Flow Blog

a myriad of opportunities for artists!

Just writing the title for this post warms my cockles! It’s been a while since I have been able to share opportunities – two very different ones – both a pleasure to be involved with. And what makes them special is they are both in the Forest of Dean!

  1. Destination Lydney Harbour – a public artwork contract – £70k budget – open to all

I am pleased to say I have been working as a consultant on this project. This is a substantial contract and requires experience of delivering permanent art in the public realm. You need to register with the procurement portal to get the brief and tender documents.

Publica – In-Tend Portal

Artwork Commission_Flyer


2. canopy network micro-commissions and bursaries and gatherings too! – open to Forest of Dean Creatives from all sectors.

I’m the Project Manager for canopy in the Forest of Dean, (very part-time).

Thanks to an Arts Council England Emergency Grant, we recently contracted Rod Maclachlan as an Engagement Manager, to deliver engagement activities during lockdown

Visit website to see full details of the opportunities and subscribe to canopy mailing list.

Web

 

 

 

Attention series No. 3: walking with wandering body & mind

Another blogpost sitting comfortably in my practice blog, rather than here. Some of the attention series fit one site or the other, some both.

This one is about the experience of heading off to the riverbank and observing how my attention shifts from body to mind constantly, depending on purpose and context.

enjoy!

 

 

 

Attention Series No. 2 Thinking Practice

This one is on my artist website as it is about practice rather than theory. But my experience as a producer enables me to analyse my own practice in context. Pop over and have a look if you are interested, there are some films to watch!

Introductory paragraph:

In recent years I have become increasingly aware of attention, during the pandemic my inability has become even worse. For some time now I have found reading a book very challenging and become aware that part of the difficulty is that my curiosity is evoked by something I read – such as the name of  a place, or a particular word I don’t know – and off I go. [more]

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTENTION SERIES NUMBER 1: A weekend of digital festival experiences

Today’s writing follows a few days of online activity over the May bank holiday weekend, when I signed up  to virtually ‘attend’ two well-known festivals, both usually held in the picturesque town of Hay on Wye.

No naming or shaming here, though it doesn’t take much to work out which festivals I am referring to. They are of course very different, so their online presence inevitably reflects that. As a newbie to both, this is an outsider perspective. I have not attended either of them in the past, in the real world. I don’t work for them, know any of the organisers or have any insider knowledge. This account is from the perspective of an attendee and written from that position. I shall explain, because the context matters.

One of the reasons I choose to live in a remote rural place is that I am not fond of crowds of people – especially when they all descend in swarms at otherwise quiet places. So it goes without saying, that I don’t go to Glastonbury, Womad or other music festivals, despite loving live music and fields. I find passing through Hay on Wye on a sleepy Sunday afternoon delightful – so pretty, with lovely walks along the river. But I’ve never attended their cultural festivals. I’ve often looked at the programmes and been tempted, but the thought of packed cafes, no parking, staying in crowded accommodation, puts me off.

I’m not antisocial by any means. I love experiencing culture with others, but preferably in quiet places with three or four people at a time. Which probably makes me easily tolerant of social distancing! I’m just not wired for mass activity. Carnivals, street fairs, football matches, music festivals, protest marches – anything that involves coachloads of people and massive queues, they’re just not my thing. I love arts events such as Venice Biennale or Documenta, because the venues are spread out and take me to new places constantly. They also run over a long period of time, so one can choose the quieter times.

But if there is a choice between queuing to get into somewhere, or having time to stare at a river, I know which I prefer.

So a weekend of cultural seepage into my home during lockdown was very appealing. I scheduled what I wanted to see, when, leaving space for garden time and walks. This smorgasbord of delights suited me well.

I found myself comparing the experience of the two different festivals, not just in content, but also in the physical experience and audience interaction. The focus of this writing (mostly) sets aside the content and refers specifically to my experience as a visitor, and observations on audience interaction. I say mostly, because the truth is I did observe different behaviours from the audiences which related to the content, intention and purpose of each festival. So of course the content is important, as it informs the programming. There are crossovers, the arts and sciences are never far away from each other, but they do use different framing, languages and protocols of engagement.

