A conversation between members of the CAS Research Group
Drawing Languages for Dissent.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and one of the many inconclusive conclusions I’ve come to is that, in art as in life:
No, I don’t really do dissent…
[10:16, 5/22/2020] Maija: Love this. Elaborate. Please?
Amanda Bates : I’m not overtly political.
Maija: ah misread that haha. I thought you meant ‘Dissent is not a doing word’. At CAS we define it as “seeing or doing differently”, Deviation from the established norm
Amanda : You can read it as you wish 🙂
Maija: I do think Dissent is ‘not a doing’ because it’s only when you look back at an impulse and a response that you can make a narrative of it. In other words you don’t know what you’re doing in the same way you don’t know what you’re doing in art
For me Dissent as a method of practice is about looking at my responses and not being afraid to be me, being willing to stand out, have a different voice, Make a stand, but it is a momentary thing which lasts as long as a breath. It cannot be construed as a fixed position
Amanda : Long ago, I decided that rebellion for the sake of it was silly. I was a teenager: I rebelled against the idea that I should rebel.
Maija: Yes totally. I rebelled against being cool and popular at school but ended up just behaving the same with different clothes lol – polarised opposites of the same. Dissent as an emerging methodology is about staying in dialogue not rejecting. In my view
Amanda Bates : Yes, I think this is right. I have begun to see that much of what I do is a reaction even if it is not overt and shouty. I see it more in my life choices than in my art, but I am beginning to see it in my art, too.
Maija: If it were a fixed position it would be a status quo to dissent against.
Thus inviting Dissent is an invitation to be free to choose and act and think in accordance with your own uniqueness – a dialogue
And the reason it relates to change is I do believe that we have a choice in any moment to perpetuate “the accepted way things are” or to offer new input (new ingredients for the pot) and in so doing co-create the environments experiences and worlds we want to be part of.
Maija: For example, Janice told Karen and I after session 1 that she is used to people telling her she can’t do things if she is blind, or that is the impression I got as she said she deliberately didn’t tell us, because she was afraid we would say she couldn’t come.
At least once sleepless night later she was showing up against a felt “norm” to a visual art discussion group with her guide dog and her hands to help her see. This took courage and a dissent against the assumed norms, and it drew on her own experience of difference which allows her to bring a unique contribution to the mix
Amanda : It was a very brave thing to do. I admire her for it.
Amanda : I initiated my artistic career as a painter in oils, with (as I was often keen to point out) a knife. I was exploring colour and rejecting my own obsession with detail, but I also saw it as a negation of the conventional/traditional associations of media and gender, compounded by the perceived masculinity of a blade.
Maija: Exactly! That impulse to reveal a voice or viewpoint that is obscured, to challenge gender assumption with awareness and action that turns and/or into and/and
Also love that you were “dissenting“ against yourself (norm of obsessive relationship with detail). I think this highlights the developmental and growth value of exploring dissent as a methodology or theory. It’s personal and relational.
Recognising the impact of the individual on the whole.
Amanda : I find it a lot easier to approach “dissent” like this – from a relatively intimate, personal perspective.
How might silence be dissent?
Maija: What if dissent is an internal, interior impulse? How does impulse get translated into drawing in the world?
Does that make the dissent-impulse a source of inspiration?
Is it ever not inspiration?
If it were an impulse or a thought without follow through action is it still dissent?
Personally I think so. If you allow yourself your thoughts a thought can dissent and make space in your awareness for what is not openly acknowledged or accepted in you environment
Maija: I’ve got some questions somewhere from 2015…
What doesn’t hold true for you?
What myth would you like to see exposed?
What would you like to see done differently?
What act of deviation or
Dissent has had an impact on you?
I would add
Can you think of an artist who broke convention?
What ingredients made up that artists ‘language of dissent’? Aka how did they express their difference?
What alternative ways of living and working inspire you?
Janice: Brilliant conversation and exchange of views. As Maija said my very act of attending was a deliberate act of dissent. In fact I feel like every piece of artwork I make now is a statement and a building block within my personal language of dissent = to not conform to an expected norm. 😎
Maija: Is that tiring? Do you feel like you have to? Or is it inevitable and natural for you?
Janice: There’s something in me that says I have to. I need to create art and I am scared that if I conform to ‘you’re blind you can’t do that’ then I will somehow get lost and disappear. Maybe not physically, but my spirit, my ‘self’ will be destroyed. 😎🐾
It’s actually the blind bit that’s tiring! Mentally more than physically. The constant struggle to make sense of the world and the way I ‘see’ it.
Karen: For what it’s worth Janice, Maija, Amanda, I find rebelling i..e doing my art instead of having a “normalised life” to be energising. I did never fit in with my mother’s domination of boys being far better than girls, & don’t do art you have to get a proper job. only just now at 55/6 I have started knowing that being me is ok & I am only now starting to like/love living as the person I am which has come about through my art & not living as someone else thinks I should be/act …. agree my spirit would be destroyed too, Janice
Elizabeth Hammond: I’m sorry I’m not more involved in discussions, lockdown has been overwhelming in the attention and care I need to give my children. And I’m now full time home maker too! I’m managing to draw everyday at the moment as part of the still point sketching challenge but there isn’t the time or energy for much more.
I really like the word dissent. It sounds lovely on the tongue, with clear pronunciation. There is so much that has been done, so much that is accepted now I’m not sure there’s a lot of dissenting options left nowadays in art. Unless it’s more specific, going against a particular opinion for example. My work is all about being inclusive, both my drawing and teaching, there’s not much dissent there for me!
Janice: I also had parents with a very strong sense of who they thought I should be. When I finally rebelled against that I found myself both liberated and energised by the experience. Rebelling over my sight feels the same most of the time. Just occasionally it can be overwhelming-the enormity of it. Like taking part in an art battle in Bristol. Then afterwards there’s such a ‘high’ from the achievement you feel energised again and know you have to carry on.
Maija: Good to hear from you Elizabeth!
Maybe the dissent is not so much in the art but in the effect it has on sight/seeing, mind/perception
Maybe it relates to opening up the mind and heart to see things that were not visible before or simply making space for which is where the inclusivity comes in
Dissent can’t be forced. It entirely requires a context in which a dissident NO arises
As a methodology Dissent is misleading because the way CAS approaches it contains a paradox, being as much about collaboration as striking out on ones own.
I love that you love the sound of the word.
Most people just say it’s a scary word.
Amanda : Hi Elizabeth, it’s never going to be easy to mix art with full time care of young children. Mine are both teenagers and I’m still very aware of my responsibilities to them, but I do have a lot more lassitude now.
Regarding dissent in art, I think that it could be a matter of looking at where your practice diverges from the norm or from expectation. Your use of pencil, for example, is interesting: pencil is often seen as a drafting medium. I find your subjects intriguing, and I also wonder about the lack of colour (having made a conscious move towards the monochrome myself recently).
Amanda : Karen It takes time to figure out who you are and how you can be true to that, I think. It can be difficult, too, to decide to step outside of the normal, even a little way, to act on it.
Karen: Thanks Amanda, I think it has taken all this time to accept who I am. I love your flick book thx for posting it on your insta, that’s what I love as part of my urban walks: Playful. Fun. Being lost in the wonderful world of my imagination!!! I see all of this aspects in your little cinematic flick book.
Maija: I’ve been exploring this since 2015, what does it take to create my own life? Exploring dissent helps me think about it with more self awareness as I explore living through art
Christine: Interesting ideas and thoughts everyone I have enjoyed reading your messages and they all resonate with me