Sunday, 15 December 2019

Recent drawing - Number series - 0

Following my series of drawings of the alphabet, I have decided to do a series of number drawings from 0-9.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019

Seven Failure Principles from Elizabeth Day's How to Fail Live with Reni Eddo-Lodge

 Seven Failure Principles from Elizabeth Day's How to Fail Live with Reni Eddo-Lodge

1. Failure is a fact but you are not defined by it 
"Just because you fail does not make you a failure"

2. You are not your anxious brain
The brain tells us something is a danger when it isn't 
We are not defined by our thoughts

3. Almost everyone feels they have failed in their 20s

4. Break ups are not a tragedy - your ex-partner has taught you something

5. Failure is data acquisition

6. There is no such thing as a future you

7. When we choose to share our vulnerabilities is when we feel most satisfaction

A couple more nuggets of wisdom that Day shared include

When times get too tough and you feel like giving up, cling on because the biggest failure may be not finding out what will happen

Anxiety doesn't want you to enjoy life

Some notes from How to be a public author with Cash Carraway, Paul Ewen and Carmen Marcus

Say the unsaid and taboo

Share the things that you are scared of

When procrastinating, "just write the shit version" - Dennis Kelly

A useful exercise is to distill the work to a single line

Fine the core of the book before offering it up for feedback so you can retain the core

Read your work out loud and sense the reaction

All writers need to be readers

Treat your story like it is a house - where are the public /private places?

Stick to your own voice

Don't wait for inspiration to hit

Writing is reading, walking, researching etc - try something new with your writing 

Cash Carraway: Skint Estate - Cash Carraway in conversation with Tina Gharavi

Type 'Cash Carraway: Skint Estate' into google and this is what Goodreads will show

Cash Carraway is a single mum living in temporary accommodation. She’s been moved around the system since she left home at sixteen. She’s also been called a stain on society. And she’s caught in a poverty trap.

Skint Estate is the hard-hitting debut memoir about impoverishment, loneliness and violence – set against a grim landscape of sink estates, police cells, refuges and peepshows.

It is clear from the moment that Cash Carraway opens her mouth that sitting in front of me is a woman with an enormous amount of determination and passion for sharing what it is to live in a working class community, and highlighting the challenges that face such communities on a daily basis. I'm reminded of what Bernardine Evaristo spoke about last night, and believe that Carraway has chosen to manage her anger and frustration at the situation by channelling it into her creativity. 

Carraway speaks with a knowing rather than self-pitying voice.

In general, the working class are not allowed to create art, they are only allowed to capitalise on their bleak situation.

Her transgressive writing is not therapy. 

Therapeutic writing is not creative writing.

Her book, Skint Estate, does not solve a problem.

She doesn't want to write stories of victims.

She does want to write stories of power.

The power of her spoken word is evidenced when she reads aloud a passage from Skint Estate. Talk about giving me goosebumps. This is an example of when the sound of the human voice can elevate words off the page and into another realm. 

She ends with a plea to the audience:

"Go and buy the book and please read the pages out loud and preferably to someone who didn't want to listen."

Bernardine Evaristo and David Olusoga in conversation

The synopsis of Bernardine Evaristo's Booker Prize winning novel reads

Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives and struggles of twelve very different people. Aged 19 to 93, they span a variety of ages, cultural backgrounds, sexualities, classes and occupations as they tell the stories of themselves, their families, friends and lovers, across the country and through the years. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly given it's recent Booker Prize Award, the majority of the conversation is spent discussing this particular publication. I found it fascinating to hear about the structure of the book and how she has constructed it so that each chapter focuses on one character, and links form between the chapters. 

Discussion regarding the politics around the Booker Prize, the judging panel and the source of funding for the Prize highlighted the sheer importance and level of achievement reached by Evaristo at becoming the first black woman to win the award.