For me it is a learning curve – I wish to understand the strengths and weaknesses of how the online events were presented. I have no desire to put the events in competition with each other, though the fact that they hold their events at the same time is of slight concern to me – whether live or digital. Because as an audience member, whilst I rather enjoyed being able to flit between them online, I presumably wouldn’t be likely to do so if I was in the town?

The thought of that reminds me of being a teenager and witnessing stand-offs between different ‘gangs’ of bikers and skinheads on a Friday night in the town centre. I put the word gangs in brackets, because really they were youths from nearby pit villages, flexing their testosterone and bravado. Always a social butterfly, I would chat to people on one side of the square, then cross over to the other to talk with people I knew on the other side. That was not really acceptable and often left me on the outside, as I didn’t ‘fit-in’ on either.

When you attend things, there is always the issue of whether you will ‘fit-in’, feel part of the tribe. It is inevitably a shared interest in the content and subject that connects, but as I described above, some people, like me, are curious about everything. To be honest, switching between the online events, I felt a little like an outsider at both. The constant visual and aural attention that was needed made me feel a little voyeuristic. Of course, no-one at either camp knew I was flitting, and nor did I know them. I was a flaneur.

It surprised me that both festivals were online the same weekend, one of them extending for another week. I didn’t realise this is how it ‘normally’ happens, in real (as opposed to online) life. In terms of cultural tourism, that seems a slightly odd thing to do. One festival has been around a lot longer than the other, therefore more established, and it, alone, has always packed the small town to the hilt. So I can imagine visitors, and staff, finding accommodation must be very challenging, a bit like playing sardines. When demand exceeds supply, prices surely go up and the event becomes more exclusive? Would it not be wiser to spread them around the calendar a bit more, making it more accessible? Those things need further thinking through.

At one festival, I paid for a festival pass and could have paid more for ‘inner circle’ events. I would be interested to know whether inner circle events were primarily for funders, press people, reviewers and the ‘in-crowd’- I wish I had paid to enter one and find out. Clearly, due to the extra fee, they were only available to a certain type of audience, and I wasn’t one of them.

The other was entirely free.

ONLINE ACCESS

Whether free or paid was obviously a strategic decision for each. One clearly had sufficient reserves to afford to make it free, whilst the other didn’t. The free festival had invested in, and capitalised on, the marketing opportunity for every single event. They had a powerful visual identity, strong selling opportunity and ways of donating to the festival as a thank you. The programme was easy to navigate and when you clicked to book you could connect it with your online calendar. That provided a link to follow on with when the time came to watch, and you got reminders too. Great.

The other adhered to the layout of a physical festival – the language of the venues identified as structures such as tents and tables. Apart from the cinema, which was not called ‘cinema’, which I found utterly confusing. The navigation to events emulated the notion of moving from one place to another through geographic space. Unfortunately, there were no diary links or venue links from each listing. This resulted in quite a complex process to get it copied and pasted into my diary. The menus were so confusing I opted to keep two page open in my browser – one for the programme, where I could find out where the event was, and the other for the venues. A little baffling there wasn’t a hyperlink on the event listing to the venue.

In terms of visual experience, the platforms, time keeping and quality, they varied. One had rather a lot of technical hitches, I suspect that was down to capacity to afford professional help. But it was also going out live. Easy to forget that efficient websites cost a lot more to produce than those on a tight budget. The technicians were fantastic and did their best to communicate through the chat rooms while audiences waited, which added a human element which was actually rather engaging, it felt quite ‘real’.

INTERACTION

Which brings me onto the opportunities for the audience to interact with the speakers. And much of that depends on the way the online platform operated, the programming and, when it came to the chat, the different audiences.

