Kate has got together with her fellow part-timer Claire Briegel to create something interesting.. something intermittent... something interrogational? They’re using the same space that Morgan Cahn used for her degree show, a shed that Morgan turned into a hive of artivity involving herself and artist friends. Just by saying that gives the whole project an inclusive feel.

But to make sure the white space has a homely ambience Kate and Claire have erected a shelf that functions as a mantelpiece. Below its black line glows a fireplace (actually a couple of photos taken during the Bromborough trip that Kate has been working on in the print department over the summer). On top of the shelf is a deliberately low-key photo of Kate and Claire sitting together on a sofa. When I say low-key, I mean a not particularly sharp image, printed on standard quality paper, presented in a plain black frame, which is how Claire wanted it to be shown. On either side of the dual portrait stand ‘intergenerational’ portraits. That’s 63-year-old Kate’s take on 25-year-old Claire, and vice versa. I’ve heard Kate say in the last few days that, in the future, 26 would be the minimum age of artist she would collaborate with. And I’ve heard that Claire’s riposte was that, for her, 62 would be the maximum age of any potential collaborator in years to come.


Blackboard paint has been used liberally about the room, most novelly to create place mats - for writing and eating - on the table. On one wall a list of INTER words has been written. The first is INTERN and the second INTERNSHIP and I know why these have pride of place. Kate and Claire advertised for interns with practical skills and shared interests to help put together the show. The first two applicants agreed that their internship interviews could be filmed. Ben and Daniel were both successful in their interviews and awarded INTER internships. Alas, Ben wasn’t able to contribute anything due to another commitment that emerged overnight. Alas, Daniel wasn’t able to contribute much either. On his second or third day he said goodbye to Kate and Claire after what had seemed a pleasant and productive Friday afternoon, promising to turn up with homemade lunch on the Monday, never to be seen again. Did Kate and Claire work their interns too hard? Did they talk themselves out of a pair of hardworking helpers? (Trial by INTERROGATION, INTERRUPTION, INTERJECTION?) I don’t know, but clues may emerge from this afternoon, one of two where this shed behind the Crawford Building, DJCAD, is open to the public.


What is this that Claire has written in the great circle of a blackboard? Has she been asked not to put the patch of grass in the middle of the mantelpiece? Has she been advised to eat a sandwich in a particular time and place? Has she had to listen to rather a lot of ‘Don’t do this, don’t do that’? I wonder what Kate will write when she gets a chance to offload about her INTER experience with Claire. I know that at one stage Kate thought Claire was dictating the aesthetic, which didn’t please Kate who now has two rejected technician’s coats and one nurse’s uniform to find new homes for. But I know too that Kate and Claire like and respect each other and any public criticism of each other’s aesthetic choices will be done with lashings of goodwill and humour.

As for visitors, well there are three already, four including me. Though Carmel Ward, seated at the table is really an intern for the day. That is, Carmel has agreed to provide tea and coffee throughout the afternoon. Right now she is discreetly sketching Yumi Choi, who I have invited to exchange intergenerational portraits with. And I know Carmel has brought her camera along too. So I don’t think it would be accurate to call her the tea lady, though she has offered up the name ‘Ethel’ should anyone feel the need to patronise her when going about her intern duty.


It’s been a big week for Yumi, who I’m sketching as she sketches me. She and the rest of the full-timers have put up their Masters show and been awarded their MAs. (Claire and Kate, being part-time, have not graduated but are in an intermediary position, between years one and two of their course.) Today, each of those graduating gave a five-minute talk about his or her work, which I, Claire, Kate, Carmel and Lada (that’s Lada Wilson in the background, possibly watching an interview between Kate and Claire on the monitor) saw before opening up the INTER shed. Well done, Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Titch. No, that’s the Dave Clark Five, a pop group from the early 60s! Well, done, Dave, Deirdre, Suzanne, Sam, Nicole, Anna, Yumi, Kathryn and Bonn, all as worthy of the title ‘Master of Art’ as anyone is.

Hmm, my portrait of Yumi has worked out quite well. Not sure how I managed to do that. Which I suspect I would know if I was a Master of Art.


Yumi too is impressed. She takes photos of my handiwork with her cell phone before we Sellotape the portraits onto the wall under the mantelpiece. Yumi’s charcoal drawing of me is all dark hair and shirt collar. I’ve heard it said before that I’m all mouth and trousers, so it comes as a refreshing perspective. The fireplace is becoming quite a warm unit with the image of the hearth from Kate’ childhood home surrounded by people she lives her life with these days. Oh yes, and some trees from the common outside 181 Allport Lane to keep the home fire burning.


