Of course we all do many things which don’t involve the physical making of art work but I would suggest it all feeds in in some way to who we are and therefore what we do as artists. The wonderful thing about this MA experience is that we are brought into the lives of artists around the globe who we barely know and have never met and we can are allowed a glimpse of how they are. Of course we read artist’s interviews but this is not as intimate and close up as those informal exchanges. I have learnt so much about what I am from knowing a bit more clearly what I am not.
I do not think I have a clear division between my work and my life. For example I might not be making work next week when I will be traveling to England but as I will be negotiating my identity of a British person who feels somewhat of an outsider in the UK it will probably raise many questions for me. For example the different types of social interactions and how individuals are judged in that world. I will also be a sister and a daughter which are two roles I don’t do on a daily basis.
On the other had I do make a very clear distinction between my teaching practice (where others make work) and my own art practice. In part because I do not embrace the system within which I work (fee paying international school) but also I see it as a doing rather than a being. I have worked as a teacher since I left art school and I have enjoyed quite a lot of what I do at work including the contact with young people who sometimes have become my friends. It is not poorly paid and is seen as a profession in its own right. I admire teachers enormously including some of the amazing ones in my cohort. At art school I had some amazing lecturers and my daughter who is a student now has been lucky also. Nevertheless I do not identify myself as a teacher or really feel I am one. I work part time as a teacher and I do not do a bad job either. I am respected where I work but I do not see myself in that way.
A large part of this is about time and money. If I taught 2 days a week in the public system I think I would feel a lot better. I suppose I should question whether I would not still resent those 2 days or would I be freer to let them more openly seep into my ‘real’ life as an artist. One of the major shifts this year has been that I know I need to change my relationship with charging for my artwork. At the beginning of the year I had to write a budget for a project proposal for Leeds University as a collaborator (still no news about the project). I then realised how many of my cohort sold their work online. I have started to value what I do more and in this year’s open studios I am thinking of adding price lists and tags! The only way I can teach less is by earning more in other ways and I have considered other alternatives to this. However, for now, I want to focus on earning money through my artwork.
Interestingly I have realised I call myself an artist never a painter, although most of what I do is using paint. Now I am about to enter a competition for painters will they guess this?
I wanted to combine something from the flyers I collected with my line drawings and something showing the importance of prostitutes in (art) history. I also included my logo for the project. These are the most convincing so far to me and I like the idea of making them a larger scale. I need to decide how these go with the full scale figures in the street as they have moved in a different direction but I am not convinced this is so important.
I have changed the background colour under the logo to make it the same as the rest now (and improved the shape of the letters).
I have never considered asking for permission as I assumed it wouldn’t be granted. This was confirmed this lunchtime when I went to ‘repair’ the work. I chose to go at lunchtime to mend the work as I thought it would be quieter and although it is daylight and I would be visible, I could be quick and the work was less likely to be totally destroyed if I acted quickly.
I was able to mend both pretty quickly but as I was finishing the security guard from the ministry run side of the Tabacalera came to tell me what I was doing was illegal as it was a cultural heritage site (this sounds slightly worse in Spanish – ‘patrimonio cultural’). I explained I hadnt stuck anything up I was just mending it (yes not a great argument I realise). The guard did not believe me and told me that the figures were not there this morning! I chose not to argue about this as I wasn’t in a great position and he allowed me to leave. The lesson I have learnt: do not stick stuff up in daylight. I did reflect as I wondered off as to whether I felt I was harming ‘cultural heritage’ and concluded that I wasn’t. I probably wouldn’t have painted directly on those walls. I do respect the building and I am not modifying the walls in a permanent way.
I also noted that the other side of the building is covered in paint both inside and outside and is self managed rather than government run – there are no security guards on the door and it is actually the same building divided up. Of course it is all rather more complex than that but here are some images of the other side of the building. I cannot photograph my mended work until after 8pm when the guards go home.
The view of the other side of the Tabacalera this lunchtime.
This morning at 4am I went and stuck 3 workers up on the Tabacalera. Apart from wet frozen fingers and exhaustion today I am pretty pleased with the result. Now I need to monitor how long it lasts – I took these photos at 8am not allowing much daylight time for people to take them down. This area is much busier and the work is likely to be seen by more people. The public is also quite different. In my block there are relatively few people: residents and trades people in the week. The roads are residents use only controlled so no one parks there unless they live there. The Tabacalera is an arts venue so immediately attracts a specific audience.
In fact once I had put this on twitter a street art user had tweeted their own photo. I know this could have happened on my street but it is far less likely. The mother and child at the school lasted about a week and must have been seen by a lot of people and what I like about that is that it possibly included a different type of audience. The ‘art’ audience is not necessarily going to understand the work point anymore than the parents taking and picking up their children. It also spoke more direct to them possibly.