Let’s start with the platforms. I have to declare here that I had a personal preference for attending presentations that involved dialogue, rather than lectures. Though I did enjoy both.

As we are all learning very rapidly about using online platforms for multiple occupancy and debate, it has become obvious that there has to be a strong chair or presenter, and participants must have a clear understanding of protocol. Some people attempt to transfer board-room dynamics into online portals. Whilst that controls the dialogue, it does change the dynamic of the space and involves a lot of muting. Muting is not a good tool for discursive conversation. On occasion, the ‘chair’ acted as such, on others they behaved liked chat show presenters and the worst, (to my mind), was the one who used his convener status to put down all the other speakers and flout his own opinions, talking over others constantly and holding forth. This is where the chat window became part of the interactive system, and at one of the festivals was the most interesting place of audience interaction.

I wish I had noted audience numbers at the events, but I didn’t. So my reference to engagement scale is consequentially vague. In all fairness, this was intended to be a fun experience for me over the weekend, so I wasn’t in work mode.

The chat windows – wow, so different. I’ll split this into three sections, arrival, during and departure.

  1. ARRIVAL

On arrival one site began to fill up quite early and a constant stream of visitors greeted each other – Hi from New York! Hello from London, greetings from Aberdeen, hugs from the Cotswolds…….they streamed and streamed. Some people clearly knew each other, but this wasn’t really interactive, it flowed very fast and no conversations took place. This was time-filling while the marketing and fundraising went on prior to the event starting.

Over at the other festival, people came into the chat slowly, steadily, clearly much smaller audiences. This was more discursive, people, introduced themselves as if at an academic conference, name, where from, specialism. They had come for the conversation with the other attendees. The tech support popped up sometimes to apologise for delays, while the technical glitches were ironed out. And there were quite a few, but the chat members used the time to have conversations in quite a rich way.

  1. DURING

Flipping back to the occasion mentioned above, of the convener bringing the real-world dynamic onto the online platform. Conversations within the chat called the host out for mansplaining, getting quite heated and annoyed, whilst the female speakers on-screen had that glazed, clearly angry-but-hiding-it looks on their faces. The chatters empathised with them (which, of course, the speakers were not aware of), while the convener continued on, entirely unaware of the stream of fury that was flowing past on-screen. There was a very human thing going on there.

This is an important point – the convener, and the speakers being unaware, and the audience unable to communicate with the presenters, or vice-versa.

We take our experience of offline interaction into the online. When we are in the role of performer/speaker, we find ourselves presenting to camera in a private cell, created by the frame of the window within the screen. We face forward as if looking at the viewer, but we are actually looking at a grid of people on the screen doing the same. Eye contact is impossible, either with the others participating in the debate online, or with the audiences. We are all detached, untethered from our physical worlds. Those on camera try not to shift about in their seats or seek to quieten their dogs while they snuffled under the desk for attention. In their homes, viewers wriggle about uncomfortably, having sat staring at a screen for hours. Viewers can get up and go to wash up, make a cup of tea, nip to the loo. The speakers are trapped in the grid-cage.

This makes the speakers vulnerable, their home lives and offices made visible, their private workspaces where they think, write, create are laid out for all to see. Lots of bookcases evidence their depth of their minds, their commitment to thought. Each cell of the presentation browser window is a one-way-window on their lives. Observed, but unable to observe themselves.

Meanwhile, the viewers potter around in their pyjamas, picking up socks and having their lunch, unseen. As we have learned to do in our lockdown life. We watch others, but they can’t see us watching them.

Presenters that copied the lecture model sometimes showed visual presentations, which were completely illegible on a small screen, as opposed to the lecture theatre projection they had been designed for. Most frustrating were the occasions when someone gave a solo talk, freeing me up to leave my hard office chair and go and flop onto the sofa. But suddenly a slide would be shown, so I had to leap up and change my specs to try and read the text on the screen. Awful experience at my end. I sometimes gave up or just listened.