I mustn’t pass on without drawing attention to Kate’s portrait of Claire that rests inconspicuously on the mantelpiece. It looks like a portrait of David Bowie at an early and introspective stage of his career. Surely, there’s a bit of Ziggy Stardust there! But Aladdin Sane too? CLAIRE inter ZIGGY? CLAIRE inter ALADDINSANE? I think we should be told.


So far I’ve been talking in the present tense. But, in fact, it’s the 20th of September, 2013, as I sit and write, while it was the afternoon of Saturday, August 17th that I spent at/with INTER. This means that not only do I have Carmel’s photos to make use of, but Claire has sent me a memory stick containing footage shot in the interview area. At an early stage on the 17th, Kate and Claire took themselves off into this space (cut off from the rest of the shed by a wooden-framed, semi-transparent screen). As they were about to sit down, Claire pointed out that the camera was set up so that one seat was in full view and the other obscured behind the screen. But they sat down as they were, perhaps not giving much thought to the ‘invisibility of age’, a phenomenon I know Kate can be aware of. Kate as an individual does not have to worry about becoming invisible - everyone knows who she is. But for most people over 50, say, it’s not so easy staying confident in one’s appearance, sure of one’s place in the world. Of course, even at 25, it’s not a breeze being visible. Potential employers and partners can find ways of not seeing you, and if they do see you, paying painfully little attention to the sight.

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I’ve listened to the video once and watched it a couple of times so can give a synopsis of it. Kate and Claire start by reminding themselves that it was about a month before the opening that they started thinking about doing something together. The Masters show was scheduled for the middle of August. Kate and Claire didn’t want to do a show as such, but they wanted to do something. They realised that this shed was available and, having good memories of it from Morgan’s time, they decided to base themselves here and see what would come of their working together.

Kate breaks off to ask Claire why the word ‘INTERPLAY’ - which I had written on the blackboard a few minutes before, having noticed that it was absent from the list of INTER words written on the wall - has been scored out. (At least the ‘PLAY’ part of the word had been lightly chalked over.)

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Claire tells Kate that she thought too much was being made of the word. Ha! It’s a strange feeling, realising a month down the line that one’s initial efforts to engage with an ambitious and ambiguous piece of work had been subtly and discreetly disputed at the time!

Kind of ironic too that Claire and Kate go on to say that they began their collaboration with a view to having an enjoyable time - and their poster states ‘INTER set out to be fun, lighthearted (and stress free!)’ - but as time went on, things got very intense in the shed, perhaps influenced by the obvious tension that those making work for the actual MFA show were feeling.

After some soul searching in the interview, the pair look to reassure themselves that what they’ve done has been worthwhile. The word ‘interns’ comes up again. There’s so much been said in the media about the exploitation of interns recently that they wanted to redress the balance. “Only this time we were the ones who got exploited,” says Claire. “Yeah, we got taken for a fucking ride,” says Kate, and they both laugh. The interns were given too much freedom and not enough boundaries, they gleefully conclude.

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Lada enters the space, the artists greet her and their thread of thought is broken. Kate draws attention to the fact that they’re both wearing clothes that are colour-coordinated with the space. Black and grey! Claire takes this as potentially a criticism, is there anything Kate would have preferred to do differently?

Kate doesn’t follow this up, instead she confesses that intergenerational issues are uppermost in her mind. She’s found the last six months demanding. In the background there has been her father’s illness; in the foreground her own lack of stamina. At the opening of the Masters show the previous night she drank three glasses of wine and was left in an over-emotional state. Increasingly, she needs to pace herself, but she’s finding it difficult to make the necessary adjustments.

Following this confession from Kate, they both offer their thoughts on issues of control. At one stage, when they were disagreeing about the logo for the show, Kate remembers thinking that, although she didn’t care that much about the logo, she felt she shouldn’t give in to Claire on the issue. “Oh,
give in!” says Claire, showing her discomfort with the phrase by spreading the fingers of her hand over much of her face.

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Claire tells Kate that sometimes it felt that Kate was taking on the role of boss. Not ‘boss’ boss, but still a kind of positioning that Claire was uncomfortable with. For her own part, Kate knew that Claire wasn’t too keen on the ‘imfa’ idea and Kate felt under pressure to drop it. But Kate realised it was important that she hang on to her own priorities while doing her best to make the collaboration work.

Finally, Kate postulates that the whole working process, difficulties and all, has brought them closer together. The look they exchange suggests very much that this is the case. And in retrospect this feeling of connectedness as a result of INTER is bound to increase. That’s what I feel, anyway.

