Speaking to Support Structures: Beverley Bennett
Conversations, interactions, or simply acts of sharing can be outcomes.
Artist and filmmaker Beverley Bennett comments on care and the relationships that are core to her practice.
Support Structures for Support Structures is a fellowship which nurtures London-based artists and collectives working with spatial, social and community practices. Initiated with Sumayya Vally – architect of the Serpentine Pavilion 2021 – the programme offers financial support and mentorship, and forms a supportive network of peers.
For this series, we asked each of the fellows in the 2021 Support Structures cohort to reflect on their work in the context of community. Beverley Bennett is an artist-filmmaker from the Midlands whose practice revolves around the perpetual possibilities of drawing, performance and collaborative experiments with sound. Through her social and political projects, Bennett often convenes groups of collaborators, including creatives, artists, workers, and families.
Can you tell us more about your practice?
Although I’m connected to multiple ways of making, my work has three main concerns: the importance of sound in art, investigating the idea of the archive, and modes of collaboration. My practice provides spaces for participants to become collaborators. In a methodology I’ve cultivated over time, I try to provide a point of focus from which groups can unpack ideas about what art can be and for whom it is generated. I enjoy working with people, listening to their stories, and learning from them: my work comes alive through connection.
How do you hold and who holds you?
I hold through interaction. I always begin an invitation to collaborate by introducing myself, the project and my intentions, then asking for the person’s perspective and what they would hope to gain from the experience. I listen, placing the focus on them, and if they decide to take part I regularly check in with them. I treat every project like a relationship, no matter its timescale. Due to the nature of what I do, this relationship-building starts with me setting clear boundaries, holding confidentiality, and making sure that collaborators can be offered support, whether by me or an external provider such as a therapist.
In terms of who holds me, I share a lot with close friends and family members. In the past, I’ve had therapists support me through more personal projects. It is funny, because I try and provide a lot of support – but on reflection, I sometimes hold a lot by myself.
How do you build supportive relationships with organisations and others?
When working with institutions, it’s important to set clear boundaries, work together to define the timescales for projects, and schedule regular check-ins. Ideally, this is all established before the actual ’work’ begins. You need time to understand whether both parties are compatible – and even though this time is rarely afforded, setting up these working relationships is a priority of mine.
I’ve also learned to relieve the pressure for ‘productivity’ or a finished outcome. It’s all about time and pacing – we should try to be gentle with ourselves and our collaborators. Initial plans sometimes fail or change, but allowing a project to unfold and evolve can lead to interesting places. Conversations, interactions, or simply acts of sharing can be outcomes. The work comes out in the process.