“The point is, art never stopped a war and never got anybody a job. That was never its function. Art cannot change events. But it can change people. It can affect people so that they are changed…because people are changed by art – enriched, ennobled, encouraged – they then act in a way that may affect the course of events…by the way they vote, they behave, the way they think.” -Leonard #Bernstein (John Gruen interview in Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1972)
Creative Solutions are currently working with four families and two other artists, to create a number of artist in residence projects in domestic spaces. This project has been born out of our passionate belief that people have more in common than differences, and this project aims to explore, question and celebrate that commonality through drawing, film, photography and installation, and literally open doors to private spaces.
The resulting artworks will be shown in situ, which means that these families have consented to opening their doors to the public. Creating and viewing art work in the home of the subject/ collaborator brings a whole new sensitivity, context and audience experience – the work created will have to be the result of true collaboration.
The relationships for the residencies have been brokered by Jacqui and David from Creative Solutions, and are all people we have worked with before on community projects, who we admire and respect. The artists and families chosen have parallels in life experiences or interests but the process of collaboration may well result in different themes or areas to be explored.
This blog will in part document the fantastic journey both the artists and the families will go on over the next few months, and discuss and question the process of collaboration.
Wow, what a week. It’s been a real roller coaster, highs of reading everyone reading everyone else’s blogs and getting excited about the project, hearing some wonderful creative ideas for the artworks in October, and the hilarity of taking Laura and the monkeys to the Meet Rex exhibition at the Wilson. The lows, knowing that some of you have a lot on your plate, and knowing while this project might make things more visible, it isn’t going to make them any easier.
All I can say is that I am humbled and excited in equal measure. As an artist, if people ask me what medium I work in, I always say people. I can’t make anything without the stories and input of the people around me. As a curator, I have often set up projects where artists have had the opportunity to collaborate, as it can lead to work that is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Not all artists like it, not all artists can do it, and as it was recently put to me ‘it’s a hard nut to crack’. On this project, I really see ideas growing that are inspired by all who are working on them, and it’s really exciting.
Well done everyone, can’t wait to see what happens next.
Hide away curl in a ball
Safe and sound away from it all
Can’t hurt, can’t see
The last thing you notice is me
Because I’m always just there
Always fine, always care
You hurt, you cry, you’re pain shows
Somethings wrong and everyone knows
One day things will differ
No one will run, there’ll be no-one there
Your rock will crumble underfoot
Foundations turn to ashes and soot
Nothing is strong forevermore
Like rocks and sand on the seashore
Appear tough and solid in the waves
Sooner or later everyone caves
People have no time
No time to stop
No time to talk
No time for questions
No time for fun!
Time goes by and people say :-
See you later
Can’t stop now
I’ll give you a bell
People have no time to think!
They don’t remember
They forget to ‘phone
Forget to talk
Forget to share
Isolated by time
Time shuts us out
We should stop, make time, talk, share ideas!
Ask and answer questions, listen, think, remember!
Time will end, we will all die
What have we done? Waste time!
Where has our life gone?
Where has our time gone?
Don’t die not knowing!
Don’t die not talking!
A nice warm fire on a cold winters night,
A steaming hot bath when I’m feeling down,
A mug of hot cocoa before going to bed,
Thats what I love.
A cold ice cream while I lay on the beach,
A snowball fight in bobble hat and gloves,
The feel of waves lapping at my feet,
Thats what I love.
Curled up in bed reading a book,
Fish and chips on a bench in a park,
Bonfire night with fireworks bright,
Thats what I love.
Sharing some sweets with my best friend,
Giving some presents at Christmas time,
Helping someone who is in need,
Thats what I love.
Writing a letter to my pen friend,
Writing a poem just thought of,
Or just sitting and thinking what to write next,
That’s what I love.
Letters and Words
I do not recall
The learning of words
Writing and reading
Bringing a magic to my life
When did I learn,
How do I know,
That a D.O.G.
Is an animal
That says woof?
When did letters become words?
And words become phrases
Full of meaning?
Why is a cat so called?
Why is black, black?
Words give meaning
Where did they come from?
Leaping from the pages of a book
A magical mystery to me
Creating pictures from letters
Masterpieces to put Van Gogh to shame
Take a book
A beautiful book
And a little imagination
What do you get?
I met up with Lynda, Coral & Dianna for the second time last week. It was great to meet Lynda’s partner Coral, as the first time I was introduced to Lynda & Dianna she had been at work.
When we originally met we spent a good few hours getting to know each other and it was really interesting to see Lynda’s paintings; which are these amazing photo realism pieces, mainly of very intricate motorbikes. Lynda takes high resolution scans of each of them to keep a record, which is exactly what I do with all my pieces. I really do think it would be great to put them up online, but that’s a conversation for another day!
