I attended an amazing workshop hosted by Maryam Wahid earlier today.
We were asked to show a single photograph that represents home.
An easy task, I thought… But no. As a former chronically unhoused eclectic (who is now partially housebroken) I found myself unable to come up with a simple way to represent what home means to me in a single image… Until I looked up and saw my mantle collection.
The side of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis has a huge text piece by Lawrence Weiner that says, “Bits & Pieces Put Together to Present a Semblance of a Whole.” — I have referred back to that piece for many years now. About how a lifetime is just that… Bits and pieces that form a semblance of a whole.
My life as a sort of urban nomad has meant I have lost a lot along the way… This collection is what I have kept. When it is unpacked, it means I am home.
Sidenote afterthought (or a poem?)….
i used to
to kick to
after we moved
i began to notice i
on my back
i must feel
safe now i
what an odd
to feel safe
but not to
until one day
you are sleeping
This AstraZeneca vaccine sure does make me feel like I was hit by a bus!
After a particularly awful experience at my GP to receive a vaccine, I was fine for the first part of the day – I just felt a few chills, and chalked that up to having scoured the hell out of myself in the shower upon our return from my appointment, resulting in my having wet hair for a few hours.
As the evening progressed, however, I began to feel colder, and simply could not do anything to keep myself from shivering. As bedtime drew closer, I began feeling flushed and feverish; my body was definitely responding to the intruder.
I was feverish and freezing all night, and was unable to get warm enough. I turned my heated blanket up to max, and over my regular flannel pyjamas, I wore my dressing gown, two pairs of heavy winter socks, wool slippers and a hat. Yet still, I could not stop shivering, so I got up again and set the heater to be on for the next two hours or so (we almost never turn on the heating, even in the winter, as it simply does not get cold enough to need it). Poor B was probably melting. That, and I kept clinging to him to try to keep warm, so he was probably also constantly woken up by me too. I make for a terrible bedpartner…
I woke up at 6:23am, sweaty and with a body so achy that I really did feel like I had been in an accident. I didn’t want to move, but desperately in need of a pee (thanks aging bladder), so I got up and that’s when the aches really hit me. Moving hurt. My head hurt. My neck hurt. My everything… it all hurt (Seriously… All the hurts).
So, I hobbled to the loo (priorities) and then to the kitchen where I downed 600mg ibuprofen. Suddenly ravenous, I then ate a banana, 4 GF biscuits, and a granola bar. As I was standing there shoving my face full of food, I couldn’t help but picture myself on one of those British overeating TV shows where they set cameras up in your house to spy on you whilst you try to secretly eat food in the middle of the night. Feeling fat in addition to already feeling like crap, I then went back to bed. It hurt so much to lie down that I made noises and woke poor B up again.
I awoke this morning feeling a bit better, but definitely not 100%…
Long story short, I don’t know how effective this vaccine will be against escape mutations, but it has certainly triggered a response in my immune system. *fingers crossed* that it works.
Sidenote: Hilariously, I thought I was going to be able to work on writing my Material Cultures formative today. I logged into my library account, and I tried… Oh how I tried, but actually trying to research, retain anything I read, and then write when I feel like crud and have the attention span of a gnat…? Yeah… That one failed miserably. I wrote a long, rambling blog post about the little vidlets I’ve been making instead, but even that proved to be a bit too much for me to focus on for long…
I haven’t been updating my blog as often as I probably should be, but then… I have never been great at maintaining regular communications.
(NB: if you want to skip the rambling, scroll down until you see an image and pick up from there)
I have a few friends (well, two, really) who are not on social media (this now includes me, at least in the sense that I stopped using Facebook last September). One of them, M, writes me these long, sweeping, long-form “letters” that are worthy of having been written on paper rather than sent via email.
I received my last letter from M in the autumn, and I was in the middle of writing a response when I was hit with a massive wave of vertigo. I never finished writing my response, and he hasn’t written again. I want to write a reply, but my replies always involve an apology for not writing sooner, and I think I am beginning to develop a bit of a guilt complex about how awful I am at keeping in touch with people, which in turn, keeps me trapped in what seems to be a self-perpetuating situation where I never end up responding and feeling bad as a result.
We (my husband, Bryon, and I) have a habit of watching period drama soap opera shows like, Outlander and Poldark. We almost always make fun of ourselves the entire time we are watching them because we are a bit embarrassed by our viewing choices (Outlander = 50 Shades of Tartan, etc). I spent the entire time we watched Poldark saying that the story was awful, but the costumes and the cinematography are great, whilst, meanwhile, I pondered the plot and brought it up in conversations.
