Basic Mountain

19th Apr 2018

1. Hi Naomi, thanks so much for participating, can you give us an introduction to your practice, interests and experiences?

Thanks for asking me, and sorry for my tardi response!

Right now, my practice is about looking at the use of instructions in art learning and the visual vernacular of art education books. I work with drawing, painting, performance, re-enactment, film, ceramics, printmaking. I also run a wholly independent art space called BASIC MOUNTAIN. I have experience working in art education, and learning and programmes across all levels of education. I have previous experience of independently setting up and producing a DIY art space from CELL 77, a place I ran upon graduating from art college and while on an epic APG styled art residency at an Ad Agency, back in 2003.

2. Where did the name Basic Mountain come from?

The name BASIC MOUNTAIN came from quite a few things. It was the WIFI password and I got a lot of positive free association from those two words; the location on Hill Street felt like an apt match; Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh having a lot of mountains (or hills?); that the word ‘basic’ had become such a put down, I like the idea of purposefully low-balling in reaction partly to the status elevation that some DIY art spaces get corralled into adopting (maybe as a reaction to the funding process) whereby they talk-up their legacy and significance; that ‘Mountain’ is the opposite to that low-balling vibe, a huge solid, a big deal, that if you put any word in front of Mountain that it sounds good, a place you’d like to go – Spin Mountain, Bum Mountain, Agro Mountain, I’d go to see an exhibition at any of these places; but I suppose more seriously I liked the association with Black Mountain College, and that if Basic Mountain could align itself (herself..) to any of these principles in terms of artist solidarity and interdisciplinary learning, well she’d be onto a very good thing.

3. How and when did Basic Mountain originate?

Basic Mountain originated approximately 5 years ago. But the first bit was mostly humphing stuff and DIY to make the building more usable.

4. Your practice explores pedagogical methods, does Basic Mountain play a part in informing this exploration?

Yes, Basic Mountain explores pedagogical methods and informs my thinking massively. As an art production space, Basic Mountain encourages artists producing new knowledge through risky reversionings of their practice, by offering time and space without a set expectation of output. Being purposefully illusive and inconsistent in publicising what happens at Basic Mountain also means that artists can decide on the level of privacy or publicity that any showing receives. If everything that you do as an artist is assessed and measured, it will undoubtedly influence the level of risk you’re willing to take. It’s important to have places for artists to develop their practice alongside the critical interest and support of their peers. This sort of learning method is referred to as paragogy, and it’s one of the sorts that Basic Mountain advocates and fosters. It’s low-key high-key. Always basic, always mountain, Basic Mountain all ways.

5. What role do you think art can play in activating pedagogical shifts? Is that important to you?

Art can and has played a huge role in activating pedagogical shifts. This is of great importance to me and close to my heart. I am going to only write some words in response to this question as it could be my whole thesis otherwise!


a. touch this blue fleece circle.
b. enjoy the softness on your fingertips.


6. Who, where or what has you excited at the moment?

Here is an incomplete list of the who, where, and what that are exciting me at the moment. One caveat to consider is that my general levels of excitement and enthusiasm are above average for a typical British resident. My son thinks this is due to an excess of anandamide in my neurological make-up. Lucky me though! So: –

Carn. Being an artist in residence in a school. Artlink – always. Anticipating the Joan Jonas survey show at Tate. Shift/Works next shape. Nicola Singh. Nadia Hebson and Paul Becker. Rhubaba and the choir and the Collective opening ceremony. The programme for Basic Mountain this year with, Jenny Hogarth, Jennie Temple, Debi Banerjee, Gel, alongside all the other co-opting and hosting activities for other people. Katie Bootland and what she’ll do. Embassy and their green vibes. Francis Dosoo and Rhythm Machine. Getting my Sunday emails from James St Findlay. Northern Charter. Foundation Press. Lara’s (MacLeod) new shop. Andrew Gannon. Mutual. Mark Bleakley. Claricia Kruithof and if I can get a bit more flexible to be better at Vogue Femme. Waiting to hear if I get funded to do a practice based Phd. Working up a permanent residency programme for Basic Mountain to shift her to the next level for 2019. Working out Plan B’s and C’s if the A doesn’t come off. Atelier E.B. and what they do next. White Pube and how they can make a change permanent beyond the first heat of now. Having an exhibition in the summer. Getting the ceramics to comply. Corking the void. The Social Practice Social with Alice Myres. Reading more Art Pedagogy Books. Meeting Cath and Vivvy’s babbies. Wet slide word work. Marbeling. What the new V&A will be like. Nadine’s book being published. The new series of Legion and watching it with Owen.

I could go on forever. This is only from tonight!

7. What is causing you concern at the moment?

The main thing causing me concern right now is this task. I might change my mind about things and this writing will be set in aspic FOREVER. Also I’m not often using writing as a medium to communicate. The other less solipsistic concern is about the way that access to the arts is being reduced or completely taken away from learners in so many schools in the UK. Bob & Roberta Smith have been part of an artivist movement to counteract this unwelcome shift, and I see activity from all kinds of individuals and institutions fighting back for what is a vital right.

