I recycle words. We all do it. They say something different each time. I recycle images too. People used to do that as well, back when there was no sharp divide between image and word. Years ago I spent time in the theatre sketching rehearsals; a scary, fast-paced scribble of a task which I found exhilarating. Periodically I would revisit my stack of sketch pads and extract material for evolution into other states, for exhibitions and illustrations.
Recently I found myself reusing images from 'Livet i Danmark'. This was originally a Danish tv soap, 'The House in Christenshavn', you can still google it to discover more. It spawned a film, but this controversial theatre extrapolation (Life in Denmark) sank without trace, no reference to it, good or bad, seems to exist.
At the time I didn't think it was politically motivated, targeted any particular audience or indeed intended as anything other than entertainment in an already crowded marketplace. It seemed very much at odds with the issue-based arts scene and I was very uncomfortable with the apparent 'in your face' superficiality of the play.
It did not appear to be a rewarding experience for anyone. It had nowhere to go, I can find no trace of its existence on the stage at Arhus Theatre and no trace of its failure.
I never saw the original tv soap, I was told it was the Danish answer to the street soaps popular in England at the time. On stage the characters inhabiting The House were reinvented as inmates of a futuristic asylum for non-conformists and disabled people.
I was far too busy capturing fleeting moments to notice if there was a plot, but it seemed to me that none of the actors was comfortable in their role or sympathetic to their character. Authority (the concierge?) was reinvented as a soulless man in black with a cross between a light sabre and a cattle prod with which to discipline the tenants who struggled constantly to understand the system and their imprisonment within it.
This was the portrayal of a system that denied people's human rights and drove them to express the extremes of their personalities purely for the voyeuristic entertainment of an audience.
Maybe I was too innocent to understand the true nature of the work at the time, but now as I recycle images from the sketchbooks, I do wonder...
And I also remember looking at the bone dry banks of the shrunken Zambezi, waiting for the rumble of rainwater, for the return to the accustomed, the accepted, state of normality. Things change and sometimes it is just harder to go with the flow.
From green to gold and dust,
savanna in the draught
audience shrivels to gone.
Funding trickles to drops like
Zambezi without rain
on the voice of rolling water.
And we must work harder they said
and we must be at fault,
mea culpa. I am willing, show me
how can we reach our target?
I listen dumbstruck to these
people who do not know
that they are under attack.
That their audience cowers in fear
that food, and safety,
somewhere to hide
takes precedence over
The Heroic in the Everyday
Salisbury Arts Centre, 6th July- 18th August
Hijack All Dayer - Free - Youth Arts festival
My day had been long and full of potential stress and misunderstanding, the drive to Salisbury in the radiant heat of baked metal, was in a Friday rush hour, I was tired and prickly, but I travelled with anticipation.
First held in 2011, the Arts Centre's exhibition of works by resident artists, workshop leaders and participants has been an annual success and the buzz leading up to this one was encouragement enough to keep going.
For a Private View/preview performance the occasion was packed out with well over a hundred people booked in as audience for the dance, film, monologues, and the experimental capture of imprints on clay during a joint performance of the two youth dance groups Jigsaw and their younger 'feeder' company, Seesaw. The results of this, a film to be projected onto the fired clay, will be shown at Hijack on 31st July 2013.
In the exhibition, various works had already been capturing people's imagination, and conversations with workshop leaders were moving several people within earshot from their first impression of 'I could never do anything like that' to confessions of possible ambition and expressions of interest in the the start dates of coming sessions.
Recession may be biting into the arts in dramatic fashion as people find it more and more difficult to justify expenditure on 'luxury' but the cuts cannot kill the creativity that is part of being human and part of what we expect of civilisation.
But how has it come about that so many folk have grown accustomed to paying 'experts' for culture and no longer feel qualified to practice any of the arts for themselves? This neglect of personal hands-on involvement by people who can afford vicarious creative expression by the proliferation of professionals that bless the good times, has shown up the enthusiastic work and practice of disadvantaged, disabled, and damaged people in a strange and insular light.
Exhibiting art has become normal for 'not-normal' people and not-normal for 'normal' people. Making is one thing and seeking public acknowledgment is something else - 'normal people' don't do it. 'Normal people' no longer seek to divert or entertain each other. 'Normal people' not only expect to enjoy a supremely polished end product, but expect it in a recognisable format - the format we are most encouraged to rate is the one that transfers value into shareholders bank accounts.
