The last post on here was all about vermin and I concluded with writing about the irony of ‘rat’ being an anagram of ‘art’ – the rat ate my art!

I’ve just had confirmation through of the dates to take part in Coastal Currents, a contemporary arts festival in Hastings, East Sussex this coming September. It was a welcome piece of news following the whole sorry rat saga and there’s irony too, in the fact that the work that’s been selected happens to be my 10×10 Project.

Because 10 x10 was inspired by a rat! – true! A pack rat, in fact – a small North American mammal which has a habit of taking things but leaving something in its place.

10×10 was originally launched in 2008 for the Deptford X arts festival and was created in response to a call for art around the theme of trade and currency. I gave up 100 objects that all had some meaning for me, were precious to me in one way or another and invited the public to respond to them as part of the 10×10 exchange project. What is an object worth to you I asked? How much do you want it and what are you prepared to give in return?

More can be read about 10×10 on my website here:http://www.katemurdochartist.com/ten_by_ten.html

I’m really happy to be given the chance to resurrect 10×10; it’s turned out to be a fascinating project and taking it to Hastings will be the fifth time it’s been displayed for the public to interact with. When I first talked about the idea I had for the project, a friend’s response was that it would be a ‘comment on humanity.’ It’s certainly been that; humanity’s come out of it pretty well so far, too – very much as I thought it would – and I’m already intrigued to see how the people of Hastings will respond. Rather better than the common London sewer rat, I suspect who showed no hint of kindness or benevolence – taking away some of my art materials but leaving only droppings and urine in its place.

But onto more positive things … if you happen to be in the Hastings area on Saturday, September 22nd then do please come along and see and take part in 10×10 for yourself. You can visit the new Jerwood gallery at the same time, have fish & chips by the sea and celebrate some late summer sun.


Timing is everything; I’d just been wondering about how much of this week’s activities I wanted to share on this blog when I came across one of Eleanor McArdle’s posts on ‘I’ve Been Told To Write a Blog.’ www.a-n.co.uk/p/2273788/

A conversation has started between Eleanor and another artist/blogger, Franny Swann about how much we ‘ought’ to share about ourselves, as artists – in public. Eleanor raises an important question: by uploading our ‘every thought’ she asks, are we ‘diluting the artistic narrative?’ It’s an interesting debate.

Ive always been conscious of not wanting to write for the sake of it and the old adage ‘If You Don’t Have Anything Worth Saying, Don’t Say Anything At All’ springs to mind; on the other hand, we’re all at liberty not to engage with the blogs and just like with twitter, have a choice of whether to follow or not.

I’m a great believer in sharing the truth as a rule but this past week has involved a certain matter that I’ve been feeling reticent about revealing. Something’s prevented me from hitting the publish button on this recent post, one of the reasons being that what I have to share is a little unsavoury….

… because it’s primarily about vermin – rats, to be precise; rats who have recently infiltrated and wrecked some of my art materials I’ve had stored in the garden shed. I’ve shared my dilemma with some other artists I know and the shudders, the looks of disgust on their faces says it all, really – I don’t blame them! Because rats are vermin = dirt = unhealthy =sewers = fear. I could go on.

I’ve been keen to emphasise my use of rubber gloves, the disinfectant, the scrubbing clean sessions – everything in fact that might convince people that I’ve taken this rat elimination business very seriously; that I’m aware of how abhorrent these creatures can be and the diseases they’re capable of transmitting.

But I still feel slightly unclean, not to mention a little paranoid that people might think that I live in filthy conditions at home – it’s the lot of many collectors, the fantasy others have about us that we all live a Collyer Brother kind of existence – eccentric and more’s to the point, in filth and squalor. It’s just not true!

And of course there are always certain issues that people just don’t want to know about. It’s not for nothing that the definition of rats and vermin include the words ‘pest’ and ‘nuisance.’