Over the course of the initial meetings we have been gathering some initial thoughts about what we would all like to get out of the project. My style of work fits in very well with the concept of BCD’s. In my work, I like the viewer to delve a bit deeper into what they are first seeing, inviting the viewer in to see a bit more clearly and give more detail. This is what Lynda & Coral have done by taking part in this project, opening their door firstly to me, and then going forward to the public, to see a part of their daily lives.
I think we are all in agreement that I will produce portraits of Lynda, Coral & Dianna respectively. At first we were thinking about using some of Coral’s poetry for her piece, but after talking a bit more, we decided that it may be fitting to use Lynda & Coral’s story to produce their pieces, which will link in perfectly to the piece of Dianna.
Lynda & Coral had started writing about their relationship from each of their perspectives. Sitting side by side it is a really great, very personal concept. We will be looking at using some audio as well in the final piece, and maybe even see if Dave Grange from Creative Solutions would be willing to do some video work for us.
The date on this mail is a bit erroneous, as I have been pondering this for a long long time. When I conceived of ‘Behind Closed Doors’ it was all about sharing positive stories. The people and communities we work with are so often misrepresented, and society as a whole can be both fractured and judgmental, simple happy stories were all we wanted to tell!
As time went on, and Dave and I started to look at who we wanted to work with, it became unavoidable for me that I wanted to work with X and H, and that work would in some way be about domestic violence. I had to examine the reasons why I had wanted to resist this – a cliche? I kept telling myself that I wanted to focus on the positive, the fact that these women – and all the others I have met through domestic violence projects – are strong, bright and with loads going for them, and in no way the shrinking violet or screaming fishwife media stereotypes perpetuate.
What I eventually had to admit to myself was that the reason I was resisting domestic violence being the subject matter, was because I too had to do what I was asking them to do and open my doors. Which meant, amongst other things, acknowledging my own experience of domestic violence, and not only that, the things in my past that may have contributed to this happening to me.
The reasons I had resisted this for so long are many and various – but I think first and foremost it is shame and embarrassment. I don’t want to be defined by this. I don’t want my professional contacts and peers to know. I don’t want to expose my husband and children to something I have gladly left way in the past. And – despite this blog – my days of exposing myself warts and all ended 20 years ago. Yet if I’m not prepared to do this myself, how can I ask it of others?
When I met with H and X, for the first time I offered a brief description of my own experiences. I doubt either were that surprised, after all this happens to 1 in 3 of us, so why so secretive? All the reasons above and more. What both X and H were interested in is how far down it is buried – it is now something I don’t talk about, or if I do, dispassionately as if it had happened to someone else. To both of them I was able to say, because I was lucky, despite desperately wanting children, I was aware that neither of these men would make good fathers, and because it was just me I was able to get out, and despite hitting rock bottom, able to pull myself back up again and escape.
What I can’t imagine for both H & X and the 1,000’s of women with children who like them who have actually been strong enough to survive a domestic violence situation and get out, is how they cope with having to see their abuser week in week out. I pride myself on being strong, but their strength is phenomenal
Zach Nicholas – The Man Behind The Madness
The person you see is just an illusion, designed to shield the real me from the world.
When I’m alone I can be myself, something I can never be around certain people, but then guess that’s why I am different around people in general. When I’m alone I do sing, talk to myself and think of brand new ideas but people don’t know the other things I do when I’m alone or what I actually think about when I’m with friends. I think about the bad things I’ve done and I tend to literally beat myself up about it, I also have fears, we all do, my fears consist of wondering if I’m ever going to make it big as an actor, my dream job and the only other fear I have is the oncoming death.
I want people to see what I go through and understand why I’m a tad insane, although sometimes I try to sell crazy when I wear my mask, the things I’ve seen and gone through have drove me crazy and my mind cannot keep everything thing inside and that’s why I have outbursts of anger, insanity and even happiness.
Having an actor brain makes me want to make my own movies and I have done and I currently have 5 movie ideas in the pipeline but I am struggling to put the first one together, I wish I could get my stars together to create middle of the story as I already know the beginning and end of the movie and the beginning and end are always the easy parts for me, it’s just the filling between the bread that I can’t decide and like most decisions I need help to make a decision.
In time you will start to see the real me and you will see that I’m not this extreme person, that I do have a sub-conscious of fears, worries and problems and my conscious will always reflect that, I’ve done bad things that I regret, I want to certain bad things but I fight the urge and all the good things I’m looking forward to, everything tends to alter my psyche in a numerous of ways.
I hope that can give you a look into my mind and how I walk this world.
