In summer 2017 Caitlin Griffiths joined a group of visual artists to train as a coach with https://relationaldynamics1st.co.uk/
Qualifying in July 2017 Caitlin will now continue her coaching practice: by supporting other artists and creative practitioners and through the further development of her live art and performance work.
For me, an artist and a coach, the question I want to respond to is one of ethics. How does a contract of trust manifest when using coaching methods outside coaching contexts?
When operating as a coach I am working within a contract of confidentiality: what a coachee discloses to me in a coaching session remains there. The session is for the sole benefit of the coachee. As an artist, no such contract exists. When a participant enters into a conversation with me (as part of one of my performance pieces) I grab on and store it away, mining it later for material. I Left as an Act of Love is a video built from secrets and advice people shared with me during my performance What is Socrates’ phone number? albeit filtered and distorted through my own experience of heartbreak and loss.
There is an intent in what I do as an artist, to take something from you. I have sought out coaching techniques, along with models for talking therapy and police interrogation practices to deliberately encourage others to open up and talk about themselves. The first performance piece I ever made Echo & Narcissus opened with ‘Tell me, what were you like as a child?’ and used echoing and reflection of what the participant said, back at them. I was amazed and uncomfortable with the power of these techniques, with how quickly participants shared very personal stories. Naively I had audio recorded these session (with permission) thinking I would use the material for future work, but soon after deleted them all. The participants too had been caught off guard with the ease and level of disclosure.
While my intention as an artist remains – to know who you are, how you got there, who you think you are and who you would like to be – I now accept a responsibility and duty of care. I was advised by the storyteller Katrice Horsley: you can take people to all sorts of dark places as long as you bring them back to the safe place they started. Becoming a skilled coach is one way I am able to do this.
Another is through an equity of exchange. In my performances I disclose my own experiences as often as I uncover other peoples. My desire to collect pieces of people and build myself among them comes from a place of wanting a shared understanding of self: both for me and for the participant. I want to create situations for other people to understand themselves better too and continue to strive to do this through my artwork and performance.
As a coach there is no revelation of myself in the process. I support people to understand themselves and what they want to get from life by holding the space for their own thinking and learning. The trust is established using a professional contract – the clarity of exchange – the coachee is paying me for this service. I do not take anything from their content of the session, but this is not to say I don’t benefit beyond the financial. What first attracted me to coaching was as way to self-motivate and self-manage my career as a freelance practitioner. Working in isolation can be hard: defining your own goals, creating your own professional development, seeking feedback from others. When I worked as part of an organisation this support was in place for me, and the best support came from managers with Coaching skills (yes, Sandy Mahal, that’s you!). I want to be able to offer similar space for growth, for personal and professional development to support other artists to excel, because ultimately I want artists to take over the world.