  1. DEPARTURE

There is little to say about departure from these events. Because I didn’t really ‘meet’ anyone. Unlike a real event hanging out in cafes and bars, apart from the chat window we didn’t really talk much. There were no visual clues of the other people present in the audience. One chat conversation evolved into someone sharing their email address with me, suggesting we discuss the issue later. That felt a bit strange, a bit like an online hook-up. I didn’t follow through on that, maybe I should have done.

Now if this all sounds very critical and negative, it is not intended to be. We are all doing our best to learn how to communicate in this lockdown world. It is hard, very hard. We need to understand how audiences experience the events, find ways to involve them. When presenting, we need to reconsider the style we present in. There are times when lecture-mode works well, but there are other times they are as boring as being at a conference and a keynote reads aloud 50 pages of their Phd thesis without looking up. Those performances might be better pre-recorded.

We must think about these things. We need to plan carefully, especially when we are discussing sensitive things in the public domain. Maybe we need to tone down our opinions, encourage debate, find a way of exchanging things? One festival did this by providing online social spaces afterwards, where the audiences could talk and discuss the presentations, that was good. But there is a difference between sitting in a tent, next to people in a social physical environment, then hanging out in a bar talking, compared with switching from one virtual venue/platform to another. It doesn’t translate well.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I also delight in gaining access to things previously unavailable to me, as a rural dweller with limited funds.

The outcome for me is still being processed. It makes me wonder whether I would like to go to a festival in reality when/if they survive and come back. Social distancing could inevitably mean that events have to scale down, be for fewer people at any one time, but needing more events, more programming, more planning. What can we learn  from these experiments?

I’m working on that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pandemic writing – giving attention – reflection

The Attention Series

The Attention Series of writings are both disparate and connected. They speak of a particular time in my life, in our lives, that only four months ago were unimaginable. And how I am processing that world through acting, reflecting and writing. It is a rich time for sharing as we self-isolate and reconsider our place in this topsy-turvy world.

I have previously written a blogpost reflecting upon my first experience of live-relay theatre from London into a rural cinema in the Forest of Dean.  More recently, I wrote one about the gratitude I have during lockdown for suddenly having access to cultural resources that previously were too far away, or too expensive, for me to enjoy. These texts are growing into a collection of thoughts that cross reference each other and all relate to how one gives attention to the world, both online and offline. And the differences between those experiences. They are first person observations and the associated thoughts, physical sensations and emotions that arise when one attends to them. It was not my intention to connect them into a collection but is, I feel, a timely thing to do so.

Intention, attention and outtention seem to be a talking point during the Covid19 pandemic.

Intention:

A thing intended; an aim or plan

(In medicine) the healing process of a wound

Attention:

Notice taken of someone or something; the regarding of someone or something as interesting or important.

The action of dealing with or taking special care of someone or something.

things done to express interest in or please someone.

(Military) a position assumed by a soldier, standing very straight with the feet together and the arms straight down the sides of the body.

Outtention: no dictionary definition

Found online, referred to in dialogues about the soul: “…..about levels and layers of our intentions, one of them being “out-tensions” vs. “in-tentions”. An “out-tention” is the first layer of intention that you are projecting externally. This energy serves the exterior version of you, the self that others see, and the one detached from the soul.

I initially added outtention as a term that evolved in my own mind, whilst considering the relationship between attention, intention and the strange wobbly place we are in now. When I searched for outtention online, it was revealed it lacks definition, but is a term used for things relating to the soul.  My experience is that external things presently seem more raw, my senses are uber-alert, my mind stimulated by the effort it takes to simply exist in the context of this pandemic. Or risk falling into the void.

We need to draw on all out senses and discover new ways of seeing and understanding the world. It is both curious and frightening. I find my curiosity is winning most of the time as I reflect and try to understand this new world.

If I were to define my use of the term ‘outtention’ it would be to “pay attention with intention – to deliberate, to attempt to understand something one has never experienced before in life”.

