As part of the Lab of Dissent 2.0 I brought my A level students from Salisbury 6th Form College to the gallery, inviting them to interact with the artists present and the works displayed, a form of disruption for a space traditionally dedicated to showing ‘professional artists’, thus excluding children. They created their own collective response as a large cyanotype print which is still to be revealed back in the classroom.
During their visit in the gallery, artist Sharon Harvey drew them in action, a true revelation of their own process recorded live and a deep impact on their realisation of their presence in the space as artists themselves.
#LabofDissent2019 Performance ; Against the grain or with the flow? 5 December 2019 from 5pm @ Winchester Gallery, Park Avenue
Artist; Laurence Dube-Rushby
Through my interaction with materials, I explore my connection with institutions both artistic and educational. Are we In or Out?
Despite an initial resistance to entering the education system, I question whether my radical PhD research study in ‘live art as an alternative pedagogical tool in seoncdary education’ may have moved me to self-educate as a Teacher [with a ‘Beuysian’ perspective].
I ask; what is the space for artistic endeavour and freedom within the curriculum? How does dissent and resistance become a medium for learning? Is there still space for making a mark in a capitalistic education system girded towards the production of a workforce? Can we work against the grain within the flow of education to create a change making practice?
What does flow look like? What does the grain entice? How much should we give away in order to gain?
We have been having a really interesting chat on our group messages. Talking about Dissent of course, but how we each relate to it, personally and within our practice (if we do relate to it at all in our practice).
We have been talking about privilege too. The privilege to choose to dissent perhaps, the privilege to even be artists. I am interested in this because I haven’t used the term dissent in talking about my practice before. But it is definitely a part of what I do, how I respond, or what actions I make, perform, photograph or film. I often respond to injustice, or where I get uncomfortable. When something doesn’t feel right. In my Art practice i have been given a method, a language, a tool for responding to this. Having this language is a privilege I have gained since getting older.
As a child I did not have such language, I remember our class when I was 10 lying down on the playground as a strike. We had just been told in assembly that we would not be able to join the rest of the year group on the annual end of junior school trip because our teacher had other commitments that week. It was the early 80s, and we were in a small struggling coastal town in East Yorkshire, near Hull. We didn’t know about art and artists. We didnt know about philosophy or how to talk about social norms and dissent. But we had seen the news about coal miners and strikes, we knew that if something seemed unfair we could perhaps say so. So we lay down in the playground and refused to go back to class.
We still didn’t get to go on the trip. But we had practiced our first action of dissent – without really having much language for it.
Throughout my teenage years I had moments of speaking out, but many more of trying to fit in. I perhaps rebelled against the teachers who told me I wouldn’t amount to anything (when I had spent most of my GCSE years going to raves and suffering with undiagnosed depression) and the boyfriend and friends who wanted me to get pregnant and get a flat…. by finding a subject I loved, and that gave me the voice to understand my social situation, our norms, values and how these are constructed. Sociology. By gaining this language I gained a voice and went to university – the first in my family.
So when over a decade later I began to explore my voice through art, it is unsurprising that I found it through wanting to face or voice challenges, injustice and other voices.
So for me, is dissent my practice? I think it probably is. Or at least a large part of it. And that is because I often naturally want to question why? As James Aldridge pointed out, this is a privilege. I agree. Not that dissenting is a privilege in itself, but having the language to talk about dissent perhaps.
”Dissent – the holding or expression of opinions at variance with those commonly or officially held.”there was no dissent from this view”
I often think about dissent in the form of actions. Which for me express a challenge to the opinions commonly held……
but if it can also be the ‘holding of’ opinions…. we can surely then be silent dissenters? If our opinions are at odds to the majority even if we do not express them…. we are dissenting?
I also (after a visit to HMP Winchester last week) considered how much we are actually dissenting compared for example with those who live their lives at odds to the law. Surely we then witness people who are truly dissenters I wondered…..James Aldridge considered this too, asking if you have no choice to live your life outside of social norms… is this still dissent? Do people have to ‘choose’ to dissent? Or can it be dissent if it is simply seen as other?
Is that then the majority ‘labeling’ those living ‘other’ as dissenters?
Maybe again it is about choice? But to what extent. What if someone has limited choices, and through these limited choices they MUST dissent.
