LIFE Now began as a project with mentoring support thanks to an a-n Re:View bursary in 2013 exploring “What can we understand as LIFE in the 21st century, when advances in bio-science and technology mean that scientists can create and craft living organisms.” Nearly four years later I’m picking up some of the threads from that project.
More than three years ago in 2013 I wrote,
“…back in June or July, I was unexpectedly put forward for an opportunity at Phoenix Arts in Brighton. Things progressed and excitingly, I have now been offered the chance to curate an exhibition there in 2014/15 as an extension of my artistic practice. Everything about this seems to be fitting together very neatly. My proposal is that the exhibition will be a culmination of my research into a question arising from my LIFE Now project which is: “What difference would it make if we never died?”
Well, time went by, things happened, and the exhibition proposal turned into a major research project culminating in The New Immortals exhibition which finally took place at Phoenix Brighton in February/March 2016. Now, after a period of reflection and a few other jobs, I’ve just started a month of printmaking in the University of Brighton’s fantastic print workshops. I wanted to learn/re-learn some lithography techniques and went in last week for an induction day. I have an idea about trying to combine various images in a series of sort of printed collages. I needed to take some images with me to work with and for some reason went back to an image of the dead frog I worked with some years ago as part of the Growing Stones project.
Today, I’m preparing for my printmaking sessions next week and thinking about how to develop that image, so to refresh my memory I thought I’d take a look at what I wrote about it in my blog all that time ago. Wow! How amazing to have such a great record of my thought processes from that time. It feels really quite exciting to be able to re-visit those thoughts. And interesting that in March 2014, at the beginning of The New Immortals project, I wrote,
“So, I’ve had a major clear-out, which is always a good way to start something I think. I’ve cleaned off the whiteboard and cleared the decks. But … I have reserved a corner of the studio for the Growing Stones. They are, I think, a special piece of work which I will want to come back to and I want to keep them in sight and in mind and one day will be blogging about them again I’m sure when I’m able to pick up the threads of the LIFE NOW project in future.”
Well, it looks like that time has come.
…WIPED CLEAN THE WHITEBOARD, TIDIED THE STUDIO AND FOUND A CORNER FOR THE GROWING STONES…
As always in my practice, I tend to have several strands of work developing at the same time. What generally happens is that they move on at slightly different paces and sometimes, something gets left behind. Sadly, it’s time to leave the Improbable Experiments with Growing Stones behind for a while, and move on with my research project, What Difference Would It Make If We Never Died? which I’m fortunate to have received a Grant for the Arts to develop.
So, I’ve had a major clear-out, which is always a good way to start something I think. I’ve cleaned off the whiteboard and cleared the decks. It feels great! But a little sad, so I have reserved a corner of the studio for the Growing Stones. They are, I think, a special piece of work which I will want to come back to and I want to keep them in sight and in mind and one day will be blogging about them again I’m sure when I’m able to pick up the threads of the LIFE NOW project in future.
For now, I’ve decided to start a new blog, WORKING TITLE, at www.a-n.co.uk/p/4538141 to track the project which will be taking up most of my studio time and mind-space for the next few months. It would be lovely if you’d like to read it : )
REJECTION, REJECTION, REJECTION… AND ONE SUCCESS
More than 3 rejections actually. Until last Friday I had a 100% rejection rate for 2014. Looking back at my last 4 blog posts I can see that everything I’ve done in the last 6 months has so far been rejected, including my application for the Wysing Retreat. It’s a bit disconcerting because I feel quite confident about all of the work – I’m sure it is sound and rigorous – so it has made me question my whole strategy of applying for opportunities.
On Saturday I was fortunate to be a panelist at one of Matt Roberts’ Open Forum events at Pallant House – a very nice experience and marvelous opportunity to meet some lovely artists including fellow panelist, Alex Michon from Transition Gallery. By chance, we both talked quite a lot about our DIY approach to making things happen. This spate of rejections has re-inforced the feeling of the need to be self-sustaining, pro-active and independent, but there is something which seems to be important to me which isn’t happening at the moment – the vote of confidence and endorsement of having work selected by SOMEONE ELSE.