These writings are the best I can do.

And documenting how I experience the pandemic in words and imagery.

 

premiere online screening of film about Severn Bore under lockdown

Click invitation for link or copy this one: https://youtu.be/EU8Vg8cYUmI

You can set a reminder if you ask for one if you visit before it starts

PREMIERE SCREENING ONLINE invitation

 

When You Call I Shall Come – Calling in the Severn Bore – Filmed During Pandemic

The Spring Tide Bore was a silent one, apart from the natural sounds of the river, the incoming sea and birds. It was both melancholic and beautiful. The bore surfers respectfully stood down. This may be the first time ever, and hopefully the last, that a pandemic has resulted in stand-down.  Knowing I am unlikely to ever get such a chance again to experience it with wonderful weather and a natural soundscape, I relished every minute of filming.

Spring tides are usually a highlight of the Severn Bore Surfing year. This year, on 8th, 9th and the 10th a four-star bore was due to occur every morning. Living in Newnham on Severn, we get to see the bore as it first manifests, having been channelled between a narrow part of the river between Awre and Bullo Pill, it enters the horseshoe bend, then races around the wide corner at Westbury on Severn. From there is gets funnelled tighter and tighter as it approaches Minsterworth. Many surfers enter the river at Arlingham and Newnham, with a few joining a little before, around Awre and Bullo Pill.

I usually make a simple documentary, unedited footage with top and tailing then uploaded promptly – filming the bore arriving then passing. But I also make video art, films that dig deeper into the nature of the river, look closely at the particularity of this fantastic phenomena, which I have the privilege of witnessing regularly at the bottom of my street. I draw, photograph and film the Severn constantly. I wrote about it in my book – Severnside, an Artist’s View of the Severn.

Every morning, when I awake, I look out of my bedroom window to see how the Severn is that day. I touch base with it.

Many people watch the wave form at Newnham, then rush upriver to other locations to see the bigger, louder, powerful waves, which give instant gratification to the people that witness them. Personally, I prefer the long slow arrival of the wave as it manifests, then hanging around to watch the drama of the fill. At this point you can study the conflict between river and sea evidenced by bidirectional tides, whirling vortexes and sea-horse waves.

Bore-watchers often line the riverbanks on both sides, some travelling many miles to see the surfers ride the waves (or not!), while enjoying the safety of standing on dry land, rather than quicksand. Various buzzing airborne things fill the sky – paragliders, drones and microlights – while other watchers ride in small boats with noisy engines. The landscape acoustic is added to by the bells of St. Peter’s Church ringing, alongside transatlantic planes overhead and trains nearby, creating a considerable cacophony of sound.  It’s not easy to hear the natural sounds, but that is fine with me, because I love the celebratory events few days per year that the Severn is a social destination. The majority of the time, people can enjoy the quietude. But it does mean that one can never encounter a high tidal bore in peace.

This year, April 2020, was very different. There were airborne risks for the surfers. With lockdown, only essential journeys were permitted, and the bore-surfer community respectfully stood down. The risk of injury was far outweighed by the risk of spreading Covid 19. Social distancing would be impossible for those lined up on the crest of such an unpredictable and exciting wave.

It was truly a unique moment in time for those who could walk to watch the bore that week, and, like me, those that filmed it. The surfers know I often do the first film of each event, posting them online as soon as I can, often before the wave has got as far as Minsterworth. I have asked for a one-day amnesty in the past, a chance to film without all the noise distractions. It was a perfect storm in some ways, one I took very seriously. I felt honoured to be asked to film it and share it with the surfer community so they could see it.

