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My last post was something of an effort to put things in perspective. The thoughts have continued however. Especially the ones about functioning without a studio space separate from my home. I talk about not having had one previously and tell myself off for moaning. 
Thing is though, my practice is  different now to how it was two years ago, very different to five years ago, and almost unrecognisable from ten years ago…. Having acknowledged the difference this is where I’ve got to:

By not having a separate studio for three months now I have identified where the need for it sits.

It sits in that area between the intellectual and the emotional

The physical act of sitting… in an unobserved space… The absence of social interaction on a level not chosen by myself. I’ve got all the bases covered there: physical, intellectual, emotional and  social.

I have expressed a need to work today. I have a mental list of certain “real” things that need doing. But the most real thing to me that needs doing is that separateness. My husband asked what I was going to do today. I’m sure he is asking out of interest. But the answer is complicated. The answer concerns not being asked. A rebuke to his asking of the question is undoubtedly rude. I don’t wish to be rude. So I just said something vague like “oh just art stuff” and lay back in bed thinking about what I was going to do.
This is perhaps where the unobserved bit is important… It will no doubt look like I’m doing nothing. The outward appearance of doing nothing is exactly what I don’t want to be observed doing. (Convoluted sentences that don’t express the intention very well.)

Having mapped out the need to physically be alone in the space, the absence of the social is critical.

I doubt if I will get as much of the unobserved time that it will take, but I have to attempt it. It’s a little like a meditative process, a stilling of the mind. I’m feeling a little down at the moment… And I feel crowded out a bit. This seems rude and ungrateful. I do have a wonderful family and I am surrounded with love. It goes both ways. I love them dearly. But I need head space. I need to physically clear the dining table, as a metaphor for what I want to happen in my head. Clear out some of the baggage and the rubbish that accumulates. Not only will I see and appreciate the love more clearly for doing so, I will be able to think about the work. I’ve done a bit of knitting and sewing and drawing since working at home. I now find that it means nothing unless I can do the clear thinking.
So, while the house is empty for a little while this morning, I’m diving in to the dining room/storage room/studio to have a bit of a think.


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I write my blog as much for myself as my audience, possibly more.
When I look back over it I get a feel for what is dominating my thoughts. If it feels wrong, I can address it.

It feels wrong.

I’ve moaned about the lack of studio, administration, money, my health, other people….

Ummm…. Excuse me? Art?

No. There’s not been much of that. I’ve not written about it because I’ve not really done much. I’ve knitted a few vests, then moaned about tendon problems and wool allergies… Blah blah poor me!

No. I haven’t got a studio at the moment. So what? I managed without one for decades. I had one for two years and suddenly I can’t function without? The cat seems to enjoy all this stuff!

Self-pity is self-destructive behaviour.
So I have set myself a bit of a promise. I have decided I need to generally focus on the positive. I have also decided that my blog needs to be balanced and talk more about my work, and moan less. In order for that to happen I need to actually get up off my ample behind and do some work.

So what’s happening now is this:

I don’t know what is going to happen with the vests. I have knitted six to sit alongside the original one. I had a vague idea I would have nine, but as I have no idea why, I shall stop knitting (Tendons! Ouch! Allergies! Itch!) and do something with these seven. Seven is a good number: secret seven, deadly sins, brides for brothers, oaks, sisters, seas… etc.
I want them to stand independently, like many of the garments I have worked with, as if worn, but the wearer absent… These vests are curious. They are doll size, but would have fitted my premature son. They are genderless in colour and shape and motif (I think… Do feel free to argue with that). I don’t know what they are for, what they stand for. I could keep knitting… The knitting part of some fairy tale performance perhaps?

“The old witch knits until her hands turn to stone and she dies…”

Musically, there are more songs on the way. I’m going to try to persuade my band mates to release a rehearsal recording of just one song for me to post up here. I’d like that. I understand the desire to get it right before you launch it on the world, but in the context of this blog as a private link that might be different… We know here that process is important. I also feel it is important to mark a place: at this time, we were here…

I’m also working on a new proposal for Nine Women too, so those of you that missed it in Dudley last July, might be able to catch it later this year. I think it will be a little different this time round. The performance has been accepted into the installation… It sits more comfortably for me now. I’m reassured to see my own development here. I’m glad I haven’t stopped thinking about it.


