Now is a strange time. Post-uni, I’ve taken on some much-appreciated freelance social media work, which is keeping me quite busy. I’m also working on getting things together for my next exhibition, LOOP.
Unfortunately my health has not been great, and my Ulcerative Colitis has been flaring up quite a lot. More than usual, in fact, which is Not A Good Thing. In the 15 or so years I’ve had this condition, I’ve certainly become more attuned to it, and better able to communicate the specifics of it. But in some ways, it gets harder.
Between the terrifying stuff going on in the country politically at the moment, and my ongoing physical problems, I am frequently in a state of extreme upset. Feeling- as I’m sure many artists atm do- somewhat useless. Why make art when our external and internal worlds are barely holding together?
I’ve been making work for some time now about, and using my body. I often wish I didn’t have a body- a want which is fairly common amongst those with long-term health conditions. It is so difficult to describe having a body which doesn’t do what you expect and -at worst- is attacking itself. My condition in particular- incurable, and somewhat mysterious, despite so much research into it being undertaken- is an immune system problem. My body literally attacks me, and apparently for no reason.
Psychologically, this is a bit of a headfuck. Making work that completely sidesteps needing a body to run it, might be far in the distance, but it’s certainly something I can keep researching. Might it be possible to make a creative ‘archive’ of the body- wherein I can collect and categorise movements and physicality, during times when I am well, and just Save them for later?
Next weekend, I have been lucky enough to have been given a place on a 3-day workshop- ‘Attack Of The 50ft Woman: Reimagining Scale, Ambition and Access for Monsters in Performance, through the lens of Feminist Sci-Fi‘ led by the performance artist Lauren Barri Holstein.
I’m really hoping to bring some of these ideas to the workshop, whilst also having a bit of time away in a new place too…
Last weekend, a short film from my Balancing|Projecting series (‘Balancing feathers on our fingers’) was shown at Translucent. Translucent is ‘an artist-led series of events of live art. We are providing platform to trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming artists.’
My film, along with three others’ was shown before and in-between performances, in a brutal but welcoming space high above Waterloo Station.
In the final weeks of my degree, I applied to a small handful of open calls for exhibitions and workshops that I had seen advertised, in order to make sure I continue to challenge myself and create opportunities for my work to be seen by new audiences.
No matter how old you are when you finish a degree, you’re still Fresh Graduate Blood, and whilst I have a plethora of experiences and achievements, I’ve never been a graduate. Until now.
Before I arrived at Translucent, I was lucky to finally get to see ‘Kiss My Genders’ at Hayward. This exhibition included some artists whose work I love, such as Victoria Sin and Catherine Opie. The former included some beautiful film projection work.
Whilst it was an amazing and inspiring exhibition, that included work by artists from diverse backgrounds (still felt a little heavy on the white cis gay side though, tbh), I often wonder when gender non-conforming/trans/queer/nb artists will be permitted by the arts establishment to take part in exhibitions that aren’t exclusively *about being* gender non-conforming/trans/queer/nb? Walking into a space surrounded by artists from my community will always feel powerful, exciting and glorious upon first entering. But what is next? Acknowledgment of the continually evolving subject of gender and identity in exhibitions is GREAT, but, in the eyes of the art world, is it possible to make work that isn’t about your gender and identity if you present outside the norm?
I don’t know. Here are some images.
And now I’m going to write a little about Sasha Velour- she’s referred to as a drag queen (she won RPDR two seasons ago) but I prefer to refer to her as a contemporary performance artist.
I went to see her London show, ‘Smoke & Mirrors’, and it did not disappoint. On a creative level, it was beautifully designed, written and executed. On a technical level, it was perfection (projecting mapping YES), and on an emotional level, it put a few tears in my eyes. (Which is very hard to do as I am on a tonne of medications that stop me being able to cry.)
During one segment, Sasha performs a lip sync to ‘The Greatest Show Of My Life’ by Shirley Bassey. Afterwards, she tells us that due to illness, she has in fact only been walking for a week. She talked about the duality of her character- how she feels there are so many parts of her, and that somehow the only one that ‘matters’ is the successful one that is always presented perfectly. She mused about how strange that is.
As a sick person (I have lived with Ulcerative Colitis for almost 15 years now, as well as severe anxiety and depression that is further triggered by UC…and so on and so on) this really struck a chord with me. When you spend so much time being unwell, the world can often drift out of your grasp. You feel like you have to force yourself to fit into it in ways that everyone else seems to manage perfectly easily. To give a specific example of this, on a mild UC flareup day, it can take me hours to leave the house (if I can at all). If I have to be somewhere, I will have to have spent the day before taking specific medication, resting, creating a ‘worst case scenario’ plan. On the day I will wake up early enough to be able to stay resting for a while, then I need to spend at least an hour or so in the bathroom making sure it is safe to go out (Spoiler alert- I’m never really safe with UC.)
