Tidy Studio, Tidy Mind
Memories From The Year 2030

Curated by Elliott P. Montgomery and published in the Walker Art Center’s The Gradient

Read the entire series here.

“Memories From the Year 2030” is a collection of fictional letters, memos and visual artefacts created by a group of futurists, speculative designers, authors and artists.

In March 2020 the contributors were invited to respond to the following prompt:

How will we remember these times a decade from now? What actions might we take in the coming months that will shape memories for the next ten years or more? What parts of 2020 will have stayed with us? What parts will have faded? How did 2020 change us? What are we proud of? What do we regret?

“Tidy studio, tidy mind.” I first heard the phrase when I was an artist’s studio assistant, marking the end of the working day and the time to clear up and out. Since then, the phrase comes to mind every so often, and I remember its weird incongruity during the months of the coronavirus pandemic. In particular, the words would spin as I prepared for each working day by compulsively and unsuccessfully straightening the edges of the billowing duvet, the penultimate act of the early morning, before closing the bedroom door and walking to work. My finicky behaviour was driven by knowing my walk to “work” would loop me round the neighbouring streets, along the Rhine and through the front door again, greeting my wife and daughter who had cheerfully waved me goodbye from the window of our first-floor apartment, and back into the same room I had left only ten minutes earlier. The bedroom was now the studio, while the studio was always the bedroom for the duration of those strange spring and summer months in 2020.

Working from home was normal, long before normal became known as “new.” Nevertheless, the curious rituals inspired by the pandemic made me question the emphasis placed on where we work as much as how — the significance of the studio as a dedicated, physical space where practice happens. To a considerable extent, going to the studio can be seen as a sort of performance, an outward projection of going to do, even if the doer is the only audience. My recurring circular walks date back to when I couldn’t afford a studio, influenced by another story of an artist working from home who (in a time before global lockdowns) would start and end his days by walking to and from “the studio,” picking up a newspaper and a pint of milk along the way to heighten his sense of journey and routine.

The pandemic thus reaffirmed the studio as not only a physical space but a mental construct. I reflect on the simple, everyday transformation of the bedroom into a workplace as a sort of staging. The stage set itself was a very improvised assemblage. With no writing or work table to hand, I made do with a wooden table extension piece clamped to the top of a low-standing IKEA bookshelf, with the piece overhanging to one side to create leg room underneath; the books inside providing the necessary counterweight as much as any useful reading material. Atop the table extension, the coffee pot and water bottle were ever present. My laptop ergonomically placed atop a clear plastic storage container. The other regulars also each served a demonstrably functional purpose: a blue hardcover notebook, a black canvas pencil case, a wireless keyboard. The outlier of the set, but no less invaluable, was the grey anglepoise lamp. I would tighten the lamp’s screw fixing to the table extension everyday without fail yet, as I worked mostly in the daylight hours, I would invariably never turn it on. However, the lamp’s appearance was an essential intervention, reframing a wooden board clamped to a bookshelf as a passable desk, and the bedroom as a satisfactory place of work. The lamp was, in effect, just a prop: albeit the central prop in my daily, minor theatrics in the name of productivity.