In the process of getting in 'People Like You' to Salisbury Arts Centre, I was delighted to meet Liz Crow's tech team who made a very professional job of setting up her Bedding Out installation and who will be there masterminding Bedding Out - Live. At some point in the day, and during the consumption of quantities (at least on my part) of chocolate cake, we had the kind of conversation I dream of. The one about presenting Con.Text creatively on DAO and since Trish was part of this conversation it has Real Possibilities. We agreed that I would produce a project copy of the Secret Scroll, with story board.
This week I finally succumbed to a course of antibiotics for an ear infection that has bugged me since the beginning of the year and, feeling low and unwell, decided that now is the perfect time for some computer catch-up. I carefully save and close all existing work in progress and open up Endelig, the Secret Scroll Con.Text file. This is a big file, 235 M, and that is after some work has already been done to reduce it.
Because Con.Text pieces also need to be print quality they start with the potential to be enormous, but equally, once they have been created, it then becomes possible, by rationalising and reducing some of the options as well as the number of pixels, to greatly reduce the size of the file. After some concentrated effort, it currently weighs in at 14 M. I can possibly do better, but now worry I may have removed some potentially useful layer information.
Today I wanted to email one of the items I had carefully saved earlier in the week, but can find absolutely no trace of any of them on my computer, not even as temporary files, in spite of autosave.
I'm getting used to this surreal dance with the virtual reality of what of I do electronically. My saving habits are in danger of becoming obsessive, but how else can I attempt to be in control?
And I really do want the Secret Scroll project to happen.
Am I heading for the Ta-Da moment?
I have vision of bringing my prodigy-child
by the hand. Small hand resting lightly on mine,
to this place of crowd surround. Eye of a
wordstorm, child fragile
silence. And where do I go?
on the circle,
red to the wolf
where they both begin
the journey towards grandmother.
My pen crawls over other paper
but I know there will be no story
unless I uncover the woodsman.
The man with the axe.
Now that DAO has this sophisticated new image and things are settling down again, it's time to think about publishing 'Creatives in Con.Text' online.
It has been ready for a while and I have been considering how to physically present it for 'People Like You' - the exhibition. Originally I had planed to screen it, but from conversations I have gathered that there are a lot of people in Salisbury who have had enough of screens.
From a dithery wilderness I finally decided on scrolls, ('Creatives in Con.Text' is in three parts, so there are three scrolls) and I have been mulling over ways to present them. As a general rule I'd say that people don't read unless given an incentive or a challenge, so I hoped to find an attractive way to present the scrolls, to make them visually interesting even if people don't read them. The reading will be a bonus.
Wherever I exhibit I need the art to relate to the given space, to dialogue with the architecture to create layers of access points, and with 'People Like You' I think the roots that represent hopes and longings make easy connections to the building and its history. Echoing the white roots, I have made white tubes for the scrolls, and given each tube it's title, plus a designation and some helpful information. The idea is to display them with a magnifying glass and a nod towards the white art-handling gloves that are now rather going out of vogue.
When I exhibited 'Crumpled Poems' they were on metres of fabric left in crumpled heaps on the floor, and I was delighted to see people persevering in their efforts to unravel and read the texts. I hope accessing 'Creatives in Con.Text' will be an equally fun and rewarding experience.
Art is a mirror she said
and in the mirror you may take
the more detached view of
what you see in other people's words.
Looking back at you is
the universal in the personal;
the Mandelbrot set that reveals
the whole in each ever increasing
magnification that continues,
restless, the fractal journey
into the infinitely minute.
'Creatives in Con.Text' has come together, the incubation period is over, the edit is almost done. Some things have become crystal clear, others still nudge at the edges of consciousness.
changel to work with.
llenge I envisioned; it will be a disabled thing.
And I will have tho
Amazing weekend! Con.text within FLINT was an experiment, being an intense process of working in the space with artists and audiences for the duration of this Microfest - ca. 13.00 to 22.00 on both Saturday (at Salisbury Arts Centre) and Sunday (The Pound, Corsham).
It was also the first Con.Text piece where I asked people to leave traces of themselves as documentation of our meeting and conversation. So I now possess two tiny booklets stuffed full of creative evidence.
And of course a headful of material for a section of work that will sit within the whole, but with it's own unique identity, as befits the occasion.
My first after- impression evolves around the surprising fact that while the generous and intriguing conversations in Salisbury Arts Centre were mostly offered at the beginning of the day, with audiences growing more introspective (and exhausted - in a good way) as the night wore on, in Corsham my experience was quite opposite.
