Back in August…
Mid summer madness perhaps. S and I going in different directions and we live 60 miles apart, and are both out and about a lot so communicating by phone isn’t easy and emails can be confusing. August is that empty month.. Full of holidays and people away.
Researching different things, one uncovering info about witchcraft in Africa, the other doing feminist festivals around the uk.
Outreach to new artists and art places in search of that quintessential witchiness which capitalistic worlds want to exploit (lots of money to be made from Halloween costumes, trick or treat etc) and information of the deeply disturbing child and people persecution of people accused of witchcraft, often an evangelical religious crusade. How do these worlds interact? Answers on a postcard please!
I begin to see how WitCH is the one key stereotype that ptrky (now my shorthand for patriarchy) doesn’t use, except to make money from witch films. Virgin/maiden, femme fatale/seductress/whore, mother of the nation/yummy mummy, are all TOTALLY acceptable to ptrky. WitCH is outsider. She is old, dangerous, ugly and powerful. Whoopee! She is me!
Back in August…
Once upon a time I was a writer and before I had a heart attack in 2002, I would have written about WitCH just as I wrote about Medusa another of my favourite images.. the goddess of life and death, through one side her veins give life and through the other they give death. (I am not a goddess type of feminist). Somehow though growing up as a girl I registered that Medusa had ‘power’, the power to protect herself against invasive things, which as a girlchild I did not seem to have. I had no such relationship with WitCH but I am discovering it!
How does a new piece of art come about? From bits and pieces, from research, from a concept? For me, the coalescing of these 3 things over what could be several years. This piece came from a panel of old wood drawer which I had used in 2009 in an earlier work and did not want to break up or throw away. I liked the the fretwork of the old dovetailed joints, its matt blackboard paint surface and the pale green drip all the way down.
I’ve been collecting the single gloves you find dropped around the streets.. a hand from the past let this go.. and they were nearly all black..here a connection with Tracy Emin child’s glove (in brass) on the railings near the Foundling Museum. This one leather,surface creased like an old hand. Lastly from a series of photographs I took of old light bulbs, their fragility/toughness/iconic shape/symbolism as we moved into the ugly energy-saving ones, I took the centres from the original broken bulbs.. all these things around my studio gradually made sense together.. Voila.. new work. At the time there was no WitCHness there.
‘We always went in’
Witch is the archetype type not controlled by/owned by/used by ptrky. Magical outsider, No, not outsider, but an idea in its community with its ways, it’s words. Community of all genders, LGBTI community, witches and wizards and definitely queer. Inspiring, mythical; myths are stories that have truth and imagination.
House. I have a pentaptych (5 of a series) of painted, scratched, collaged works that together represent danger, pleasure and safety, grief, absence and danger. The last has scratched on it ‘we always went in’.
I realise this is a witch connection, the attractive, inspiring, half ruined place full of ‘beyond the everyday’ for us as children. Beyond our ken. Magical, risky, a challenge.
This is what ‘isrupt’ can be. Something that IS, and is also a rupture with what we ‘are supposed to be’. The thing that creates music, and poems, beyond our ken.
So far I have refused to separate these 5 connected works. Now ‘we always went in‘ steps into the foreground with WitCH. Then other elements shift into my awareness. Writing from my book ‘Bare Feet Keep You Safe’ a key passage…
As a feminist, lesbian, old and looking into the unknown of the next ten years, and wanting magic, I’m finding repeated connections with WitCH. So the 13 inch square of scratched and painted house ‘we always went in’ will have a broken slate roof tile below, on the floor of the gallery, engraved
‘what would happen what could happen what might befall if we are not careful enough don’t know what we have to do to be careful except be ourselves but that may not be enough seeing as how we have been told not to come here what is it that might happen what is it that might happen what is it ‘
Back in July, 4 of us met to discuss the next FANS OF FEMINISM show, and unanimously decided on WitCH.. a theme with history, serious issues, intrigue, magic, and fun. (black cats?) Witch cocktails at the PV.. a Barbeque on Halloween, a cauldron.. And feminist without a doubt.
But not so easy. Through this blog I want to chart some of the twists and turns in this project, for me as an artist and as an arts organizer, as a co-curator/organizer. Reflect on it, share some of the ideas, get some feedback.
We had a small gallery with a feminist perspective that was keen to host us! the PV would be 31st October, of course! We’d have 13 artists!
As we began to approach artists I was aware of the fact that the two main organizers are lesbian, straight, white, and Western (ie British and American), but the serious witch issues are world wide. Though witch trials are in our history, and in our literature and our childrens books, we are not representative of the countries where witch persecution, and indeed witch hunters, exist.
The work I’d made before entitled “We are not witches or wizards’’ had started from my wild knitting… and grown from there to connect with the issues of children accused of being witches and wizards in Africa. (The title itself comes from a internet photo of the children in a ‘witches camp’ with their own poster with that slogan on it..) I hadn’t set out to make work about witches in Africa, from my European roots.
The wild knitting contains thread, wire, plastic bags, headphones and their cables. screws, electric cables, anything and everything I could in fact knit with.. and dolls heads. The knitting both cradles the dolls and also looks like a catapult, a weapon.. the three hanging pieces focus on red, black and grey, tho they contain all the colours you can think of..
The piece was both caring and disturbing.. reflecting my thoughts towards… towards something happening somewhere else.. How would we handle taking on this theme where women children and men, are tortured exiled and punished? More in my next..