I am circling like a stirred cup of tea.

I have been selected for the a-n Mentoring Bursary 2019 and will be working with Rosalind Davis to push myself and my practice forwards.

I am hoping that the judicious dunking of a digestive (chocolate naturally), will slow my spin.

I am used to working within a framework as a graphic designer. The framework is created by budget, or brief, or client, or timescale, or the combination of all of those. I am comfortable in my art practice where I have a similar framework through collaboration, or circumstance or perhaps a project defined by someone else. Now it is time to find the confidence and resilience to develop my own ideas on my own terms.

To focus on the journey, the outcome secondary.


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I am heading rapidly towards my final mentoring session. I have not achieved anything that I thought I would – yet. My goal was, and still is, to work on a body of work. Connected pieces, a series, a sequence.

I have been buffeted about by the circumstances and I’ve tried to take the side alleys. The side alleys have not worked out. They have not worked out for reasons beyond my control – pandemic, not being selected from not one but two shortlists, and opportunities that shift in the sand. I was hugely frustrated and whingy at the time, but now, I don’t really care about the side alleys and I *think* I might be more focussed on my main aim as a result.

I have always believed that I need to be flexible, adaptable and respond to change and circumstance. Take opportunities as they present themselves. This can be, and has been, very positive in much of my career. However – I can also see that this can lead me away from a central path. On the other side of being flexible is being easily waylaid and distracted.

Mentoring has allowed me to shift my perspective and foundation of what I am aiming for and try to establish the path that is important to me. A big part of this was the hour-long whinge that my third mentoring session became. It was a huge relief to get my frustrations off my chest with someone who understood where the frustration was coming from. It has helped dig me out of my hole, admit to myself that I do need to focus on just one project right now.

I can see at the outset of this blog I said that:
…Now it is time to find the confidence and resilience to develop my own ideas on my own terms…

Another reason for the side alleys is that they avoid my own ideas on my own terms. I have avoided posting to this blog (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve pushed it back down in my to do list) for some long while because I’ve been afraid that I have already fallen and failed. But now, as I write, I think I am recognising my fears of my own ideas on my own terms, and that I can push past the fears and continue on. Ready and much clearer on what I want to do.


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So I had been thinking about gesture as widely as possible …

How it is used in dance and choreography – the work of Bob Fosse (Chicago), the choreography of West Side Story, folk dance, Bollywood, Ballroom culture and the language of Vogueing, Madonna and Vogue, Christine and the Queens and Tilted, Edward Scissorhands, the work of Wayne McGregor and Radiohead Lotusflower.

How we use emojis constantly in text communications – we seem to need gesture replacements … thumbs ups, winks and many more.

Source: https://blog.emojipedia.org/proposals-for-shaka-and-west-coast-hand/

Then all ‘this’ happened. The Covid-19 crisis.

The progress I had made had to be shelved as travel to meet contacts was suspended and my venue for working with community groups closed. A big blow to my project at a point when I finally felt I was getting somewhere.

I put the project to one side and diverted my attention to my family home from school, and making scrubs for the Scrubs Glorious Scrubs collective who set up in my home town.

I am still doing those activities, but am able to very slowly start thinking about gesture and my practice again. The project feels apposite to maintain as we now live in a world where bodily gesture has become remote by necessity of lockdown – we are making gestures by video, from 2 metres away or it has been removed altogether by keeping us distant from friends and family.


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In my previous film works I have primarily photographed objects, textures and landscape. A year ago I acquired a remote timer for my camera for the purposes of creating a rough and ready time-lapse film of an installation of some work. But I quickly realised that the timer was also useful to enable me to photograph myself.

I like to work with what is at hand. I’m in control of it. I can do it at any time. There are few arrangements to be made. I can just grab my camera and start. Procrastination is always lurking but that is the only barrier to making a start and is within my control too.

Having tried the camera timer, I discovered I liked working with my body. I have never particularly liked drawing, but I did really enjoy the life drawing classes I did a few years back.

My goal this year is to make, or at least significant steps toward, a new body of work. A big part of this has become to challenge myself to make a film piece whereby the original images are collectively generated. In other words, I want to be photographing other people. Lots of other people. And in my work I will typically need around 1000 original images.

This is going to be a logistical challenge. Finding the groups of people and working with them is going to take a lot of planning (which I can cope with) and a lot of confidence in workshop settings (which I have less of).

The outcome is going to be unpredictable. This feels very scary, but at the same time it is exciting. I do want the outcomes of the photography to be led by the participants and their feelings and exploration of the idea of gesture.

How I introduce the aims of the photography sessions, how I frame the project and how I inspire the groups is going to be crucial. I need to decide how much or how little prompting I need to give. I am not directing my subjects but I do need to lead them towards thinking about the project in sympathy with my aims and steer them away from being at a total tangent from myself. How to get this balance right is going to be tricky but hopefully if I keep working at the preparation I can find a way.


