So this week I finally finished my piece for the touring dementia exhibition and also the first piece of my MA collection.  Yes, rather than one amazingly, orgasmic piece de resistance I decided to produce a body for my MA all linked to the sensation and concept of anxiety.

These Are Not My Memories: Dementia Bookcase draws heavily from the work of Dr Gemma Jones, as told to me first by Jane Ward (a dementia champion).  I created a sheet for visitors to the dementia friendly exhibition (this is a cause very important to me as my maternal Nana died with vascular dementia) that fully explains the piece  and I have pasted it below in case it is of any interest to anyone:


A Visual Journey Through The Dementia Bookcase


Artist: Beth Davis-Hofbauer


Dr Gemma Jones used the excellent analogy of a dementia bookcase to explain how memory becomes fractured when experiencing dementia.


There are various interpretations of this idea.  Two variations were told to me by Jane Ward a Dementia Champion and whose mother died of vascular dementia.

She suggested two bookcases: a strong, beautiful mahogany bookcase that stores emotional memory.  This stays mostly intact during the disease’s progression.


The other is the dementia (memory) bookcase.  This bookcase is cheap, flat pack furniture.  Every shelf is a different time period, each holding memories for that time.  The bottom shelf is childhood (and possibly very young adulthood).


As time moves on the bookcase gets moved many times.  As it is flimsy and gets moved around constantly the selves begin to weaken over time; it gets dusty and mixed up; things start to fall off the shelves and get put back wrong.


Often the only shelf to remain intact is that bottom shelf.  That first period of life.  This is why we often seem at odds with those we know suffering from dementia and why they seem to not know who we are for the best part.


These Are Not My Memories is the visual encapsulation of this idea.


The top of the bookcase is crumpled photos of my dementia ridden Grandmother’s last year, stained with dust and wax.  There is paint haphazardly dribbled everywhere to demonstrate the chaotic nature of these memories and there are holes everywhere (these are to symbolise the literal and metaphorical holes in the memory). From the inside of the bookcase their roughness resembles that of an exit wound after a bullet has torn through; this is illustrative of how dementia rips through our memories.


The next shelf refers to memories relating to the period 1980s and 1990s.   The back of the bookcase is covered in embossed wallpaper that is typical of the era.  However to demonstrate how the mind has deteriorated it is ripped  and burnt at the edges.

There are books from the period; a photo of me as a child but my face has been scratched out to represent the lack of complete understanding of who I am (as the disease progresses).  The photo is on its side and covered in stains where tea cups have been mindlessly placed upon it; this is to show the lack of value placed on this item as the young child in it is a stranger to the advanced dementia sufferer.

The wax from the top shelf has dropped through and stained items.  The paraphernalia is in a state of disarray, looking as if it has just been squashed back on the shelf and is in danger of falling out.

Like with the top shelf there are holes drilled at random, although there are fewer.  The holes can be seen at the sides too.

The shelves are placed at random angles to demonstrate how memories get moved around and dislocated in their positioning.

The next shelf refers to the 1950s-70s.  As with the shelf above there is wallpaper symbolic of the era.  It is torn and in need of repair, although it is not burnt and as badly damaged. Again books from the era are used to illustrate this and the random paint splats that are represented on the above shelves.  There are fewer holes on the side at this level as there are fewer holes in the memory.

A knickknack from the 1970s is also included.  This is to link to the importance we place on objects but how this is ultimately lost when we lose our memory.

Two photos are used of the young family and children.  Like the photo of the granddaughter they are scratched and the glass is broken as memories over who they are have begun to fade.


The bottom and strongest shelf is the most pristine.  There is little paint and the wallpaper, typical of the era is in  perfect condition.

The books from 1926-1952 are stacked neatly.  A handmade felted toy is stood atop a large book, indicative of a toy that may have been played with in the era.  There is a handwoven little mat that could have been made by young person from the era.  However it is loosely fraying at the edge, this is the one hint we having that something is amiss and close to unravelling.  On top of this is a photo in perfect condition, in a perfect frame of the lady with dementia as a young girl playing with a dog.  She in this state is something we can relate to.