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I am interested in the concept of cognitive dissonance.

It is a very human condition. We don’t practice what we preach. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. I can quite happily hold two conflicting thoughts at once. I am quite capable of feeling supremely confident, whilst simultaneously feeling I am completely insignificant and that nothing I ever do has any worth at all. I have the classic little version of me on each shoulder, one angel, one devil. One imploring me to do the right thing, the other saying “Go on…..Fuck it up…. You know you want to”. I am ashamed to say the latter wins more than it should. There have been moments of total self-sabotage. I’m preaching reasonableness whilst behaving like an unthinking idiot.
I am interested in how sometimes what comes out of our mouths is completely negated by our actions. Our behaviours betray us while we attempt to be the better person, holding the higher ground.

For example: I have no cartilage left to speak of in my left knee. If I lost a couple of stone it would make life easier. I can happily discuss this with anyone over a bacon butty, tea and a packet of hobnobs.

I am indecisive. We are indecisive. But I am disturbed by the fact that the media that surrounds us demands we pick a side. Our politics demands we pick a side.
I’ve just been listening to the brilliant Chain Reaction on BBC Radio 4, Victoria Coren-Mitchell interviewed Sandi Toksvig. Sandi put forward the idea that the architecture of our House of Commons perpetuates the two-party conflict system. She thinks it should become a museum, and a new House of Parliament be built, in the round. I do think that our surroundings affect our behaviour. Conversations should be happening, not arguments. I am definitely an old fashioned socialist…but if Cameron has done one thing for civil rights in this country- equal marriage- then he should be praised for that, and thanked. There are plenty of other things to lambast him for, but that has been a great thing, of which he, and we, should be proud. But it isn’t going to make me vote conservative!

There are so many things of which I am ignorant. There are so many things about which I hold no opinion. I think it’s ok to not know? Surely that’s ok?
I am extremely opinionated about the NHS and our education system. I don’t really know how the situation in Syria got so bad… Except that culpability lies in a tangled mess across the world.
I feel I have a voice in education, albeit a small one, and that I have also made a small difference to a small amount of people. I can vote and protest and petition to protect the NHS. I have absolutely no idea about the other stuff.

I deliberately keep my world small. I cannot cope with the bigger issues. I don’t watch much news. I don’t read a newspaper. I become uselessly over-emotional and totally demoralised by my inability to do anything. So as a self preservation measure, I limit my exposure. Other people are more able to do other things, between us all we do what we can I suppose, in the small sector we each feel able to deal with.

I like the idea of the confusion caused by cognitive dissonance. Out of chaos comes odd connections that lead to the barmy idea that might just work. Hold two opinions at once, until the very last moment when it becomes clear which is right. Until then, juggle, turn from one to the other until you are dizzy, change your mind depending on who you are with, be openly duplicitous and talk for opposing sides until you find one side sounding so ridiculous the decision is made.

One exercise I have used in various educational settings is getting my students (from primary to HE) to argue for the side they disagree with. This can be hilarious as they try to wriggle out from under it, but also very telling, informative, and it encourages empathy.

As I get older (I just had another birthday- 55) I find I am less sure, not more sure. I have no idea how the world manages to keep turning under the weight of such stupidity. And in this stupid world, I am deliberately keeping myself even more stupid.

However, I am quite happy. Most of the time.
(Not sure if this is a good or bad way to exist. I’ll let you know if I come to a decision)


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And so it becomes obvious why my blog has been a little quiet. There wasn’t much going on that didn’t have something to do with the search for a studio, or the application for the bursary. The fact that the former was tied inextricably to the latter meant that I’ve been keeping shtum… If that is how you spell it.

Part of the deal is that I blog about the search. So just as I did with my Nine Women blog when I got the ACE funding, this will be the same. I will attempt to keep the search process on the bursary blog, here:

https://www.a-n.co.uk/blogs/time-and-space-a-n-professional-development-bursary-2016

Then all the other stuff will carry on as normally as possible here on Threads. But as we have seen before, there is always overlap. When this happens I will provide links backwards and forwards and try to be as clear as I can.
I’ve already started it, so please visit, comment, whatever…

…and keep your fingers crossed for us!


