DJCAD Reflective Research Journal – 3rd Year – Week Six

Our mechanistic way of looking at the body, as separate parts which, need replaced or patched up, often misses the real cause of the injury/sickness and can be seen as an analogy for the handling of the pandemic. Separation people fails to take into account the importance of human connection and as a result we pine and wither and will not be well until we are reunited. The more separate the elements of any organic system are, the less well they work, the more they sicken. We need synergy, closeness, cooperation. I watched a lecture on Youtube by Biologist, Susan Lynch on The Human Microbiome. She talked about how the microbiome is formed early in life crucial gut microbes are in healthy immune functioning and disease outcomes. And exciting next generation therapeutics, where they can give fecal transplants to babies who are predisposed to asthma and allergies. She said following breastmilk, young children being in contact with animals was associated with having a good microbiome, livestock for country kids and mice, cockroaches and cats for inner city kids. Also, that a plant based diet yielded better gut bacteria. I feel like my hippie drop out parents knew all this in the 1970s, bringing me and my siblings up on raw goats’ milk, homemade sauerkraut, homegrown veg and lots of dirt. I remember a very new-agey book we used to have in our toilet when I was a child, which elaborated on the benefits of all this. And Sandor Katz reaffirming this stuff with his Book Wild Fermentation, about ten years ago, when I began my kimchi and wild soda making and also hearing about fecal transplants around that time and the benefits of not keeping too clean a house, so that literally small amounts of faeces could be passed between family members and help strengthen immunity. But I am glad conventional medicine is catching up, very slowly. 

So, the spreading around of good bacteria through inner and outer body networks, because presumably the good that comes from contact with all these animals and insects, is literally through traces of their excrement. So all this good shit is what I want to metaphorically spread and communicate through in my work, but without sounding preachy and superior. (I have suddenly thought of The golden Dung Donkey – an Italian folk tale – was mentioned in a podcast about Italo Calvino, who I will mention later, and I seem to remember something about a cartoon of a unicorn doing rainbow poos…or was it a Rachel Mclean video…?) 

My tutorial with Delia Ballie was very helpful in helping determine whether social political views could be put across in art and literature without your audience feeling lectured too and whether it was possible to communicate with genuine humour if you had a pre decided point of view to express. And she recommended I listen to an Italo Calvino podcast which discussed this. 

She advised I save printing (in the print workshops) till next year, which I had kind of half decided because I have already so much on my plate. She was enthusiastic and encouraging about my painting so far and liked the collage, which helped me progress with it in a less inhibited way as she said I was in danger of talking myself out of things if I didn’t just do them. Particularly as we had just talked about the problem of toxic materials in the arts and not wanting to continually strew ‘the world with objects’ (Seth Price). Price also says in his novel ‘Fuck Seth Price’, that nature is not a thing separate from us worth fretting about, but says we ourselves are nature, as are cities ‘and lab created chemicals’. I have thought about this before and yet still there is something about the green and trees and earthen paths that we are all drawn to, a need to get away from the hardness and greyness of concrete. I consider this in my choices about colours and imagery in my work. I can’t seem to help using greens and plant references, I suppose these are a sort of shorthand for representing nature, particularly when the other things I want to say are being expressed in this sort of coded narrative that has become my language for this project.

The CAP speakers program talk was by Marcus Coates, whose work resonated with me in many ways. He auditioned for people to sing along with slowed down bird song in their own homes and then speeded the videos up so people are singing like birds in their houses. There was something magical and fascinating and really odd about the results. And the language he used about his explorations of becoming animal and becoming bird, are themes I have explored this summer and continue to with the wolf/woman motif. He also said some things which so perfectly described thoughts I have recently had, but not been able to articulate. He said, ‘It’s hard to justify an intuitive sense of knowledge’ and ‘We find it hard, as such rational beings, to give imagined spaces credibility’. 

I began to try out paper cut outs over the large painting today. But instead of sticking them down (which I couldn’t until the oil paint dries anyway), I hung them on thin sting over the top of the canvas. They blew around when the door opened, which was quite nice, brought them alive, but I would need to print both sides if I want this because at the moment, they are white on the back with the sting taped on. Also thinking about making my costume for the video more playful, maybe a mask just around my mouth with a wolfs snout and long tongue with wire in it? Or just the tongue with a toothy grin and wolf ears? It’s like the antithesis of the Covid masks, instead of keeping all saliva in, the huge tongue is licking and tasting everything, licking up the bacteria and and full of healthy vitality. 

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