DJCAD Reflective Research Journal – Week Sixteen

Rather than just submitting the video I used as the sound and background projection for my performance last semester: Destroying Desires – to the members exhibition at Generator, I suddenly found myself offering to do the performance live on the opening night, egged on by friends and our tutor, Ellie Harrison. The picking up, trying out and delivering of equipment took all Monday morning and then I went on a curated tour of the Ursula K Le Guin inspired exhibition at the DCA, ‘Seized by the Left Hand’. It’s an exhibition I will return to again as there is a lot to soak up. I’d like to maybe try some poetic responses to a couple of the films, as I’ve done before and read some of the extra literary chap books they have as part of the exhibition.

It made me feel sad about Dad’s unpublished work which is right up there with Le Guin and made me wonder about doing a project which included or referenced some of his work. We have collaborated before on the screen-printed book ‘Mouse’ and I would like to try something like this again.

I then went to the second-year screening of a documentary film called ‘Paula Rego, stories and secrets’ which I loved and wept over. It was a very poignant meditation on the mess of life and art as a means to make sense of it and help you process and navigate through. It touched on some of the themes in my work and I felt the ideas flowing and began scribbling ideas in my sketchbook before it finished.

I keep coming back to unrecyclable rubbish and how can I include this in my work, or make my work wholly from it?

Or the compost toilet idea as a metaphor for separating waste in a more manageable way – verses the flush away mentality?

I can think of obvious ways or using rubbish…like make wire cages and filling them…or sculptural shapes to fill…or using the different colours and textures of trash to make images/collage/words…or writing/painting/drawing directly onto plastic…also there is the food waste in the bins which I hate seeing…and I even contribute to, with tea bags and the odd apple core, because it seems self-righteous and fairly pointless and futile to be taking food waste home to compost, when even my flat mate forgets to use the food waste in the flat half the time. Should I make a composter in the studio? Try growing things out of raw compost? Would covering it with a layer of earth stop the smell? Would there be flies? Should I make a compost toilet? Would everyone hate me?

My tutorial with Kate was very helpful. I described all these ideas and showed her my last semesters performance. She said maybe the environmental themes could be incorporated more subtly without majorly changing my practice (in fact I have just thought about using the rubbish to stuff costume parts if need be, though so far, I have just used textile waste, which I am happy to do also). I mentioned that through the poetry I had started combining themes. She mentioned a radio programme which talked about the psychology of environmental damage and that these themes could be brought into the performance work. I mean it’s all connected up anyway. When she said the name of my performance ‘Destroying Desires’ I realised that name could refer to consumer desire and its environmental impact and that ‘desire’ generally could be synonymous with excess. I need to do some research in this area and find some more useful language. She liked that I was using painting and drawing as the process towards a performance. I said I didn’t want to fill the world with more crap and use toxic materials but that I felt maybe I wasn’t making proper use of the art school facilities, but she said it was sometimes good to set yourself parameters like that. She suggested Pernille for next week’s open tutorial as she’s a performance artist.

This week’s artists talk was by Erica Eyres and I loved her ‘awkward’ videos. Ideas were coming to me again during the talk although not directly related to her work. I thought more about masks and disguise because she talked about Cindy Sherman describing the point at which she couldn’t recognise herself anymore in the mirror, being the moment, the character was born. Which will hopefully help with the formation of my performance characters. And I can’t remember if it was from this talk or after looking at a Louise Bourgeois’ work that I had the idea of making a big fabric woman, who can be manipulated by someone, as a puppet master for the performance. I also want to stuff her with the landfill rubbish I have been collecting.

I am researching artists who have been influenced by Freud and all the ones I am looking at are female and a rich source of ideas and concepts for me to play with.  In addition to Cindy Sherman and Louise Bourgeois, there is Mary Kelly, Judy Chicago, Sarah Lucas, Tracy Emin and Cornelia Parker.

On Wednesday, I began making cardboard wolf masks, like the wolf man in my painting, then did some rough filming in the seminar room. Sketching out ideas. Then on Thursday, I spent a lot of time writing my personal statement for entering last semesters ‘Destroying Desires’ video into the John Byrne award.

Friday’s lecture about fake news got me a bit heated up thinking about ‘the truth’ and about ‘experts’. Our lecturer used the example of an educator and a doctor as experts and quoted the mantra; ‘don’t believe everything you read on the internet’. I think we should be questioning everything, including our educators and doctors and not blindly accepting anything a so called ‘expert’ says without our own research. The western medical system, for example, is based on the body only, not taking into account the mind and environment as eastern medicine does, which makes any medical professional in, for example Britain, a student in a particular school of thought, (because medical research is constantly changing and being updated) not an overall expert in health. And that’s before looking at the fact that medical trials are often funded by drug companies. Objective truth? I don’t think so. Even a medical specialist is only an ‘expert’ in the current thinking, in their narrow field, within the narrow thinking of western medical training. ‘Education’ is a lifelong process, not just what happens at school or university and when it comes to education or health, I will not just accept everything I am told as ‘the truth’ without questioning and gathering my own evidence. I am being educated in art, but at the end of my university education I will not be an ‘expert’ in art and never will be and anyone who calls themselves an ‘expert’ in anything is highly suspect in my opinion.

I am now wondering about writing my essay on this instead of Freud, but I could also think about this as my dissertation subject for 3rdand 4thyear.

Friday afternoon on the train home I scribbled down lots of ideas for performance, involving puppets and over the weekend I plan to edit some of my video ideas so far.

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