We’ve now reached the point where the project is complete; we have learned risograph skills, consulted with women artists, held workshops, gathered feedback and created a publication…but over the course of the project we experienced some shifting and expansion which means a less than exact finishing line.
While the publication is completed, we’ve been fortunate to continue developing the partnership with TOW. This lead to them offering us an ISBN number, which gives the publication an added level of credibility to others. We’re also discussing a formal launch event with TOW which – due to elections, festive seasons, and TOW being closed until late January – will take place after the formal ending of the project. We also (I told you we had been busy…) have a digital version of the publication, which will most likely be available via the TOW website in line with the launch.
We didn’t originally plan to push the publication this far, but the open structure of the bursary, and particularly being given the funds up front, meant we have been able to encompass ways of working that would in other circumstances constitute risk, or at the very least leave us out of pocket. This in turn gives us a level of visibility that is a great boost to the project as a whole, which would not have been possible without AN and TOW. Although the final report goes in to AN shortly, I hope to add a blog post detailing the launch. And if you’ve stuck with me, thank you for reading this far – but you really should read what our artist groups said as soon as we can make it available!
Final, final update! August 2020
The pandemic prevented a physical publication launch but with its increased resonance to the current creative environment we have released the digital version free, and in a range of more accessible formats. The limited edition publication is available to buy (if you know anyone with any money!).
Covid-19 collides with pre-existing inequalities so that different groups of women will be disproportionately impacted. The majority of artists and creatives were already living precariously with insecure income and low pay; the pandemic has increased this precarity. In an AN survey, 93% of respondents said that they, their practice or career had been affected by the pandemic, with 60% expecting a 50% reduction in income. Therefore womxn creatives are likely to be doubly affected.
You can buy or download the publication here.
Creating a publication from the collaborative research stage wasn’t a linear progression: we’d been thinking about format for a while and wanted to reflect the wider non-linear approach we’d taken. So we had a concept before the workshops, but only followed this up when we had the research findings.
In many ways it’s a simple concept; both of us having worked in different capacities in the arts, we both felt that traditionally formatted reports don’t seem to reach the people they are discussing. If you’re short of time due to family or carer responsibilities, or – like most artists – have a second job or have to work stupidly long hours to support your practice (or if you have the jackpot of both…) then long wordy documents don’t meet your needs. We needed a more accessible version that didn’t presume to have a magic answer for everything.
Ruth posited a format based on Tarot cards; that each card would present a single statement/comment/idea/reflection and so the order could be laid out and changed by every individual. Working through the comments we realised that we’d need double-sided cards, and that there would be a lot of them. I began trying out some container formats and came up with a matchbox style prototype (box that slides out of a sleeve). We spent a long time – a loooong time – formatting the image and text files for the cards, the inner sheet, the sleeve, and the box, but finally were confident this was ready to roll. More long evenings lead to double-sided A3 riso sheets that in turn required cutting and trimming. Once again we divided the workload, with Ruth working on the cards while I cut the sleeves and boxes.
And now we are nearly there….
A key aim for the bursary supported work was to host two intersectional creative surgery consultations with Southend women artists to review what the Agency of Visible Women could provide for women who often feel excluded from the artist community. The findings would in turn be translated into a collaborative publication. While developing our riso skills, we discussed our approach for this in a lot of detail, wanting to ensure that these events didn’t turn into a way of exploiting women’s knowledge and experience. Having both been to numerous ‘consultations’ where everyone gets paid except the artists, we wanted to find a new structure that wouldn’t follow this route.
The format that we both were drawn to was the the rather sneered at “coffee morning”, which would provide an informal framework to allow women to mix and discuss ideas while also experiencing some small aspects of self-care and time to themselves. We drew on the Agency experience of hosting reading groups, including one group I lead for women with disabilities, to inform our thinking about timing, location and access. Our experience has been that many women with disabilities have hidden impairments that require a different access approach, particularly for anyone who currently doesn’t self-identify as disabled. We looked at the best way to use the access element of our budget, deciding to employ a local young artist we both knew to support and help facilitate the sessions – and yes, we paid her, so a double win on access and artist pay. We also ensured plenty of cake – we know plenty of situations where artist workers make sure everyone else is looked after, but they never are; a slice of cake can’t make up for that, but it’s a starting point.
We had a great turn out at the sessions, and got lots of positive feedback, and fantastic contributions; what struck me was how many of us are experiencing very similar obstacles, and yet we’ve been conditioned to think these are linked to individual ‘failings’ rather than systemic art sector issues; we’re not working hard enough, not talented enough, not ‘whatever’ enough. So similar to the language used around all other areas of women’s lives which exhausts us and keeps us passive. And definitely something we want to communicate.
So we will…