I am an optimist. What I am sharing in this film is evidence of river-knowing. I allowed the tides to reveal themselves through a series of static camera shots that followed my eye as it flitted around, searching for tiny events to capture. Shot in short spurts. While the camera filmed one scene, I scouted for the next and calmly redirected the lens, again and again. Some scenes are very short, others unravel over a longer period. My eye revisited sites to record slow progressions and shifts or followed a floating object on its journey. I wanted to share with viewers how the sea and the river negotiate their territory. And of course, the river eventually succumbs

Once it came to the editing stage, I was keen to keep it loyal to the timeline of filming, not modified in terms of speed or direction. Some shots are close-up, some long distance. The source audio is camera recorded, so some wind noise is evident. Then there is the most distinctive element of the film – the kulning song. That needs further explanation here.

Kulning is the word for the ancient Swedish herding call, that has its roots in the Nordic medieval age. Because of its special high-pitched sound, it was used to communicate with animals and creature through very far distances.

As well as being an artist, I produce arts events in non-gallery locations. A few years ago, I explored the possibility of commissioning a composer to write a kulning song that, instead of calling in animals, would call in the bar. I had a vision of that in my head and earlier this year I experimented with animated drawings, trying to create a simulation of how that might be. You can see one of those tests here.

When I began to edit the April tide footage, I sought some suitable music to help me create a rhythm that would anchor the cuts. After many attempts at finding something suitable, I tried a kulning song. On Spotify I found the perfect track, recorded by a number of Swedish performers, apparently for a radio programme. The two voices you hear on the film at Eva Rune and Susanne Rosenburg. They kindly gave me permission to use their sounds for which I am very grateful, and Ivor Richards did a great job of polishing the audio.

It is the singing that expresses both my love of the Severn and the yearning of the bore-viewers when they await the arrival of the wave.

What I hope is conveyed in the film is the detail of the flow, the strange thing that happens when a river pursues its route towards the sea with dogged determination, as the tide turns. It is nothing less than amazing to see. The seagulls on the bank caught my attention and I love the way the water filled the screen, while the birds did their best to stay until the last moment, hoping to snatch a fish from the cusp of the wave. Had the bore surfers been around they would have scared the birds away.

I want to thank the surfing community for their caretaker role of the Severn – I can only imagine how sad they must have felt. Fingers crossed for the future tides.

Meanwhile, we proceed with lockdown and social distancing, enjoy the river, but respect that it can be a dangerous place too. Watch, look and listen – you will be well rewarded for doing so.


 

If end of lockdown means the loss of access to fantastic cultural performances online, I don’t want it to end.

If end of lockdown means the loss of access to fantastic cultural performances online, I don’t want it to end. There’s a lot of learning going on as we adjust to our lockdown lives. We’re reflecting on what is important to us, and what isn’t.

The wonderful array of live dance, music and theatre being beamed into homes via the internet makes living in a rural area a fantastic place to be. Not that it wasn’t before – but because the cost of travel, tickets and accommodation to top theatres like the Albert Hall are simply prohibitive for those of us on a local income, I confess I have felt culturally deprived in recent years. Not that there isn’t some wonderful work going on locally, but world-class acts don’t have venues to play in the Forest of Dean. Indeed, we don’t even have a theatre.

Seeing the BBC screening of Hofesh Shechter’s Clowns dance performance, filmed at Battersea Arts Centre, or Richard Thompson on Youtube playing in his home, managed by the Albert Hall to continue connecting with existing and potential audiences, has been amazing.

When I first moved here, I used to go to Bristol to see contemporary dance and theatre. But over the last ten years the roads have become gridlocked, the train service is what can only be described as ‘the long way round’ and tickets for train fares prohibitive. Not to mention the (understandable) end of any on-street parking. All very green and sensible, reducing cars on the roads. Whilst city dwellers can easily access the countryside without parking charge or traffic queues (and lets face it drive their cars to get here – not so green!), it doesn’t work the other way around. Cities are increasingly unwelcoming to those that don’t live in them.

Galleries in Bristol, such as Arnolfini, have suffered so many cuts their budgets must resemble paper doilies. Dig around a bit online and you will find some great films of previous shows at Arnolfini, like this one, Emotional Archaeology from 2016 by Daphne Wright.

