Empathy and both sides – thinking about how we can bridge thinking, drawings to inspire

Three days left to see my exhibition in The George Cafe in Newnham. Open 9.30-3.30 today, tomorrow and Saturday. I’d really love feedback from you – comment on here or on my Facebook page.

Thank you to everyone local who came, and those who have crossed the river to see the drawings. What interesting conversations we’ve had. I’ve had discussions with a Chinese woman about white space in Chinese art; with people who suddenly realise that they may know the river close to their homes, but have never ventured onto the other bank, and others that found the drawings calming and relaxing in a deep way.

Since the show opened, I’ve walked under the Severn bridge on both sides. How odd that whilst I have driven over it, and walked across it, it had never occurred to me to go underneath it. Bob Dylan went there in 1966.

I now find myself immersed in this return to practice, not in isolation from my work as a visual arts producer, but an extension of it.  All I have learnt from producing projects in unusual locations transfers directly back into my practice. And vice-versa. Ironically, one reason I ceased to create site-specific video installations is that they were non-transferable to other locations. How peculiar, then, that I end up making drawings which are so site-sensitive it feels they must always be seen one one bank, or the other, of the Severn.

The deeper thinking behind them is a universal issue – do we ever spend enough time considering the other side of anywhere/anything?

Can we dedicate some moments when we deliberately take ourselves physically, or intellectually, to the other side of any given situation? Empathy is impossible without understanding both sides.

Once we get our heads around understanding the other side, we can also explore impact. What happens on this side effects the other side.

Ripples travel, bores rush, tides turn.

I’ll be showing the drawings in Purton over the Bank Holiday weekend of 26th and 27th of August. Spending time over there again (I used to live nearby) will feed my thinking about these things.  I’ll also be heading up a walk down to the beached boats, to talk with others about these things.  Check back on www.hybrideyes.com for details nearer the time.

 

Building bridges

In these divisive times

Matters

The Severn divides the county

But we must not forget

That it also connects us

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farOpen, far out, fun and flow…….

(duplicated on http://www.hybrideyes.com because both blogs are relevant)

It’s been a fantastic week. Sometimes, there are times when all the planets align, and the energy they generate drive you far beyond, to places you never imagined you might go.  The last week has been like that both for me, and for farOpen, a group of artists in the Forest of Dean.

Starting with me, the week began with me installing 13 large drawings in The George Café in Newnham. As an artist that has been somewhat dormant for years, and comes from a video installation background, this is a bit of a departure, to say the least.

I have loved every minute of doing these charcoal panoramic images, and I think it shows, too. As a friend said earlier today “I feel the drawings in my heart, because I sense they come from yours. They touch me deeply, through my body, not just my eyes.” She’s very shrewd, is our Pam.

For less than 6 months I have been squirreling away, first at home, and then expanding into a friend’s barn, which I have transformed into a studio. I have battled with materials and scale, constantly wanting to make them bigger, wider, more physical and related to the reach of my body. The one that spans two metres opened up more than my arms, it revealed my desire to recreate the movements of the photographic process, using a panoramic frame. The process of ‘framing’ requires careful choreography. The action of drawing a long line on paper requires an echo of that reach.

Seeing all of them hung in this one space, the café feels transformed into a place for meditating on the vastness of the river, the width mapped out bank to bank, the depth implied by absence. I have been touched by people’s responses to them.

Soon, thanks to Arts Council Funding, I can begin work on the publication, which will be the culmination (or a new beginning?) of this body of work.

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photo by Sue Thomas


Upstairs in The George there is another exhibition, of works by various members of farOpen. The building has resonated with a strong sense of camaraderie while we created these shows in parallel. I’m a member of farOpen and have also been involved a little with developing the organisation as it grows. There’s a real sense of ‘membership’ now, seeing all their artworks being carefully curated into the upstairs room. Sculptures juxtaposed with stained glass, against jewellery and glass cylinders holding magnets and tension wires.

Friday morning a few of us arrived at Lydney Station at 6am to convert the waiting shelters into lounges, complete with tables, chairs, cushions, flowers and of, course textiles and pictures. We hung up bunting and installed a huge sound mirror created by Rob Olins. There were pictures by Monique Oliver and Christine Waygood, as well as cushion covers by Christine. There were flowers and rugs and drapes.

Thanks to the support of Arriva Wales, there was even an early morning cuppa for the commuters. Entertainment came in the form of two brilliant performers from Found in the Forest Youth Theatre and their delightful puppet ‘Dog’. Dog sniffed people unceremoniously, with a glint in his eyes. There were smiles all round.

That evening we opened at Taurus Arts, to celebrate what had been achieved in only a matter of months. This coming Friday, we launch at The George, farOpen upstairs and me down. 6-8pm. Do join us.

I’ve lived here for eleven years – this week has made me feel embedded properly. And farOpen is going places, with a great team of artists and organisers. We’re open for business!

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photo by Adrian Arens Price

Print

The Bean Project revisited after 15 years

The Bean Project 2002 – archived here: http://iloveepoetry.com/?p=196#more-196

There is something very wonderful about a friend finding my first-ever web based text project 15 years after I made it in 2017. There it is, The Bean Project, tucked away in a corner of cyberspace – the source files all gone, the software I used to programme it defunct and the browsers advanced beyond what could be imagined when it was first written. Thanks to Leonardo Flores, of I ♥ E-Poetry for taking care of it for me. Odd to think it’s used as a teaching tool in a university in Puerto Rico – but then that is the wonder of the web. I have often referred to the root meaning of the word ‘curate’ as taking care of, so this is a good example of what that makes reference to.