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And there I am suddenly in shot. “We don’t mind interruptions!” I’m told. What am I adding to the blackboard? I can’t remember, but one of the photographs reveals that I’m writing: ‘fab interactive portrait of me by Yumi’. Oh dear, a bit too much INTERPLAY in that sentence. If only I could go back and do things differently! Too late, alas, too late...

Next up, Lada and Claire get it together in the intergenerational portrait stakes, though I think Lada is only in her 30s or 40s. (How vague I am getting about the age of anyone who is under 50.)


‘Lada by Claire’ is a curious object. Personally, I don’t think it has the sensitivity and warmth that most of Claire’s work has. Perhaps because she’s just come from the interview with Kate and may temporarily be distracted or even drained. On the other hand, I know that Claire works with an anti-aesthetic (perhaps she would say it was a pro-aesthetic: pro-life, pro-exchange, pro-active) and that on occasion it’s up to the viewer to lay aside conventional ways of seeing. It has to be a good thing to subvert received ideas of beauty. Is the portrait below an INTERREFLECTION of one human being by another?


So what does Lada’s portrait of Claire reveal? The words surrounding the drawing suggest that Lada - who will be doing the MFA full-time from September 2013 - is drawing on her first meeting with Claire, who was then just a voice behind a door. Lada has created a door by cutting out a flap of paper on one sheet of paper and overlaying it on the sheet of paper that she’s drawn on. It kind of echoes the screen in this INTER room, partly dividing space and partly emphasising the connectivity between spaces. I see that Claire is portrayed wearing her imfa badge, imfa standing for intermediate master in fine art (no capitals).

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We are joined by Jonathan Baxter and Sarah Gittins. While Sarah greets and is greeted by Claire and Kate, Jonathan gets down to a scrutiny of the imfa part of the set up. Basically, Kate and Claire are inviting visitors to apply for an imfa.


A couple of sample applications are pinned to the wall. Successful applicants are awarded badges (like the ones Kate and Claire are wearing) and certificates.

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One of the sample applications is my own. I prepared it on my computer and sent it to INTER during the build up to today. It reads as follows:

Why I deserve to be awarded an imfa:

• I have arranged for my father to have Sky TV so that he can watch Sky Sports 24/7.

• I continue to take my mother out her care home for a run in the car every second or third afternoon.

• I have followed my partner’s progress throughout the first year of her MFA, the result of this shadowing appearing on www.strangebundle.co.uk

• I have spent a month as writer-in-residence at Hospitalfield, investigating Patrick Allan-Fraser, out of which has come

• I am no stranger to the Cooper Gallery, DCA or Generator, though I haven’t been to any of them for what seems like a long time.

• I am in danger/no danger (delete as appropriate) of becoming as boring and closed-minded a man as Evelyn Waugh became.

Did this get me an imfa? I don’t know yet. Kate and Claire are keeping me waiting on that score, both for badge and certificate.

Ah, two more visitors. Tara Chaloner and her mother, Lesley Kamel. Lesley is not in the shot below, she is entering via the side door that Tara is looking towards. But Tara, younger than some here today, is easily able to get in through the main front door even though there is a three-foot vertical rise from the ground to the floor of the space. A barrier that is too much for Kate who has suggested that there should be a ramp in place, of which more later.

Tara has brought along a bottle of Cava. Kate and Claire are showing that you don’t need to crack open such a bottle to enjoy it. Kate, simply by holding the bottle by its heavy base and putting her arm around Claire, is able to put a smile on both of their faces.


Meanwhile, Jonathan has wasted no time in submitting his application, which he has headed ‘why I
do not deserve to be awarded an imfa’.


The powers that be (Kate and Claire) have decided to ignore my application for the time being and to adjudicate in semi-privacy on Jonathan’s. He finds himself half-in, half-out of the adjudication process.

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I feel that Jonathan should have mentioned the
Talking Wall that he and Sarah have installed at SSW in Lumsden this year. It’s a set-up (three rows of runners) that allows a message to be written on the side of SSW that can be read by passers by, drivers and pedestrians. The message used in the publicity shot was a wonderful quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream that, thanks to the presence of the screen, is apposite here:


Meanwhile, the look Lada is giving me suggests that the delay in Claire and Kate processing my own application cannot be seen in a positive light. Oh well, if I fail in my application, that’s fine. I can always, as Samuel Beckett put it: ‘try again, fail better.’ By the way that is not an imfa badge that I am wearing on my shirt. It’s a badge that I picked up from an installation in the official MFA show. I didn’t have to do anything to earn the badge therefore it means little or nothing to me.