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As my Mum would have said, “There’s no side to Sonia Boué”

This is very true. Sonia is easy company. Words are thoughtful, carefully used. Sometimes slow and deliberate and serious, sometimes fast and animated and hilarious!
A few weeks back, we had a flurry of emails between us, something had sparked it off, a blog, an article, an image… I can’t now honestly remember what. What we decided to do was fix a date in our diaries to get together to discuss this excitement face to face. We picked a venue about half way between us and did it…
(As an aside here, I can recommend picking out half way points… Leamington Spa was lovely, and I’ve had pretty good half way meetings in all sorts of other places with other artists too)

Our excitement at meeting was laughed at by the coffee shop staff. It had been an adventure that included an underestimation by Google of the time the journey would take; a small detour as I chose to ignore the sat-nav; road works; not having enough money for the car park, and a misunderstanding of EXACTLY which coffee shop to meet in. I actually ordered a pot of tea and sat down in one, then realised I was in the wrong one, and abandoned it! Sonia’s adventure included flooding on the line, a replacement bus service offered but not needed, and a completely oblivious selection of National Rail staff which resulted in her getting off a train, then running to get back on it!
Consequently when we did meet, it was as if we had travelled half way round the world to achieve it!

Anyway, we caught up on personal gossip, ordered more tea, both Earl Grey. We decided it was a little cold here, and that our work required hot, substantial sustenance not provided by a cheese n ham toastie, so went in search of something better and ended up in Cafe Rouge ordering the same things off the menu (this has almost become a tradition for us now) fish cakes, fries not salad, elderflower cordial to drink…

Our friendship, we decided, is slow. Trust between us has come about over the past few years reading each other’s blogs, commenting upon each other’s work and the work of other artists, sharing articles and research. And slow is how it still is. We had tentatively agreed in the email exchange that there might be some work in this, there are crossing points and points that briefly touch then move away. This is why we decided to get together. So when we moved to Cafe Rouge we asked for a large table for two, so we could work, and somewhere warm please! So we had a squashy leather bench under the heater, and a table for four between us and spread out the paper, pens, laptop, iPad, sketchbooks…. And we talked and looked at the sketchbooks and the photos and so on. We scribbled words of note onto big bits of paper.
We still don’t know if there is any work to come of this, for a collaboration, but the discussion was very meaningful, helped us both identify areas that are important to us, and possibly put words into each other’s mouths, for ease of understanding. I found it a hugely useful exercise, and has had the effect of “sharpening my pencil” of ideas….

I’m not going to reveal all about our conversation, as it is, I think, the way in which it happened that is interesting, and transferable, not necessarily the content.

But having said that, I think there are many readers who may be able to add to the discussion that could move it on even further…

These words were hastily scribbled all over the paper, not in a list as I do here. I had wondered about photographing the paper, but then also wondered whether a rewriting might give me more insight into the connections we made:

Translation
If you present something differently then you feel it is
Fraudulent
Performance
Association of the garment with the persona
Dignifying justifying being serious <~~~~~>humour playing being silly
Garments are people
Why now?
Constellations
Inhabiting
We don’t have time
Kicking off, not
Game over
“Are you looking at me?”
Is performance disguise?
Do we have to go in disguise to find ourselves?
Belief in self
Can’t believe I’m performing
Performing makes me believe in myself
Who is performing?
Is someone else performing me?
Where is the fraud?
Fraudulent bit?
A presumed authority
Transformation/being transformed
Truth hiding in plain sight
Becoming visible – invisible
Are we invisible because we are in role?
Are we visible because we are in role?
Doing something that is not “normal”
finding context in which it is “normal”
dx
“Passing” – appropriating the vocabulary of other groups to aid understanding of a social process?
Formal is normal
Social context of performance practice
Art and non-art
Age
Waiting
Obstacles
Barriers
Opinions
Judgements
Protocols
Norms

Who is Norma Normal
Where has she been hiding?
Norma Normal is not normal

Yes… An interesting exercise… More thoughts occur…
Sonia, I’m wondering which one of my aprons would suit Norma best?

And do you sing?


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