Thinking about the words we use

Social distancing

Self isolation

shielding

lockdown

I cannot work out which is more disturbing – I have a morbid dread of being wrongfully imprisoned, shut in by walls, cut off from human contact, warmth of love, of quiet fresh air and the sounds of life growing and going about the business of living and dying,

or the fear of others rejecting physical contact

Words have power beyond the letters from which they are formed, interpreted by each of us according to our private and internal codes.

If I learnt anything from being alongside people with a diagnosis of dementia it was that they often spoke or acted out truth that seared through my confusions. Right now maybe that world of dementia has something more to teach……………………

This is an image of me drawn by Roy

Pip by Roy 2

and this is an image of Roy drawn by me with his images alongside

Pip by Roy & Roy by Pip  April 12

what I saw sits on a surface, what he has drawn digs deeper It is a useful reminder to revisit learning and experiences.

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Riches found while having a clear out

I am clearing things out of my studio. Preparing for something, perhaps new work, perhaps a change or just because it might clear my mind.

I have files of things, images, pieces of text that inspired me or in some way caught my attention. They get pushed into a ‘resources file’ and are often forgotten so clearing out is an opportunity to revisit these scraps that have blown my way.

One of the people who has had most influence on me as an artist was my tutor at Queen’s Road, Peter Watson. When I completed my part time certificate course we had a massive meltdown. something I regret and have subsequently attempted to repair.

Peter taught me so much, influenced my approach and informed my thinking. His words remain important now as they were 30 years ago. Here are some of them.peter Watson 1

peter Watson

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Visibility

Working with colleagues ‘ Sparrows’, Kirsty Claxton and Elizabeth Adeline, we have begun an exploration of the place of photos in creating work.  Tied to the images we created a list of words between us and then focused in on one through an the invitation to explore a word ‘pregnant’ with meaning. I failed to find the image that first sprang into my mind. The photo I chose responded to initial images that had accrued from the previous cycles of exchange. It was my parents wedding photo.

On a wedding occasion, on the steps of the Marylebone registry office, you would be pretty visible.

But in choosing to settle with the word ‘visibility ‘ I find myself continuing exploration of identity. Somehow my sense of visibility is inextricably bound to identity: visibility goes straight to the heart of all that I aim for as an artist in making my work. Revealing something essential, something not always immediately obvious, articulating identification.

Today I had a conversation about colour. It led to me explain the endeavour in making my work ‘Marking a Point’. There I was try into find new language for public political debate, language that would relate to those living far from the capital Cardiff where the Welsh Assembly public debates are held. I wanted to see if colour from around Wales had its own resonance in articulating marks made listening in the debating chamber.

Looking for some sort of ‘truth’
Marks that might resonant just as they are
in a language that is other than words

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So where in the order of life does Covid 19 belong?

  • Forms of life get very small, I am unsure but I think that viruses are the smallest. Strands of ribonuclei acid , RNA,wrapped up in a coat to protect themselves when not happily reproducing in some other living organism. So here is a highly magnified image I found on the internet

RNA_Seq_lead copy

What do I know about this Covid 19?

  • As viruses go it is quite large and heavy reducing the distance it can easily travel through air
  • It invades lung cells of humans where it happily reorganises things so it can reproduce itself. I think it kills the cells it invades, taking over the reproductive mechanisms of the cell to make more of itself.
  • It has swept across the world getting into human bodies via their mucous membranes in noses, mouths and eyes .
  • It gets there in a droplet of moisture coughed or sneezed by an infected person, landing on a surface where another host human transfers it to their mouth or nose or eyes where it can move in our mucous off into lung tissue
  • Lots of people get infected and survive after an unpleasant time of fever and coughing
  • Some people die
  • The mathematical models indicate that the rate of spread is fast because every one person can infect three others, those three then infect another three each and so on
  • Reducing physical contact slows the rate of infection, the virus has nowhere to go
  • ‘Lockdown’ has been effective in slowing infections
  • But ‘Lockdown’ is creating more problems both now and almost certainly for the future

 

Things that are changed

Our behaviour towards one another, can we care, can we still find ways to communicate, touch and soothe?

Or are we gradually seeing the fault lines opening both at an individual and social level?

Our attitude to some of the lowest paid workers in our societies, people who keep us clean, help us when we are ill, care for us in old age and often when we are very young, move us around on public transport, grow and deliver our food, keep the lights on and water running, bins emptied and sewers unblocked, bury the dead and deliver the newborn, the list is long, people on it invisible,  until they are not.

