Finding myself again: 2016

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Listening to David Bowie, gone now but still providing a very good soundtrack for a new year.  Love it that he was so creative, so independent of mind, body  and soul, and the product of a South London suburban secondary modern school. How wonderful- and so beautiful, cool, brave and determined.  I refuse to believe that it is no longer possible for working-class people to feel important enough to express themselves, to really know that their experiences and thoughts are valid and interesting and true.  “We could be heroes”. We are and always have been.

I have promised myself to spend an hour/week on this blog, reflecting and recording my process, thoughts and ideas.  This being the last year of the MA.  The schedule and the work I aim to complete will mean that these months will very busy.  I also need to honour family responsibilities: both my step-daughter and my daughter will be getting married this year; I will be spending as much time as I can helping to look after my amazing grand-daughter; and I’m well into the second decade of supporting my mum through years of frailty. And there are lots of other people I love and care about.  These things are just as important as the creative work- they come from the same place and, in some ways, come together in the walk I plan as the structure for my practice this year.

I’ve spent the last week, since I got back from our New Year holiday, re-acclimatising. Have caught up with friends and colleagues from the course, reminding myself about everything.  We had a very inspiring and fulfilling first Friday last week, Sam telling us about her practice, and a lovely go-round with our year group sharing where we are at. Marvellous.  Catriona sent me the draft exhibitions catalogue, which is very exciting, and I’m in it!!  Very thankful for this and all the other opportunities.

Then I’m getting reacquianted with the work so far, my studio, the threads left hanging, the mess of ideas and projects.  Floundering about in it, not knowing where to start.  Just takes time for the fog to clear and the path to emerge. My main pre-occupation is the show that Sam offered me in the MA corridor, for which I have lots of ideas which need sorting, defining, planning, then I need to get on with making.  I think I’m not doing anything but that’s not actually true.  I’m looking and photographing and ideas are forming all the time.  This week  I am emerging blinking into the daylight, booking into the darkroom (!), IT suites, digital print studio, buying materials, and sorting images into thematic categories and curating them mentally for presentation, on the walls, windows, shelves and screens that I can use in the space.

Cultural outings over the last week: the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (Bill Viola show was wonderful, gave me the idea of using sound recording as part of my work- of voices, stories, wind in the trees, water flowing, birdsong);  saw Sunset Song and Testament of Youth (WW1 stories with a strong woman at their centre);  went to the British Art Show (twice)- liked the films by Rachel Maclean and Simon Fujiwara;  saw The Dark Horse, a film from New Zealand about chess, racism and oppression;  and went to a Jazz/Poetry Sunday afternoon at Inkwell.  Thinking that we could have the Cafe Feministique at Inkwell- will try and get the gang together this weekend to get going.  It will be relatively easy to do and would be good to move things on from the End of Equality event.  Also finished reading two good books- the Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry (Rachel Joyce), about a walk, very relevant, and A God in Ruins, another war-themed story, WW2 this time (Kate Atkinson).  Both very readable and very moving.  Now I will start reading some of the books left over from dissertation time.

Also working on the idea of a discussion event linked to the Corridor Show, about how artists capture and record experience of place, especially in terms of walking practice- have compiled a guest list and the structure and key questions are forming in my head. Now I need to write an invite, schedule it, alongside the dates of the show, discuss it with Sam and get it out there.

I also need to write and post the notice about the walk/fitness challenge and link it to LocalGiving to support Leeds Animation Workshop.  This was agreed with Terry from LAW in the course of a very lovely conversation over lunch on Monday.  It’s quite complicated to invite ‘sponsorship’ for the walking at the same time as for the fitness goals- losing weight and healing my injured leg.  But they are intimately linked and augment the feminist elements of my adventure- enabling an older woman (me) to be active and aim to lose weight and exercise for reasons other than conformity to stereotypical norms of youth and beauty.  I don’t want to ‘keep young and beautiful’, I know that I am loved just as I am, but I also want to be able to walk, run, dance, play tennis and live long enough to play with my grandchild/ren on those Northumberland beaches. I have already lost a few pounds (through healthy eating, not deprivation and body-hatred) and had an injection in my leg to help free the joint up so I can exercise more readily.

This weekend I will have lots of time for thinking, tidying, planning (time for a new mindmap on the wall), and writing.  Then, next week, making.

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