Artist studios are becoming few and far between (though at least there are some in Bristol – there are no studio groups in the Forest of Dean). Excuse my constant edits, but I keep finding other things to mention – like this video of an empty theatre – Caretaker – A durational installation by Hester Chillingworth at the Royal Court Theatre. This is a very moving work, pregnant with longing for someone to step onto the stage. Maybe they could share files of the footage capture and invite performers and artists to lay blue-screen activity onto the film, to re-animate the stage?

During the pandemic, being in a rural place is ideal in terms of reduced risk of Covid19 infection. We’re not out of the woods (metaphorically or literally), of course, but we can walk freely in openly accessible landscapes without meeting a policeman. We follow social distancing strictly, our village shop and butchers allow one person to go in at a time. Neighbours lookout for each other, share shopping tasks. Very Vicar of Dibley around here. With the pubs and clubs being closed, people like me (who essentially don’t hang out in pubs and clubs anyway), are finding the online live cultural offer a gift gained from a crisis.

The BBC are hosting lots of cultural programmes, including live life drawing, sewing bees and pottery. But still, on TV and in media, we hear people mourning the loss of sports. I understand that – and also believe online screening will never be able to replace ‘the real thing’ – but isn’t it great to have more cultural alternatives now?

IMG_5714
Life Drawing Live

In terms of accessibility, live streaming or well filmed performances re-presented as a secondary medium (online or filmed), has to be a good thing. It is ‘as well as live’ not instead of. Perhaps we are learning that rural audiences will lap up what is provided  and could even be willing to pay per view, if they are given the choice.

Prior to the pandemic, few of us got to see the outputs big, publicly funded theatres, in London. Yes, there have been film screenings, but I am afraid going to see that in a rural cinema will never simulate the real thing. (See previous blogpost). But it will widen audience bases and could contribute to financing the huge, beautiful, expensive theatres that are only for those who can afford to, can get to.

This is accessibility in action. The Arts Council mantra of Great Art for Everyone is happening, now, as an outcome of the pandemic.

Let’s use this moment to get world-class culture on the national agenda at all levels, for all people. Not just those that can afford it.

Please don’t stop this when lockdown ends. It has made social isolation bearable and can improve access for all in the future. And maybe even a slot after the national news, just like sport gets.

Because culture matters.

And so do people who live in rural areas.

For other covid-aware writing please visit my arts practice blog.

So now to find out where to screen my latest film about the Severn Bore, here’s a taster…

TRAILER: “When you call I shall come”

The Severn Bore under lockdown from carolyn black on Vimeo.

Film will have an online premiere screening at 8pm on Friday 8th May – pour yourself a drink and have a look!

PREMIERE SCREENING ONLINE invitation

 

 

 

Letting Go, Refusal and the third space Lockdown – a time when you have nothing to do and everything to do – both at once.

(Copied from www.carolynblackart.com)

Letting Go, Refusal and the third space Lockdown – a time when you have nothing to do and everything to do – both at once. Do you feel hypersensitive at the moment? Does your brain seem to be like a colander today, yet memories of significant things in your past float up constantly? Do they then create links with today’s thoughts in strange, unexpected ways – tethering the present with the past?

Mine certainly do. My instinct (or is that intuition?) is to listen to those collisions and collusions that my mind, and my heart, are offering me. Some people say we must respect our ‘innate’ intuition, others believe intuition is the outcome of cumulative knowledge (I’m inclined to believe both). I feel we are offered a new understanding of past and present if we can reconsider them through different lenses, at different times. If we allow them to have a dialogue, to intertwine, they may inform new ways of thinking about this strange period we live in. And we might learn more about ourselves.

