After what seems a lifetime of waiting we are here, annoyingly I couldn’t sleep and have woken early – so its Open Weekend at last. It almost feels like I am going to take an exam. All is packed and after months of preparation the big day is here (except its 3 days and like last year will blur into each other i suspect).
The hall is full of kebab sticks – almost 20K and to my wife’s relief will soon be empty – not told her where all the made flags are going yet!). We had a few scrapes this week with the promised books not appearing but the University Library stepped in with several boxes of Law journals and a shelf of Atomic Physics books... plenty of pages. People ask me about this. Don’t I feel guilty about using books in this way? Nope... I love books, always treated them with deference due and these would go for pulping, so this is a far better way to treat them – metamorphosis into a ‘new’ artwork that gives people pleasure...(this year feels very ‘literary’ as the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust are involved making flags in Stratford on Avon!)
So starting today we have 14 events nationally and Flags as they have come to be known seem to be all over the internet...I kick off at ArtSway Gallery in the New Forest with 2 events 'Flags all day and for ‘Look About’ – a ‘pre-transmission talk in the Gallery in the evening.- the first in a series of talks as informed and performance artworks for this Accentuate Commission..
We have 14 official ‘events’ with Artists creating , making and planting in villages, woods, on beaches, at art collages and in some ‘Famous places’ – even a Light ship. Have a look at the event listings for events taking place across the UK. I am hoping for loads of DIY events too as anyone can engage with Dysarticulate 2 and be an artist for the day. I know of quite a few and social media has been so important in playing with this side of the project – we even have a ‘flaging and Bunted wedding’ on the Saturday.....Lots of friends overseas are joining in too. I am really pleased Dysarticulate 2 has received an 'Inspire Mark' this year as the project will head into schools at the start of next term – running all the way through to games time..
So here we go then – soon time to get up and start...fingers x’d for the weather I find myself excited though and proud to be part of the celebration – it’s like those exams you kind of looked forward to doing but can’t tell anyone as you don’t want to look too keen or jinx it! For me at school it was the geology AS level – I knew I could do it , loved almost wanted the challenge - my aspergers longed to know the questions......but you still wished you had completed it...
Dysarticulate is showing as part of OpenWeekend , supported by BP and is also part of Discovering Places - a London 2012 Cultural Olympiad campaign to inspire the UK to discover their local natural, built and historic environments. London 2012 Open Weekend is the annual nationwide celebration marking the countdown to the start of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Across the UK over 1,000 events have been planned as part of the Open Weekend 'Showcasing the Best' - art, dance, music, sports, heritage and film in the local community and 'Celebrating the One Year to Go' to the Games.
Still time to take part - To Go DIY: You don’t have to attend an official event to join in with Dysarticulate 2. You can create and plant your own flags and bunting in any location which has meaning to you. This can be in your back garden, in a local park or school, on your holiday, anywhere! Take photographs of it in situ and then send me the photos along with some brief information about your event - how many people participated? why did you choose the venue? how many flags did you plant? Photos of your event can be uploaded here. Tell me about your event if you wish on this facebook group.
To make the flags: you remove the pages from the books, wrapping and glueing them to the bamboo. These you can then take out and plant in patterns, circles, clumps or straight lines. You will need to carefully remove the pages and not tear them, as the books are not being destroyed, just changed, and metamorphosed into a ‘synchronous’ artwork. Bunting is made in a similar way, but you attach to fishing line. You can see examples of flags and bunting on the Dysarticulate 2 website. Don’t forget to count your flags as they will all count towards the 1 million we hope to plant by the time the Olympic games arrives in London next year.
I am writing this on the train to Victoria with a long day ahead. The sun is just starting to burn through the fog, relegating it to a thin veil of mist - so I am hopefully of seeing the ‘hill’ where the latest line of my work can trace its evolution. (Having just passed through Barnham station and been reminded that my ‘Dream’ is still there, left circa 2008)
Back In 08/09, when I was artist with a ‘rail company’ here in the South for my ‘Art Plus’ award it involved Mapping peoples journeys so I was on the Victoria train at least once a week. There was always one spot on the journey that intrigued me, just before Horsham. It was a small hill (and I mean small) with a bench seat facing away from the track on top, which always remained empty. It seemed very exposed and sometimes was tipped up on end or on its side but always was ‘people absent’ and empty.