Here the day began with rather hesitant curiosity and conversations were guarded, even confrontational, in spite of my best efforts. However, into the evening, as people relaxed, the conversations rolled out with a personal generosity that was both stimulating and energising and I was sad to come to the end.
I did thoroughly enjoy both days.
Aren't you Somebody's mother?
I am. I am indeed,
somebody's mother, but
now, in this space, I
would like to think I looked more;
more than audience; more
than mother and more
like the artist - here
in my own right;
more like one of the few who
work in the arts surviving
the degree, children,
love, life, the taxman
and so much other pressure;
and by the way
I learned a lot. Not just from having wonderful Con.Text conversations or from being present at great performances, but about how Con.Text might work as part of a Microfest. I also learned a lot more about being the performer within Con.Text and I am already looking forward to putting things into practice during 'People Like You' (the Exhibition that will result from this work, in spring 2013).
And I can hardly wait to start assembling the conversations, editing, putting together the Con.Text document and creating the textual piece!
Conversations with artists running workshops at Salisbury Arts Centre connect me with its more frequent visitors - people with more regular and planned engagement with the arts - but maybe not all quite as regular as I had been led to believe by quite a number of artists proclaiming that teaching was the way to financial survival.
And the match, that elegant dovetailing of offer and perceived need that seemed apparent on the surface, was also not quite as I had imagined.
I craft because it's who I am
and dare I say that women skills
are part of my identity. Rites of
passage returning to favour,
good, though strangely
out of context.
I readily identify with workshop leaders who feel creatively exhausted by the process and survive by alternating periods of teaching with times dedicated to producing and exhibiting work.
But I also enjoy the buzz of conversations with those artists who find their workshops energising, the preparation an inspiring and motivational boost to their own creativity.
And then there are the artists who work in more of a creative partnership mode and see their students' work as extensions of their own creativity, in some cases essential components of their practice.
I make, I have a skill.
I make for friends, but
it's not art. People like
what I do, I get
commissions, but no
I wouldn't do
it's not art.
Some of these artists do have dedicated students who follow and return, but now that I begin to scratch the surface, I see a haphazard process more reliant on whim and fashion than I had thought. My overall impression is that leading workshops adds more layers of uncertainty and complication to an artist's life, without necessarily resulting in any great financial improvement, so reasons for doing it are often a lot more complex than apparent.
I wouldn't call myself an artist;
the workshop defines a space,
my space; an interlude when I
recreate myself with words.
I enjoy words, I enjoy being
in this academic arena.
I read a lot, and appreciate
I do attempt a superficial sense of order from the wilderness of conversation that is necessary for creating Con.Text, and next weekend will see a whole new approach when I follow Two Destination Language's microfest, FLINT, from Sailisbury to Corsham.
Reading through the Con.Text Blogs, I don't get much sense of the conversational adventure. While the project itself is taking shape, the conversations need always to be beginnings. I did want the blogs to go somewhere, to have a story, but their story of making needs to be the blank canvass on which Con.Text takes shape.
The words and poetry that make it into a blog are like preparatory sketches and may, or may not, be revealing the essence of the finished piece. Extreme situations, strange conversations are not being allowed to influence the way this work grows; they will be the finishing touches: highlights on the oil painting, dark shadows on a watercolour. Am I holding too much back?
Staying open, not coming to the obvious conclusions, that's how this works. But blogging about it creates pressure to express opinions, make judgements and here I'm finding a real benefit of the soft sculpture to the project; the figures are free to explore the extremes, to follow powerful directions, to bump into dead-ends.
Eyes wide shut
I turn my gaze
to the low season sun
I watch hot gold flood
my winterdark skull,
shift my focus to
the warmed pink
of closed lids and back,
back into the blood-rose
dripping dark in my head
from a throbbing pulse
of everblack wine
intoxicating my heart.
And for a moment
I am sunlit and at peace.
I wanted to say I am free to react and express, but it feels very much like it is they who tap into the things I am not yet ready to acknowledge.
They are gearing up for an exhibition, making statements, taking uncompromising positions; forceful, they will have requirements.
Con.Text is less self-aware, less self-important. Much as I follow my gut instincts, progress lines of story, accumulate the expected and unexpected, the end result is always a surprise and to make it, I need to let the reveal climax at just the right moment.
It needs to take me by surprise too.
My work exists only
to say that it shouldn't
be here. I channel
all my protest into
it's creation; people
say it is beautiful:
where can they buy it.
