Last week we had an artist talk and workshop from Michaela Yeawood-Dan. Her work explores ideas around class, race, gender, culture and nature.
I really liked the format of the talk and workshop because they were both very informal and relaxed, which reflected the way in which Yearland-Dan works in her paintings. She takes inspiration from everything she sees – not just artists she looks at. A lot of her work is inspired by music. I like how she said that she used something as simple as watch all the seasons of Mad Men as the basis of some of her work she made during lockdown. It’s very different from what you’d hear from other artists, but I feel like it’s very relatable to us as art students. Very often we can get distracted by other things like binge watching a TV show, instead of doing our work. Michaela’s approach is to take these “distractions” and turn them into research and artwork. This is an approach that I’ve also taken in my practice.
In the workshop, she set us a brief to do a short presentation on an artwork that was inspired by music. I chose Winston Smith’s God Told Me To Skin You Alive, which was a version of this piece was also used as the album cover of one of my favourite Green Day albums, Insomniac. I talked about the different left-wing punk subgenres coming together in one piece because they all stand for the same thing – No Racism, No Sexism, No Homophobia. The album Insomniac by Green Day was the response to the East Bay Punk community kicking them out for “selling out”, and the band proving to the community that they still belong.
The second part of the brief was to make a work inspired by music. In my art practice I also use music as my inspiration – especially music and videos from the 80s and 90s, I like the retro look for my films. I did a performance with a projection of a video collage which feature clips from music videos by Green Day, Wham!, and Erasure – as well as my own video clips and photographs. Michaela really enjoyed it and suggested that I look at the work of Arthur Jafa for more inspiration to evolve my work
Last week we listened to a talk by the University of Edinburgh art collections curator, Julie-Ann Delaney. I found this talk to be very informative, especially when it comes to selling a work that’s not a physical thing – for example my practice does not produce physical things, I do performances, make films, and installations. It really gave me an insight into what my future as an artist could be like. It was interesting to see how a performance could be sold to an art collection – selling the elements of the performance. It also made me think of the context of a work and how it could be changed from gallery to gallery – some elements may not be possible.
This applies to my art practice at the moment because I’ve been in talks with Pam van de Brug, organiser of the Out of Sight Out of Mind Exhibition at Summerhall – which I am taking part in November. Due to Covid-19, there’s a limited amount of space for work, especially for showing films. They suggested that my film could be shown on a reel with some other films, but I felt like that wasn’t what I imagined my piece to be. I wanted my film to be shown on a TV screen with a telephone speaker plugged into it so that the viewer could listen to the film through the telephone speaker – giving the effect that the character from the film is speaking directly to the viewer. They have asked me to think of alternative ways that I could display the work, just incase I’m not allowed the telephone (as it would need to be cleaned after every visitor). The talk by Julie-Ann Delany really made me think about how a work could evolve from each context it’s in. Perhaps I could still display the work the way I wanted for myself, then have a different version at the exhibition, and a different version on the OOSOOM website.
This weekend (17/10/2020) I had the privilege of having my performance shown at the first ever Virtual Trans Pride Scotland Event. It was so amazing to see a variety of other trans artists perform along side of me – singing, dancing, poetry, drag.. etc. It was interesting to perform for the first time in a non-art environment because I like to see if my performances are accessible to a non-art audience. I found that it was accessible and the audience loved the performance. I particularly liked the subtitles added to the performance. My favourite caption had to be “whooshing and clattering”. I think I might use these words in a future piece.
For my “gallery visit”, I looked at the Artists of New York Exhibition from Hauser & Wirth. This is a physical and online exhibition (I viewed it online) which was organised to raised money for artists and visual arts organisations that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In recent months, online exhibitions have been on the rise because many galleries have closed. The website itself is very user-friendly, although I feel like the presentation of the work could be more exciting. It’s almost set up like an online shop, not a gallery. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not. I think an online 3D tour or using virtual reality would have been more interesting. It would give us more of a sense of scale and what the works look like in context. When you click on the images, it only shows you information about the artist, but not the work itself. I would be good to know what the work is about and why it is in this exhibition.
I think the context of this exhibition, and every exhibition at this time, is particularly important because of the things that our government has been saying about people in the arts and how we should “retrain”. By having more exhibitions, we can raise awareness of why the arts are so important in our society.
I really enjoyed watching the Barby Asante Talk, especially the showreel. It really gave us an insight into what her work was about and it kind of reminded me of one of my video collages.
One of the most important things I got from her work was the use of the “Black voice” – giving black people and people of colour a voice in society. This is extremely important because it educates white people about racism from the point of view as a black person or person of colour. The media usually portrays racism from the white perspective, which kind of defeats the purpose of why we need to educate people – it’s literally talking over black people and people of colour.
This concept is very similar to what I’m writing about for my dissertation, apart from I’m talking about trans people and how the media always portray the trans experience from the cisgender perspective. I know these are two completely different experiences, but somethings do intersect.
I particularly liked the film/spoken word piece about the Declaration of Independence. It reminded me of me own spoken word performances. Like Asante, I also use my work to educate others and raise the voices of a community that is often silenced – the transgender community and people with mental illness. The use of statements in this piece really gave it a sense of importance – almost like it was saying “Listen to me. I am here and this is my voice”. This emphasised the feeling of voices rising up and being heard.
In conclusion, I will definitely look into more of Barby Asante’s work. Her use of voice, visuals, and soundscapes will influence my work in the future.
“The Voice” is a performance piece I’ve just started trying out. I wanted to combine my poetry with soundscape, props and video to create a performance that isn’t like any other performance I’ve ever done. The video collage in the background was comprised of clips from my own films, Green Day music videos, 80s pop videos, and my motifs from my “This is My Voice” series. I use video collages as a sketchbook to express what my work is about and what my motifs are inspired by – usually 80s/90s pop culture and East Bay Punk aesthetics.
I was chosen to perform at Trans Pride Scotland this year which will take place on 17/10/2020. I have prerecorded this film to show at an online event. Due to the current situation, we were unable to have the physical event this year, so we have opted to do a Zoom event. The event consists of 10 performers, including myself, which will perform a mix of singing, dancing, drag, etc. My performance will probably be a bit different from what people will have seen before because it’s specifically an art performance, rather than just the average “slam poetry” reading – however I do love slam poetry and it does inspire my work.
The context of this work will be interesting because it is my first time performing one of my poetry soundscapes in a non-art context. Although, not in an art context, I think it will really resonate with the audience, as most of the will be trans like me. I deal with such themes as gender dysphoria, anxiety and depression – but also the concept of euphoria, alignment and joy as a trans person.
I will be showing this film at the Out of Sight, Out of Mind Exhibition in November. This exhibition is all about spreading awareness about mental health and usually takes place at Summerhall. This year, due to the current situation, we may just have an online exhibition instead. If we do get to have a physical exhibition, I intend to display it on a TV with a rotary telephone in front of it so the audience can listen to it through the phone speaker as if they are on the phone.
3rd Movement was about living in the now and how art connects us. I think it expresses how I’m feeling mentally at the moment because I feel like my life is moving foreword (despite the pandemic) and slowly getting to where I want to be. This is like me “passing the baton” so that other voices can be heard. The unicorn head mask refers to the concept of “being masked”, as in being silenced and not having your voice heard – but it also in a literal sense could be making fun of anti-maskers. I chose the unicorn because it is something that is completely ridiculous and gives a sense of fun to my practice, rather than it just being depressing all the time.