I’m half-way through reading a book recommended to me by other artists, spotted on Instagram: “How to Do Nothing – Resisting the Attention Economy” by Jenny Odell. One of the people who has read it told me “it will change your life”. It already has, yet I’m only halfway through. Which says something about my inability to do nothing. I spend way too much of my life on social media, for work and for pleasure. I love sharing photos, videos and seeing other peoples, especially during self-isolation. And, double irony here, I would not have heard about the book if I didn’t. So, I am sorry Jenny, but your book is so loaded with things I knew nothing of before, I have to stop reading periodically and go and follow my curiosity – seeking out links and downloads to follow up with. If I don’t do it whilst live-reading, I may forget (see comment above).

This is not an issue in terms of practice, it is a research process, but nor is it the outcome I anticipated when picking up the book. The writing is delicious – the combinations of narratives on offer flow freely – the nuggets of examples from philosophy and contemporary art thrill me. A literary and creative feast. So much so that when I came to make my breakfast, I randomly added rosemary and garlic to my mushrooms and parsley to my scrambled egg.

  • Parsley: useful knowledge, feast, joy, victory
  • Rosemary: remembrance, love, loyalty, fidelity
  • Garlic: protection, strength, healing

I chose rosemary knowingly, as I had already considered its meaning when my brother died. I was also aware that garlic is for protection, strength and healing. But I didn’t know that parsley means ‘useful knowledge’, so that alone is somewhat spooky. Those things will now be intuitive to me. Covid 19 is time to eat parsley, clearly. The remembrance issue relates not only to a family death, but also to that of an artist, Clare Thornton, who I worked with some years ago when I was an artist in residence for Redefining Print, at Double Elephant Print Studio. A Facebook post about the anniversary of her death sent me off to dig deep into my archives where I found a recorded conversation with her about her work, in which I comment that I knew her partner from my time in 2002, when I did PVA LabCulture. I have shared that with him. Clare introduced me to the Triadic Ballet, which I have loved ever since.

One of the people that set up the residency was Simon Ripley, who told me that the book (see above) will change my life. During LabCulture I shared some films of inanimate objects being released into action then slowing down to a halt – the series was called “Letting Go”. It was also the year that my marriage was slipping away. Last week I made some slo-mo films with my iPhone – I pulled back a swing that flew above the River Severn (my muse and inspiration for all I do), and let it go. Only today have I spotted the link with the LabCulture films. Collisions and collusions – past and present. My film of the swing is also about letting go. Here, now, in this unpredictable, unknown place we are in, we must let go of many things. If we don’t it is too painful. Our daily routines have changed, forever, but not through intention. There is little choice. In Odell’s book she writes eloquently about refusal. She refers to Diogenes and his explorations and actions relating to refusal. She describes his actions as creating ‘a third space’ – a magical exit to another frame of reference.

“For someone who cannot otherwise live with the terms of her society, the third space can provide an important if unexpected harbour (pages 68/69)”.

Might it be that our creative selves can provide us with our third space, when we urgently need a magical exit to our present frame of reference? Wearing a quickly-made paper mask influenced by the *Triadic Ballet, and photos by Inge Morath & Saul Steinberg, (which came to me from a friend sharing on Facebook), for a zoom meeting, allowed me to prevent others from scrutinising my facial expressions. A refusal. Sitting on a swing by the river allows my dreams to flow with the tide. Editing film takes me into another zone, as if doing meditation. Making a silly video of my relationship with the screen, influenced by my watching the eyes of Villanelle in the TV series Killing Eve, lifts my mood.

I don’t think I really want To Do Nothing – I doubt it is even possible. Just as John Cage proved you can’t record silence. Like Bartleby the Scrivener, if you ask me to do nothing I shall probably respond with “I would prefer not to”.

Surely this image from Triadic Ballet is calling out for a re-enactment during social distancing?

Screenshot 2020-05-03 at 10.56.46

*Note reference Triadic Ballet – made in 1922 by Oskar Schlemmer, it is a great early example of performance art/dance choreographed for filming for the screen. The activity is played out within that frame, just as Wood & Harrison do in their work. I propose that the screen of ZOOM and other online video conferencing facilities provides a ‘third space’ we can explore through creative practices.