One of the things that stood out to me while we were watching Poldark, and which I brought up several times with Bryon, was the amount of letter writing that people undertook. The number of scenes where people are seen writing letters makes me wonder how much time people set aside each day for correspondence.
All of these letter writing scenes mean that I often wonder if I would have been better at keeping in touch with people in pre-internet days? I think, if it had been post-telephone, I would have just used the phone, charges be damned, but if it were pre-telephone, I might have written more, or I like to think that I would have.
Wow… Talk about a long-winded, and entirely unneeded apology for not updating as often as I feel I ought. After all, I doubt anyone actually reads this, and my lack of communication isn’t even why I decided to post an update.
The reason I popped into my blog to write an update was to post the short film I made for my Contemporary Artistic Research class, and the weird little vidlets I have been making the last few days.
Firstly, here is the short film that I made for my presentation (My YouTube disclaimer workaround: if you click on the images, it will bring you to the videos):
CAR3 Formative Presentation ~ …a longhand for escape
…and here are the other little videlets that I have been making over the last few days (it might look like just another ego project, and maybe it is? but mostly, I think it’s just me working with what I have access to, which is mainly… me):
In order of creation date:
Friday, 12 February 2021 ~ Untitled Bathroom Vidlet
Friday, 12 February 2021 ~ I Am Getting Old…
Friday, 12 February 2021 ~ I’m Not Sure Why I Keep Making These…
Saturday, 13 February 2021 ~ I had a rather terrifying experience at my vaccination appointment today…
Saturday, 13 February 2021 ~ Snowy Beach
Saturday, 13 February 2021 ~ …what did you want to be?
I intended to write more. I meant to talk about what I am working on, what I am researching (memory, death, funerary rites, etc) but side effects of this vaccine is really hitting me hard. I feel like I was in a train wreck. That, and I am really hungry, which probably means my blood sugar is plummeting, hence my inability to focus for long at the moment.
On the plus side, I think I’ve at least gotten this post to a point where I can hit the ‘publish’ button and not feel completely mortified by its content.
My world is 667 square feet big. I have a window in the front that looks out upon a shuttered pub and another window in the back that looks out upon a carpark, some houses, and in the very tippy toppy distance: the sea.
I have been outside 6 times in 271 days. Wait… let me write it out longhand for emphasis:
As with many other things in my life, my artistic practice has changed significantly as a result of the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic. My world–which has never a paragon of tranquillity (lest I give the accidental impression that it ever was)–has become a cacophony of cooking and laundry, of online grocery orders and of doing everything within my ken to keep my ever-present anxiety at a level that still allows me to function, at least a little.
“Even before the pandemic, it was estimated women were doing about three quarters of the 16 billion hours of unpaid work that are done each day around the world (Lungumbu & Butterly, 2020).” In late November of this year, the UN published the results of 38 surveys conducted across the globe. According to the results, that number has “at least doubled (ibid).”
So, like women all over the world, Covid-19 has impacted my life in a very domestic way. Although somewhat bewildering a position to find myself in–particularly when it comes to issues of gender equality–my ability to take up the reins of domesticity has served as an unwished for, but much needed, safety blanket (Kim, 2020).
In addition to domestic tasks, I use my ears to escape onto spaceships where I travel to Mars and exoplanets that are still only named scientific gibberish today, and to periods of human history when the last pandemic was the black plague (Alcott, 1886)–that being said, I did read, Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis (Willis, 2008) in September, so consequently I have also escaped TO the Black Plague, so perhaps that is not a very good example. Semantics aside, my only escape from this pandemic prison (safe haven?) is audiobooks.
Though not overtly present visually in my work, audiobooks have kept me company whilst I cook and do laundry, as I rearrange the furniture for the twelfth time, and especially, as I create artworks. In her book, My Year of Meats, Ruth Ozeki’s main character states:
“I bought a People magazine at the airport and read it very carefully on the plane, cover to cover, every word of it; I cannot recall a single story I read during the five-hour flight, but I cannot remember having a single thought of my own, either, and that was the point (Ozeki, 2006).”