Then one evening returning from London as we flashed past I caught a glimpse of a solitary goose by the bench, the first ever sign of life. It was silhouetted against a red sky of a setting sun it appeared exposed and very vulnerable which struck a ‘visual chord’ as it mirrored how i was feeling at the time. So for the rest of the Journey I wrote and rewrote ‘Goose on the hill’ - which started a new round of poetry and reflection inspiring an exhibition theme. This reflection and the mapping made me look at my past in an alternate way. (A solitary pigeon watched the train pass this morning but its empty again for the return journey).
It was not long after that I was invited to show at Pallant House Gallery in the print room and foyer space. Almost on the spur of the moment when asked what I would like to show I said a ‘geological autobiography’ filling the glass cases – museum fashion. That was two and half years ago and that autobiographical geological theme seems to have taken over the work I have done since. Not that I am complaining. I studied geology at University after the problems and bullying I had at school about my undiagnosed dyslexia and drawing. I had always had two loves – drawing and the landscape and what could be found within it. (Collecting and aspergers seem to be hand in glove) and what was the show to be called? ‘Goose on the Hill’ and it ran for 6 weeks in November 2009.
The geological themes then carried forward into my application for Creative Campus Initiative – ‘sound from stone’ working with Candoco’s visit to the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth and I dared to go and chat to the Geology school at the University finding new friendships and partners. This process was hard as the geology represented an ‘alternate possibility’ perhaps in a mirrored universe’. After I left university rather than a year on an oil rig, I chose the illustration route and jumped ship back to my ‘artist’s Dream’ spoken out loud at the age of 6. I have always wondered but never regretted where I would be if I had either gone to Art College or carried on the geology instead.
Also at this time,(late 2009) the possibility of a commission to creative evaluate Accentuate, Deaf and disabled artists involvement within the wider Cultural Olympiad (South East) and geological metaphor became a real possibility. From this has come ‘Look about’ – which is just getting stuck into its research and gathering phase now. Briefly the project sees me partnering with the British Geological Survey, the two main outcomes, a ‘geological map and memoir’ of the ‘landscape’ in early 2013 and ‘Transmission’ a digital screen based accumulative artwork opening with Artsway, another partner, in the summer. Look about is supported by Arts Council England through GFTA, Accentuate, and the University of Portsmouth. There will be more to come on DAO soon as to how you can engage with ‘Look about in the run up to 2012’.
So my life seems to be heading in a completely different direction from that imagined in 2008 as other science & arts projects and possibilities are starting to develop to run alongside and beyond ‘Look about’. All of this from just harmlessly ‘look’ out of a window of a train one evening with an ‘accidental glimpse’ of something quite ordinary. Next time you are travelling on a train, take a ‘look outside’- you never know where it may take you.
There are easy questions, some that’s are harder and maybe those that we just shouldn’t even attempt to answer. As a kid, my father wouldn’t let me have a catapult so I made one. The first time I used it I shot a nail through the shed window – to my amazement it passed right through leaving just a hole without cracking the glass. It was definitely my fault that hole was there, I chose to make the catapult, I chose to pick up the nail, pull back and let go.
I did argue in my head that if he hadn’t said I couldn’t have one I would not have made it so it was really his fault, but then I know he was told the same by his dad so where does the ‘buck stop’. There was no way out of this so I dully owned up (An’ aspergers’ positivity that has gotten me out of severe trouble several times) before he saw it and was admonished. It stayed that way for all of the time I lived with my parents – mocking me....
We are always looking for evidence of faults, where to lay the blame. Whose fault was it the Dinosaurs died out? I am sure they weren’t too happy with the ‘tough time’ that followed whatever caused it, but one thing’s for sure we wouldn’t be standing here if an asteroid hadn’t blundered into their ‘long established world’ 65 million years ago (Some say 2 hit and a bunch of volcano’s decided to blow their top all at the same time) We can look back and see that gave us ‘room’ to adapt , evolve, change and fill the niches in the environment left by their absence.
So then - whose fault is it that I am aspergers or that I can barely read and write? I know it’s not my fault or as its nothing I have done, I did work hard at school even if the teachers assumed the opposite.
Was it their fault – it was their choice what they did and encouraged within my peers, Was the way they were brought up – what had happened to them, their teachers or even society at the time? I guess that if you looked carefully at my genetic makeup the ‘faulty genes’ could be traced back down through either side of my family tree to the culprit - But is one really needed?