Just found out that Caitlin Moran will be at the Literature Festival. Would be wonderful if she could visit BCD. In the meantime:
For Laura, Hulya, Gillian – beware the quiet boys – and celebrate being nice!
My posthumous advice for my daughter
WRITTEN BY Caitlin Moran
‘Nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit’
My daughter is about to turn 13 and I’ve been smoking a lot recently, and so – in the wee small hours, when my lungs feel like there’s a small mouse inside them, scratching to get out – I’ve thought about writing her one of those “Now I’m Dead, Here’s My Letter Of Advice For You To Consult As You Continue Your Now Motherless Life” letters. Here’s the first draft. Might tweak it a bit later. When I’ve had another fag.
“Dear Lizzie. Hello, it’s Mummy. I’m dead. Sorry about that. I hope the funeral was good – did Daddy play Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen when my coffin went into the cremator? I hope everyone sang along and did air guitar, as I stipulated. And wore the stick-on Freddie Mercury moustaches, as I ordered in the ‘My Funeral Plan’ document that’s been pinned on the fridge since 2008, when I had that extremely self-pitying cold.
“Look – here are a couple of things I’ve learnt on the way that you might find useful in the coming years. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Also, I’ve left you loads of life-insurance money – so go hog wild on eBay on those second-hand vintage dresses you like. You have always looked beautiful in them. You have always looked beautiful.
“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.
“Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.
“Three – always pick up worms off the pavement and put them on the grass. They’re having a bad day, and they’re good for… the earth or something (ask Daddy more about this; am a bit sketchy).
“Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.
“Stay at peace with your body. While it’s healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run. Put your hands on your belly and enjoy how soft and warm you are – marvel over the world turning over within, the brilliant meat clockwork, as I did when you were inside me and I dreamt of you every night.
“Whenever you can’t think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you’re next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.
“This segues into the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’ Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, ‘When I rise in three days, the disciples aren’t going to believe this when I tell them about it.’
“Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and coordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.
I love it Laura !
I think maybe we talk about ‘play’ for children… There’s also lots of scope for exploring ideas around childhood and maybe what that’s means.
On my visit I was struck by the baby toy that you had as a child and that was now being used by Keegan ( not sure I’ve spelled that right ? ). You also mentioned that you keep safe treasured mementoes of your children’s lives. I’ve thought about how the passing down of objects, memories can create a narrative/story of our lives.
( your sharing of the fairy tale of the queen that didn’t need to kiss a frog to make everything happy ever after…made me smile, and think that each of our stories follow different paths and have different moments and endings that shape us. The choices and circumstances of our lives are so varied )
Other things that I’ve thought about is when you said that you don’t have any images of the children all together and you would like some .. This made me wonder about, if we could actually make this happen …
Would it be of them playing ?
Could we dress up ?
Should it be serious / fun / formal ?
What aspect of your children would you like to capture ? I haven’t met Katie yet but they all seem quite wonderfully distinct
Would you be in it too ?
Would you be behind the lens ?
I think it’s good to ask questions of why ? So many family portraits are posed and composed…
I’m not completely clear how this process, the conversations we have, and the work we want to make will evolve, and if I’m honest I’m apprehensive and excited in equal measure …
It’s a real honour to be welcomed into your home..
I guess it’s up to us to shape what it will be…what we make, create and discover
maybe it’ll be good to communicate with each other any ideas / thoughts / sketches / writing / photos / links to things that we think might be of interest to each other ..
On that note of sharing … Could you send me an image of the yellow baby toy ?
H and I have worked with each other for the last 3 years and now know each other well. I have been there as she extracted herself and her daughter from a destructive and manipulative relationship and admired her strength as she built them both a new life, coping alone despite an ongoing disabling knee condition and living 2 floors up.
Soon and unexpectedly a new partner and pregnancy followed, and H is now proud mother of two beautiful children, Bewilderingly for her, despite being more supported than she has ever been in her life by her new partner and his family, she is struggling emotionally. When we meet today she is in tears, and, as with X, all thoughts of discussing BCD go out the window. Not for the first time the thought crosses my head that we run the risk of trivialising all that these strong, bright, amazing woman are going through.
Yet as we carry on talking, the parallels, mutual understanding and mutual desire to expose and challenge this reality that so many incredible women and families are experiencing, breaks through. As we talk, I see H’s shoulders that were rigid when I arrived, start to relax, and she is enthused, excited and passionate about the project.
For me, choosing Zach to work with was a no brainer. I’ve worked with him many times before and know his strengths and weaknesses. But despite this familiarity Zach is still a challenge for me to work with – in a good way! His brain works very quickly, there is no resting when you are with him. When we are both on form ideas flow at such a pace that we really need someone taking notes! After a session I have to remind myself of the artist and participant roles as when we are at work, it feels more like two friends collaborating.
