it. Stay curious. You will find that there are themes that come up again and again. Notice what they are and build on them.  As artists we are often on the edge of things, working on the edge of organisations and communities. This offers a unique opportunity to see things that you might only see looking in from that edge. So ask questions, and shine a light on the unnoticed. Share these things in new ways that help other people to see things differently and ask questions and notice too.

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