I’ve been working in a social practice for 10 years. I think socially engaged work is some of the most thoughtful, high-quality, useful and challenging art being produced now. I think practitioners are a powerful cultural resource& I’m really committed to collaboratively creating methods for supporting development and resilience of practice and practitioners.
In my experience, socially engaged work is dead messy- physically, conceptually, socially, emotionally, joyfully messy. And, the mess is needed. It’s where the most fun, interesting, useful stuff happens; where people can use creativity to be vulnerable, to ask questions, to solve problems, to understand our own culture, to the create change. The mess is also exhausting, draining, confusing. Tidying up, making sense of, organising, recording this mess and its’ effects is a huge physical and emotional labour. A labour that mostly falls to the practitioner and is rarely given many (if any) resources. This creates a situation where socially engaged artists often suffer from what I call “Mess Fatigue” (MessF); Tiredness, sometimes sadness, often frustration, nearly always a seemingly over whelming amount of physical organising and emotional processing which a socially engaged project can generate.
During 2018-2020, through a series of interviews, performance lectures, workshops, shared making sessions and informal chats with socially engaged practitioners , I aim to ask and answer questions about the emotional, practical, financial, fallout from their social practice. I will also collaborate with practitioners in other fields: paramedics, social workers, councillors for example, to share and develop strategies for building personal and professional resilience. Through this I aim to discover common experiences and gather resources (physical, structural, emotional) to go into a “social practice first aid kit”. An, initially, imagined resource that could support social practice specialists to deal with the, often ignored, fallout from working in such an intense and involved way.
The proejct is being supported by Orbis and Ampersand Inventions through a year long (2018-19) residency at CU House, Newcastle, UK and through opportunities and funding from a variety of other venues and organizations including The New Bridge Project, Disability Arts Online and North East Cultural Partnership.
The project will be recorded by zine artists and a composer, who will focus on capturing, illustrating, sharing and embedding suggestions for the “social practice first aid kit”.
“The Social Practice Surgery” project will offer opportunities to listen to the experiences of others and together to begin considering how practitioners can tackle the big “MessF” also what we can ask of commissioners, funders, producers, colleagues, participants to ensure that everyone involved in a project helps with the “tidying up”.”