Although we know each other well I do still find Zach to be a bit of an enigma, and I know others do too. Perfect for the BCD project. I also know he is unafraid of the free and open ended artistic process that so many other participants find challenging. Perfect for BCD. Zach will always give 100% and pulls everyone along with his enthusiasm. Again, Zach is perfect for BCD.
Opening The Door
‘Behind Closed Doors’ is going to help me a lot and help the other subjects as well.
To me behind closed doors is a chance for me to show people how I live, how I feel and what really goes on in my head.
I’ve worked with Creative Solutions before, so I know how they like to do things and they know what I’m capable of and I am glad I’m working with them again, something great always comes from Creative Solutions and when I work with them that only makes it greater.
I can’t wait to get this bandwagon rolling and I am anxious (in a good way) to see how this project will turn out, I heard some great things from the other subjects and I can’t wait to step through their door and I welcome them to step through mine.
I’ll talk again when we get a step further to using the key to see BEHIND CLOSED DOORS!!!
I met with X today to discuss the potential of her being involved in this project. X is a hugely intelligent and articulate young woman, who I originally met through the Your Futures project. It has taken us many false starts to try and meet up, as X is literally going through hell due to custody and court issues with her ex. When I meet her on the Square, it is so she has some company when handing over her daughter for a two hour visit, after which we go and talk.
One of main, horrific, aspects about domestic violence that is not covered in the media or elsewhere, is that women with children have to maintain regular contact with their abuser. The impact of domestic violence on children in all senses is way too big to even start to touch upon in a blog , I/ we are not ignoring it, but for BCD we just want to talk about the women – to use X and H’s word’s, these awesome, beautiful, strong and amazing women who somehow have all their confidence, pride and beauty sucked out of them – yet in the case of all 3 of us find the inner strength from somewhere to break free.
When I look at H & X, I see incredibly strong survivors, creative, inspiring, and intelligent young women with a huge amount to give. How can that be reconciled with what they have been through – and how they are portrayed.
Lots of what X said to me that evening will stay with me a long time. As far as us co-creating an artwork for BCD, there are a few key starting points:
We need to create a safe place to meet and talk, without children or partners.
X talked about the women on the Phoenix project, how long it took them to open up, how they all appear normal outside, but ‘crying rivers of blood inside’
Things she did while with her ex ‘how did I become that small?’
Dancing to express herself – X would be happy to set up a camera to record her doing this
The importance of location for our artwork – although it could be sited in H or X’s flats, showing work referencing domestic violence in social housing just perpetuates another myth. We may look into the potential of siting the work in an affluent home, and discussed how we might identify someone willing to do this.
Once upon a time there was an unmarried princess who ruled her land wisely and we’ll. she made the laws collected the taxes and was loved by everyone! One day she was sitting by her lake when a frog hopped out, ‘hello princess I am not really a frog, I am a handsome prince, if u kiss me I will regain my human handsome form and marry you. You can have my children care for them, I would like 8, you can wash my clothes and cook my meals you can keep the palace clean and tidy I will take over as ruler and enforcer I will be king I will collect taxes and keep all the money. Of course I will give you generous allowance for household expenses’
Later on that night whilst eating her dinner she suddenly thought to herself, I don’t fucking think so, I do fine on my own and no man will put me down or take over my life!
I read this earlier and just found it so true, although most of us would of kissed the frog .
Today I got a letter from my sister. She is starting a new life, over in Portugal, living close to the earth, under the stars and far away from the busy, hectic world of deadlines and schedules that I struggle with. The letter – all 20 pages of it, is handwritten, and I had to read it in instalments cause it was moving me so much. Now, several hours later as I sit down to write the first page of this blog, I am stunned about how timely it was, and how much it reaffirms all the reasons I wanted to start this project.
My sisters letter, gave me a very honest insight into how she goes about her day to day life, a life that is very different to mine, and one that if I am honest I both envied or disdained, depending on how healthy my psyche was that day. The letter did exactly what I hope this project can do, it opened the door to empathy and understanding, not only did I get how my sister was living, I saw for myself how I had unwittingly created a set of constructs around what was going on without ever taking that apart and really looking at it.
It reaffirmed for me, that as a society, it is easier for us to make value judgements on how people live, without really understanding what is going on for them, or realising that we all have more in common than we have differences. Of course, sisters should understand each other, but how often do we sit down and really listen to what somebody else feels, what makes them tick, what frightens them, what makes them excited. And other than in the first flush of romance, how often do we ever tell anyone what we are really thinking, or what is going on Behind Closed Doors.