Let’s listen in:

“I’m not sure about this ‘
why I do not deserve to be awarded an imfa’ business,” says Kate, “it smacks of sophistry.”

“Is it not quite a humble application?” asks Claire.

“I’m surprised at you, Claire, to be taken in by such posing.”

“I wonder what the applicant actually wants. Does he want to be successful in his application or does he want us to turn him down?”

“Good point,” says Kate. “And do we want to give him what he may want, and fail him, or frustrate his likely intentions, and award him an imfa?”

“What else does he say on his application?”

It seems to me that this is INTER at its best. The screen set-up is working. The interview room is rocking. And imfa is in full flow. For some reason, Frankie Howard comes to mind. I mean that time when the old comic used to appear every week in
Up Pompeii, camping it up in a toga, playing the role of a much-put upon Roman citizen, shouting: ‘Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it infamy!”

The interview process is attracting quite a crowd. Lesley has now taken a seat. Gerry O’Brien has just arrived and is trying to get up to speed re the imfa conceit.

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I am amongst those listening in:

Despite knowing His voice, I will always choose Her voice’,” reads Kate. “What do we make of that?”

“We approve of that, if it’s true. Our problem with this candidate is working out when he’s being candid.”

Kate reads on: “‘
This places me as an intermediate, as a good dog and a bad dog.’” She looks up. “What do we make of that?”

“Is he trying to have his cake and eat it?” wonders Claire.

Actually, it’s me that is trying to have my cake and eat it. By which I mean I must here add a few more lines from
A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream. As well as the wall parallel, it’s the ‘play within a play’ aspect that feels relevant to INTER. And, of course, the surreal and lovely feel to the work.

QUINCE (as prologue): “
Gentles, perchance, you wonder at this show,
But wonder on, till truth make all things plain.
This man is Pyramus, if you would know;
This beauteous lady Thisbe is, certain.
This man with lime and roughcast doth present
Wall, that vile wall which did these lovers sunder;
And through Wall’s chink, poor souls, they are content
To whisper; at the which let no man wonder

For ‘lime and roughcast’, read wood and polythene, and the illusion is complete!

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“Point of order,” says a voice. Jonathan’s voice. “It doesn’t say ‘dog’ on the form. At least the second ‘dog’ is ‘God’.”

“Ah, I’m sorry,” says Kate, turning around coolly. “But I’m afraid the imfa assessment procedure is not open to informal oral submissions.”

“How can I have faith in the assessment procedure if such basic errors as I’ve just overheard are allowed to go unchecked?” says Jonathan, with a show of spirit.

“You’re holding the transparency of our process against us?” says Claire. “I must say that attitude is hardly going to work in your favour.”

I wonder if the attitude that I have is going to work in my favour. That is, to dip for a third time into the nonsense-beauty of Shakespeare’s
Dream. The INTER screen really is doing the business as far as I’m concerned:

‘In this same INTERLUDE it doth befall
That I, one Snout by name, present a wall;
And such a wall, as I would have you think,
That had in it a crannied hole or chink,
Through which the lovers, Pyramus and Thisby,
Did whisper often very secretly.
This loam, this rough-cast and this stone doth show
That I am that same wall; the truth is so:
And this the cranny is, right and sinister,
Through which the fearful lovers are to whisper.’

I can’t help noticing that everyone feels in on the assessment procedure now. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kate and Claire decide to take a vote as to whether or not Jonathan is to be awarded an imfa. Thumbs up or down for the backpacker? No, I think K & C have asked Hermia, Helena and Hippolyta to cross their legs from left to right if they think an imfa should be awarded on this occasion.


Actually, Kate and Claire have gone into closed conference again, ignoring their avid audience.

The examiners are more or less whispering, which draws the audience out of its seats and to the screen itself (except for Carmel who feels duty-bound to return to the back of the room with her camera). Only Lesley remains seated. Perhaps she has decided she knows already what the outcome of the assessment procedure will be. “No-one ever fails,” I hear her pronounce. “It’s not in the institution’s interests to tolerate failure as this reflects badly on itself.”

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Things move fast after that. Next thing I’m aware of, Sarah Gittins is being awarded her imfa by Claire. I’m pretty sure Sarah’s application wasn’t scrutinised to the same degree as her partner’s was. Kate in particular held back. But do I have any evidence of that? No. So I’d better keep my mouth shut so as not to jeopardise my own position.


I peer over Sarah’s shoulder. Is this the closest I’ll get to one of those blooming certificates?