Some people also like street art without much criteria. A bit like middle classes who feel they have to go to block buster shows and know a bit about contemporary art without much personal reaction. I need to continue on social media if I am going to make it work and it’s a big time investment. I also realise that the contemplation by an audience in a space like a gallery is important to me.
I have started to make some experiments with imagery for flyers that act more as an intervention with existing flyers. The first flyers I made made me realise that I like the handmadeness which my work normally has. For example one thing I like about the women in the street on cloth is their textures on the wall. The transparency allows for the wall to connect in a way with the brush strokes.
Using photoshop is not a way of increasing handmadeness but as this seems tricky given that my plan is to bomb the neighborhood next weekend with both flyers on cars and women on walls all at the same time to provoke a stronger reaction and write to activist groups at the same time (to more meaningfully test those boundaries). I think they have to be digitalised in some way as I cannot handmake enough.
Another issue is that Les suggested that the project in the end might be online and so I need to be ready at the weekend to put the work up and then upload the documentation of it pretty quickly (before it disappears from the streets in theory). As all the fabric women have now gone I was considering painting directly on the walls but this would be much easier in the week as the streets are pretty busy at all hours at the weekend. Sunday was the best night for me as I do not need to get up at 6am on a Monday, however it is way too late for the presentation on Monday. I should probably do Thursday 5am.
Here are the first rough ideas – I need to work out how to add a logo – I will try physical collage and drawing too.
As I am preparing my latest draft question (the last on which I shall receive comments) for the contextual study. I have been trying to focus it more sharply in order to make it both useful and appropriate for the word limit. I have come down to two issues that are really important: the issue of responding to site and the subjects I am choosing to explore. They are of course related. I have decided not to delve further into the issues relating to exhibiting outside the gallery space in this piece of writing.
The sites are where these events happen or happened. Last year I was very interested in history and the forgotten and this year I have been working on issues that are more related to work and how that is changing. It has more of a relationship to the present. However, I wanted to revisit some feedback from last year’s assessment which was:
We suggest that you would benefit from deeper reflection on the meaning of your work for yourself, why are you concerned with particular social issues and what it is that makes you want to continue working in public. Thinking through the above will help you develop and sustain work that has substance and is conceptually robust no matter where it takes place.
As I now have to write the question I thought I could think about this why question as there must be an underpinning link which ties together different issues. I want to know why these issues and not others? I suppose these issues in some way touch upon my life but rather indirectly. They are things I have encountered and feel strongly about. I also live as a kind of displaced person who does not have rights to vote (only in local and european elections) and maybe it is my way of contributing to a political life as I feel strongly that not doing anything is kind of agreeing with the way things are (and I do not in many cases). Disagreeing with the current social political situation and not doing anything does not feel good. Maybe it is my way of trying to get people, including myself, involved in the debates. Most of the issues involve what I would consider to be an injustice. That could be a lack of respect for some types of labour, gender roles or, recently historical memory. It is definitely and I would say I feel the need to be critical. I need to think more deeply about why I need to do this and set some questions for myself.
For some time I have been concerned about this. Recently I have begun to wonder to what extent it matters. Maybe it is possible in some cases that a degree of nostalgia could work and my fear is actually about sentimentality rather than nostalgia and perhaps I need to define the difference. In my most successful work there is a distance from the people who are represented without there being a loss of their presence. This can happen in a variety of ways.
When my work is not so strong the individuals start to be ‘recognised’ I think that is what I want to avoid. I am especially alarmed when someone thinks I have painted their brother or the image reminds someone of their family. I always thought that it was worse if I overworked an individual but was never sure if this was about formal qualities. In any case I doubt formal qualities are ever independent.
In Terra Infirma Irit Rogoff talks about empathy as a ‘normalisation’ of things which could have been otherwise. Instead of telling stories of victims of war crimes (or crimes against humanity) as such we are making a connection with these purposefully unknown people and making them ‘ours’. This identification, whilst allowing us to feel sympthy, masks the vast differences between ourselves and these ‘others’. (Rogoff, 60)
I am wondering about my sourcing of imagery. I do not think that I necessarily have to avoid the choice of old photos but I do think I need to continually question how this is done, in both the choice and the response.
After the tutorial with Les I rethought the idea of workers on the street and all the ‘work’ we do everyday. I especially wanted to see if I could get some feedback on my work. I was convinced that the flyers in particular so I made an alternative twitter account to see if putting it on the street figures and the flyers would provoke a response.
These two new ones are more decorative and have the @laborolove tag on them