Like that tiny virus

So how am I going to live with the fear of dying? As I write that I think it sounds like an oxymoron. I know that being alive means that I have to die.

and the economy

This seems even harder to unpick. If those with wealth have 42% of it from private pensions where did that money originate?

Somehow the conversations around fairness and furloughing, value and money, money and wealth, education, inheritance and upbringing merge into a tangled web.

A little like the tracing the spread of that tiny virus.

What steps do I need to take to untangle the knots?

Each one of us may have a different answer

Right now we are denied the chance to physical sing, dance and feast together

Right now some people are working in difficult conditions, with lack of sleep and lack of solace

Right now new connections are being made

Just like that tiny virus

 

 

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Touch

So I am exploring our human relationships through touch. Using the difficult, fragile and unpredictable medium of china clay I invite people to hold my hand. effectively we are making some kind of ‘clay shake’.

Originally my interest stemmed from a consideration of care, care between two people. In these times of fear and the unknown behaviour of corona virus an exchange between two people involving holding hands seems ever more important. On BBC Radio 4 Today  program the Thought for the day last week spoke about the origin of handshakes, offering an empty hand holding no weapon, how tragic if our hand holding is now perceived to potentially operate as a threat?

Today my friend and neighbour gave me an hour of her time to sit and hold hands while our hands were interleaved with thin china clay. During our first hand holding our grasp felt uncomfortable, awkward and slightly self conscious. We drew with our free hand whether it was the dominant one or not.

In our second hand holding we first discussed how she may have held her late husband’s hand. Somehow we found both a more comfortable and satisfying manner to hold each other’s hand. We did not draw but talked instead of the importance of touch and of behaviour studies when it is withheld or replaced with a surrogate. The hand holding was more relaxed, perhaps because it was a second opportunity. I wonder how many other people will offer the time to explore?

We are friends, we live in a fairly remote rural setting which enables more contact through less contact but still the time involved holding hands is outside generally accepted comfort so perhaps this is also an act of curiosity?

In the time of hand holding perhaps there are also chances for new exchanges, the wet clay recording some traces of our exchange. Perhaps as I learn more about handling the clay I can capture the nuances of that exchange, unspoken but palpable in the time of holding each other.

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On seeming to be invisible

How many of us feel really seen?

What does it actually take to make yourself visible?

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Fear

So on Monday evening I was interviewed about my exhibition in Warrington, Matter of Identity. It was interesting be asked how I began, what I learnt and why anyone might get something from seeing the work.

However the most interesting question was about fear. Was I worried/ frightened of working alongside people with end stage dementias? The short answer is why would I be frightened?

It is shocking to think that because people behave differently or because we cannot understand the language that they use  that they are then some sort of threat.

If we consider that small children often behave differently and can be verbally challenging, what is our reaction?

Is the difference that adults are physically more powerful than children?

or perhaps it is that small children are more interesting, evoke our curiousity, care and pride?

You can listen to the interview here from 16.30 minutes into the programme

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Confering

Last week I installed Walkers: I, you,we& they and Someone loved effectively as one piece of work.

The individuals, Nin, John,Margaret, Cheryl and Olwen took their places amongst the slightly more anonymous figures of the Walkers to create a community. Set alongside trade stands promoting organisations who support social care it presented both an interesting juxtaposition and experience for me and those who joined me in the ‘community ‘ of my artwork.

It seems that this work provides a living legacy of lives either hidden or no longer physically alive as more than one visitor remarked on the calm afforded by the presence of the artwork installation. A chance perhaps to reflect on creative contributions made by residents to the hurly burly world in which we generally move.

Something to be thankful for

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Conversing

Quoting Wikipedia   

Conversation is interactive communication between two or more people.

The development of conversational skills and etiquette is an important part of socialization.

 

Today I visited a friend with advanced Alzeimhers’ disease and told him about a meeting I had on Monday with an academic consultant whom I felt I had inadvertently intimidated. My friend used to run international training groups and had clearly been very highly thought of.

I cannot recall words spoken, except the ‘bobbly bits’, ‘plates’, ‘two and sixpences’ and Humpty Dumpty. However I came away inspired and informed.

If we examine the meaning of conversation  and pay attention to the definition given above perhaps more conversations with those with differing dementias can help develop our socialisation.

Just a thought

 

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Doorways

Today I am hiring a van to take a piece of work to Bath for the FaB Festival. https://www.fringeartsbath.co.uk/doorways

Someone loved, John

Writing for the Larks and Ravens this morning made me pause to consider the words that we use and even in choosing this title for the piece.  The word someone can be so throw away but looking at it written here it is also a statement about each life.

 

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