Process / Dialogue / Philosophy / Documentation
Hello World. Hello Quiet. 08/11/2017
In the coming weeks and months I will be exhibiting and publishing new work, for the first time in a long time. My work has not engaged in public outcome of this scale since falling pregnant with my first son almost four years ago. The work I am presenting is within forms I have never worked in before. I am excited, ready, relieved and quietly terrified. In the lead up to this I have been thinking a lot about process, outcome, time, periods of significant gestation and transformative life experiences. In the past four years I have become a mother (twice) and a widow. Through it all I have consistently turned to my practice, my greatest companion, ever present, enabling me to unravel these experiences and to keep going. I have come to value process and practice, in a new way; it outweighs any outcome or review I could possibly receive. It is good to remember this. It is good to remember this when I am quietly terrified, feeling pressure and expectation about presenting new work. Here I step back, to see how I have engaged in process during this time and how my relationship with it has changed.
This seemingly ‘quiet’ time has offered much to my work and how I engage in and value practice. In working towards these outcomes, I have been thinking about observation vs action, input vs output, listening vs speaking. Balancing these as an artist can be a delicate task. I see now that as a young artist I spent a lot of time reaching for the work, reaching for an idea, when time and again I am reminded that if I can bare to sit still, to quietly observe and listen, often the work is right there in front of me. Quietly waiting for me to turn to it. Sometimes I have experienced it to feel like cheating, that I haven’t worked hard enough to arrive there, to receive it. That presents an important point; the path of thorough and hard work is critical, but it’s not always obvious that the ‘work’ is actually occurring. It may feel as if something has just arrived, but the truth is you've been quietly engaged in the work for a long time and it is of course cumulative. It brings me back to the ideas of observation, input and listening. They seem to rebel against what the world is currently telling us about output and consumption, more is more, do, do, do. The difficulty is in the timing. Sometimes you can sit on a work or an idea for too long, other times you can present something before it is ready and it never recovers. What I’m interested in, is considering and valuing varying gestation periods and the definition or expectation of what being an artist looks like, having more breadth. As an artist who is a mother, it offers me another perspective and shifts my perspective on process, its value and what it can or has to look like, due to the demands of my life. I also value engaging in rigorous, prolific periods of making/outcome, but this is what I see predominantly celebrated, valued and acknowledged. If all you are doing is seeing, breathing, making and presenting work, what are you making work about? Where is the space to be in practice and periods of varying gestation and investigation? What are the parameters around what is considered ‘research and development’? Where can these parameters be stretched? Where is the value for play within the unknown with no presence of outcome until a work forms and demands an outcome? I for one don't know how to fit into the machine of funding and and presenting partners when working in this way.
For me, it is aspects, or the essence of real, lived experiences and observations of the world which emerge onto the page, into my body, or into dialogue with another collaborator and only then can I see where it has been quietly building, (while I haven’t been ‘making work’) waiting for either the right time, or space or for me to get out of the way to see it, to see the work alive and moving waiting for me to join it. Once seen I can very easily get carried away and want to lead, however I learn over and over again what can occur when I move more fluidly between leading and being led. It is often hard to know when you are leading and when you are letting the work lead you but more and more I can identify a key moment when the work shifts in some way and I see an inner life or a direction to the work which I can’t quite explain or trace. It leads me to thinking that obviously this experience doesn’t belong to art alone. That we are all doing the same thing in everyday life, trying to keep up, trying to understand when it is time to lead and when it is time to be led. For me reflection can be a great companion here in unravelling some of these complexities while also dearly holding on to mystery. As an artist I value more and more leaning into and respecting the mystery. When I listen carefully and follow my intuition, I am often surprised by what is revealed when I step a little to the side and out of the way just enough. I always take my craft with me, but it is there that I see a well of inspiration accessible if attended too, both as an artist and as an ordinary, flawed person living through each day.
movement as research. re-search (search again).
movement as knowledge. move to find out. move to move out. shift. change direction, your point of view.
just move and find out. you can't make a whole dance in a day. just lift that finger. turn that foot. shake your head in disbelief, nod furiously on the very next turn and say yes. yes. listen. there is so much noise inside this moving body. be quiet, re-search, search again.
the body primal, the body political. my body, a piece of body elsewhere. given. how to dance that piece?
Winter. Weather. 02/06/2017
Winter is here. Hello to here.