Having said all that, I have been especially pleased that I was selected last year for Telling Stories #2 at the Kaleidoscope Gallery in Sevenoaks. We installed last week and it was great to get some work up and be part of an interesting show. I’m exhibiting The Golden Seed which is quite a big installation. I’ve shown it twice before & this might be the last time, so it’s been like meeting an old friend again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXBpCbBHc9k&featur… and http://judithalder-live.co.uk/goldenseed_writing.h…
On a positive note – THE SUCCESS. (I must try to make time to do a flow chart for Emily Speed’s Work Makes Work blog http://workmakesworks.tumblr.com/page/3. The a-n Re:View Bursary would definitely be a key item in it, pulling together the people and the processes which have led to The Success.) I am very pleased to have been awarded a Grant for the Arts for the R&D period of my “What difference would it make if we never died?” project. It’s been such a pleasure today to put the Arts Council logo on my website. This is exciting! It feels like the start of something big and new and stepping-stone-ish. I think there might have to be a new blog.
It was today. Seven people came. That was a good number. Not too many to fit in my house but enough to debate. I wanted to try to present a range of ideas and information which would feed the debate about how we might live together in a society facing the prospect of prolonged or indefinite human life expectancy – a new Aeon.
Images right: Living Forever, FAME & Aubrey de Grey
Having got the important things sorted out (coffee, croissants, biscuits…) everyone seemed pleased, if slightly surprised, at my plan to start off by watching a bit of telly, and then perhaps a bit perplexed at my first choice of viewing – the clip from Fame where lots of people are dancing on car roofs to Irene Cara’s rendition of “I’m gonna live for ever”. I had thought this would make a good start and that the feelgood factor brought about by all of that youthful vitality would make everyone smile …
Video no.2 was the disconcertingly Messiah-like Aubrey de Grey outlining the “7 deadly things” which cause us to age and die, along with a couple of his theories about how to eliminate cancer and clean up the “cellular garbage that clogs up ageing body tissues”.
Switching off the tv, my 3rd offering was a reading of 3 pages from John Wyndham’s “Trouble With Lichen” in which two of the central characters discuss the conflicting agendas between The Individual and The Institution in a society considering the pros and cons of indefinite lifespan.
By now the Saloneers were warming up. Questions, anecdotes about changing models of living, frowns and worried looks were becoming evident. Time to tie it down a bit. Focus. What I really wanted the Saloneers to do, I said, was to form two groups representing The Individual and The Institution, and to begin to think about what would be the big issues for each group if they were at the forefront of a society facing these huge changes. What rights would The Individuals need to protect for themselves whilst The Institution was beginning to draw up rules that would govern the way society would function in a world where people might live forever?
ANOTHER PROJECT… ANOTHER PROPOSAL, AND A SATURDAY SALON
Alongside my Improbable Experiments With Growing Stones, my curatorial project for Phoenix Brighton continues to slowly take shape. Based around the question, “What difference would it make if we never died?”, the project will explore this question, looking at the historic quest for the elixir of life alongside the contemporary reality of scientific & medical “miracles”.
For a long time I’ve had it on my notional list of things to do, to apply for a retreat or residency at Wysing, but in the past the time has never been right – or I have never felt brave enough. Now though, I’ve decided, it is the time to do it, especially as the Retreat theme “How might we live together?” can be linked to issues raised by the notion of greatly extended or indefinite human life. As part of the application process I need to propose an hour long session which I would run as part of the retreat should I be selected.
This seems like a great opportunity to broaden out my thinking for this project and there is a lot to think about – greater minds than mine are needed! There are just 2 weeks left until the submission deadline so I’ve gone with an impulse and decided to dive in at the deep end to tap into the great Blue Monkey Network mind-bank. I’m going to host a “Saturday Salon” next weekend in order to work through some of my ideas for the research project and the Wysing proposal with some of the willing Blue Monkey membership (in return for a plentiful supply of coffee and biscuits at the very least of course – and maybe a little video treat http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yDrLZTgs08 ).