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Thoughts on walking home from the studio in a thunderstorm

1. Although I feel that saying my ‘personal is political’ is a tad distasteful there is something interesting happening to my identity right now, certainly 5 years ago I had some issues around who I was, who was constructing me, how I felt about that, how I received it. Now I too feel a shift, a change, a difference. Perhaps a gendered one, perhaps more just to do with age and economy and even global concerns.

This perhaps best evidenced in the litany of I am, I was almost resistant to constructing myself sexually, instead noting how I am my job, I am single, I am my ambition.

2. The number isn’t as high as I thought it was, it is double figures.

3. I have a new story about sex, or relationships, or expectations and it goes along the lines of trying to date men who are little older than me, having decided that those my age still have a fair bit of growing up to do…. then discovering that actually that these men are the same, if not worse (maybe there’s an element of reasoning which would suggest they still aren’t married for a reason!?)… however this does lead on to dating and that recently I have ‘dated’ and in the past whereas one night stands were the order of business, now I am much more hesitant about coming back for ‘coffee’, I am less interested in the act and more interested in the relationship….. this is very different from who I was then. I’m not sure what she would say about this…. perhaps though she saw it coming.

4. The very first page of writing in my original journal contains possibly the best writing I have so far and the most insight into what I think is happening in this project which leads to …

5. I have spent the last 5 years reminiscing about what I had and who I was, I have shoe boxes full of memories that stop dead, no new ones have taken their place, my photo albums abruptly end somewhere around 2005… I have tried to re-fill, to make new ones, to make the same experiences again but I can’t. It’s not the same. It’s different.

Re-Process: Things I hate about women’s magazines

I am distracting myself from making anything.

Today I spent 40 minutes, watching these videos about women and advertising images. The project is under the banner of ‘Killing Us softly’ and the women states she’s been collecting ad images since the 1960’s – depressingly, not much has changed… which is why she has now made 4 campaigns (?) around this work..

It got me thinking about this collage that I made as part of my thinking around Underwear in 2006:

It got me thinking about what had changed, for me since then. What do I hate now?

At the moment I don’t buy proctor and gamble products if I can help it – they make quite a lot of stuff, pantene and herbal essences shampoo, Oral-B, Gillette,  Ambi-pur, duracell, fabreeze, pringles, tampax, etc, admittedly I fail on a few counts I own an Oral-B electric toothbrush. But the reason I so strongly object is because of a product with a brand and advertising so gross, I feel a little nauseous whenever they’re on….

“so mum can be mum….”

It makes me so cross, this huge campaign from the people at P&G with so much emphasis on ‘traditional’ gender roles, its actually quite scary, I wonder if there’s a bigger agenda here, but then maybe I am being paranoid. Either way I’ve stopped buying Fairy Liquid, I’ll start buying it again when I see a Dad doing the washing up and making craft items out of the bottles with his teenage son and his boyfriend… I’d be happier if their were even two mum’s in the advert or perhaps even a family of a different ethnic background than white-Caucasian…

Thank god for Germaine Greer, especially in the face of this marketing masked as information 

How do hardworking Dad’s feel when they watch this? It’s always worth a google – I did come across, although I can’t find it now, a really interesting thread from a man’s perspective on this, he reckoned he’d complained to P&G and they’d suggested that this advert was an exception ‘they’d chosen to feature mum’s for this campaign, etc’.

Interesting though when you look at all their products and the narrative their advertising makes for both genders… pitch a Mach3 advert against a Venus one – I spy a few gender stereotypes….  I spy a white, patriarchal hegemony….

okay I am ranting again, this is why I stay relatively clear of this sort of discussion these days, since 2006 I have read Germaine Greer and Susie Orbach, I have found feminist websites and the ‘women’s pages’ of newspapers,  I read Naomi Wolf’s the beauty myth, whilst in the bath, NOT shaving my legs, or anything for that matter for 3 months. Weird? I don’t know, is it weird to not shave your legs? is it weird to not shave your genital area?

I inwardly smile when I hear simplistic feminist arguments. Although I still have no idea if pole dancing is liberating…. freedom is a difficult thing to identify.

I have been through some interesting changes, I have tried to embody the arguments I agree with. Mostly I feel under pressure. I feel contested, I would like a role model. I would like a women to stand up and say this is what a real woman looks like, and I mean for a non-marketing purpose.