I love the start of a new season, it makes me pause to consider the invitation of the season, as each season invites us to be and to receive differently. Growing up in Sydney my first Winter in Melbourne was a bit of a shock, but also wonderful. Ten years living in Victoria has seen me acclimatise and I really do say hello to Winter, with a smile. More and more I appreciate this season’s invitation. To slow down, to go in, to be patient in the necessary hibernation, darkness and stripping back, in order to foster new growth. That’s not to say it’s not hard. Winter can be really hard! But hard can be good and necessary, particularly in our comfort addicted state.
Weather can be seen as such a cliche and it is often said one is boring if all one has to talk about is the weather. I disagree. I think of Nick Cave’s The Weather Diaries. I think of climate change, even though that is another, much more epic conversation than the one I'm having here, but one we need to urgently be having. On a smaller scale, in recent months I have risen early to witness dawn at the beach. Every time I am speechless and taken with the seemingly simple transformation that takes place, before my eyes. Arriving in darkness it seems impossible that light will come, even though I have seen it many times before, and know it will occur, I am almost in disbelief until the very first light breaks and I am always astonished. There’s something in that. I can’t help but think that it is surely crucial for human beings to witness that every day, and then to witness the light fading at dusk. What are we missing in being disconnected to this daily transformation? What might it offer us? I know what it offers me, as the artist, as the widow. And the crazy thing is, it is there, free of charge, wherever you are to access it, every day.
What is it to be with and watch the weather? I recently had a wonderful experience of watching a storm come across the bay. I had to be somewhere but I took ten minutes to sit and watch the weather move across. It was beautiful and moving and by the time the raindrops reached me and I was running to my car - exhilarating. It reminded me that there is always movement, always, no matter how stuck one might feel. So this Winter I want to converse with the weather much more actively. Yesterday, on the first day of Winter I started a new project; for the season of Winter (Thursday 1st June - Thursday 31st August) I will take a black and white polaroid photograph, looking out to sea, in the same spot, every day. To have a tangible document to show me the movement when I am having trouble seeing it. Each day I will have a moment to be with the weather and it’s crisp invitation. Hello to Winter.
It is very rare for me to get time to myself. But today I have it and I am trying to be with it differently. The key word here, being be. As a single parent my time - like it or not - is always filled. There is always a very long to do list which ranges from domestic tasks, to life tasks, to focusing on my practice; where the hunger is often the most insatiable. Due to this list and the rhythm of my everyday life, whenever I get time I am desperate and then almost paralysed by the many ways that I might spend and fill it. And that’s what I do, I fill, fill, fill. Do, do, do. Distract, distract, distract. Today however, as I find myself with precious time, I wonder how it would be NOT to fill it, NOT to do, but rather be. I know for many this is nothing knew and I have been here myself many times before, but today this realisation rang a little louder and particularly in relationship to my practice. As I sat and watched the sea, it became clear to me that this is the role of the artist - to not fill, but to subtract, extract and distill, to arrive at the essence of things. In a time of extreme busyness, how can the artist show a different way? It has become a popular catchphrase - Stop the glorification of busy - but some of the busiest people I know are artists, particularly artists who are also parents. How does one shift this? How do we make time to waste time? How do we be in practice? Be with one another, in a way which is not about filling, but rather subtracting and distilling? I look up the word subtract and its Latin lineage; mid 16th century: from Latin, subtract - ‘drawn away’, from sub - ‘from below’ + trahere ‘to draw’.
I see the ocean in front of me, drawing from below.
I think of my organs.
I draw in a breath.
And in that instance, the meaning of the word subtract, changes for me.
I draw in another breath and I come to sadness; How can we let that be? How can we not fill when we come to sadness? Surely this would shift our culture of consumption? Our culture of filling?
This place, by the sea, to which I have moved was a subtraction in a way, I am taken with the distillation that is occurring here and the emptying.
Here’s to not filling, perhaps the new radical, perhaps the new way of the artist.
Hello to here. 26/5/2017
Just lie on the floor
look out the window
stare at the ceiling
dance badly, just keep dancing badly
move so fast you can't think
then slow down and see what you see
respond to the space, receive the space
and you here, in this space, today.
It is an artists dream come true. The keys to an old space in which we can breathe new life, through practice and art.
A space to create, commune and collaborate with a group of inspiring artists that is the Lighthouse Arts Collective.
Hello, to here.
I enter the studio thinking of last nights Super Moon.
I move, I move, I move.
What will be illuminated today? Can I radiate light from my limbs?