Then I can go out (hopefully). When I turn up at work/friends/meeting/studio etc, I am in make up and I am ‘public Kate’. No one has had to see the huge amount of effort I’ve had to put in to make sure Public Kate can appear, so its assumed that that’s the only Kate there is. Is this really ‘me’? Or is scruffy, depressed, lying down in bed Kate really ‘me’?
I have friends who don’t talk to me when I’m unwell. I guess it makes them uncomfortable and they’d rather just wait until I’m ‘up and about’ again because that Kate is an easier one to know. Of course I have friends who know the gory details and have seen me at my worst. Not nice for either of us but I’m grateful some understand.
After Smoke & Mirrors, I really thought for the first time that I need to figure out how to reconcile these separate versions of myself. There really is only one of me, and whilst the art world is less than encouraging of able-bodied people, how do I make sure illness doesn’t make the art stop?
Whilst I prep for my upcoming exhibition in October, and take a bit of time out post-degree, I’ve been working with Artists, Models, iNK (a collective of models I’ve worked on events with for a few years now).
Last Friday we created an event called ‘Catwalk’- a 3 hour durational performance/life drawing evening at Fabrica Gallery.
Myself and model Frankie posed in one-colour costume in the large gallery window, and walked across the main space in extreme slow motion for an audience of artists. Many came to draw from start to finish, and many came and went from off the street.
I love incorporating performative elements into life drawing, and we’re trying a new idea on 23rd August for our second late event at Fabrica. It’s free and open to all, and is a really different and unique way to start your weekend creatively.
It’s curtain-down time for my degree, which culminated in a week-long exhibition at Freerange, London.
I’m not going to try and sum up the experience of the past five years, but lets just say it’s been challenging and rewarding in equal measure. I got a First, which I am immensely proud of, and in true artist imposter syndrome style, have tried to mentally devalue since finding out.
‘Balancing|Projecting’ on show at Freerange, the Truman Brewery, London.
Whilst invigilating during the day time, it was interesting to see how people engaged with my installation. I was pleased that it seemed to draw the majority of people in, so that they were involved for the full two minutes. My diary was also read by many people, and as a few people asked if it was available, I am considering making it into a small, self-published book to sell online.
Here are some works by other students on show that I particularly liked, when I had the chance to explore:
Over the past week or so, the question I have been most asked is:
I think after any long period of study, people expect you have Big Plans. Well, I do have plans that are mostly around Continuing To Make Art.
In October, I have a small, solo exhibition which I am very excited about (I’ll be blogging about that v soon). In the meantime, I’m getting involved in a few things, including some performance/life drawing work as part of Fabrica Lates, and a couple of other things too.
Despite being a working artist before beginning my degree, I have found the END of this 5 year course a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, on an emotional level. For a week or two, I felt exhausted, and somewhat depressed. Studying part-time, you always have something in the back of your mind- something you should be getting on with, organising and/or finishing. Now it’s over, I had a period of feeling empty.
Yesterday was the two year anniversary of the loss of an old friend. I try to remember her birthday collectively with friends, as a more positive response to grief, but when June rolls round, I feel very dark. My friend was always so supportive of my decision to move away from London and focus on my art. I looked forward to finishing my studies, and being able more physically and mentally available to see my old friends. I know that if she were still here, she would be at my degree show, laughing and being mischievous, like we were back in college. This thought makes me smile, but is also so sad it hurts.
Now I’ve had time to rest, and reflect, I’ve thrown myself in at the deep end, and have applied to do some queer, feminist live art workshops based around dance and performance. I want to continue using my body in my work where possible, but certainly need some outside influence.
In October, I have an exhibition in a small, experimental art space in Brighton. The piece I am working on is entirely without my body, and will be using digital techniques. I think after making such personal work in my degree, I wanted to create something pleasurable, that is an escape. The working title is LOOP.
I’ve also started a TinyLetter, for anyone who wants to join, and get the occasional email about what I’m up to creatively.
Next week we begin installing our degree show. It will be open from 6th-9th June, with the PV on Weds 5th.
I’ve more or less gotten everything ready for it, which feels good and am hoping the install goes smoothly. This 5 year part-time degree has been such a huge challenge for me, and I can’t believe I’ve finally reached the end. Managing my uni work, as well as my professional life has been so difficult, and has taken a real toll on my physical and mental health. So it feels right that my final piece- ‘Balancing|Projecting’ is a direct response to this particular subject.
Meanwhile, I’ve moved back into the studio (after a recent refurb) and I can’t believe that after 10 years of living in Brighton, I finally have managed to find a small, affordable space to work in. It’s an ex-boiler room, and I’m sharing with two other artists until the end of the year at least. Fingers crossed we can stay on post-2019.