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.
How many of us feel really seen?
What does it actually take to make yourself visible?
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
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
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
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.
This gallery contains 3 photos.