In 2017 I became a mother and also moved from London to a relatively remote area of the New Forest, in the South of England. The impact on my art practice was immense. Making art with a baby around turned out to be relatively possible, but thinking and research time became a luxury. I missed the engaged discussion and debate at my London studio building, and also missed the capital’s easy access to gallery events and talks.
So, I started to explore alternative ways of developing my art research and ideas. In particular, I wanted to continue to explore in depth how people come together to perform and perpetuate cultural identities. This relates to my own art, where I have been working increasingly in recent years with anthropological and ethnographic forms of enquiry as a formal mode of exploration and forging social connections.
Being awarded an a-n artist bursary allowed me to undertake an online course on Social Anthropology with Oxford University extended learning. The course explored ethnography, anthropologically, kinship, witchcraft, rituals and rites of passage, gender and identity, personhood, the anthropology of landscape, political organisation and the impact of globalisation on ethnicity. Through it, I was able to formalise my understanding of ethnographic and anthropological processes and study, which I had already been engaged with in my art practice.
I learned how anthropology seeks to identify the common and the shared qualities of seemingly unrelated communities. This key characteristic in anthropology started to unlock various processes and methods in my art practice (for example informing my approach to Celebrate, a participatory project at the Whitechapel Gallery), and resonates too with where I now live. The New Forest is a complex place with multiple land managers and stakeholders (including commoners, the forestry commission, national parks authority, district councils, private landowners). The lens of anthropology has provided a great format for examining this site.