They miss the point.
It should't be here.
Degrees of passion differentiate the artists absorbed in the issue of sustainability. The desire to change people motivates their practice.
This results in my most difficult Con.Text conversations yet. My own creative striving for the degree of detachment and impartiality that validates Con.Text pieces is directly at odds with the engagement that drives these artists to communicate the urgency of their concerns.
Communication that reaches into the realms of aesthetics, justice and morality, using intellect, emotion and instinct to fight it's cause is really hard to distance oneself from.
Here are the artists who shoulder humanity's guilt
for the escalating misuse of our beautiful blue planet.
Here are the artists burdened with a need to mend, to heal,
to patch up the wounds they are powerless to prevent.
Here are the artists who unfold their dreams of a better world.
And here are the artists who know that the issues speak for themselves. Their task merely to draw attention on as many levels as they can.
Revealing beauty, in
the careful partnership
of creator and living
wood, unravels knowledge:
acts of despicable design
that will not remain silent
and require articulation;
demand the corruption
of beauty to sign screams
that haunt the finest
of that we call our
Conversations with performing artists can feel a bit like a guessing game. How much of it is performance? I may not know, or guess. Halfway through it may dawn on me and I might make a hasty revaluation...not to ignore something, but to change how I present it.
Its an offer. Take it or leave it.
I'm only trying to hold up a mirror.
What you see is inside of yourself;
You are your own story, and for that
you, and only you, are responsible.
Take as much as you need; all you can bare,
you are the story, your story the art.
Performance art might have the greatest opportunity for mismatch, and probably the greatest chance of surprising and challenging it's audience. The offer is tempered by the size of the venue and it's facilities, Salisbury Arts Centre's homegrown offers have the advantage of working with this from the outset, yet resident companies can lack the excitement and glamour of the visiting company coping with the challenges of presenting in the unaccustomed space of a converted church.
I need to make work that is attractive and
accessible to people, deaf people and
people with limited social, language skills;
work with space for imaginations
other than mine; open to ranges of age
experience, aspiration and culture.
I need to make work that is accessible.
I'm impressed with the efforts being made to deliver performances that really engage people and of all those I have conversations with, performance artists spend the most time and energy researching and experimenting with this. Generally speaking they seem to show a greater awareness of how they might connect with the lives of their audiences and appear feel a sense of responsibility for what gets taken home and maybe incorporated into other lives.
We agonise, if that's not too strong a word,
over the journey; not in the pain, but more
in the tormented excitement of making
discoveries. The process of picking out
pathways, to expose the irresistible
offer; to entice with the fruits that linger
hidden, forbidden, in the darker spaces
that connect and disconnect travellers.
Working in the Cafe Space, I observe the Arts Centre visitors. Most people are busy chatting over a coffee, but in one of the groups I cannot help noticing a man whose eye is frequently being drawn to the enigmatic video installation already mentioned in the first of these blogs. He is part of a lively conversation yet still seems powerless to resist the image. I decide to invite him to talk about it and head that way.
Instinct pauses me when I am almost there. A lone guy with two glasses of wine on the table looks questioningly at me; this has to be a Con.Text conversation.
He tells me his life story and it hurts to listen. I'm amazed that he seems so self aware and together, and deeply moved by his profound insight into the effect certain artworks have had and might still have on his life.
At intervals in our conversation he toys with one of the wine glasses and occasionally takes very small sips of the contents.
He's an ex-soldier and an alcoholic, sitting in this arts space with two glasses of wine, waiting on his first appointment with a counsellor.
At the end of our conversation he pushes away the second, untouched glass, and stands to leave. My head is too full to continue.
I do aim to be sensitive to people's personal space, but in the interests of a balanced selection of conversations, I occasionally intrude upon people who are obviously absorbed in their own communion. If I get the timing right, these can be very generous and fruitful conversations.
The most difficult to process are ones where people are persistently contradictory or have one overriding opinion to press upon me. One lady was determined to convince me that while superficially we might agree that every individual was unique, my view of uniqueness was in her view, inferior as didn't take into account how different we all were.
Art is somewhere to escape panic.
A place to hide from disappointment;
sanctuary from under-achievement;
vicarious engagement with fun,
exotic and dangerous; art is
where boredom and boring are lifted
to the realms of meaning and purpose.
Art finds me in hindsight, in now,
art lures me into a future.
Art says what words cannot express;
art weeps for me. Shoulders burdens;
eases the silent loneliness
of difference. Art enables
a cultural response to the
in the chaos of diversity.