So, what’s to do? Gloss over last week’s activities and pretend they didn’t happen? Just present the ‘prettied up’ version of life as an artist and leave aside the real version of what for me, this past week, has been very grim indeed?

To return to Eleanor’s question: ‘How much of ourselves should we, as artists, expose to the public?’ And, as Franny asks: Do we feel inclined/pressured into editing ‘all the difficult and hard bits out?’ I don’t have any hard and fast answers. I just know that I’d like to portray as honest a picture as I can of my day to day practice as an artist.

But we’re hampered by constraints as Franny points out and it’s not always easy (or sometimes even possible) to tell the truth. Whether or not sharing too much information will be detrimental remains to be seen – for me, personally though, it’s as if somehow, writing from the heart will see me through.

I had the choice of course, of not sharing anything at all about the recent rat invasion – but the materials the rats destroyed are my work – and that’s pertinent to my practice.

Pertinent, too is the fact that the word ‘rat’ is an anagram of ‘art.’ This week I had to face up to a very sad truth – the rat(s) had eaten a part of my art.


I keep thinking about The Lemonheads song ‘Into Your Arms’ in relation to blog writing. Not that I consciously turned to my blog when I was ‘alone’ but retrospectively I realise it was a place I turned to as a kind of sanctuary, a place to focus my mind and firm up my own personal position on being an artist whenever things felt shaky.

Writing the last blog ‘Keeping It Together’ proved to be a positive distraction for me at the time I wrote it, helping to allay my tendency to over-think and analyse things during what was an emotionally turbulent time. I used the energy I’m prone to waste on fretting and over-worrying to concentrate on what really mattered – essentially, keeping it together.

While on the surface, writing it was about recording my feelings in relation to the loss of a studio to the finding of another, the blog actually provided me with so much more. The physical act of writing took up a lot of my time; I chose to take that time and allocated myself the hours and space in an otherwise hectic family life to be able to write it. It helped organise my thoughts and had a positive impact on helping me in an ongoing struggle to find a balance between home and studio life. It also helped me to connect with artist/bloggers on the same wave-length, socially and politically and to continue to stay visible within an art community at large – not just in London.

But, despite continuing to follow other artist’s blogs on Artists Talking, I haven’t connected half as much as I did when I was writing my own and consequently felt more a part of a supportive, interactive community. I’ve missed the camaraderie of it all; I was frequently in good company and felt less alone, feeling a real sense of solidarity at times between myself and some of the artists I was in contact with. I came to really value a place where a mutual exchange of supportive, constructive advice and debate could take place. And, as other people commented on ‘Keeping It Together’ and I realised that it was being read and that crucially for me, some people were able to relate to what I was saying, the blog became a place I wanted to keep going back to – ‘ into its arms.’

I’ve been in the new studio space for just over four months now and feel quite settled. But there’s a sense of loss with regards to the blog and I realise how much I’ve been missing it. I miss the psychological space it offered me – it was always ‘there’ as a support structure at the back of my mind, rather like the consultation room between therapy sessions – a safe haven, a place I knew ‘I could go.’

And so it feels like the right time to start another, one with no particular purpose or agenda in place – just simply the creation of a new space for myself in which to just ‘be.’ Somewhere I can dip in and out of, if and when the mood takes me – the material I work with in itself requires it, I think.

As I’ve said before, there’s a lot of history tied up in the boxes that are stored in my studio; quite a bit of my past is wrapped up in them and in order not to feel swamped by the associative memories of the stuff inside, being outward looking feels equally as important to me right now as quiet, introspective thinking.

I’d only just started the process of unpacking when I was forced to move studios. Now I’m settled once again and I’m curious – both about what I’m going to rediscover in those long-term stored boxes and how I might feel about what I do find. Curious, too about whether or not I’ll be able to sustain writing this at the same time as being creative in the studio? Can the two go hand in hand I wonder? Time will tell…

Meantime, to a new blog – Keeping It Going.