So dissent is only constructive/useful/empowering perhaps when it is a choice, an act/opinion or expression against something that is seen as the majority or norm. When it is a label provided by others or a situation you are placed in via discrimination…. that doesn’t feel like dissent, it feels like something else.
Excuse the meandering thoughts but I am enjoying feeling in a safe enough space to have differing and perhaps usefully fluid opinions on this (linking back to Laurence’s sharings on hydro-feminism) and be able to express them and work through them. I don’t feel this is dissent in itself, as there isn’t necessarily a majority view about all of this. We are all openly considering the theme, the methodology and our responses.
Gallery spaces often feel strange to me. I didn’t grow up going to galleries, I did go to museums, but they definitely felt ‘other’ to me. Art didn’t feel other to me though, but Art as a practice, as a way of considering life, possibilities, change….. that was not something I was aware of. And having any kind of life around Art just didn’t feel like an option to me. Partially this was growing up in the 80s near Hull on the East Yorshire coast. Partly it was a lack of exposure, it certainly wasn’t something my parents were in to!
Shoot forward to now and I am a practicing Artist….. meaning to me that I am an artist, I make work, and I have consistent themes that I work with, that interest me or that I am passionate about. But there are elements of my younger self that remain. My suspicion of ‘other’ spaces. My suspicion of ‘other’ language. It made entering gallery spaces initially a few years ago (as an artist) pretty overwhelming. This overwhelm quickly turned to an aversion, but then to an opportunity. I generally want to use my understanding of this fear, this aversion, this sense of ‘not belonging’ to ensure that I invite audiences in. That audiences feel invited. That they feel they can come in and understand, or not understand, and talk or look or listen, and not feel shame or total displacement…… unless that’s the point!
This week we are all installing/creating work in the gallery at Winchester. It is an incredible space. Big, light, airy, in a wonderful central position within the campus but also with the public thorough way running right past it. But the ever old problem remains, how do we get the OUTSIDE IN? Or the INSIDE OUT? OR anything inbetween!?
I have brought my clothing exchange into the space, the clothing, the outers that I have been given. I will exchange these for the audiences outers, the pieces of themselves they are willing to share.
I also brought along my tin can telephone. Tins and string, allowing for simple communication between two people or things. I tested this out through the window of the space, to see if anyone wanted to talk to me…. they did not.
Tina Sanchez and I tested this out with her own work. Her large scavenged sculpture that bends and groans, rings, dings and crashes around you, it invited you to scrape, bang, hit and play with it, it invites you in. We attached the tin cans and spoke to each other through the work, through the wires and the sticks.
Can anyone hear me? Sarah Misselbrook asked from her mountain at the start of this project. I join this question with…
Can anyone hear us? Can anyone see us? Is anyone there?
After being by the pond for a while I wanted to get in some water.
I had a discussion with two other Artists about what this could be, and we created a verbal risk assessment/critique in order to explore this.
What did I want to achieve? How deep was the pond? What are the risks of getting in the pond? What can we do to limit these risks? How do we mitigate the risk of being denied permission?
The pond was deep. My stick (measuring stick from the near by grassy area!) couldn’t reach the bottom and most of the depth was a sticky weedy muddy mess that would suck my legs in…. it was also freezing. Getting on and off the lilo was undoubtedly going to lead to me falling in. Was this in any way the point? No.
So. I had spotted a very large puddle in the car park when I had arrived. I took my lilo and one of the older lily pads that had come loose, and instead got in the puddle. It became another extension to my bubble. The water acted as another layer of safety or confinement (as it did with the Lady of Shallot – see previous post). It protected me from others, but alongside that the act of being on the puddle, the act of playfulness, of ridiculousness, invited conversation, from the men working in the grounds, and then the canteen staff who saw me doing it.
I had accidentally happened upon a way of connecting, between people, between artists and other staff at the uni. Between those involved and those not. Inside. Outside. Inbetween.
Last week after I had started to talk about clothing and our exteriors as part of our bubbles.
Everyday when I get up and get dressed I see a print I have in my room of The Lady of Shallot. The painting by William Waterhouse (Tate Britain) based on the poem of the same name by Tennison.
A woman dissenting.