Art offers a home
when I am
Starting a Con.Text project, throwing ideas and silences into the melting pot, and finding ways to focus the rather random nature of it's start, feels like a risky business as I'm never sure that conversations will naturally follow my chosen direction.
'Creatives in Con.Text' has quite a complex structure, making it harder to settle into, but it does result in conversations that stay with me, delight and trouble me and encourage me to continue to explore our relationships with the arts and the part artists can play in our journeys.
Running through the background of this particular Con.Text experience is the free offer of visual arts displayed in Salisbury Arts Centre's walk through Gallery Space.
Here the artists face the challenge of catching the eye of, amongst others, ladies who lunch, suits with meetings, time wasters; bird watchers, mums groups, people who come regardless of the arts and people who are drawn to the creative environment without really knowing why.
The current exhibition, Doctoring Practice, previewed before I began the blogs and finishes today, but I have had very productive conversations with several of the artists and I have continued to observe and converse with the people surrounded by it's offer.
Tuesday 30th October previews this year's Open exhibition: Sustainable Design, and I am looking forward to meeting the selected artists as well as chatting to the visitors.
In the Gallery Space it is only the seriously interested who are happy to converse, but having Con.Text conversations with visitors to the cafe has been quite popular and I am frequently being told that I should be offering these arts conversations on a regular basis.
People tell me that their enjoyment and appreciation is greatly enhanced by the opportunity to focus on the artwork. They remember previous conversations and seem pleased to offer their opinion on the current offer or share something from their own journey.
It is here in this related yet unfocused space that I find opportunities to explore what people want or expect from the arts, to converse about where they might discover arts enriching their spaces and what experiences they take home with them.
Conversations with artists, taking place within their performance, exhibition or workshop domain, do have a completely different energy and in spite of the artists' widely varying aims, viewpoints and points to view, I am beginning to recognise this energy signature threading through the conversations.
Access? Yes, yes indeed
my work is accessible.
I believe sculpture
has that advantage
if people are free to touch,
to interact; I
place no restrictions myself.
I just make the work.
How people experience
the arts is up to
the individual. It
forms no part of my
concept; the idea of
addressing that as
an issue really is quite
alien to me.
Con.Text conversations with artists are reasonably straightforward, but sometimes conversation with an arts venue visitor can be quite overwhelming; some in a good way that results in great text, like when I find myself chatting to someone who is just so open to what might be on offer, keen to make forays into something other, hopeful of finding some kinds of clues to the adventures of life; hints or clarifications to the mysteries that surround them unfolding and beckoning through the artist's creative output.
Some conversations just work away at me without any textual results.
Many of these conversations seem to be at odds with how I (and indeed other visual artists I have Con.Text conversations with), made work, but they have been having a real influence on how I seek to develop.
Is it coincidence that I am again creating the soft sculptures, humanoid pieces that require me to listen even as they evolve as visual expressions of Con.Text conversations?
Before making Con.Text pieces, I had a different relationship with my visual practice. The intense gestation stage would freeze-frame abruptly when the work took on enough form. I stopped listening and was very intent on communicating the moment. I was less prepared to allow the work space to speak for itself, eager to create layers of access, of meaning, to communicate with as diverse an audience as possible.
I never presumed any kind of connection or goodwill or imagined any kind of need other than my own consuming passion to create, but in the last few years my journey has been taking me beyond the stop-motion nature of exhibition, toward a longer, holistic view, and playing with the whole process of creative control.
Me, think about art?
What I think is,
it was incredibly selfish
of my parents
to birth me, knowing. Condemning
me to the hell of disability.
I will never
have children, I will live lonely.
I hate my life;
I hate my body, the burden of it.
I wish only to be
thrown back in the gene-pool
to emerge as
Is this art?
You won't write it
you'll say it's
that I will change my mind.
You will silence me.
And I will not
have a voice.
I do have Con.Text conversations in other places; the main focus is Salisbury Arts Centre, but I cannot resist adding words from other venues. Words gathered in a preparatory stage of the project (some of them from Unlimited at the Southbank Centre) help me to find the universal in the individual and also help maintain the anonymity of those who relax into the conversation only after reassurances that they will remain anonymous.
These blogs are not reviews of work, and where work is mentioned, the reflected conversation will not necessarily belong with it or it's creator.
I listen. I observe with every means at my disposal: I have conversations that feel like chatting with long lost friends; I have conversations that take me way out of my comfort zone and conversations that simply amaze me. Occasionally there are conversations where people assume that access only relates to disability.