What’s interesting looking at these ideas again is the scarily strong relationship between sex, violence and consumerism.

Underwear was about me trying to make sense of sex, of my relationships, of what we were supposed to be doing…. I embodied what I was supposed to be doing. I was told to be sexual, available, submissive, accepting. Pornography as a guideline…. pornography as an ideal…. this is what I thought, this is what I was learning wasn’t the case 5 years ago I began to see, through education that I should question what I was being sold. I still don’t know what I am supposed to be….

I feel like I’ve had a really long argument or discussion with myself on this topic…. I’ve tried on lots of different ways of seeing (no pun intended) this problem. I am a woman. After that it’s hard to say very much anymore…..

….. recently I have started to think about how I look, to make an effort, to fit in. I have new roles that I am increasingly aware of and to be a success, to be able to keep moving forward I need to perform these roles effectively…. I’m not sure they had ambitious, educated Barbie when I was growing up and I’m certainly not sure what Ken doll accompanied her. (although as a kid I had no Ken dolls, instead I had 3 lesbian Barbie dolls who were always embroiled in something of a sadistic love triangle.)

What am I supposed to want? What’s appropriate for my age and gender? I will take a risk here and be frank….. I’ve not had a sexual encounter in a relatively long time and I’m not particularly bothered about that…. but I feel I should be. Actually I’m quite scared about it all, I guess an ideal would be to not be scared about it….  it’s just so fraught with emotion and embarrassment, I am glad I had the experiences I had as a teenager, at least we could talk about it, at least it was new and exciting…. now when I speak to people it seems fraught with memory and emotion and bitter disappointment. I heard once someone describe the drug ectasy as something that was never as good to do again as the first time you took it… I think that’s true of sex… the first time you connect with someone I mean… when you lose yourself. when you feel. Not the actual first time, I mean that was pretty boring. In fact I engineered my first time to become a great story, one I could be ‘proud’ of, one which sounded like it was supposed to. A first time to fit the sexual being I was determined to become. The deviant. Of course it happened before I was 16. When I was a teenager I wanted to do everything I wasn’t supposed to.

In relationships it becomes predictable…. the pattern… the way couples make love, I could write it down…. instead maybe you close your eyes and imagine other people, other men, other women, other situations… just not this one, god please not this… is this just me? I assume I am not alone and so if I am speaking some truth then is this right? Are couples all over the world merely mutually masturbating instead of making love? If there’s pure MDMA of ecstasy at one end of the spectrum then surely this is the m-cat equivalent…. just keep taking it, although you can’t remember why…

Then I guess there’s men in general… what a pretty useless bunch….. what would I need with one anyway? I own a screw-driver and I have job… why on earth would I need an under-achieving, computer/football/other distracting hobby, over-eating, incapable of cleaning, more in need of a mother than a girlfriend, boyfriend for? Nope, I need a wife.

A more serious note….. this is a real concern, I like my life, I’d like a partner, not a ‘husband’ and I certainly am not interested in being a ‘wife’…. how do I reconcile this, when I feel the odds are stacked against me. According to modern science I’ve only 4 years left of high chance of conceiving fertility…. I feel like I need to start looking at men as father objects…job… check… aspirations and future…. check, capable of holding my interest and a conversation…..check, likelihood of  wanting to be a stay at home dad…..

….. which leads neatly onto the state of the economy, the tories, maternity/paternity leave and therefore big business and perhaps even full circle back to Proctor and Gamble’s bloody fairy liquid adverts.

I have written this. I am now scared to publish it online. 5 years ago I felt able to say so much more. I’m out on a limb here…. if you’ve read this far down… you might want to comment…. have I said too much?

Coffee – are you getting enough?

Ghost Dance

Thanks in no small part to Deborah Pearson, YouTube and the joy of the internet generally, I was able to watch Ghost Dance last night (it is work, not just DVD night).

I was really taken with quite a lot of it. I know it’s not literal. Philosophical, metaphorical…. odd then or perhaps coincidence, or perhaps simply that I’ve stuck my mind into all of this…… that a few weekends ago, on a walk in the countryside I wrote this:

“I got to thinking about the conversation I’d had this time last week and that it somehow foresaw this walk. I got to see how this conversation years ago foresaw this walk….. I thought again of that walk in the woods, that story told. I though I might’ve felt it. At least felt the bodies that came before me. Still we walked, I was alone. I was no longer me. I was no longer me. 

