Words at the Black Swan Feedback

Since co-founding the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing group at the beginning of 2013 I have been wondering what particpants’ thought about the group; about what they were doing; why they came; what drew them to take part. I wondered if they had been as stimulated and excited as I had been. I also wanted to gauge how successful the project had been so far and how the experience might be improved.  I constructed a short questionnaire and put it online, then sent those who had been to the workshops a link and asked if they could take the time to complete it. Nobody needed to submit any personal details and so the results are anonymous.

I asked the following questions some with multiple choice options and others asking for written detail/comment:

  • How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
  • What attracted you to the workshop?
  • Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (choose the answer that most applies).
  • Do you find the workshops challenging?
  • What do you write about?
  • What do you write about most often? (please choose one)
  • How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
  • Which of the above do you do most often?
  • Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
  • Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
  • Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
  • How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
  • Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions.
  • What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
  • Please use the space below for any additional comments or suggestions

I received nine completed forms (see tabbed content below).

Questionaire Response #1
May 19 2015 8:53PM
UK

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
A few times

What attracted you to the workshop?
confidence in the workshop organiser, Crysse – I often visit Black Swan exhibitions and liked the idea of this project as getting more from the experience – I’m intrigued by the way images & ideas are used differently in the visual and written arts, but can speak to each other

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (choose the answer that most applies).
Very stimulating …and/or I produced a piece of writing that I am pleased with.

Do you find the workshops challenging?
Always

Explain in a few words:
The blank page syndrome. But they’ve always been skilfully facilitated and everyone – absolutely everyone at each session i’ve been to – has produced something fresh and interesting in response to the art we were surrounded by

What do you write about?
specific work in the exhibition
the work as a whole or the theme of the show
other things, inspired by the exhibition
Definitely always focused on the exhibition. it’s a material and influential environment

What do you write about most often? (please choose one)
Specific work

How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
Prose
Poetry
Stream of consciousness

Which of the above do you do most often?
Poetry

Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Yes

Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
helped me understand the work.

Comment: It’s an experience of immersion, having time for getting close up and looking at detail as well as gaining a stronger imprint of the exhibition as a whole

Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
Yes

How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
I would be happy for them to read my words.

Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions.
Yes

What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
Encouraging, companionable, surprising

additional comments or suggestions:

Questionaire Response #2
May 19 2015 9:51PM
UK

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
Many times

What attracted you to the workshop?
the idea of connecting visual art with words – looking at how a ‘complete’ art form could somehow connect with another creative experience

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (choose the answer that most applies).
Stimulating …and/or I produced writing that I feel somewhat pleased with
I found it very stimulating actually but I am not always ‘pleased with’ outcome I personally produce

Do you find the workshops challenging?
Always

Explain in a few words:
challenging is good. in fact its essential for creativity.

What do you write about?
specific work in the exhibition
the work as a whole or the theme of the show
other things, inspired by the exhibition
things not related or inspired by the exhibition

What do you write about most often? (Please choose one)
things inspired by the show
How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
Poetry
Stream of consciousness
Other. notes for poetry

Which of the above do you do most often?
Poetry
Comments: this is actually never shaped at the time, more thoughts towards….
Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Yes

Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
changed my opinion for the better (for example I didn’t like the work and now I do).
helped me understand the work.
enhanced my experience, regardless of opinion (for example – The exhibition is not my ‘cup of tea’ but I feel that I do understand it better or appreciate something about it).

Comment: I have had quite powerful experiences of connecting with an exhibition I previously would not have even remembered

Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
Yes

How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
I would be happy for them to read my words and would love to enter into a dialoque with the artist or curator.

Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions?
Yes

What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
It’s often a struggle to connect, but always worthwhile. I tend not to be impressed by my own words in the workshop at all but have sometimes found form to what I wanted to say later & surprisingly. I have always been impressed & inspired by the perceptions of others in the group, as expressed in their workshop words, and this is the aspect I probably value most.

additional comments or suggestions:
So many galleries offer abstruse legends beside art works to impress the viewers, I feel very lucky that the Black Swan invites the viewer to value their own experience. I think this, even if it doesn’t make us all great poets, helps us assimilate, assess, and value our own personal perceptions and responses. Which is what art should do.

Questionnaire Response #3
May 19 2015 9:56PM
UK

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
More than once

What attracted you to the workshop?
A new forum and a way to explore reactions to art.

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (Choose the answer that most applies).
Stimulating …and/or I produced writing that I feel somewhat pleased with
Comments: I enjoyed the process but I don’t like making my writing public.

Do you find the workshops challenging?
Sometimes

Explain in a few words:
Challenging in a positive way: encouraging me to express in words what might otherwise be a fleeting emotion or reaction.