I used to think that was why I read–to protect myself from my own thoughts–but recently I have discovered that the themes and stories I listen to very often seep into my work in strange and unexpected ways. I have come to realise that, through reading, I am searching both the fictional past and the dystopic future for a way to make sense of the present (Goodreads, 2020). At the same time, I am also seeking out the truth in the stories of the women in my family, of the epigenetically inherited emotional trauma I was born with (Daskalakis, et al., 2018) and how my own early childhood trauma has forever transformed my life (Curry, 2019).
In my summative statement for Artistic Research: Themes and Methods, I wrote that “my usual modus operandi is to scream desperate messages of need and longing beneath a guise of humour (Adamson, 2020).” Although these quilted woodgrain pieces are more of a whisper–a quiet plea to be understood, perhaps–they are filled with longing and desperation, nonetheless.
I have been using textiles to explore my own fragility, to investigate my anger and pain and confusion… to traverse my struggles and make public the naked, vulnerable truth of my existence, whatever that might be.
I want to find the beauty in the mundane, to find worth in what I do… in who I am.
The last 271 days have found me hiding from the world beneath a repurposed duvet that has become covered in the poorly quilted landscape of my psyche; ridges and furrows and torn threads lay waste to a field of broken sewing machine needles.
As I pace around my 667 square feet, I want people to know that I am here… I want to scream out of my window to the people walking by on their way to the discount grocery store across the road that this pile of laundry and discarded sourdough starter do not encapsulate my identity.
But instead, like my foremothers, I will quietly sew (on Mars).
Adamson, J. L., 2020. Artistic Research -Themes and Methods. Musselburgh: Edinburgh College of Art / University of Edinburgh. Unpublished Essay.
Alcott, L. M., 1886/2011. Jo’s Boys. eAudiobook ed. Baltimore: Narrated by Barbara Caruso. Recorded Books by Blackstone Audio.
“Greta has a simple philosophy of life—You Believe What You Do.
Make a list of what you believe in. The top ten most important things to you. Like . . . justice, equality, diversity, sustainability, whatever your politics or religion or morality. Sit down and bullet-point it out. This is what I believe in.
But Greta thinks—bullshit. Make another list. A list of what you did today. It doesn’t matter what day it is, weekday, weekend, holiday, birthday, the calendar date is irrelevant. Write down all the things that occupied your time on a given day. Woke up, ate breakfast, hit the gym, went to work, surfed the Internet, had a coffee with a colleague, did some work, ate some lunch, did some more work, slipped out to buy new sneakers, clicked around on social media sites, went home, called a parent, watched TV, ate dinner, changed outfits, met someone for a drink, made out with them on a street corner, caught a taxi home, read a book, went to sleep.
That’s what you believe in. According to Greta, your belief system is how you actually spend your time every day. She doesn’t mean that to be judgemental. She wants people to be more self-aware. Fundamentally, she believes in action. If you believe in a bunch of stuff but never act on those beliefs, they don’t matter. She wants people to better know themselves so they can better be themselves.”
My step-mother found another letter my great-grandmother received about my great-great-aunt Jennie who died during the 1918 pandemic. This letter was from the woman who she worked for as a housekeeper in Cascade, Minnesota before moving to Montana to study to be come a civil servant.
Here is the transcription:
Dec. 29. 1918
Mrs Henry Vokes
Tho’ I have never met you yet, I feel in a measure acquainted with you for Jennie spoke so often of her sisters – Florence & Mable. Miss Pride has written you so fully of Dear Jennie’s illness & death that there is little for me to write. Only to tell you how much we loved Jennie & how heart-sick we were over her sudden death. She left us only three weeks before, so well, happy & hopeful!
Earlier in the summer, she had not felt quite so well as usual so cancelled a play. Exercise & the room had her feeling fine with the exception of those hard head-aches to which she seemed susceptible. I felt that the continual grind of housework was too much for Jennie so persuaded her to try & find herself for something that would be less laborious. She quite fell in with the idea and was studying to fit herself for a civil service examination. She was so very happy in the work she was doing. Jennie was a great favorite among the Y U. workers and also with the fellowship girls. She seemed to have a faculty of making friends where ever she went. She enjoyed much & so expressed a wish that Mable was here. It seemed so strange that Mable did not write. Jennie was so worried about it. I do hope Mabel was not sick. Jennie could not account for her silence in any which way & it greatly bothered her. You must not feel that Jennie is here among strangers for we were greatly attached to her and it was a comfort to us to have her buried by the side of our dear little girl. We had assured Jennie more than once that our home was her home and she greatly appreciated it. Herbert thinks to have her trunk sent here. Then when he is discharged, we will try to carry out her wishes as expressed to me last summer.