Evaristo explained how she felt like she needed to represent a group of people whose stories had not been told. When asked to discuss her thoughts on writing a non-binary character when she does not identify as non-binary, she recognises that she was very careful in doing so, and conducts and uses her research so as to try to limit any misrepresentation or offence caused. She acknowledges that she never tries to pretend to be non-binary, and as the novel is a work of fiction, feels as though she has the right to be creative and include things that are not necessarily true. In a recent newspaper article she was quoted as saying 

"This whole idea of cultural appropriation, which is where you are not supposed to write beyond your own culture and so on, is ridiculous. Because that would mean that I could never write white characters or white writers can never write black characters."

Following another question about how she manages her anger, Evaristo clearly stated that she did not think it was at all healthy or beneficial to carry anger around with her and therefore any anger she does feel is turned into energy. She then tries to channel this energy into something positive that can make a difference and force change. She recognises that there are things that one has to leave to others to deal with. She knows that her talent is for writing and her passion is to change the way that black women are represented.

I found it refreshing to hear her talk about her life as an author. She has no set routine, and emphasised the importance of fitting in her writing in and amongst her usual daily activities. She cycles, watches daytime TV, socialises with friends, but her main focus remains her writing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

My introduction to Words Weekend at The Sage

I spent a large proportion of the weekend at The Sage, Gateshead enjoying the inaugural Words Weekend. 

Fane Productions is behind this brand new festival;

"Words Weekend celebrates the power of words and stories with a packed programme of talks, workshops, panel discussions, music and spoken word. 40% of the 60+ events are free, and all are fully accessible and BSL interpreted. Through the power of words and stories, Words Weekend aims to unite communities and ignite imaginations."

Although I am (ashamedly) not particularly well-read (I am dyslexic and reading takes a lot of energy and time and requires specific conditions), I have (and always have) a great love for stories, both written and spoken, read or heard. In the last five years I have become increasingly interested in writing and spoken word, and I've begun to share some of my creative writing and audio work.

It was when I first read Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the dog in the night-time' that I realised that it was possible to write in a manner that echoes the way one thinks. I found it incredibly refreshing and liberating to read. At last I had found a book that was written in a way that I found pleasurable. I could easily, and relatively quickly, digest it. It did not conform to what I believed to be 'the norm' and the 'proper way'. By this I mean that I realised that stories did not have to be in prose.

This experience encouraged me to explore my own style of writing, and I have since created a couple of publications namely A lot can happen in fifteen minutes (2016) a risograph publication made in collaboration with Unstapled Press and Portion Control (2017) made for an exhibition titled REALITY CHECK at The NewBridge Project, Gateshead.

Over the course of the next few blog posts I will be posting about the various events that I went to. 

Bernardine Evaristo & David Olusoga in Conversation

Cash Carraway: SKINT ESTATE

Roisin Crowley Linton: Teenage Kicks

How To Be A Public Author: Cash Carraway, Paul Ewen, Carmen Marcus

Spotlight on Indie Publishers: Galley Beggar

Elizabeth Day's How to Fail Live with Reni Eddo-Lodge

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Daniel Kitson, Keep, Northern Stage, Newcastle

A full house is presented with a minimal set;

a table,

a chair,

and a lamp illuminating a filing cabinet with numerous drawers

Kitson, in his usual slightly twitchy and awkward fashion, reveals his plan for the evening - a 2 hour show with no interval in which he will share with us the contents of the filing cabinet behind him. He goes on to explain that he conducted a systematic review of the contents of his house, going through each room and cataloguing every item he found. Each item has been written on an individual card and then filed in the cabinet according to the room the item was found in.

We will spend the evening listening to Kitson reading aloud the 20,000 individual cards.

He then offers us a get-out-clause; he will go off stage for a short break allowing us to "leave now if this isn't your idea of a good time, go to the toilet now because if you exit during the performance you will not be readmitted."

After a very long 5 minutes, Kitson re-entered, took out the first drawer from the filing cabinet and began reading aloud;

"A brown plastic plant pot with a plant in it, a brown plastic plant pot, a brown plastic plant pot with a plant in it, a large broom, a small broom..."

You get the picture. 

I begin to think that it is probably a blessing that this didn't turn out to be a date night as planned before my said date became ill. I did however, feel rather concerned that the friend who now joined me may be regretting accepting my offer of a night at the theatre. I genuinely think it is going to be a long and tedious evening. 

