I am reminded that I should go to more artists talks when I go to one and come away having loads to think and talk about!
Funding and Prescribed Outcomes
Caroline Cardus began by talking about the funding for the residency at Baltic.The annual bursary which Caroline is in receipt of was set up in memory of sculptor Adam Reynolds, to support a disabled artist working in the visual arts, with support from Shape. You can read more about the bursary and Adam Reynolds here.
One of the fantastic qualities of the bursary was that their was no expected outcome. Caroline talked about the pressure an artist puts on themselves to make a finished piece (or perhaps I should say make a final outcome) but this bursary specifically lets artists have some time to evaluate their arts practice and think about what their next steps might be. Critical reflection and linking what you are doing with ‘the big picture’ is something that is so easy to put down your list of priorities so it was exciting to learn that their are funders who understand that having a final outcome, or more pointedly a prescribed outcome, is limiting and may not actually support innovative contemporary arts practitioners.
What do you think are the most appropriate ways to measure the success of residencies?
Do you know any other artists that deal with issues realated to their own or other peoples disabilities?
Caroline then went on to explain a little about, her education as an artist, the fluctuating nature of her own disability, how she became aware of and involved in the disability art scene and how her exhibiting history and collaborative/artist-led projects where about a variety of issues a disabled individual might experience. Caroline talked about the powerful phrase ‘Nothing about us without us’ and said she felt her practice somehow ticked lots of boxes because she made art that engaged with disabled people and she herself was a disabled artist, but that also perhaps that was a limiting way of thinking about making art.
How does an artists training and early career choices shape their development?
Even today people think in terms of specialisms (either relating to an artists subject [thematic approach] or skills and process [a painter, a printmaker etc]) do ‘specialisms’ have a place in contemporary art?
Making New Work
Whilst at Baltic Caroline has been producing work based on a text message conversation. Caroline’s friend Barbara went through the physical and mental trauma of relatively long stay in hospital including a major operation and a certain amount of the recovery time. Caroline is experimenting with how to present the conversation to an audience.
Having time to reflect enabled Caroline to see how her work could, and indeed does, connect to everybody and although disbility is one facet of the work she is developing it works on many levels:
- 1. Language Now- How New Technologies have Enabled New Forms of Communication: Being able to text enables you to say things in situations where before you may have been cut off. It also frees you to say things that perhaps are too difficult to verbalize. Caroline shared how talking of texts people revealed how they transcribed them into notebooks as they felt they were precious, or now on newer phones didnt delete them as larger memory meant more information could be saved. Texts may be brief and direct but they are laced with meanings and memories.
Have you ever kept a text message because it meant something to you?
Have you ever recorded a text message in a different form?
- 2. Being Human in the NHS System: the nature of the event, the snippets of information allow the viewer/reader to gather certain facts about what is happening to another persons body and in their internal world of the mind. The body is an important theme in contemporary art. Actually I guess in a sense since Leonardos Vitruvian man its been a central theme (when man was made as important or as valid a subject in art as the gods). Being human in the NHS is a more particular issue but I feel wide sections of the audience will be able to relate… In my own experience I’ve felt a bit shocked at how hard a sick person, or their family/friends, may have to argue to receive a certain level of expected care but also been the recipient of exceptional care myself. The NHS is a big system but it should be run by humans for humans and that simple fact should not be lost in amongst checklists and systems.
Have you ever used art to record an experience related to health and wellbeing? What was the purpose? To document, to record, to understand, to come to terms with…
Is there an equivalent scheme to every child matters in hospitals? Every Patient Matters?
- 3. Public and Private – The monumental and the intimate: Caroline is currently playing with grid systems made up of A4 printouts of individual messages and blank pages (to represent gaps in time). Caroline talked a little about printing the messages with a matt ink on a matt ground and making them really big so they might be displayed in a large exhibition space, like Baltic. They would reference abstract expressionists huge canvasas. This makes an interesting link as I often feel the emotions many abstract expressionists were most successful at expressing were the negative (pain, anger, violence, suffering etc). Making things big helps make an impact and perhaps reflects the monumental nature of the change in Caroline’s friends life. But then I was also interested in the intimate nature of a text, it is something private, it can come at any point night or day and your the chosen recipient. Caroline also talked of her ideas about using alternative materials such as pools of mercury to visualize the physical impact of sound on a body…. lovely idea. Sound work is one of the ways in which this work may develop.
- 4. Caring Relationships between people: Most people do not live their lives in isolation. They experience the world alongside their friends and family. In this situation Caroline had very little power to help her friend but was able to support her by listening, sharing a sense of humour and probably by distracting Barbara. As a side to this there was also a small discussion about the word ‘carer’ as it relates to the the working relationship between a person with a disability and an employee who helps them with certain tasks. ‘Personal Assistant’ appears to be the preferred phrase as it does not suggest the disabled person in below the carer. However it was also mentioned that of course if you personal assistant is also a member of your family then you might want to be called a carer… you are proud to be a carer.
Lots to think about…