Do I want to know the answer, point the finger or should I just accept the fact and get on with it. If I wasn’t ‘chosen’ in this way I wouldn’t be writing this now or working in the way I do. Sure it’s always appeared to be my ‘fault’ in others eyes (and not for one second do I consider them faults or imperfection) that led to me being bullied, abused at school – my tough time that I longed would end and has lived with me ever since.
Not strictly a turning point but a moment, best described as an ‘Extinction level event’ un-reversible that started a new distinct and alternate ‘timeline’. You can ask whose fault was it and ‘what if it hadn’t happened’ but now looking back with ‘learning’ space in-between its enabled me to ‘see’ that its ‘made me who I am’.
Another trip to London - this time to the ‘Our view’ presentations that Accentuate had arranged at Channel 4. A seemingly simple trip, just a train and a short walk then the bus almost to the door. Good start to the day... the train was packed but was a better type of carriage with less crammed seats and more leg room. Earlier I had been woken by the driving rain on the bathroom window and lay awake wondering how much was coming though into the very ropey conservatory.
I wasn’t overly compelled to get out of bed to check, as every minute was precious. Compelled I looked through the rear bedroom window and a quick survey revealed the fence down a few doors up, commuters with un-mendable umbrellas in the station forecourt and our ‘7 year old ‘Cornish’ flag torn to tatters at the top of the washing line pole. Winter was apparently here!
The train wasn’t too bad and as we passed over the tide full ‘moat’ that isolates Portsea Island. I cocooned myself with ‘music’ and worked on the days presentation. I knew what I wanted to say but the order was another matter. I had this nailed by Guildford and day dreamed the rest of the way trying to ignore my next door neighbour’s aftershave – a cheap shade of blue. The rain had stopped by the time we pulled in. I exited last as I always wait till the carriage empties before I get up in case I look awkward as I stand.
Luckily the bus was empty and after a brief tour past Westminster and Lambeth Palace we crossed the Thames and started down Horseferry Rd. As we passed a few government buildings I had visions of people enacting cuts with giant scissors! Perverse reverse ‘opening’ ceremonies...
The Channel Four building was quite an eyeful. The huge steel logo, in parts, out front, demanded and deserved to be looked at in line of sight - just like the broadcast versions - dys-align, align, then dys-align again.
As I was early I waited in the foyer with just enough time to take in its construction, check out the canteen for ‘famous faces’ and note the lack of subvertable plant pots. The lifts were those ‘outside’ full glass types but not high enough to raise too much concern and I was soon in the thankfully grey meeting room (complete with a picture of Jamie Oliver plus inspiring chicken.)
After a while, familiar faces and guests started arriving and as this was to be the first time many of the people had been in the same place at the same time it made some of the Accentuate aspirations‘ almost tangible’. The day was involved, complex and experienced with 3 or more hats on.
There were some good moments and some not so... but on the whole it was very positive and affirming. One thing in particular... people still tend to see the imagined ‘gulf’ between sports (medical model) and arts (social model) as two ends of a single linear line. But what happens if we see - like ‘theoretical cosmologists’ see time and space - and bend that linearity into a torque? The ends can come together. They are closer than you think. You can apply this to other quandaries eg. mainstream versus non mainstream.
Afterwards, In the quiet, when there are only four of us left - and after ‘leaving’ a small vinyl piece of work I remember my role as ‘Accentuate Geologist and collector’ and fill my pocket with some of the detritus left on the table. Today’s collection: 24 cocktail stick,19 wooden – turned and decorated, 5 plastic shards, imitation lead foil, corks and wire frames
Tonight I will drift asleep attempting to turn these and the comments/ drawings, recording the conversations held into a representation on the ‘look about’ map... maybe evidence of a volcano intruding and cutting through the layers previously completed and starting something new?
Sunday – another trip to London: Imperial War Museum private view of the Lord Ashcroft gallery. Another simple trip – just a train and a walk, the IWM being within ‘striking’ distance of Waterloo, this time south of the station.
The train – ‘a long version’ with decent seats this time was going to be full – mildly surprised by this unexpected ‘Sunday aspie-irritation’ I settled down to write with headphones on.