Most of the conversations remain focused on the project; rarely they wander completely off to fulfil other needs and, totally exceptionally, they take scary turns that see me backing away in alarm or confusion.
More than once I have begun a conversation with a visitor who turns out to be artist in another context; someone who has come to look, experience or participate, but is happiest conversing from their creative perspective.
Conversations with artists centre on how they see people accessing their work, relating to it, allowing it into their space, carrying something of it into their future.
Access, yeah, no, I mean, of course
it's good if a place is accessible.
Not something I worry about, I mean
I don't need to. I don't make my work
for disabled people; I'm not saying
I don't want them to see it, but
I wonder how much they get out of it.
The brief look of tangled confusion
faded to a confident smile as he
reassured himself that I was
just asking the questions. It was
just a conversation, yeah? No.
I work my way into Con.Text pieces allowing gut feelings to lead me until the work begins to shape it's own identity and acquires a title. The conversations are performance in their own right, and as such have a sufficiency that does not demand automatic documentation as a text.
The ephemeral nature of this work is starting to feel out of place in a world where everything is recorded and perhaps also at odds with it's nature as research and evaluation. I have begun to list names, but am wondering if photographs might be a more balanced solution as maintaining the visual interest is important to me.
At this stage conversations still have a very random nature; I wonder if that will carry into the final edit and how it will express itself. In keeping with the randomness, the early conversations jump about all over the place and are not even confined to this country.
Don't expect any faddy words here,
in this theatre we're all handicapped
and proud of it. I notice she was
using the medical we; she doesn't
consider herself handicapped, or
even a tiny bit disabled,
They carry that burden, not She.
I wonder if I should be including admin in the conversations, but conclude that that is a whole new project.
Out of all this, a quite specific plan for the positioning of the conversations is evolving; besides those happening at Salisbury Arts Centre, there will be two other bodies of conversations, both 'touring'.
The first, Con.Text within FLINT, will follow 2destinationlanguage's cutting edge microfest from Salisbury Arts Centre to the Pound, Corsham, over the weekend 17 - 18 November.
The second will be taking place during the touring exhibition 'People Like You' that will happen as a result of this commission and will be part of it's evaluation - more details as the project evolves.
These layers mean the sections will each have their individual edits so that they can stand alone as well as be integral the finished work.
And, since I feel the blogs should be telling a story, it means they also have their own edit, without revealing too much, because I would still like the final Con.Text piece to be a unique experience.
This isn't really accessible. No.
It is as it is. His smile disarms.
Like a small toy in an out of scale
dolls house I reach into the wheelless
reality. The disarming smile
rides on empathy that is not geared
to the challenge; or motivated
to fight for the change that would include
me, sitting, wheelborne.
My reaching out
finds no reward.
I turn away,
rejected by this art happening
over my head, art for the standing;
art in another dimension.
I've been struggling with how to blog about my DAO commission: the conversations that are influencing the development of the soft sculptures and inspiring and informing the new Con.Text.
This new work is based at Salisbury Arts Centre which is beginning its autumn season with flair; with an appeal that has a personal quality, enabling me to relate to the diverse programme of work as if it has been chosen especially for me.
My conversations with the practitioners and performers and with the Arts Centre visitors are revealing other relationships with, and expectations of, The Arts - some of them deeply personal and a privilege to share.
Making Con.Text pieces is challenging and as the work progresses it fills me with a sense of excitement and awe, especially as I begin to get an inkling of where the conversations will take me, talking with the people who offer and with the people who might be open to receiving.
At this early stage and with the work in the Gallery Space as starting point, I am not finding much correlation between the offer and the fulfilment of the self-perceived need or preference of the prospective receiver. In fact rather like the biological mystery of pregnancy, I wonder how the process is ever successful.
Sitting chatting before a video installation (part of the current group exhibition, Doctoring Practice) variously perceived as hauntingly beautiful; boring; resonant with timeless qualities; unremarkable; surprisingly passionate; creepy - almost scary; very clever, and old fashioned, I have plenty of evidence of difference, diversity, in the eye of the beholder.
I wonder how accessible you
make yourself to work on show?
How open are your eyes, your mind?
How much will you carry home or
scatter to the winds? Will you,
might you, dare you, let art change you?
How well do you understand your
need; your search; your curiosity?
Is there room in your life for surprise?
Are you generous; are you brave;
have you burdens too busy to shelve?
Do you seek, have you found, treasure?