Sometimes I just let the words flow without knowing what I’m saying. I was reading my poems and I found this phrase: zeitgeist non grata. I had to google the two words but was rewarded with discovering the combo is related to dissent.
Lust and vigour Retitlation Soaking resting Reclining partaking Zeitgeist non-grata Magna carta Heart based realisations Pulsing through the cut Warmth reaches where Before was cold And new life stirs From its dream filled Slumber
Every era has prevailing trends and world views specific to that culture. We often internalise the voices and stories of our cultures and conform to them. The forbidden, taboo and undesirable gets suppressed Inside and identities emerge around our idea of our approved place in the world…
New work on show at Winchester Gallery until Friday 6th December.
Featuring conversational poetry between Maija Liepins and Sarah Misselbrook
I’m thinking about how being present with the work adds to the art experience when people visit. I’m thinking about what reliance on ‘wall text’ removes from the dynamic in an art gallery. So far, we have no wall text describing the work. This exhibition is one in which people sit on the floor and chat, quite naturally and without being asked. It’s not one where they circle the gallery and read the walls. Every day is different.
One of the first things I find myself saying when people walk into the laboratory is “feel free to ask us questions!”
And if they look a bit uncertain about what they are looking at, I explain how dialogue is part of this process and we are interested in their impressions and responses too.
Yes, their impressions are more important to me than whether they ‘understand my work’. What I think I’m trying to say can change day by day, such is an artists life – this artist’s life? – I want to know what they see and think and there starts the conversation, there emerges the excitement of a meeting of minds (worlds).
Two students, came together, Sun and Hailee. I told them about Rapunzle when they asked, and the time she shaved her hair off.
Sun noticed that I’d left a needle hanging from the bottom of the basket and how it seemed to create a connection with the lilypad underneath.
He told me about the Chinese legend of the Monkey King, whose mother put him in the middle of a Lotus and floated him down a river and he was adopted by The Goddess of Mercy.
(I think Sun is looking the name up on his phone in the above photograph as he later showed me the Chinese – English translations.)
Today’s thoughts on why dialogic process is important to me.
A peek at my WhatsApp chat.
When the artwork is invisible, happening in the dialogue in ‘the space between’ how do you share it?
By writing about it and talking about it I suppose. But most importantly by demonstrating it. No, by being it.
The lived experience of art in action…
Maybe it remains a private thing, until the seeds of a dialogue spout and take root in our lives. There is the creativity I am most interested in.
I am lying on your lilo inside the gallery, inside your clothing exchange to write you this note. It’s nice to be lying down for a rest after installing all morning, my film is now on the wall and you’re in it!
I have left you a silky summer yellow top with a snakeskin pattern. I bought two because I wasn’t sure which would fit me and sure enough neither was a great fit for my small breasted self.
I had the smaller one adjusted to fit me it was for Yellow a reference to the yellow haired Medusa, I just had to have it, I’ve never seen snakeskin in yellow before!
Clothing is often like this whenever I dress up in my 30s. Not part of my identity, but rather personas I can put on or take off depending on what expressions are calling to me to be spoken.
I recently explored the cultural (outside) and internalised (inner) ideas and images associated with the mother archetype my ideas of mothering, I was surprised to dream her as an erotic blond, I called her the Red Mother she was challenging me to revise what I would allow and be of myself.
However yellow is the colour of vitality and life force energy for me and the wig washes me out (I am not a natural blond)
So I leave it up to the laboratory what it will become. Either:
Part of a clothing swop trade
Or a conversation starter, becoming part of future works.
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.
Yesterday was demanding and today will demand more of me. (show up, show up anyway?)
I wrote this morning a stream of consciousness, and I find that although it was inspired by an everyday encounter and not this project specifically, I notice the themes I am exploring have weft and wove throughout my perception and provided metaphors with which to express the experience.
There is a conflict between Inside and Outside, Rapunzle’s tower feels so tempting today: Hunker down Retreat Withdraw. Anger burns up the walls from the furnace of my heart Come close and the flames will lick you yes, Dancing in the fire That’s my idea of a good day today. Alchemy transforming the elements at my borders New crystalline mementos… not gargoyle heads not medusa heads not lion heads not papyrus or paint pots flowers! yes, flowers Blooming like the night lily on the border between sky and pond.
There is a conflict between inside – outside. Do I keep up my walls and perform, stoic as a buttress? Do I dress myself in crocodile’s in a moat bordering my childish upswell with a warning snap to give me time? Time to feel Time to think Time to respond.
Aha, see, there is the conflict Truly I don’t fare well alone with my thoughts Alone with my words Alone with my ideas, Running round and round like stale bread in tin.
There is the conflict: How easy it would be to withdraw from the not me, the not wanted, the not cool, Paying the price in rigid conclusions and stony constructions encrusting my mind with a labyrinthine resolve to protect my ideas of self and other Suspended like a moth in a specimen glass Against my instinct My training My advice.
I need the outside, the other, the input battering my keep with the energy and colour of a summer rain creating rainbows in the autumnal chill To grow To learn To revitalise: The phenomena of intra-action The entanglement of multiple beings Be-ing in this life This ecosystem.
The place between this Inside mood and Outside pull tugging at my skirts like twenty cubs, or a vigorous wind. How many mothers, parents, sisters, brothers feel harassed by the pull of other world desires? Two worlds meet in the space between.
I don’t really desire solitude, just a place to stand where I can be; Be one of many on the lily pads Drinking from the top and bottom of an ecosystem that supports me (too).
My visit to the gallery this week was on Thursday. I missed the turning to Winchester three times, because I was thinking so deeply about the possibilities that awaited me there. When I finally turned into the carpark I encountered three artists with boxes and bags and tumbling words. It has been a joy to have a space to come to and this Thursday was special because there were many of us in the gallery together – all at different stages of install and exhibition – working it all out through dialogue. The spoken ones; the internal ones; and the embodied ones, as we physically moved ourselves and our objects through the space, discovering light and shadows, layers and connections.
Sharing space with Sounds and Seaweed
Tina Sanchez’ sculpture is a delight to be with – do come!
Shadows on the wall an #unplannedresponse
What I enjoyed most about my time in the gallery this day was my conversations with our visitors, mainly students and staff who stopped and sat with us – clustered round on the floor.
I’m not sure that sitting and crouching on the floor is normal gallery behaviour, but something about the layout and the happenings had us land and plant roots into the floor: gathering at and amidst the installations and workspaces to talk about our own ideas and objections, and to exchange creative ideas.