I had been to the IWM as a member of the access group influencing and looking at the design of the new Victoria Cross gallery for 18 months. At the beginning we were shown round the older gallery, plush cases filled with precious artefacts’ but very ‘old style’ – certainly not ‘disability friendly’
The new gallery was to be up on the 4th floor, an open space similarly shaped to the inside of a Nissan hut (a very ugly way of describing it)! The first time I visited the space it had an exhibition about man’s inhumanity to man and coupled with the excellent Holocaust’ exhibition on the floor below made you think we don’t have much ‘danger’ to complain about.
As I sat and wrote, shielded by the music, I remembered how we had seen the galleries development over a quite a few sessions and the new friends I had made as part of the access group. It would be interesting to see what of our suggestions had been taken on board and what was included. I was secretly hoping the 57 miniature model
Japanese planes to represent one VC winners far east ‘situation’ had been taken up and added to the display – I had even told them where to get them!
And then there was the tiger shark. Sharks have figured in my life since a young child – ever since I found my first fossil tooth when I was 12. Little did I know I would end up studying their ancestors at university and now 30 years later weave this into my work. Life can become convoluted?
After arriving and exiting from Waterloo into a crisp lunchtime I made my way to the Museum a short walk away. Having entered and revealing all to the security person who asked to see in my bag I walked past the ‘Buff’ Jagdpather, ‘green’ sectioned V2 and the disturbingly empty, spare ‘atomic’ bomb casing. I had grown used to seeing.
Up in the lift and there we were. I was early and seemed to be one of the first in – FAB. The space worked well and to my delight there were the planes, shark and even comic books. The displays still being readied were far more accessible than before.
After sharing a cup of tea in the conference room with a few of the others on the access group I went and sat downstairs – surrounded by all this ‘machinery of war’ and the words ‘courage’ made me think about the current ‘buzz’ about disability and leadership. Not in the traditional and patronising sense of ‘bravery’ but about how some people will get up and ‘follow’ not because they are told but by being stirred by example.
You don’t get up one day and say I am going to ‘lead’? You react to an ‘on the spot’ opportunity, a moment and just do it. Maybe leadership is not about taking everyone with you but knowing it’s right to leave some behind?
Coming out into the bright and relative stillness of the park, walking back to Waterloo there was a rainbow, quite a calming moment. Dreading the ‘full’ train I bought 2 cans of cider to ease the journey and settled down with headphones on again - becoming an inconspicuous 8 year old ‘reading’ my reproduction ‘Victor’ comic.
Saturday – waking up to London: Presenting at the British Dyslexia Association Educational Conference. I don’t think I will ever get over the shock of first signing autographs. Sure I’ve signed limited edition prints in private... but to be asked in public tastes very different.
The day started with breakfast - like a time-lapse filmed affectation - its empty then you sit down look up over your weetabix and in the time its taken to get through - half the place is miraculously full! It wasn’t too bad either, other than the toaster - one of those ‘conveyer belt jobs. I didn’t try a repeat trip with the resultant warm bread as I personally had had a bad experience with one in Margate recently – This was where I sent the ‘uncoloured stiff bread’ through a second time where it promptly and inappropriately burst in to flames. Some quick action on my behalf resulted, not wanting the dubious honour of setting this ‘famously Hotel inspector’ covered place alight.
After finishing packing we made our may down to the lobby to check out and all meet for a joint taxi up to the conference venue. After spending some time looking at the fabulous framed black and white photographs on the walls (Colour sucks! Now that will get me into trouble) - I took a place at the table. After a game of ‘musical chairs with new arrivals, I decided to sit at the very back, so I could draw and occasionally stand whilst not disturbing anyone else or drawing attention to myself.
Having been joined by Clare during the morning talks, we spent some of the time preparing the order of my talk, remembering relevance’s triggered by the other delegates. After a hot lunch and conversations it was soon my turn – if a little behind schedule. It had been 7-8 years since I had last spoken at a BDA conference, which had been in Bristol and there I read several poems I had written after first discovering I was dyslexic.
As most of the slides showed work that had been made in the time since - I decided to provide some continuity and read one. Having spent many a scary moment at school and ever since avoiding reading out loud it seemed an impulsive and difficult achievement. In telling my story, I speak of Junior school, where a defining moment was the teacher tearing a ‘precious picture’ up in front of the class as I had spelt my name wrong. I had been faced with a ‘no win’ choice.