Through the bookcase we follow her journey from young girl entering womanhood to starting a family, grandchildren and then the final months.  It humanises this cruel condition that works as a type of mental Benjamin Button, robbing us of our loved ones.


Although this lady is my Grandmother, these are not her things, it is a symbolic journey through memories and how the dementia bookcase can rob us all of those we hold dear.

As you can imagine, getting this piece to the venue was a nightmare, this was made worse by our car being in the garage and so my husband had to take it to someone’s house.  The packaging cost a fortune and I am extremely worried about the piece becoming damaged for a number of reasons:

1) When I saw the piece it was not in a secure environment, in fact I felt a little lied to.


2) I had taken it for granted as I was allowing them use of this work for free that they would make sure the exhibition was insured.  I only found out it wasn’t two days before the work was to be taken to them…… this I feel is an awful way to treat artists, even if you are a charity it is wrong and unfair.  I am at present not insured for it…. I am so worried


3)  My worry was compounded when I discovered they did not include the information with it and nor did they put it away from sticky fingers.. strange that the 2D pieces were out of reach but something far more delicate was in touching distance.  They also did not even put a “DO NOT TOUCH” sign next to it.

The problem is you see that the piece look very tactile and also haphazard, apart from the bottom shelf.  But it is not.  It is very exact with everything in a very specific place but made to look like it is there by chance, just pushed on and dishevelled.  It is very delicate.

I did go a bit mental at a couple of ladies and even tapped their hands (as if they were small children and I an Edwardian governess).  This was because they started pulling at it; trying to open the very old books and pull bits off of it….. I have never wanted to remove a piece of my work from somewhere so much.  The excuse of them and the staff “it’s just so inviting and tactile”… not good enough.

I also, while I am on my tirade was really annoyed when they begged me to travel 55 miles (each way) to the launch.  I get there, it is awful and then they pretty much ignored me and just introduced me to a couple of locals….. yes I admire what they’re trying to do but this I am afraid is not good enough.

The final thing that made me laugh was when the woman spearheading this said to my husband when he took the piece to her that she was so happy as they could now say they’d  “commissioned an artist”.  My husband was polite and didn’t say anything and I don’t mind doing something for free for a good cause but to commission me they would have to pay me and instead I feel they have abused my trust and not even insured the exhibition.


Do you know the one thing I hate most about being an artist and arts organiser?  Well even if you don’t I am going to tell you as this is my blog so n’uh n’uh n’uh n’uh n’uh


Now I don’t mean this as offensive as it may sound.  I like people; that’s why I set up Live Art Local (which as of 13th Jan has had CIC status conferred upon it); but I do not like being reliant on other people and having to persuade them about the importance of art and the arts.

I have spent all of today in meetings about Fareham Arts Festival and trying to arrange events with partners; during today I have had my personality torn to shreds by a horticulturist with two decades of events experience and then had him be nice to me again but reassert that they will not do any of the work bar letting us use their space.  I have also found out due to us possibly having in excess of a certain number of people turn up (though it is unlikely at this one event as part of the whole… if that makes sense) to a stage event I have to apply for a different licence.

There are also the mountains of paperwork and the fact that I am to blame if anything goes wrong and I find myself asking the question:


Why do I do this?

I am not being paid (anything at all at present); the council only half heartedly support it and maybe no one cares about the arts outside of us artists and creatives… maybe I am deluded about what the arts can achieve and uniting the people……. I don’t know any more.

Except that I do.  There is something deep down inside of me that says this is what I should be doing.  This is how to connect people and to make the arts more accessible.

Today I spoke with the library about a new initiative to use the arts as a way to facilitate social interaction with older, lonely people and they seem very keen.  We will wait and see what happens there.

One thing I have decided upon in the last few months and that is I am definitely getting involved in politics.  I am attending the next official meeting of The Co-operative Party, of which I am a member and once the Arts Festival is over I am going to find a way to run as an independent in the next council elections.


So today was quite a good day in many ways…. especially after my retort from the council yesterday (to my email questioning why they had reneged on our partnership citing budget issues).  Anyhow today was much better.

I spent three hours today trawling around charity shops (well the ones I could get my wheelchair in), looking for typical children’s books form the 1930s – 1950s in good condition, books a woman in her 30s – 40s would have read in the 1960s/70s and books that same woman would read in the 1980s/90s

It was in fact shocking how much I spent over 4 charity shops.  However I now have most of the books I was looking for.  I also managed to pick up some frames and a knickknack circa 1976.