What do you write about?
specific work in the exhibition
the work as a whole or the theme of the show

What do you write about most often? (Please choose one)
Specific work

How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
Prose
Poetry

Which of the above do you do most often?
Poetry

Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Yes

Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
enhanced my experience, regardless of opinion (for example – The exhibition is not my ‘cup of tea’ but I feel that I do understand it better or appreciate something about it).
Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
Yes

How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
It would depend on what I’ve written

Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions?
No

What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
A worthwhile forum but sadly the day/date doesn’t always suit me.

any additional comments or suggestions:

Questionnaire Response #4
May 20 2015 6:01AM
US

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
Once

What attracted you to the workshop?
I am interested in art and writing and would like to combine both. One of the reasons I have not attended these Black swan workshops more often is Sunday afternoon is not a very good time for me but understand that for people who work (I am retired) this is a good time..difficult to get times right for everybody but I’ll try and attend more often in the future..excellent idea

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (Choose the answer that most applies).
Comment: The workshop I attended was a presentation between artist and writer which I enjoyed but I was not asked to write or share any creative thoughts of my own.

Do you find the workshops challenging? NA

Explain in a few words:
Not yet experienced a writing workshop

What do you write about? NA

What do you write about most often? (Please choose one) NA

How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply. NA

Which of the above do you do most often? NA
I write both poetry and prose and am struggling to start a novel

Remaining questions not applicable as responder attended a one-off presentation session
Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions?
What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
additional comments or suggestions:

Questionnaire Response #5
May 20 2015 11:21AM
UK

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
More than once

What attracted you to the workshop?
A chance not only to discuss and write with a particular stimulus, but also to experience the processes of other writers, and to obtain their feedback within a supportive group.

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (Choose the answer that most applies).
Very stimulating …and/or I produced a piece of writing that I am pleased with.
Comments: It is good to be presented with a stimulus, thus limiting choice and encouraging focus.

Do you find the workshops challenging?
Always
Explain in a few words:
They are time limited, and feedback is given by the group, so they are fairly intense.

What do you write about?
specific work in the exhibition

What do you write about most often? (Please choose one)
Specific work

How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
Poetry

Which of the above do you do most often?
Poetry

Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Yes

Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
enhanced my experience, regardless of opinion (for example – The exhibition is not my ‘cup of tea’ but I feel that I do understand it better or appreciate something about it).
Comments: the ticked answer sums it up well, and is interesting.

Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
Yes

How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
I would be happy for them to read my words.

Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions?
Yes

What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
I wish I could attend more often.

Questionnaire Response #6
May 20 2015 12:47PM
UK

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
Many times

What attracted you to the workshop?
I am interested in writing about Art and about the relationship between words and art. It also seemed like great mental exercise, a bit like a book group but about visual art which I love.

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (Choose the answer that most applies).
Very stimulating …and/or I produced a piece of writing that I am pleased with.
Comments: I wouldn’t say that the writing I produce is publishable but it just appears, sometimes like magic and this pleases me …a lot.

Do you find the workshops challenging?
Always
Explain in a few words:
There is always a different show, and always a push to think about things differently, taking on board the artists’ intentions for example.

What do you write about?
specific work in the exhibition
the work as a whole or the theme of the show
other things, inspired by the exhibition

What do you write about most often? (Please choose one)
things inspired by the show
Comments: I usually find myself taking a theme or some value in the show which triggers something personal, like a childhood memory. I suppose, if I’m honest, it is a little like therapy.

How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
Prose
Poetry
Stream of consciousness

Which of the above do you do most often?
Poetry
Comments: Usually in the workshop it begins with stream of consciousness, letting the work ‘speak’ and influence my train of thought. Then later I will formulate into a poem or piece of prose.

Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Yes
Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
changed my opinion for the better (for example I didn’t like the work and now I do).
helped me understand the work.
enhanced my experience, regardless of opinion (for example – The exhibition is not my ‘cup of tea’ but I feel that I do understand it better or appreciate something about it).

Comments: It always affects my response and mostly it enhances my feelings, giving me some deeper insight.

Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
No

How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
I would be happy for them to read my words and would love to enter into a dialogue with the artist or curator.

Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions?
Yes

What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
Exciting! I would never consider myself a ‘writer’ and poetry workshops in the past would have not been for me. I have become less self-conscious about writing and expressing myself with words and tend to go with the flow. It’s interesting that we have different leaders who have different ways and bring out different things. It is sociable and I love hearing other people’s responses, especially when they don’t like the show.

Additional comments or suggestions:
I really value these sessions and only wish they were longer and on a different day.

Questionnaire Response #7
May 20 2015 7:41PM
UK

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
A few times

What attracted you to the workshop?
I like writing. It makes you focus on the work and really think about it.