It was while I was doing my MA in Fine Art at Cardiff UWIC that I learnt html coding, and then went on to more complex things, like Director, Flash and Dreamweaver. The olden days!

The Bean Project was devised as a self-training programme. I wanted to learn dynamic codes and explore what I could achieve with them. Sadly, the archived site no longer has any moving parts, but originally the ostrich legs danced and some images moved around.

One problem I always struggled with when I made online artworks was their lack of physical presence. So this one set out to counter that too – every day it began with a tangible, growing organic object. The daily photo of the object provided my colour palette. I used colour pick in Photoshop to select the mood for each day. Amusing now to see how the ending happened. The world turned black and white, like the dog. You will have to read it to understand the reference.

Once I ended the project I designed, printed out, folded and glued, some bean seed packets, and put a few beans in them, sealed them up, and gave them to people. It was marketing-come-full-circle making.

I applied for a job at the Poetry Can in Bristol as a website designer. I was shocked that when I went for interview – they offered me a job as poet in residence. I refused, saying that I am not a poet and that it would be unfair on all the poets who had applied if they were to give a poet’s role to a non-poet. I didn’t get the web designers job either.

Looking back, I have made some very shit decisions in my creative life.

Funny, to remember this years later, at a point in my life where I write more than I make art and much of that writing is, for want of a better word, poetry. (That is the name of the digital folder I keep these poem-things in, because I still struggle with the thought of being a ‘poet’).

SO……

Thanks to my friend

The bean project

Did not end

Because now I have in mind

To revisit the ideas

Behind

It

By using it’s seed

To try another way

And capture the spirit of bean

And create a new work

That’s never been

Seen

Before

I shall use the circularity of the project as a framework. The Bean Project was an object that morphed and adapted to every new day and that process was encapsulated and manifested in code. Then it returned to the physical world as a packet of beans (sadly I lost them all somewhere).

Another project “Dear friend” did something similar. That was a video project that documented me writing a letter to camera, bemoaning my awful handwriting and apologising for it in the letter. It had subtitles and a voice over – being someone who has always had to consider access issues in my professional world. It was playful. The film ended with me folding up the letter and slipping it into a crystal DVD case. The film was then burnt onto a DVD disk and inserted in the case. Full circle.

The rediscovery of the Bean Project has stimulated another cycle of the turntable. I plan to take it for a spin. So, thank you Carol for finding the site maintained by I love E Poetry, and thank you Leonardo for keeping it safe.

bean3

Day 1:

just a bean…

organic

strange

vaginal

labial

dark

dry

imminent

heart shaped

 

Stop Press

Just seen Leonardo’s TED talk – brilliant. It reminds me of my little saying “dhtml writing is like concrete poetry released from the concrete”.

 

 

A response to the Conservative manifesto on Culture (or lack of)

A quick scan through the Conservative manifesto reveals there is no section dedicated to arts and culture. Instead, we get this:

Prosperous towns and cities across Britain

Our towns and cities excel when they have vibrant cultural life. Britain’s arts and cultureare world-beating and are at the heart of the regeneration of much of modern Britain. We will continue our strong support for the arts, and ensure more of that support is basedoutside London. We will maintain free entry to the permanent collections of our major national museums and galleries. We will introduce a new cultural development fund to use cultural investment to turn around communities. We will hold a Great Exhibition of the North in 2018, to celebrate amazing achievements in innovation, the arts and engineering.

Resisting the temptation to resort to Star Trek quips about live long and prosper will only mask my contempt for a political party that can only value the arts in relation to prosperity. They will use cultural investment to ‘turn around’ communities. Blatent instrumentalism – sticking-plaster mentality for places that have been neglected and local authorities stripped to the bone by austerity measures. 

But wait, how exciting and forward thinking – a Great Exhibition! Returning to Victorian times for our cultural references is much safer that looking at politics today. It even has a website already, with a video that I had to stop watching, as it made me feel a little seasick. For some odd reason, all the people speaking have been told to move towards the camera in a strange, zombie like way.

 If May gets her way we’ll have fox hunting back and workhouses too. The foodbanks are just the first step. Bring back Dickens.

A response to the Labour Manifesto on Culture

Good to see culture gets a mention, even if it isn’t particularly rocket science. The most important sentence in the two pages, has to be, that Labour will “put creativity back at the heart of the curriculum” and make sure that arts are not ‘sidelined’. Also that creative careers will be recognised as having value.

Of course, it’s also good to see that cuts to local authority budgets for libraries, museums and galleries will stop. Possibly too late for some – but hope for many others that have managed to weather the storms to date. The concept of ‘creative clusters’ is not dissimilar to creative People & Places, which is already in place and actively coming up with some excellent outcomes, beginning to transform the country’s cultural landscape.

As they say, “being a performer is a great career.” That could say performer/artist/musician/writer/dancer etc – which makes me wonder why ‘performer’ was chosen? The culture of low/no pay is certainly one that has become the norm in all creative industries, meaning only people supported families can work in the arts without doing a day-job. That is excruciatingly obvious when you see how many people expect artists to work for peanuts. Or, worse, ‘profile raising’.

It mentions the ‘value gap’ between producers of creative content and profits from digital services – I’d like to see a similar comparison made between emerging artists and high profile galleries and art fairs. It’s always the incubation stages of the arts that are lowly paid, which means there is an imbalance in financial survival in the fledgling years.

I look forward to reading the  Conservative Cultural manifesto.