Flow Blog

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.


I seem to be working on many things at the monent, but this is the one needing urgent attention. It has a deadline – 17th June!

I need you to vote for us to gain £5000 towards refurbishing the kitchen of The George. The George is a local building that closed down a year ago. A group of us got together and formed the Newnham on Severn Community Benefit Society and are trying to buy it back, for the community. Find out the detail here.

We’re selling community shares and hosting various fundraising event. We’re doing REALLY well – but Calor needs more votes to keep us in the top ten. PLEASE give all TEN of your votes to us. It’s a but of a faff to login to – you have to register first. If it doesnt work, clear your browser cache and restart the browser. If it still doesn’t work, email me carolyn@flowprojects.org.uk

Click here to go to our page.

Download flyer with live link here:


calor last shout fler image

new commission opportunities for artists

I am currently working with b-side to provide Creative Producer support to 6 new art commissions for a public art trail in Weymouth town centre. The commissions are for Weymouth & Portland Borough Council.  They include the potential to create work in association with water refill units – to our knowledge the first time public art has embraced promoting the use of units, as a trail,  to reduce single-use plastics. Wessex Water are supporting the project.

Full details about the commissions and to apply, visit Curator Space.

art trail 1

Restricting access to creative art courses – is it too late to consider, now the damage has been done? Have arts students been mis-sold to?

According to this article on the inews website “Creative arts courses are ‘not economically worthwhile’ – universities should restrict access to them, think tank argues”.

The articles states that ‘Creative writing, drama and music are among university courses deemed ‘low value’ – which most certainly needs a bit of unpicking. The gist of the article is that creative courses do not churn out people who will earn high salaries, therefore will never pay back their student loans, which is a strain on tax payers. Clearly their only measure of ‘value’ is economic, which is deeply depressing. But I can see their point, we shouldn’t be wasting anyones money, and if our economy does not respect creatives or pay them fairly, as compared with other professions, we should consider why that might be.

Maybe we should look back to the late 1980’s/early 90’s, when the government began to charge fees, as well as double annual intake onto university courses. I know this well, because I applied and secured a place on a degree course and was delighted to be selected. However, during the summer before my first year began, the university was advised to double its intake – resulting in many people who had been turned down for selection being invited to join the course anyway. Worth mentioning that no extra space was provided, and no extra staff. Just double the students. Studio space was reduced massively, indeed my studio in the 2nd year was in the caretakers bungalow near the gate – there simply was not enough provision for so many students at such short notice. The fine art degree course admission numbers doubled again the following year. And so it went on……resulting in the market being flooded with arts graduates very fast.

So education became monetised, just like every other valuable aspect of the welfare state. I shan’t go on about all those things here,  because we have watched the NHS, the rail network, the education system being brought to their knees, the evidence is all around us.

Which is why I feel motivated to write this. How can they now turn around and say that arts graduates aren’t an efficient part of the system, because they don’t earn sufficient money to justify their education? Who is guilty of what here?

Ironically, the issue of limiting numbers IS something I would agree with, if it means that students get more tutor time and studio space on their courses, more teaching, more lectures. Because at present there is not enough money in the semi-privatised FE system to deliver as well as the lecturers would like to. And not enough space for fine art students to rotate an easel!

We certainly have been mis-sold creative degrees, maybe there should be a pay-back scheme for all those students, equivalent to PPI. I’m sure that artists would greatly appreciate that – they could even pay back their student loans, which will never happen unless they are helped, due to most having below minimum wage status.

The article suggests that  “Institutions that rely on the provision of such courses are exploiting taxpayers who are ultimately liable”.

My concern is that they are exploiting creative young people who are skilled, talented and worth nurturing, who are core to civilisation. Our government is exploiting everyone by making education, particularly creativity, a commodity and not a necessity.

next year WILL be better – seasonal greetings & optimism!

Interesting looking back five years. Wow, so many exciting things have happened during them. Am not up to writing about it now as have other things to get on with. But by far the BIGGEST change is me returning to my own practice. So if I’ve been quiet on the Flow website it’s because I’ve been working on carolynblackart.com. I’m still producing and doing consultancy work, but it has mostly been on non-public-facing contracts. Am intrigued what may occur in 2019!

Flow Contemporary Arts

The last missive of a good year and next year will be better (even, much, lots?)

Despite the cuts, the recession and the constant fight to keep the arts on the government agenda, it’s been a  good one. Starting Flow in this economic climate was never going to be easy but the time is always now, so why wait?

Something that lingers in my mind as the year closes is that the more brutal the cuts became, the more resilient and empathic people have become. No-one can sit on their laurels any more (not that anyone ever does in the arts…they can’t, being one of the lowest paid professions).

This years card is for everyone –  many friends, family and colleagues have found it a very tough year for various reasons, so I hope it is empowering for them. And for those that it’s been good, or even brilliant –…

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First stage of the project is completed of Newnham Bells

via First stage of the project is completed

I’m not exactly sure what ‘press it’ means with WordPress, but am hoping this is a way of amplifying the Church Bells blog, because the new interior for the bell ringers is wonderful! go-see!

And you may spot that the header photo is one of mine and was the starting point for the Newnham Church drawing I did. I love this place.

I’ve finished my book! Drawing, writing, organising launches – am in my element…

I have been writing more and more in recent years, not just for projects, but also for pleasure and research, including publication. I have written for Four Seasons Magazine , a-n, Visual Arts South West and many other publications. I was writer in residence at Double Elephant Print Studio and attnded an Arvon Course about arts writing.

This is, however, my first book, and it’s been a challenge indeed. All the drawings took over a year to do, the writing just as long. Paul Manning is the person that shaped it visually and I’m delighted by the outcome.

So here is info about the launch. Art.earth have taken it on as part of their imprint, which is exciting and puts it in context. That is not an easy task. Part autobiography, a bit of psychogeography, a tour guide, a picture book, peppered with facts and garnished with poetic license.

Only 100 copies in first edition.