Either I ask for help and be ridiculed or risk a lottery of ‘self attempts’ and submit. I had lost…. I started and reached the ‘reading point’ and did it, faltering twice, once leaving a ‘word’ out and stopping to let the lump in my throat clear when I reached a certain sentence. (Traditional opinions that aspies don’t get emotional are false – we feel – we feel too much)
And I presented ‘Flags’ at the end inviting people to come to the back in the break and ‘make’ or collect postcards with details so they can join in. This happened and we were overwhelmed both by the volume of people saying their school would join in and being asked to sign autographs on their cards (and even a book as I did the cover). A strange and unreal 30 minutes for different reasons for both of us.
The rest of the day went quickly and was soon over. Arriving at Camden Town station we were met with the ‘bolshie’ queue from hell - so we opted for the bus - heading back down the road to the nearest stop. The 168 was soon with us and being mostly empty (another Aspergers reasonable adjustment) and the ride was quick and without trauma. Waterloo was busy and we soon picked seats at the front of the Portsmouth train - both tired. We sat and went through the days highs and lows. It was at that point the ‘mints’ were revealed.
I have mixed feelings about ‘awareness’ days/ weeks as people can become oblivious to them and shouldn’t every day be a ‘dyslexia’ awareness day anyway? But the more people understand - the less socially disabled we will be. So I'm looking forward to Dyslexia Awareness Week next year
...and by the way I do know who had all the flippin mints on our table and if they had waited I would have told them!
Reading is an unnatural act: 5 November 'Dyslexia awareness week'
A slightly more complex trip as it involved the underground, a new location to find and a stay. Prepared and several maps at hand we caught the train somewhat irritatingly full.
Luckily an uneventful and safe journey other than some group annoyance of an incessant ‘PStick Pstick tictictictic –tic’’ of a nearby passengers music all the way, so loud you could hear every word.
The excitement of heading up towards Camden Town was only nullified by the thought of having to walk in the opposite direction from the ‘Market’ where you can get just about anything from Tibetan ‘singing’ bowls to having your feet nibbled publicly by a hoard of small and assumingly hungry fish! We found the London Irish Centre (Some great pictures on the wall) and sat in the main hall at the ‘speakers’ table halfway through the first day of the ‘BDA Educational Conference 2010’.
This I will remember for asking of a neuroscientist a simple question. ‘Are we genetically designed to read’? He had just spent a very interesting 40 minutes explaining the differences picked up by different imaging techniques of activity in the brain between Dyslexic and non dyslexic. It seemed to me from what he was saying that reading was very difficult and you could say quite an ‘Unnatural act’ - a task so involved it needed different parts of the brain ‘to communicate and attempt to make the best of it.
The answer that came back was unsurprisingly short and quizzical - ‘no’. So the deduction is - and don’t call me ‘Mr Monk’ - the current assumptions need turning on their head... Dyslexics = evolved + 100% natural. We are not deficient or ‘missing something’. People are just trying to get us to do something we were never designed to do - and imposing on us ‘values and unnecessary judgements that they decide upon because we are in the minority.
After this and the conference closing we returned to the Hotel near Euston – we have never done this ‘chain’ before as , due to my Aspergers we tend to stay in ‘only one’ – no changes’ - then there are no surprises or ‘other peoples imposed chintz tastes’ and it wasn’t bad – small or more politely compact but not at all bad (not a drop of art anywhere in the room, well not until we had stayed and left!)*.
We had been invited out and met in the lobby other delegates and staff –soon made welcome we all walked a short distance through the November 5th ‘Blitz’ to a nearby hotel’s restaurant. It was very ‘Aspergers’ friendly – in other words totally empty! and stayed that way throughout the evening bar two others who came in near the end. Ordered successfully* (despite the distraction of confusing ‘Discretionary’ with ‘Dictionary’)* and spent an unusual (for us) two hours of informed and entertaining conversation around experiences, dyslexia, positive vetting and the best tasting ‘spinach’ I have ever had. Soon back, once showered and in bed with ‘netbook’ I prepared and ordered the pictures for the next days talk.
So here is the ‘sting in the tale’ - if you are reading this without any form of ‘assistance’... I am sorry to say that maybe you are becoming a ‘freak of nature’! A somewhat Ironic and contentious point as I am somewhat ‘falling on my sword’ using the written word as the medium to tell this story.