As Kitson makes his way through the cards he is quick to discover that there are numerous misplaced items and unexplainable disruptions to his accurate filing system. Inevitably these prompt Kitson to abandon his initial plan and the evening becomes one in which he fumbles through a myriad of seemingly unrelated anecdotes and stories about his failing memory, unreciprocated love and the ups and downs of living alone. 

Over the course of 3 hours (a little longer than expected and by which time I was relieved that I had made use of the facilities before the performance), Kitson takes us on a circular journey, tapping into all manner of emotions, and neatly linking the end of his gig with how it started off.

Call him what you will; comedian, storyteller, artist, performer; he does it all, and he does it all very well.

Monday, 2 December 2019

Art visit to Middlesbrough

It's been a while since I have been to Middlesbrough, and in that time a number of new spaces have opened as art galleries and the art scene seems to have developed. I went to check out a few exhibitions at a mixture of familiar and less familiar spaces.

Platform A
Jo Hamill

"Gutter Words is a complex book work and the culmination of a 10 year enquiry which aims to explore the sculptural space of language, the book and its physical connection to the body.

Working with an edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses, Hamill systematically obliterated the words of Joyce but carefully retained those words positioned closest to the gutter – the technical term used to describe the central margin of a bound page.

Gutter Words, is also presented in the form of a book. Hamill explores the relationship between the book, as a sculptural space and the role the body plays in activating this physical space. Notable here is how design and typographic terminology is so entrenched in bodily references. Header, footer, body-copy, the arm of a ‘K’, the crotch of a ‘Y’, the foot of a ‘T’, the ear of a ‘G’, the shoulder of an ‘R’ and so on. As is the architectural scaffolding of Joyce’s schema which underpins the structure of Ulysses; kidney, genitals, heart, lungs, esophagus, brain, blood, ear. etc."

The most interesting part of this artwork for me was the seemingly unconnected series of words that were paired due to their position in the gutter. However, it was lacking in terms of visual appeal.

Hamill chose to display the vinyl words in two vertical columns, starting with those from the first page in the book. The simplicity of the two columns effectively signified the gutters. They began on the right wall and spanned the length of the gallery along the floor and up the left wall. I felt distracted by the additional column that had been added on one of the side walls as it diverted my attention.

The Auxillary
LEGACY - 50 years of Painting in the Tees Valley

"The exhibition brings together the work of 30 artists that tells a story of painting in Tees Valley spanning 50 years, tracing a lineage of painters who have influenced and supported each other in various ways. Established and emerging practices sit side by side to acknowledge the impact and importance of painters who have taught, mentored and championed each other marking a continuum of knowledge sharing, generosity and trust across generations."

It was refreshing to see such a mixture of paintings and styles and recognise the strength of painting within the Tees Valley.

After spending a couple of hours in galleries without heating (on what seemed like the coldest day of the year), I was relieved to arrive at MIMA to defrost before returning to the studio in Newcastle.

Mikhail Karikis
For Many Voices

For Many Voices is Mikhail Karikis's first large-scale survey exhibition presented at MIMA (UK). In each of the 5 rooms was a different audiovisual installation. I was particularly moved by Sounds from Beneath.

"Sounds from Beneath (2011-2012) centers around a sound work for which the artist Mikhail Karikis asked a community of a former coal miners’ choir to recall and vocalise the industrial sounds of a working coal mine, which they used to hear when they worked in the pits. Karikis located the former Kentish coalmine where the men used to work, and upon completing the sound work he invited the artist Uriel Orlow to collaborate on a video which depicts the desolate colliery brought back to life through the miners’ song. The sunken mine transforms into an amphitheater resonating sounds of former underground explosions, mechanical clangs cutting the coal-face, wailing alarms and shovels scratching the earth, all sung by Snowdown Colliery Male Voice Choir grouping in formations reminiscent of picket lines."

The sound alone was powerful; but the vastness of the landscape featured in the video emphasised the emptiness that the miners could have felt when they were no longer working together down the coal mine. Such textured and layered sounds would only be possible to achieve when in a group, and seeing the men united and singing together emphasised their collective spirit.