So this evening I decided I needed to crack on with my dementia bookcase.  As I stated the other day I got my husband to drill my holes….

Today I attached my various pieces of wallpaper, each denoting a separate time period into the bookcase.  After fitting the pieces, which was very difficult owing to the bookcase being already built  I set about destroying the top two tiers.  This symbolises the memory  being eroded, the gaps in what was once whole.

I then set about covering the top 3 shelves in silk emulsion , being very careful to protect the bottom shelf, which for the analogy to work, remain perfect.  This was done in a very haphazard way, using a bamboo stick to drizzle the paint in a dislocated fashion.  Stopping and starting again, throwing the paint around  in a confused manner, representing the confusion and messiness of the demented brain.

Tomorrow I start the sanding process and the staging and distressing of objects.


Yesterday was a dark day for the most accessible form of art: the cartoon and for free speech.  For yesterday was the day when 3 gunmen broke into the offices of French satirical paper Charlie Hebdo and murdered various members of staff and later, police officers (one of them Muslim himself).  As stated in The New Yorker yesterday the dead are:

” Stéphane Charbonnier, who used the pen name Charb and was the very brave editor of Charlie Hebdo; the cartoonists Jean Cabut (who signed his work Cabu), Bernard Verlhac (Tignous), Georges Wolinski, and Philippe Honoré; Moustapha Ourrad, a copy editor; the columnists Bernard Maris and Elsa Cayat; Frederic Boisseau, described as a building maintenance worker. Ahmed Merabet and Franck Brinsolaro were police officers. Michel Renaud was visiting the office when he was shot dead. (Vox has a list.) They were assassinated. ” http://www.newyorker.com/news/amy-davidson/attack-charlie-hebdo?intcid=mod-most-popular

In the afternoon followed a flurry of cartoonists images from around the world, most of them lampooning the perceived pain felt by the extremist gunmen juxtaposing it next to the pain of murder.  Many drew (no pun intended) images featuring pencils, and pens, the most basic of artistic tools and the tools of expression.  The tools that those who seek to oppress and condemn seek to destroy.

The image is mightier than the sword.  The outpouring of grief and support for those journalists and men/women of images that lost their lives for nothing, more vibrant than the mutterings of those who support the executioners.  We as artistic practitioners need to rise up against the tyranny of oppression and to show the hypocrisy of this planet we call home.

We cannot, as Mr Thomas would say “…. go gentle into that good night”.  What those lunatics, because let’s face it that is what they are, it is unfair to call them “islamisists” as that is a loaded term and carriers with it further connotations of hate and misrepresents what the majority of those of the Muslim faith believe (we don’t call Christian extremists, Christianists).  What they fail to understand is that drawing and artistic expression, and outpouring of ideas are as old as humans (and probably pre homo erectus), they were around before religious prophets and idolatry, they are at the centre of what makes us human and that through hatred and murder you cannot silence an idea, you cannot stop something you dislike just by killing some people (some innocent people).

Satire is an essential part of life, without the ability to lampoon world leaders, companies, religions, celebrities, etc we would be soulless.  That these people chose to confront us all with the idiocies and hypocrisies of the world should not make them targets for terror, but held up as bastions of free speech and admired more than scantily clad starlets, or millionaire comedians raging about not voting. Yes their work was provocative, yes it was offensive to some and yes it trod a thin line on occasion.  But you can choose not to look at an image, you can decide to not be offended.  After all offence is fleeting, death is forever.  That you are offended or your beliefs are wounded is not the same as physical pain.  We are all here for such a short time anyway, does it not make sense to accept that we sometimes have vastly different beliefs and value systems and respect each others right to our opinion.  If we truly believe in something then how can we be really, painfully offended by someone who does not share our opinion, surely if you feel anything in this case it should be pity.

Art not hate, pen not sword, tolerance not reaction.

“Do not go gentle into that good night.