Heading home: Tuesday 8 November 'Dyslexia awareness week': I seem to spend more time on trains lately than I did when I was Artist in Residence with a Rail company (I am writing this on the train). That may say one of two things – either I was quite ‘slack’ then or am busier now?
I probably don’t need to answer this one but take this week – four trips to London. Lucky for me not much time spent during rush hour. I am not going into the politics of disability and public transport, we all have an opinion on that and the way we are sometimes ‘accommodated’. Other than to say the perfect ‘reasonable adjustment’ for aspergers on the train or underground would be an empty carriage! Has anyone tried that one as a test case yet?
Tuesday’s trip was easy – London Waterloo station and the Shell Centre that happened to be next door (no underground). Travelling midday the train was busy and I had to cram my ‘A0’ art case replete with framed picture into one of those two seater spaces and sit with a full rucksack and computer bag.
I was heading for the British Dyslexia’s Art exhibition as part of Dyslexia Awareness Week. Ironic for two reasons: The first was when I started as an illustrator back in the mid-eighties some of the first work I did was for Shell and I used to visit the Shell Centre quite frequently. The Illustrations were complex geological diagram’s and as I had trained as a geologist they didn’t need to explain the geological ins and outs. ( I think that’s why I got the jobs – it saved time and that’s a premium in the publishing world)
The other was the picture squirreled away in the art case. The event was to showcase creative dyslexic talent, a fundraising action and award the BDA art competition prizes. 10 years ago I had been to the very same event as a newly ‘revealed’ dyslexic having entered the same art competition – and I had that winning picture with me.
It was just as complex as those books I did with Shell 20 years before and I had one of those with me too. They were both ‘going home’ as it were with a distinct timeline – events within my personal stratigraphy.(see Colin Hambrook’s review of Goose on the Hill at Pallant House Gallery)
After sitting in on part of a talk on the new Equalities’ Act we were able to set up upstairs overlooking the Thames and Millennium Eye. I set out a stall complete with Digital picture frame slide show and information on ‘Dysarticulate 2011’ and ‘Look about’ and set the picture on the easel.
Some interesting conversations followed... which I know I would have found difficult if not impossible a shy 10 years ago. Things have changed. The auction was fun – led by Jonty from BBCs Cash in the Attic (interesting chat with a fellow dyslexic) all the lots sold including a small vinyl ‘sign’ and original postcard of mine (a latest work) – all going towards the BDA’s work. When I found out my son was dyslexic 11 years ago I rang their helpline – which not only questioned if I was but set me on my current path.
My daily ‘aspie other person interaction’ quota full I journeyed home. Thank goodness the train wasn’t too full on the way back!
Jon Adams is artist and lead geologist to accentuate's 'Look About' project'
Sunday started misty, the view out over the river was unclear and somewhat like our ‘heads’ due to the excitement of the night before... True the karaoke stopped on time... then came the ‘louder’ music, which was evidently stopped by the hotel by literally pulling the power supply at just gone 12:07am.
Up, packed and down to a not unreasonable breakfast, we were on the road by 9:30am to find fuel and water for the day. Not having been on the lines for at least 40 years I didn’t know what to expect. After a convoluted drive through Chatham again (What a place for strange one ways and easily getting lost) we drove past the dockyard and found our way (thanks sat-nav) through Brompton and to the Navy Monument that sits above the town. The weather was distinctly looking dodgy so fingers crossed we set to work.
What luck! No need to worry about the ground hardness and long grass as some work on paths in the last few weeks had resulted in a ploughed up zone next to the path for a few hundred yards – and as soft as the beach. We unpacked the boxes of ‘Flags’ (3000+) and immediately engaged in chatting to passing dog walkers, ramblers and cyclists.
The first couple knowing and sharing the complete history of the lines and docks having worked there till it closed like my Granddad. This was my ‘discovering place’ and before I had even planted a flag had discovered something new (the ploughing had brought ‘clay pipes, oyster shells and china’ from Victorian cast offs to the surface. So I started marking these finds too.) It was fitting with the memorial next as people commented on the link between the flags and remembrances. I wished that my family from Gillingham, Gran and Granddad were still here and able to see this and what I was doing. It seemed appropriate in so many ways and like ‘home’ – strange feeling but I can’t be getting ‘soft’!