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (choose the answer that most applies).
Stimulating …and/or I produced writing that I feel somewhat pleased with

Do you find the workshops challenging?
Sometimes
Explain in a few words:
I went in hating the NEST exhibition, ‘artist’ Tom Bayliss. But after listening to definitions of the word nest by the poet/writer organising the event, I began to see things differently.

What do you write about?
specific work in the exhibition
the work as a whole or the theme of the show

What do you write about most often? (please choose one)
Specific work

How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
Prose
Poetry

Which of the above do you do most often?
Poetry

Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Yes

Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
changed my opinion for the better (for example I didn’t like the work and now I do).
enhanced my experience, regardless of opinion (for example – The exhibition is not my ‘cup of tea’ but I feel that I do understand it better or appreciate something about it).
Comments: This answer definitely applied after visiting Tom Bayliss NEST exhibition recently.
Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
Yes

How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
I would be happy for them to read my words.

Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions.
Yes

What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
Enjoy them. It’s interesting to share experiences. Usually I visit exhibitions on my own. It’s good to hear other peoples reactions.

additional comments or suggestions:
Long may they continue.

Questionnaire Response #8
May 21 2015 5:06PM
UK

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
More than once

What attracted you to the workshop?
Knowing Crysse and Rosie. The location. The timing – Sunday afternoon once the artisan market has quietened seems to work really well.

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (choose the answer that most applies).
Very stimulating …and/or I produced a piece of writing that I am pleased with.
Comments: Working words from art is an original idea that immediately sparked me. The way we’ve been led into the process has been really good; well facilitated in a way that has created space for expression and listening; I sense that everyone has felt heard in the sessions.

Do you find the workshops challenging?
Always

Explain in a few words:
Connecting visual with word to create a clear image I feel is always the challenge of poetry.

What do you write about?
the work as a whole or the theme of the show
other things, inspired by the exhibition
The art and the themes generally evoke processes that I’m already interested in writing about.
What do you write about most often? (please choose one)
things inspired by the show

How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
Poetry
Stream of consciousness
Other. Often starting with stream of consciousness, images surface that then become structured into open verse poetry

Which of the above do you do most often?
Poetry
Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Yes

Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…
helped me understand the work.
enhanced my experience, regardless of opinion (for example – The exhibition is not my ‘cup of tea’ but I feel that I do understand it better or appreciate something about it).

Comments: My sense is that the workshops have encouraged us in some ways to let personal opinion/taste to fall away to allow space for understanding, even if we don’t like the art or find it challenging. In this way it expands horizons and inspires writing from a different place in the self.

Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
Yes

How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
I would be happy for them to read my words and would love to enter into a dialogue with the artist or curator.

Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions.
Yes

What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
Very good, artistically inspiring and supportive

Additional comments or suggestions:
Thank you – for the opportunity at a very reasonable price. And for the tea 😉 feels welcoming.

Questionnaire Response #9
May 24 2015 10:12AM
UK

How many times have you attended the ‘Words at the Black Swan’ writing workshop?
Many times

What attracted you to the workshop?
stimulus to writing

Did you find the workshop creatively stimulating? (choose the answer that most applies).
Stimulating …and/or I produced writing that I feel somewhat pleased with
Comments: still learning to master the art of writing ekphrastically

Do you find the workshops challenging?
Always

Explain in a few words:
it is always a challenge to me to write truly ekphrastically

What do you write about?
specific work in the exhibition
the work as a whole or the theme of the show

What do you write about most often? (please choose one)
Specific work
Comment: I try to let my writing lead out from the work, rather than impose my thoughts upon it

How would you describe the style of writing you normally do in the workshops? Tick any or all that apply.
Prose
Poetry
Other. ‘splurging’, i.e. writing something down with minimal mental editing
Which of the above do you do most often?
‘splurging’ (see above)
Comment: ‘splurging’ comes out as poetry or prose or a mixture of both

Do you think that participating in the workshop affects how you experience the exhibition?
Yes

Has responding to an exhibition or a specific artwork changed your opinion of it? Please select one, none or all that apply. Writing in response to exhibitions has…

changed my opinion for the better (for example I didn’t like the work and now I do).
helped me understand the work.
enhanced my experience, regardless of opinion (for example – The exhibition is not my ‘cup of tea’ but I feel that I do understand it better or appreciate something about it).
Would you rather respond to exhibitions that you like?
Yes

How do you feel about the artist or curator of the exhibition that you responded to reading your responses?
I would be happy for them to read my words and would love to enter into a dialoque with the artist or curator.

Have you produced what you would see as ‘finished’ pieces of work as a result of the ‘Words’ sessions.
Yes

What is your overall experience of the ‘Words’ workshop?
Always worth turning up for, sometimes further writing much stimulated

Please use the space below for any additional comments or suggestions:
being a workshop leader introduces a further gain from the experience of the exhibition

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