This blog will drift between the development of a new podcast supported by a-n, and my life as a new mother. Not really making barriers between the production of the podcast (my practice) and life, the blog intends to messily enjoy the all encompassing world that exists around the context of work production.

The podcast (currently titled Inside Someone Else’s Head) is an extension of my current practice that uses interview as a start point to develop new works that are often performance installations or film. By publishing the interviews the material will act as a public archive that gives multiple access points to my practice, and more importantly the many voices and stories that inform it.

The project intentionally coincides with taking maternity leave and discovering a new working relationship with my practice / lifestyle.

www.amelia-hawk.com


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I’ve put my angry feminist glasses on and been holding off writing this blog post for a few weeks (weeks that may have turned into months). To be frank the podcast is going a lot slower than I had planned, essentially I think I need to release a handful of interviews to show future people what type of podcast they will be taking part in (all in the pipe work).

However this slowness has been assisted by Christmas (its amazing how people seem to use the time of year as a reason not to fix a date), and people not responding when I mention my son will be coming to the interview. One example in-particular has really annoyed me. After talking through what would happen in the podcast and what I would like to talk about, with a rather fab organisation that supports homeless refugees, the person I had been talking to suddenly stopped emailing when I reminded ‘him’ that my son would also be coming along. The conversation simply fell off a cliff and never recovered. It wasn’t even subtle, we had a date and time planned! Needless to say I’m not picking the conversation back up out of principle.

I’m aware that taking my son with me whilst recording the podcast will at times be challenging, he will burble in the background, resist sleep, distract conversation but ultimately he is a part of this project and my life and I choose to take this challenge. This does not make the project any less serious or professional it just makes it individual and specific, like any good project. Whilst motherhood is not an obstacle, a working mother that chooses to have her son with her (partly due to lack of family assistance and an inability to afford additional child care) makes her no less of a person than she was before, no less capable, and certainly no less driven. If anything a working mother who has her child with her is juggling a larger work load, straddling two situations at any one time, and is therefor probably even more capable than before, if not a little more distracted.

I understand it is hard to consider parents who will take their children with them for opportunities such as residencies, where they will require additional space and at times resources to bring their child with them. I understand that they will at times be distracted, and perhaps even distract others, but in order for us to really support working parents and carers we need to adjust our own expectations of what an artist is / does / provides / needs. Perhaps we don’t need to work all the time, even when in a work environment, perhaps we need to muddle life up a little more, make work spaces messier and allow for the flexibility we may allow others with for example learning needs. I’m not saying every workplace / gallery / residency etc needs a play school, but I am saying lets not be so precious, lets not worry about distractions and intense working, lets be human, lets get messy!


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That Boris Johnson has been a right pain in the you know where, and not just politically, he’s really added some big delays to my project. I had lined up some fabulous interviews with women in local politics all of whom have now had to delay meeting due to the election. That does seem quite reasonable, I would much rather they hold their seats / positions at this critical time, but it does make my podcast has slowed down considerably. Lets hope its well worth it and we see the back of Johnson and his selfish, elitist, racist, sexist politics – we really do need Socialism right now (and always).

On a more positive note I managed to interview my mother, which will be the first interview in the podcast series. She was quite nervous about the interview and unsure about people listening to what she was saying, so we both started the interview tentatively. I am going to do a soft edit of the interview but I am quite interested in keeping a transparency of the conversation so it will follow the pace we set. After a tentative start she really began to open up and I am both proud of her and honoured that she allowed me to interview her about such a personal subject. We talked about her own mental health journey from being diagnosed with Manic Depression (Bipolar) in the early 90’s when mental health was a very different subject to talk about, with friends being cautions and unsure as to how to treat her, (despite her understanding inwardly that she had always had mental health concerns.) We talked about the difference between then and now with her current diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder, and the dwindling support available to her. We talked for 20 minutes before my son woke up and needed feeding, I’m sure we could have gone on longer but its a humble recording of a woman I love and respect, and it took being a parent for me to really understand quite how amazing she is.