Soon a ‘line’ developed and grew alongside the path pointing south for a couple of hundred yards and we started to cross this with other lines at angles. The weather started to change for the better, conversations developed and local artists Michelle and Jane arrived to join in. Soon I had to revert to a head covering as the sun came out. A few more flags made, we concentrated on placing them all out before the press arrived. We had other welcome visitors and we soon agreed over a most welcome picnic that ‘sat navs’ and Chatham don’t mix....
A few strange sights while we ate including a man intent on retrieving and carrying not one but two whole dead trees, several fires broke out nearby complete with firemen (where we lost our press photographer for a while as he went to investigate) and a guy who insisted on calling me ‘boyo’ talking about the ‘war’ and had I asked permission from the council?
We all started to harvest the ‘flag field’ at just gone 5pm and soon the space was bare again. As soon as the car was packed it started to rain (the police also turned up and parked where the flags were 5 minutes before. As we weren’t sure if they were looking for litterers, arsonists or tree stealers, we left not wishing to explain any of the options!)
Despite a small jam on the M25 we made good time heading home, pleased with the successes and exhausted by the last 4 days. Once home a quick look at the pictures (Needed to make a ‘Film’ showcase for the Big Screens showing in September - October) and then Facebook proved that some others had made and planted flags too and so Open Weekend came to a close ....
now what for next year’s – anyone fancy making and planting 500,000 flags somewhere?
For Chatham: Many thanks to Karen, Clare, Jane, Michelle, Felicity, Chris, Russell and partner, the guy with the trees for entertaining us, all the passersby and I guess the firemen for not letting the fire reach the flags (as I write I am staring at 4 boxes of flags and maybe it would have saved picking them and storing them?)
‘Dysarticulate Field of flags’ is an ‘Inspire Marked’ project and Part of ‘Discovering Places’. It was part of ‘The order of things 17’ a Creative Campus Initiative project at the University of Portsmouth, and took place over ‘Open Weekend 2010’.
So its 10:39pm and here I am in a hotel overlooking the river Medway in Kent listening to a strange mix of sirens (same as Portsmouth), the put-put of a river boat and the ‘strangled sounds of ‘bad’ karaoke downstairs (Why do they? It’s so cringingly awful If I put this on ‘youtube’ it would secure a 1,000,000 hits and be on one of those TV horror shows – am assured it will finish at 11pm!)
This is In some ways very strange, as I am ashamed to say I am 50 this year and if you get your maths correct I was born in 1960. Born just 2 miles away here in Gillingham and that’s why I chose to come here. This is my choice of venue, my ‘discovering place’. When I was a kid a ‘walk on the lines’ was for Sunday best – but where were the lines? In the book of ‘aspielogic’ there should be lines and they should be visible – a mystery as to where they were gone – bigger than a six year old could fathom. I now know they were ‘lines of defence’ and not ‘really there’ we have some in Portsmouth too. But.. what a day! A hectic day, a day of conversations, a day for showing and encouraging others young and old ‘how’’ what’ ‘where’ etc.
Up at 7am but awake at 6am to some bright sun different to Fridays overcast foreboding-ness. A panic pack and then a panic re-pack before watering the garden. Hussled breakfast and out to get the train to Chichester. Had to stand as unusually the train was full of students – standing room only. Once in Chichester a quick stop for the ‘lotto’ (well?) and on to the gallery.
Arriving at Pallant House Gallery first an unpack and put the ‘book bunting’ up in the courtyard. Fifteen minutes’ later a whole book was fluttering serenely above the coffee drinkers (Thanks to the restaurant for permission)
Yet another repack and off via the coffee shop to the Library. I was made welcome and sat by the door... soon had some ‘trade’. Loads of parents and kids most of which took their ‘freshly drying flags’ home to plant. The time went quickly and with a hundred or so flags left outside and attracting attention I went back to the gallery. (Big thanks to Kelly, Kay and Nicky)
Back to Pallant and after moving tables together and asking another artist to share the space with her project the place was soon buzzing with flag making. Some VIP visitors and Loads of youngsters and parents leaving with PVA’d fingers and covered in ‘Open Weekend’ stickers – most talking about where to plant. There’s 6-700 flags, all in all. Then the ‘official photographs at the gallery and the library which saw me contorting within the planting. As expected and dreaded I had to ‘smile!! (he was good though) and another hasty re-pack and off......
So here I am waiting on tomorrow (and the karaoke to stop!!) wondering who will turn up and how hard the ground is!!!