The moon lights the landscape and shifts the tides, the movement shifts me and all that lay dormant in this internal landscape.
I hear the birds outside the studio and envy their song, their flight.
I use my breath to ask for more.
But it is not to be, the baby who I was hoping would sleep, does not. He commands my attention and that's where it must go.
I help him to sleep and return to the floor but the thread has been lost.
I ask again;
How can a bird with only one wing soar?
So you are a little stuck, be here, for there is nowhere else to go, eventually a shift will come.
You are just waning or is it waxing? Be patient and trust the cycle, for soon you will be FULL again.
We Adjust. 08/11/2016
Here we are. Back in the studio. It has been a while but we are working to become patient with this. We know it is fragmented but we continually invite and ask for more time, to take hold of momentum.
We being the widow, the mother, the artist. We realise we cannot be separated we are all here together. The artist takes a deep breath.
The artist writes with her right-hand even though she is left-handed, as she holds her feeding babe with her left.
this does not mean it is comfortable nor perfect but yes we adjust.
We start by cleaning the space.
We start by cleaning the body, through stillness, through stretching, through movement, it feels as if I could clean all day.
We make these preparations in order that we may begin, to ask a question of what view we might glimpse today.
this is the point.
this is the purpose. the beautiful question.
Can we have an exquisite view on all of this, on everything that comes our way, that comes clearly or not so clearly into view?
Birth. Death. Motherhood.
How can we bring what lingers on the periphery into view?
I get up again and again
get a glimpse
I feel there is a work waiting to be born here.
We know there has to be patience, gestation.
We look forward to returning to the studio next week.
Empty Space. 29/09/2016
Hello (almost) empty space, it's lovely to see you again, it has been a while...
Back in the studio
my body, sore and tired
have I lost my balance?
the space, inviting
my head, busy and loud
hungry, impatience, giddy
I begin, or rather continue
this feels like home
this feels good
this is how I will continue to
with babe in tow
with all that comes behind me
with rain on the roof
in riddells creek
Today I Made Nothing. 31/08/2016
Today I Made Nothing. Today my son made two paintings.
The artist waits and practices restraint as the mother is called upon again and again.
The ever-problematic tussle between the two roles continues.
Lately my hands have been occupied with care taking. These hands hold, soothe, feed, cook, clean but yesterday they made and they wrote. I was able to steal some time in the studio while my newborn slept and my toddler was in childcare. I've always felt torn about childcare, trusting other hands to care, soothe, hold. Now as a single parent however, my choices are limited and I know it is key for my health and therefore my children's health to continue to find a way to make work - currently childcare is a part of that way. I am working hard to drop the guilt about sending my son to childcare and for using that time to make work instead of 'working'. Guilt has been a large part of my dialogue around motherhood, but it's bullshit, I'm really tired of it and I'm working to drop it. Sending my toddler to childcare and making work during that time is the beginning. Besides it is only two days a week that these hands get a glimpse at making again but at this stage it is something.
Winter = Artist Residency In Bed. 30/06/2016
When sickness falls on your home and babe, there is no other choice but to drop tools and to attend. No matter if an application is due or you are in the throws of work. A reality all practicing artist parents face.
Winter can be a tough season to work through but it also offers its own rhythm which can be useful if you can tap into it. I've always thought it is crucial as an artist to consciously 'waste time'. It is necessary for my artistic process and often the time when the way forward within a project will reveal itself. As an artist and a mother time is certainly limited and it can be difficult to find time to stop, to even contemplate 'wasting time' or to rest. When sickness knocks on your door you have little choice and this can be a blessing.
But what if we made more conscious choices as artists, as mothers, to stop and to rest. Today as I lay resting with my sick son I reached for the writing of poet and philosopher David Whyte and his very wise words on Rest. I want to consciously bring this notion of rest into my practice and life, not just when sickness forces me to stop.
"To rest is to fall back literally or figuratively from outer targets and shift the goal not to an inner static bull's eye, an imagined state of perfect stillness, but to an inner state of natural exchange. The template of natural exchange is the breath, the autonomic giving and receiving that forms the basis and the measure of life itself. We are rested when we are a living exchange between what lies inside and what lies outside, when we are an intriguing conversation between the potential that lies in our imagination and the possibilities for making that internal image real in the world. To rest is not self indulgent, to rest is to prepare to give the best of ourselves, and to perhaps, most importantly, arrive at a place where we are able to understand what we have already been given."
- David Whyte, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.