Did I know this? Was it my imagination? Is there really any difference between the two?

I can’t really say what happened next , it was as if everything sucked into me, all at once. Overpowered I stood. I simply contained. I felt like a vessel. I touched a stone. Flat. Cold. It became colder and I cried slowly. With my eyes closed the stone and I spoke in silent un-speaking conversation. 

I was aware where I was but I was surprised when I opened my eyes; the wall had grown. Our conversation over, we drifted back to our original states, no longer able to see each other, yet we knew each other now. I  know this walk.

There’s a section in the film, where the voice over narrates and uses both ‘me’ and ‘I’ to describe one person – it reminded me of how playing with the tense of the narration and the character and the experience of myself in ‘left luggage’ happened – I watch as a girl gets on at train vs I get on train….. I don’t know whether it was simple poetics or a way in…

…. thinking about trying to have a conversation with myself in the past and not simply just a retrospective, passive, remembering of who I think I was but somehow trying to access that person again, perhaps that ghost…. the use of ‘me’ and ‘I’ simultaneously being the same but different helped me think about this… I see what I want to and need to in the film for the place I am at the moment…. that’s not to disregard the moments last night when I felt as though I was understood, that the feelings the film evoked recognised some of the feelings I have, it was nice to be in agreement with something, to feel acknowledged somehow…I mean.

What did happen in December 2006?

I feel like, as if I were researching anything else, I need to understand the context of the piece, culturally. So I put ‘December 2006’ into Google (a tried and tested method for cultural research of course), which in turn produced this gorgeous little sentence, courtesy of wikipedia:

December 2006 was the twelfth month of that year. It began on a Friday and, 31 days later, ended on a Sunday.

What a delicious sentence all round. Let’s read it again, or perhaps even say it out loud if you dare….

December 2006 was the twelfth month of that year.

It began on a Friday,

And 31 days later,

Ended on a Sunday.

hmm m like an internet poem too good not to share.



Looking for other artists….

… I got all excited when I read this about repetition, then/now in performance


then a little sad when I realised the dates….

still I did find this video

and http://www.deborahpearson.com/

me then. me now.

A thought just occurred to me, that I don’t really cry anymore.

I cried lots, then and I had lots to cry about.

I remember not being able to cry for months, I remember desperately trying to cry, to feel anything at all.

I feel now, but I don’t cry. Somehow I’ve grown out of it, or thought that maybe I should have…. I throw tantrums and cry, but I don’t cry because I feel, only because I want….. is that the same thing?

I didn’t really cry when we ended, I sobbed for myself, maybe for us, momentarily but then, in realisation that I wasn’t feeling what I was crying for, I was crying quickly and hard, and then over. gone. next. move on. pick yourself up. I am still angry. I am still very angry at things that happen every single day.  I laugh at myself. If I didn’t I’d probably break something……. ‘but then I’d only have to clear up the mess…. and there is so much mess and there’s only me who can clear it up’….. (a nice cup of tea, paraphrased,  2008)

On the away weekend, something meant so much to someone they couldn’t say  the words, instead they cried at the table, I don’t know what that means.

Maybe that’s why I sobbed, touching a dry stone wall. Maybe that feeling of the world rushing into my soul, overwhelming me made me close my eyes, facing the sky, feeling the rain on my face and hearing the sound in me and the world around me beating whilst I sobbed for nothing at all.

Me then, me now. ‘I don’t do vulnerable’. Maybe I still need to cry.

web wandering and conversations with wise friends

I am looking at this and in particular this bit:

Yet a moment’s consideration of the characteristics of performance art in the 60s and 70s is enough to understand that re-enactment, rather than a sign of victory, is actually the most evident indicator of its defeat, its capitulation to the rules of the art world (which demands products) and the entertainment business (which demands repetition).
While radical stances like Marina Abramović’s (“no rehearsal, no repetition, no predicted end”) [2] were relatively isolated at the time, there was broad consensus over the need for authenticity (opposing the fictional nature of theatre, the eternal adversary of performance art), together with that of creating unique, unrepeatable, unpredictable events (with the immediacy of the ‘here and now’) which could not be reduced to the status of object or product. If this is performance art, re-enactment is its consummate nemesis. Re-enactment takes up (repeats, reconstructs and responds to) an original event. It is based on a script, and is therefore entirely predictable, and it has a defined ending. Lastly, its dialogue with the source event, and exploration of analogies and differences respect to the original, require preparation, rehearsals and the construction of a set. Its quest for authenticity is based on a reconstruction, which brings it dangerously close to theatre…

and I am thinking, obviously in the first instance, what a horrible concept being ‘dangerously close to theatre’ is. There’s nothing wrong with theatre, with my theatre. Yes there are plays. And plays are on the whole pretty shit. except Shakespeare. Oh and Beckett. And then I really like some of Hare’s plays…. mmm then there’s a whole host of one off affairs that have been thoughtfully interpreted for my consideration….. So maybe plays aren’t all shit. But I understand the point, you know this repeatable version of theatrical art shuffled out on stages across the land, faithfully reproduced in the  school halls and village community centres, Coward, Orton and Wilde….. oh how we laugh, at being dangerously close to theatre.

Although that’s the question though, or at least one of them – the ‘script’ thing against the ‘writing for performance’ thing. Is it perhaps like the difference between acting and performing? This resistance is there in its ‘dangerously close’, why?

At least I agree with the bit before, about hating performance art, if by that they mean the inaccessible, instant, naked, piss, shit, no words, except one, no eye contact, no conversation, simply over, soon gone, sort of ha, ha, ha, in your face capitalist oppressors of my art, you can’t sell it, check us out with our anti-art world art, we’re so cool we don’t need your money (just your photos and critiques and write ups)…. and well at the moment no-one could buy it even if you could sell it, so I think that argument is at least for this moment making a ‘leap into the void’, ‘Oh for the love of God’ indeed.

Rant and shameless inserting of cultural references, over and perhaps challenge accepted…. How not to repeat, predictably? How unpredictable may I be, every time I think about repeating I can’t, I can respond and rethink. Repeating and responding and rethinking….

Which leads not so neatly to rose spritzers and the last day of summer in autumn and retrocognition, interconnectedness, quantum physics and perhaps even a little Jungian analysis….. Artist as Witness, thank you David Richmond, was definitely in the air.

A story re-told about the time we were told about walking in woods, with veterans, the air changing and being there, heart racing, fearing for your life. And there we there, remembering together. Piecing the story back together again from 5 years ago when we sat and listened. Well I sat and listened attempting to understand.

It’s perhaps not as strange as it seems that quantum physics and performance keeping meeting in the strangest of places… (as an aside perhaps that’s a dating strategy for the future).

Maybe creative process is merely being open to wandering one of many available paths through the whole. Maybe I’m being reductive. Still this is a place for musing and not always having to present perfect arguments

We wondered if perhaps we could say that Gemma now and Gemma then are somehow disharmonious and that ‘even my past memories remain in the implicate order’ (Marie Claire Clarke, October 1st 2011, The Swan, Bishopgate).

In someway I am out of tune with myself, that expectation of age, of me and who I am, was and want to be have distanced me from myself. The girl who shouted loudly about the things she’d gotten up to feels shame faced to discuss such intimacies, well its simply not done. Who was she, that girl so free in herself, so naive, so without shame?

The pondering and careful application continued, that I would need to find a stimulus which may allow for unfolding to occur and to explicate the implicate. Ethically I wonder if I can put myself through that and well perhaps in theory, the right object would allow anyone to tell me about myself then. Perhaps the object isn’t from the show but something else from my life… how odd, a flashback to student halls of residence and the smell of late November… and the sentence ‘I was the girl that Jamie fucked, when really it was the other way around’. And now the pink sky, is it early morning or late evening? There was definitely a very unique smell though, a smell of composting leaves and thin, hard-wearing carpet and students, November almost certainly, the sound of swinging, slamming fire doors. I don’t care who I fancy. And I don’t care who knows… God I drank too much and made a tit of myself. I looked desperate and I guess now the way I think I looked then matters too much now to risk repeating.

mmm and so later after looking at other artists, in particular 7 easy pieces I am wondering what’s bad about repeating, about saying again surely this language (once called theatre since re-branded all sorts of ‘insert prefix’ art) is about repeating, about re-telling what was once worth saying for it will surely be worth saying again.

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