Rage, Rage, against the dying of the light”

image from Chaire Hebdo http://www.charliehebdo.fr/index.html


So today has been a bit of a mish mash and has, like the Presley song, “sent my  temperature rising”, but not I feel, for the same reason as Presley.  In fact I am so miffed that I decided to post here as it is arts related.

So annoyance number one:  I have not mentioned in my blog but as well as the dementia exhibition (which I very excitedly was told (my excitement not there’s) that I’ve been given an extension on as mine is the central piece), I also have the MA show at Atkinson Gallery coming up (one of my pieces: Snapshot, from the With Me, Without Me series is included) and four pieces from my Transience series are going to be in Here and There (working title) at Aspex Gallery.

Anyhow, the Transience and With Me, Without Me pieces are prints and I was informed today that my work would be delivered by the end of the day.   Well one rather thin (they are aluminium prints) box turned up, I opened it  and though great quality, it was 1 image and not 5 big prints as it was meant to be.  I telephoned and was assured that it was coming today and would be in 5 deliveries.  I then received a text from the delivery company telling me my order was complete: it wasn’t.  Again I telephoned the printers, who again assured me they would all arrive separately by the end of the day but because they were required for an exhibition they agreed to do a reprint and send them 24 hour (I thought they were 24 hour anyway).  At least they refunded my £20 delivery cost.

So as mentioned I was a tad annoyed.  However this was nothing compared to my anger and annoyance when I received a reply to an email I sent to the council today.

I am organising a rather large arts event this May-June.  I have been working very hard for months through the not for profit I run, Live Art Local, to build relationships between various bodies and to create a web of organisations and venues to make this a truly wonderful event.   With a multi venue trail of exhibitions I created last year with a tiny council grant I was assured by the local council that they were so impressed that they were definitely going to be involved this year and due to this there would be more cavaeats to my funding.  However, the suggestion was I would receive much larger funding (I was unpaid for several months full time work last year) and support (I received no real support last year, aside from my small grant).


Four weeks before Christmas I presented a numerously paged document, as asked, detailing every aspect of the festival, every single penny accounted for, I was assured I would be contacted immediately upon reading and meeting.  Today, having still not heard anything I contacted  the person I had a meeting with and got a reply.

Depressingly, this reply did not contain what I wished, nor what I had expected, following our meeting and what was told to me.  In fact what I received was a total reneging on their pledge.  I found this particularly hard to take as in my meetings with colleges, theatres, art centres, shopping centres, libraries, charity and businesses, I have declared that I have the council.

I am at a loss.

I find it very hard as an artist to make change happen.  I still do, I still launch things and create things; indeed through Live Art Local I run free to attend Artist networking.  However I find it so depressing that to coin a rather passe and cliched phrase “the man” has a habit of turning up at the last minute to the organsing meeting and then, like a drunk afterparty guest declaring to everyone that they created this great thing.  I have experienced this with politicians too.

The thing is, as an artist who is out there in the wilderness, trying to establish a career, create a community, and change the world (well their little bit of it) through the power of art and to make people realise they are creative and that art is for them; it’s really hard.  You cannot stand up to “the man” because you need him and even if they renege on their word and offer you the chance of something much smaller, you need all the credence you can muster and all the money you can get your hands on and so what do you do?

It is a depressing state of affairs that you need to put up and shut up.  I even fear venting on my blog that it may find it’s way to someone and I will appear rude and ungrateful, but at the moment I don’t know if I have anything to be grateful for; and at present I am just bitter.

We artists need to unite, we need to bind together, we cannot rely on the man to help us, we cannot accept what our local Governments say when they tell us they’re “listening” and they will work with us because they can renege on their promises.  Many of the artists I have met locally through the way I have tried to start to change the local artistic landscape have thanked me and said people had spoken about it before, but noone had done anything until I  made it happen.  We cannot just talk about change, we need to work together to affect it and if it doesn’t happen then we have noone to blame but ourselves.

On a lighter note and aside from my diatribe, I have been progressing with the bookcase over the last couple of days (see earlier post about the dementia exhibition).  I have recruited my husband to drill numerous holes for me throughout the top tiers (shelves and sides) decreasing in number as we go down the bookcase until we reach the bottom shelf and childhood where there are none.  These holes varying in intensity are representative of how dementia eats away at the brain and creates both literal and metaphorical holes in the self.