8. Do artists approach you or do you approach artists? Or is it a nice mix of both?

When artists* come to Basic Mountain, it’s mostly because I have approached them. When it’s the other way around then it’s usually because they’ll have already been to Basic Mountain for someone else’s gig. They have some idea about the limits and scope of what she can offer well. I keep a loosely committed relationship with all the people and organisations that work in Basic Mountain and encourage them to come again if and when it’s next of use. Unless they’ve been a dick of course. Those get cut loose pronto. Basic Mountain usually works with artists who have an aspect of their practice that is reciprocal or social in some way. That’s a reflection of my practice and philosophy around art and culture, that more makes more and that there isn’t a limit if you take competition and neoliberal value criteria out from it. It’s much more like love is.

*or other art producers, galleries, institutions, DIY spaces, groups

9. How do you experience the arts scene in Edinburgh?

I experience the arts scene in Edinburgh as a place that holds a lot of power. Maybe some people aren’t aware yet of just how much. I’m not talking about the more obvious and important large art institutions and calendared events, those are fantastic and have been setting the tone of Edinburgh’s identity as a city of culture for centuries.▵ I’m talking about the history of DIY self-organised activity and places, of which CONCH is one! There is enough of a critical mass and commitment by people working on their own practice simultaneous to making opportunities for each other. Facilities like ESW, ECAD, Edinburgh Printmakers support fabrication and publicity in an egalitarian and transparent way. The Collective Gallery may look to the casual observer like any other large public gallery, but it’s history as an artist-run-space, a true collective, informs and influences all their programming and engagement to artists and DIY activity in Edinburgh. I received direct support and advice from committee members of Embassy Gallery back in 2003 when I was setting up Cell 77●. Their Annuale continues to play a vital role in keeping the energy and sometimes intermittent practice of so many artists going. With temporary flat shows and spaces over the city having a■ reason to exhibit as part of the programme the Embassy administrates.

● this solidarity and support is a constant in Edinburgh through my experiences over the last 15 years.

10. You sent us in the direction of Curious Routes, saying that you share Basic Mountain, can you tell us a little more about that relationship and your interest in their practice?

Artlink and their visual art group Curious Routes are my housemates at Basic Mountain. They use it as a home base for their activities. Over the last four years I have received the most incredible education, witnessing what they do and how they do it. Check out their work at they just had an exhibition at the Tent Gallery at ECA with Common Play. This will be touring around Scotland from April.

11. If you were standing in front of a class of A-Level students and they were frantically asking you to tell them about a pivotal moment in your artistic practice, what would you tell them?

There have been quite a few pivotal moments in my practice, I like to call them forks. If I was speaking to A level students I would tell them about Barry the figurative artist and why it’s important to keep taking risks with your work. Barry’s very angry reaction (to a public (and free) performance I did with my pal Paulina Sandberg in the Annuale a few years ago) confirmed to me the importance and power of art research into the vernacular of art pedagogy and instructions. It also made me consider differently how much use troubling particular ethnographic research towards audience members in a participatory performance setting can be. I’ve read a lot since then about participatory practice and co-production and am better educated about the current conversations around this topic. Which doesn’t mean I have to comply or that I will. It has focused my mind on how I can deliver more outwardly Family Friendly presentations of my art (which is a must if I am to continue to have access to make a living and embodied research from real life teaching work in schools). I am still just as interested in working with different constituent groups but have better awareness that the time and place might not be one and the same. Constraints make for less floppy practice for me, and I see the same applies to pupils, students and other artists I’m involved with supporting too. Having a Skype crit one to one with Tania Bruguera, that was extra and forked me further fast.

12. If funding and resources were no object, is there a particular work or project that you would like to realise?

If funding were no object I would like to realise my plan for the next versioning of Basic Mountain. A further test of how the commodity of place can be stretched and shared. The plan is to build a long-term residency programme called How To Work: Basic Mountain. I’ll tell you about that another time, if I’m making it happen. I would also like to make a high tech real time Step by Step work that would tour around the world in its own compact-capsule-pre-fab-pop-up-video-linked-art-class room. I would like to employ a PA to administrate the whole of my adult life for the rest of my life. I would make my work The Institutional Impact Test one hundred times and then have a humanities researcher put it into an order of visual arbitration and an amazing publisher make it into a book that can be read and understood by anyone of any age who’s ever been into making art and visual culture.

▵ The building Basic Mountain occupies, was purpose built in 1850 as a dance studio and dwelling house, such a cool provenance for live/work arts space. Then 30 years later it was taken over to be the Masonic lodge for ARTs & DRAMA!!! Serendipity for real, I knew nothing about this when I moved in.


Naomi Garriock is an artist and educator from Basic Mountain in Edinburgh. You can learn about her practice and some of what’s going on at Basic Mountain through the pedagogically partial @garriockmountain Instagram account.