A woman shut INSIDE a tower, and due to a curse only ever able to look at the OUTSIDE (Camelot) by watching through a mirror. She falls in love, with Lancelot (his reflection and voice), and her dissent is in turning to look directly, ignoring the curse, wanting to get a look at something real!
The mirror breaks and she head down to the river to sail in a boat to Camelot, but dies along the way……
Soooooooo much in this, and lots of sticky stuff to comment on with regard to feminism, but I wanted to simply think about this in relation to our themes. Inside/outside and dissent.
So. I chose some clothing (my outer) that replicated her dress. I became (outwardly and perhaps inwardly) a Lady of Shallot for the day as I headed to Winchester. I went straight to the Rotunda, the round building on campus that we have been using, which is surrounded by a moat, full of reeds and lily pads. I took out my bubble, and unravelled it, I blew more air into it, to become a lilo again. I lay it on the pond……. and then I became outer again. It was cold. I couldn’t tell how deep it was, and I didn’t want to get the whole group of artists kicked out of the uni by my climbing into the pond. I decided to sit OUTSIDE the pond. With the lilo below me. I considered what MIRRORS we use now to see the world, and how the lady of shallot may dissent today. Instagram perhaps? Social media? And when we want something real do we leave our phones and devices? Can we? How many post likes did we get? How do we show our inner world and connect to the outer world?
Within and like a virus we have spread, developing in neurological and ethereal spaces, our words permeate and spawn into material works ,here they inhabit, in multiple places , ever expanding the virus will now spread further, into water entering as ghosts unseen Dissent manifests………..
This is my first post since I’ve started on site. One day exploring along the river with Karen Wood so far and lots of conversations via WhatsApp and Instagram. Countless thoughts and feelings, ideas and wonderings.
And one of the wonderings is what the hell I’m doing.
It’s not really a problem, I always come to this stage, I just don’t always admit it. On a residency people usually need me to seem confident, in control, and clear about where I’m heading. This time I’m giving myself permission to be more honest.
Being openly yourself in a place you don’t know, with people you don’t know, as part of a collaboration that has no set way of working or fixed outcome, is an incredibly vulnerable position to be in.
Not knowing is a rich place where all the sensations of place, body and emotion can mix and swirl and flow. And after a while they will cluster and tell me what I need to do next. That’s how my process works. But again I don’t always say that out loud.
When I work in education we talk about the value of not knowing, and the importance of being open to being taken in new directions. We also talk about how that can feel uncomfortable, and that structure and mutual support is necessary, alongside documentation of the process, so you can look back, reflect on what you have said/made/seen and so realise that you do ‘know’ what you are doing. But that feeling your way forward, followed by a retrospective piecing together, is a different kind of knowing to what is often valued, or which can be easily articulated.
“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct.” – Carl Jung
I guess what I have been doing so far is playing. Play is so often misunderstood. It is seen as something that children do, and children in turn are seen as less than adults.
I can’t say what is going in the exhibition in the Winchester Gallery yet. I can’t say what I will have learnt at the end of this process yet, I can’t say what I will take on from this to seed new projects and beginnings. But I know l that I will make what I need to, I will learn what is needed (within the context of the place and people that I am sharing the experience with) and that my practice will be all the richer for it.
This isn’t the post that I was going to write – it was going to be all about what I’ve done and why, with neatly made links and well chosen images. But I’m trying to keep open a space to play so that I don’t close things down too soon.
For now I have some loose clusters of ideas, some images of playful moments spent on-site, and a question that I am asking myself and the rest of the LOD2 team.
The key areas I’ve been exploring are:
Water inside and outside the body. Rivers of blood and water (including medical processes and sampling)
Play and its links with no. 1 (boats, dolls, toys, paddling, laughter and fun)
Flooding and burning as a result of climate breakdown (in connection with Andy Jones)
Seeing/being beyond boundaries (and its link with the damage done through our inability to perceive ourselves as continuous with the ‘More than Human World’ – see no. 2)
Linking with all of the above – embodied and artful ways of knowing and their place in preparing for an uncertain future
And the key question that’s occupying me at the moment:
Q. Is Dissent a privilege of the Insider? (having the freedom to choose to step outside rather than living there)