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5 months has passed between the first blog post and this one, its an enormous amount of time and the project is progressing at snails pace. Its not for lack of attempting to work, and there has been a lot of cognitive labour behind the scenes, but the physical manifestation of the project has yet to materialise. It appears (not too unexpectedly) that being a mother really does take pretty much all your time! It’s only now that my son is taking longer naps that I can finally find some time to work. After meeting another artist friend recently who said “all the bits of work I would never have counted as my practice before, work at the kitchen table, small bits here and there, they really count now”, I completely agree.

After realising the physically reality of attending an interview training course in London was out of reach I began researching local courses in Birmingham. In the depths of the internet I discovered an online course hosted by the Anderson School of Journalism in America with course tutors from all around the world including BCU (Birmingham City University). I am some what sceptical that the online course will be as informative as a person to person course, but I have realised the need to be adaptive and have bought the course. I now wait with baited breath to find a solid chunk of time to get stuck in.

I’ve also made a list of possible people to interview for the podcast, with back-ups (I’m sure I will be turned down a fair few times), and begun looking into buying the right equipment.

[pause, play, reset]

I would really like to interview my mother for the first podcast, it seems like the right place to start. She has suffered with bipolar (manic depression) ever since I have known her, which recently was re-diagnosed as schizoaffective disorder. I believe the re-diagnosis comes with more knowledge around certain mental health illnesses, and the shift towards wider awareness. I’ve already interviewed her for research earlier in the year but I’m unsure if she would agree to, or be confident enough to record a podcast. The interview would be a conversation around the changing framing of mental health and how it has impacted her over the years.

During the coming weeks I will attempt to send out a flurry of emails to get the podcast started and start getting equipment and web addresses (or at least that’s the plan).


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My plan for the blog is to start it fully once my child is born, it seems like part of this project is to navigate an art practice with a child and see how the two can coincide. The following post I wrote roughly a month ago, before going on maternity leave. It was a one off moment of distress but an honest one, and one in which I think should start the blog:

Written somewhere in March 2019

I had planned to introduce this blog in a much more sober attempt to sum up a project, and perhaps with a level head on, but why not jump in the emotional deep end, somewhere murky where the project kind of begins.

Its 6.30am on a Sunday morning, the main day of the week when you are supposed to have a lie in, but I am irrationally awake and sobbing. Hormones are clearly covering my body head to toe and I have an immense pain in my back undoubtedly caused by the growing life at the front of my body. After tossing and turning for hours in bed the dog finally made her way onto ours, the only safe space where I can stretch, wriggle and keep my partner awake for hours, but this little intrusion has clearly caused the outpouring of an emotional waterfall to erupt and I end up lying in bed sobbing.

I’m very clearly not sobbing simply because I am in pain, I am, but there is much more to it. I am in equal measure excited and scared about being a mother, and this new fear has only just started making its presence known. Sensibly I have planned 9 months maternity leave from my paid work and also from my practice, its time that I have been telling myself will be useful for reflection, and necessary for bringing up a child. The only problem is it scares me, what happens to my practice now, can I still be an artist, will I have time to go to the studio, will my partner support me to go to the studio, can I afford the studio when I return to work, what will other people think about working with a new mother is it easier to work with someone child free, can I take my child to the studio and get work done? During this time I have also sublet my studio to two artists I know will take great care over it and get a lot of use out of it, but I already feel the control over my own work and way of working slipping away and it scares the shit out of me.

I have the words of someone I respect rattling around in my head that having a child can take three years out of someone’s practice. If people are already righting me off for three years, how on earth will I get my practice back on track again? I am hoping the trick is not to stop, in my mind I have a great plan to have a couple of small scale, manageable, projects on the go that will allow me to carry on my practice whilst on maternity leave. I hope this becomes achievable. One of these projects has been kindly supported by an a-n bursary and will extend part of my existing practice. This blog will not contain its self to the work but will spread messily between life and practice, not shying away from being human as much as it is about artwork, because for me the two intersect and I’m not remotely interested in separating them.

 

 


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