Whilst the media would have us believe that everybody wants that shot at fame, that chance to make a mark on history, the people who consider themselves normal rarely feel able to present themselves as worthy creators and makers, and though a percentage do seek witness to their existence in the cult of celebrity this leaves everyday arts and practice by the normal 'not-normal' without context.
Here in Homegrown we see works by career artists, students and recreational artists, 'normal' and 'not-normal' - all exhibited together. An inspiration towards the rethinking our concepts of value in relation to everyday arts and creativity.
Topsy turvy the world of 'normal' turns talentless
wannabes into flash focus curiosities for their
fifteen seconds of life in the spotlight; witness
their existence. The rest of us
cannot expect to be embraced as beautiful
people for merely existing. Refusing
the sympathy vote, we strive for
acknowledgement knowing we cannot
expect to divert focus by just showing up.
Unless we can generate pounds
and transferable profit we are
required to prove ourselves in an arena
with no rules, no guidelines, no shape.
And in the invisible underground, the labours
of those who do not qualify, identify, are overseen
until some unquantifiable paradigm shift
lifts them from obscurity. Their work will
overshadow their 'not-normal' identity
while cogs and wheels and binary code
record and archive the eerie silence
of a people waiting on posterity, sleeping
like lions unaware of their chains.
I'm painting my decking, well not at this moment as its hard work and frequent bouts of horizontal recovery are necessary. As I paint, and no not its not exactly paint, more of a wood stain, I think about what's going on under the surface. It's a fair bet that the wood is rotting from the bottom up; I compare my decking to painted sepulchres and am suddenly embarrassed by a sticky wetness around my nether regions.
Years ago when my first child started moving himself around he did what I called the bum-shuffle. I never dreamed how useful I would find that for deck-painting. I was being mindful of splinters, but unfortunately not mindful enough as I'd shuffled myself onto the paint lid, still wet and now somewhat attached to my flimsy summer clothing.
I've never needed an adult version of a nappy and incontinence is not a topic that crops up in conversation, so forgive me any incorrectness. Actually the topic did crop up quite a bit in my voluntary job, the one I don't do any more. There the manager would cope discretly with any accidents that occurred, sometimes popping unnoticed round to the charity shop next door for a change of clothes for the grateful customer, by now waiting in the accessible loo.
The day the assistant manager told a lovely chap who happens to have a raging version of MS, and whose body had just let him down, to go outside because, 'you stink' shocked me, shocked other volunteers. We expected the woman to be fired, and waited amazed over a number of weeks as nothing happened. In spite of protests, there were, for her, no repercussions that we were aware of. Eventually I left.
We were distressed, lots of us, but we were part of a nation that was already buying in to the notion that 'with the Olympics everything will change' and we were buying in to hope in a big way. And for a month or two there were glimmers, but as you're well aware the seeds that began to germinate were quickly snuffed out by a government who thought they could take advantage of the Olympic smoke-screen to clamp down on human rights. Where have I heard that before?
Like Wittgenstein I find
my days begin in hope, but
unlike the philosophic mind
they close, bemused, the
of not technically cruel,
but never kind,
conducive to the same old
reoccurring, same old
prejudicial pressures on
by the tactically deaf
But still my days begin in hope,
same old hope predawning;
same old hope somewhat
worn thin and yet unable
to sink and die
with the sun.
My Olympic legacy? The resounding confirmation that the political spin and people manipulation that is freely condemned when it occurs elsewhere is just as rampantly encouraged right here under my nose. Which brings me back to my decking and painted sepulchres. Except its reversed, there is no whitewash on the outside. All the bad stuff is out there, no amount of Olympic distraction could cover it up, but underneath, from the inside, there are loads of (extra)ordinary decent people, people like Liz Crow with #beddingout, just being human and striving to build that body of opinion that will finally turn the tide.
Behind the flag and bold
paraded silenced athletes
polished to perfection,
and after all the hope
and hype march politicians
leading media, unshy,
by the nose, declaring
a burden on the honest
working citizens who've
earned the right to look away.
The lions sleep, so now you may
draw your own conclusions.
But lions do not sleep forever.