On Thursday my work arrived at R-Space Gallery in Lisburn/County Antrim. Two large but lightish boxes filled with smaller ones containing selected hair-work, crochet-pieces, photographs and artlings, crossed the Irish Sea, all carefully labelled with instructions as to how I’d like them installed.
Packing is hard to do when your arms aren’t up to much weight-bearing, raising, carrying, holding, and esp. when you spend most of your time lying down. At the moment exhaustion, nausea and vertigo are fighting for dominance during the day and insomnia reigns at night, so physically assembling the work was a very slow process. Pleasure&pressure were in balance though: the process of considering and (ever so tenderly) preparing individual pieces, one at a wobbly time, choosing #artlings to send, imagining how it might all be presented in the gallery – ooooh! My art was about to go places. I got there in the end, on a (ping)wing – new cultural reference! – and a non-pious prayer, some days wringing only moments, minutes from the grips of fatigue. Good thing I knew what I had to do – I rolled like a rock down a rubbly slope, taking care of one wee thing after the next, as and when I could.
All other activity had to be cancelled/postponed. In a month I only left the house once for a lie-down health-appointment; unattended mail collected in a drawer; phone-calls were curtailed; blogs and tweet-rolls overlooked unless I was directly addressed; etc. etc. – focus of my meagre energies was of the essence. I felt like a very tight bundle of muscles and nerves. At times hysterical giggles were heard…
Why am I telling you this? Partly because I want to get it out of the way (during my Skype artist’s talk next Saturday I want to concentrate on my work, not its conditions, although supinity will feature), partly because I’ve been thinking about professionalism&competence and wondering what they mean and if&how they can be counted when you literally don’t appear in the world much. Producing my work is the easy part; getting it seen (other than on-line) is a challenge when I can’t network, easily meet other art-professionals, explore exhibitions and connect&contextualise. I have days when I cannot get dressed, answer a phonecall, sit through a meal, open the door to the garden or do any kind of mental arithmetics. Although I reach for the crochet-hook or something to lay out on the floor as soon as I can achieving a real sense of competence, of professionalism, is bloody hard. But here is a wonderful opportunity and I’ve done my thing, at my own slow pace, and while I sometimes despaired at my ponderous progress I am delighted by it all: This is what I really want to do and do well: get my work into the world, have it encountered, evaluated, acknowledged. Because the only question has to be about its quality. The proof will be in the exhibition pudding.
Luckily I had help from friends with what I call heavy lifting and stuff I couldn’t do around the house, like creating paths through topographies teeming with artwork, garment boxes, tissue paper and bubble wrap, and myself curled up in the middle. And, on a different level, I felt wonderfully supported&sustained through daily contact with my art-sister Sonia Boué, who was sounding board, agony aunt, encourager, believer, distiller of worries and utterer of home and other truths.
So: a kind of getting there, without getting there (I’m still mourning that I can’t go myself): supine competence and a kind of compacted professionalism were achieved, I hope (although I’m sure there’s a lot to learn). And all being well my pieces will shine, as ambassadors in Lisburn from the land of in-between.
PS. When I try to even remotely describe my circumstances worries about pathos&pitifulness creep in. I want to make this clear: I do not mean to inspire, do not want to be called brave or heroic or some such (I hate that word). What I want more of is for my work to count, and my artist-self too, in the outside-world; to connect meaningfully, have critical and constructive conversations. And a bit of fun with it too.