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At the outset of this blog I stated …

“I am used to working within a framework … created by budget, or brief, or client, or timescale…. I am comfortable in my art practice where I have a similar framework through collaboration, or circumstance or a project defined by someone else. Now it is time to find the confidence and resilience to develop my own ideas on my own terms.”

I’m meeting my mentor, Rosalind Davis, this week and my resolution did not last very long. I made an initial experiment piece (blog post: Without words). But then I spotted a commission call out for something that could work the ideas and themes I’ve been thinking about. ‘This is good – I thought – I can write a proposal and adapt it for my own purposes later.’

I didn’t expect the proposal to get anywhere, the typical scenario of an open call being 100s of applications and a ‘thanks but no thanks’ deadend to follow. Surprisingly my proposal was shortlisted and I went for an interview.

I didn’t get the job.

Good point – the proposal has merit and is worth developing because they were taking it seriously.

Bad point – it may not have won because the proposal was not directed enough to the clients themselves. Or maybe with anything I did differently it would always have been second best to the unknown winner. Ho hum.

Good points – I have a strong proposal that I can adapt and develop.

Bad point – I’ve immediately falled into the trap of working within a framework that wasn’t really what I wanted to do other than it would have had the seal of approval of achieving something that has external validation.

Good point – Maybe the framework just works for me – and I shouldn’t fight it. Maybe I need to create the framework in order to create my work? Perhaps the framework is not the problem.

I’ve had some calmer moments in the last few weeks, working on mindfulness and meditation. And began thinking long and hard about my motivation – what is creating the block to my progress? I don’t think I feel frightened of experimentation or ‘just doing things’, but I do find making any decisions extremely difficult. What is the outcome of any decision? Will it be the best outcome? Will it achieve validation? Deciding to experiment doesn’t have an obvious ‘achievement outcome’. I am thinking that letting go of trying to achieve might be the key. In my early life, when faced with difficult circumstances, I can see that I used ‘achieving things’ as my coping mechanism.

Achieving something is often a positive and has positive outcomes, and I do want to achieve something through the process of working with a mentor. However – there is always too much of a good thing. The drive to achieve as my coping mechanism puts myself under a lot of constant pressure, it is motivated by external validation and trying to please and impress other people.

Searching constantly for the next opportunity to achieve can be a distraction and is an activity that sees me running away from staying focussed on the job in hand that may or may not have any particular outcome. I need to divert my intention to internal satisfaction and enjoyment. (As I write this I automatically put ‘internal satisfaction and ACHIEVEMENT’ but then stopped myself: I DON’T NEED to achieve anything. Satisfaction and enjoyment could be enough.)

So with these thoughts in mind, I am going to try to shape my plan of action… I have an opportunity to shape a project of my own, with a meeting set up next week. I will be working with my mentor to get this into a positive shape.


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Earlier in the year I was invited by the organisers to take part in the 8th International Video Poetry Festival in Athens, Greece. My work was shown as part of the Poetry + Video programme curated by Marie Craven. But as well as the film programmes there was an extensive programme of live performances and readings.

As part of my invitation I was asked – is there anything I’d like to perform live? EEEK!!!! That didn’t feel like me. However, I persuaded myself that this was a perfect chance to start and tried to convince myself to give it whirl. I then became extremely stressy about the whole trip, the travel and accommodation and all the extraneous details  – I think I was just diverting my nerves onto something else.

I had the new writing inspired by Tilly Losch – 3 pieces, and a short piece that I had created during a workshop with the Desperate Artwives called ‘Space Negotiations’.

The Tilly Losch pieces had been created with the thought that they may be films in the future, while Space Negotiations was created alongside a floorplan ‘drawing’.

Performing this writing was ‘not part of the plan’ when I began them. But on my own, and in my working with my mentor Rosalind Davis, I need to develop more of a spirit of experimentation, and this includes experimenting with presentation and trying things out in different ways whether they work or not. I find that presenting something is the best way to be able to stand back and evaluate it.

I like to get things over and done with – whether its the dentist or doing something new. So once in Athens I volunteered to go early in the evening. However, this meant I didn’t know how the event would be run and was unprepared for the live VJ images and sound that accompanied the live readings. I pressed on regardless and I tripped on the mike (of course!) and fidgeted a little (I tried not to). But it was enjoyable. It was interesting to focus on only the words and consider their effect. And to sit back and later consider how others made their performance more successful than mine.

And – having done this in a very low-key way – it was exciting to reflect on the multi-media pieces that were presented, and how these might inform my approach to my work.

These included a live performance of Floodtide by Ian Gibbins – in this piece Ian looks at how a city copes, and what it looks like, after years of drought, rising sea levels, relentless storms. Filmed in Australia it shows an only-slightly futuristic vision of a flooded urban landscape –  achieved with video compositing. Ian has different versions of this film – a version to be performed and a film that can stand-alone.

And a stunning collective performance created by Sissy Doutsiou+ Nikos Touliatos which combined poetic reading, music, and dance performance.


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