Awarded to:


Hmm. I wonder what the difference between ‘awarded to’ and ‘name’ is. Could it be that the certificate has been designed so quickly and with so little care that something as elementary as the repetition of the most basic piece of information could have got through the form design/proof reading procedures? No, surely not! There must be something I’m missing. Never has my inadequacy in the face of due process been more apparent to me.


Meanwhile, Gerry has breezed his way to an imfa. He is invited to pick a badge from the tray of them that Kate is bearing. Why has his application (he hasn’t even filled in an application form as far as I’m aware) been fast-tracked? Because in the last fortnight he’s come up with some impressive drawings for a ramp to facilitate entry to the shed for the older and less mobile. In the drawing below, for example, the ramp is behind a figure that looks like Gerry himself, while the ‘shed’ is embellished with the words ‘Kate’, ‘Claire’ and ‘INTER’.

INTERramp, Gerard O’Brien, 2013

Personally, I think a ramp itself would be more impressive than the drawings, however successful, that Kate and Claire asked Gerry for, but then what do I know about the pragmatics of the situation? Sweet fuck all is what I know. But why do I say that? I suspect it’s just the whole assessment procedure that is eating away at my self esteem. Stick a pair of ass’s ears on me and call me Bottom.

To avoid such a fate, I make myself walk up to Ger and congratulate him on deservedly sailing through the assessment procedure. Out of the corner of my eye I notice Lada is making out her application.


Lada feels she deserves an imfa because she has mastered the art of growing grass indoors (green seems to be her favourite colour) and is willing to collaborate with other artists when she gets going on the MFA proper. I can only think that this will find favour with Kate and Claire, thus pushing my own app further down the pile of hopefuls. Oh, what’s the bloody use?

I think Tara is suffering as well. She’s taken it upon herself to chalk her imfa application on the table-top. “How do you think you’re going to get away with that line of action?” probes Jonathan, gently.


Tara points out that she has also filled in a sheet of paper, as requested, which alludes to the chalk drawing. I’d better check that out:


I don’t think that Kate for one is going to go along with a candidate dictating what the method of assessment is going to be! Not sure Claire will go along with it either, though she is more likely to look positively on the ‘if desired’ politeness. But hang on a minute, they both must have gone along with it, because there are two ticks in each row of the grid. Which is to say that when it comes to ‘RESPECT AND AFFECTION’, Tara’s contribution has been scored B and D by Kate and Claire. For ‘LUNCH PROVISION’ she has been scored B and F. F seems a bit harsh, until one realises there is a separate category called ‘CAVA AND CHOCOLATE PROVISION’ for which Tara has scored highly. But I have to say that this brings me back to my initial reservation. I can’t see the examiners allowing a student, however popular, to set the examination paper herself.

I’m sitting on my own having a mug of tea in the (important) hospitality quadrant of INTER when the good news arrives. I have my imfa! All I can do is echo Jonathan’s comment that this certificate means more to me than any other I’ve ever received. My ‘MA Cantab’ just can’t compete, especially since that was thirty-odd years ago and in another life.


And so the afternoon comes to an end. Tara and Claire can be glimpsed on the other side of the screen. Unlike the Kate and Claire partnership, which is a new one, Tara and Claire have worked together several times over the last year, under the banner The Bureau of Exchange. What distinguishes INTER from a Bureau of Exchange venture? I’m not sure. Bureau of Exchange is into office culture, or an idealised version of it, and so the interview set up of INTER, and the awarding of certificates, would be apt for the Bureau. Also, the fact that the INTER portraits and views expressed in interview are shared, is apposite to the Bureau of Exchange. Moreover, the imfa procedure emphasises the giving of status in exchange for information. In short, the fact that Claire is common to both projects is no doubt significant.

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What about Kate’s contribution? Her work this year has focussed on ageing. So I imagine she’s led the way with the intergenerational portraits as well as the ramp. But she’s interested in an exchange culture too and has invited Tara and Claire to the space she and I curate together called BCCA (Blairgowrie Centre for Contemporary Art).

Actually, it’s Tara and Lesley who will be doing something at the BCCA next week, and it may be that Kate is going over with Lesley some of the details of their 24-hour residency. Such as e.t.a. and mutual responsibilities in terms of LUNCH PROVISION.

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Or as Frankie Howard in his campest and most glorious days would say:
“Interme, interme. They’d all like to get interme!”

But if my references to the sad man behind the laughing fa(r)ce that was Frankie Howard have offended, think but this and all is mended: INTERPUCK / INTERPEASEBLOSSOM.

Thanks to Carmel Ward for providing many of the photographs. Thanks to Claire Briegel for making available Interview video footage.

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