Today’s special thanks to Tom (who stayed and made the most!), Kate, Rebecca, Pallant staff and Gallery for hosting and ‘Ahead of the Game’ under who’s wing I came.
Just in from a busy but quite fabulous day number ‘one’ of Open Weekend flag fielding alongside the University Staff sports day. Am sitting adding the days pictures to the Facebook groups and other people have started to do so too! For us the day started at 8:12am woken by the usual noise’s from over in Fratton station. This was a bit late for me, mainly because I was tired. I didn’t get in from the gallery trip until late, then had sort stuff for the flag making and the train had been so packed I couldn’t relax.
After some web work on the Flags Facebook group and last minute finding some ‘forgotten items’ we got out the house anxiously looking at the cloudy and somewhat dark sky. First stop my University space to pick up the book pages I had cut earlier in the week. The University Library sends some books to Africa and some they give away. I kind of like the irony of using books labelled as ‘withdrawn’ as it fits how I used to be (and still am sometimes) and gladly collected some a few days before. Next stop the Civic offices to collect some ‘Open Weekend’ cards and stickers to give away to ‘flag makers’.
For once it was a short walk from the car to the area in the park where the University Sports day was taking place. I was quite pleased when I saw where as it was the same space I had taken some ‘promotion and test’ flag pictures two years before.
After introductions to the sports department staff we set up by their large tent (still an eye on the weather) and started planting a couple of hundred flags made at a recent figure ground event in London to start it off. twenty minutes later they were the first events pictures up on line on the Open Weekend Facebook group – the wonders of ‘netbooks’ and ‘mobile web’. There was even another ‘Flag field’ created by the Library staff just in front of main entrance which meant other people were just ‘doing it’ and joining in. They said that when they were planting a man had called over the fence and asking if they were planting book pages to see if they grew into books.
People started arriving and we were in business; explaining 'Open Weekend’ as we busily made and planted flags. Then as sports day commenced people drifted over between events all afternoon sitting in between the growing field of flags – even looking to see what was written on them.
As well as competitors and staff we also attracted some children on their way home from school, a pair of university security officers. Some muslims who had arrived to pray in the park also came over and made some flags, which added to the richness and diversity of the piece – an artwork anyone can take part in. No pretention, no discrimination, people can just join in.
One passing Fine Art lecturer from the university, took to the idea with mischievous glee and started ‘expanding’ the physical limits of the piece, leaving ‘flags’ hidden behind trees and in flower beds quite a distance from the main piece. I am still not sure if we got them all?
After the prize giving, people started to leave and we took the opportunity to photograph the flags before we ‘picked’ them and took them away. These will be flown again at Chatham along with the flags from Whitstable. All in all during the day we made and planted about 500+ flags and to our relief the weather held off too.
Open weekend is finally within grasp, just a few hours to go as I sit typing on the train heading back from installing some new work at Kaleidoscope Gallery, Sevenoaks, Kent.
I have had ‘Flags’ on my mind for about 2 years now. It started when I was working as Artist on the Trains in the South East. I would look out at the ‘empty’ and ‘temptingly’ available space at the side of the track and wonder what in the brief seconds you pass would make people wonder ‘what was that?’
You tend to sit and look at the landscape flashing past anything to escape the boredom of a packed carriage – a captive audience. Inspired by some torn plastic bags fluttering in a tree, In my mind I could ‘see’ a field full of paper flags – easy to make, sustainable, adaptable and with the movement would blend into the landscape as if they belonged. I liked the idea of books destined for landfill given one last chance and metamorphosed into a work of temporary public art (also the difficulty people would have taking a book apart!)
I was given an addition to my Creative Campus award that enabled me to weave in a public engagement strand to my project – ‘The order of things 17’ and ‘Open Weekend’ seemed to be the ideal time with this year’s theme of challenging people to take part. I have always been a fan of Open Weekend after being introduced to our regions ‘Cultural programmer’ in 2007 and as an ‘aspie’ I like an ‘underlying reason’ to get on with something and this appealed to my aspieness.
I just wanted to do something that everyone could join in with, wasn’t to taxing skill wise – where a lot of people get put off arts projects as they don’t want to look ‘amateur’ or untrained and was a bit of ‘fun’ all be it a bit naughty...
So am all packed up, wishing on the weather and waiting on the stories of’ which book’ and ‘where’.