All Things Considered…help there’s a live object artist in the room! #NUNO

 

Hello! I recently attended the most marvellous conference in Cork. I’ve come away refreshed and reminded that conferences can be both stimulating for artistic practice, and also provide a framework for what we artists do. I love a good conference.

All Things Considered  had a lovely spirit and provided an unusually good fit with my own areas of creative research. Aside from one awkward moment, all was harmony and light. The moment in question was in some ways quite comical, as one speaker complained about the problem of living artists (sic).

They sometimes insist on vetting and controlling what is written about them.  It’s. real problem. You have to wait for them to die! 

Laughter, of course, erupted in the room.

It was a moment of unmasking – unaware perhaps that there was a living artist in the room – the speaker had revealed to me a sudden and vertiginous window into the academic perspective. But we were just warming up.

A delegate beside me had thrown their arms up in protest, and so I knew I had a friend. Well I’ll just throw myself under the nearest bus!  I quipped in mock outrage, but the sense of outrage was also real. The statement was both serious and made in jest. There’s a truth here wriggling to come out.

It was, of course, also secretly fascinating, and it opened the door to another question; in particular that of artists who deny the obvious influences in their work with a specific example in mind.

Who should we believe? someone asked. Never the artist! said a second speaker, this time it was a wholly serious answer.

I felt pleased to be an artist in the room to disagree, or rather to explain nuance. The creative process is complicated.

I loved the dissonance actually. I revelled in the insight. Much academic study deals with the dead, and the relationship between academia and the arts presents a potential quagmire re interpretation and ‘ownership’. For the living artist this is relationship which can be brokered – we need to be in the room at conferences. I am lucky to have had this opportunity quite often since 2013.

This conference has taken me back to the core of my own project, The Museum for Object Research, and my abiding notion that there is an area of study to be made in the use of objects in visual arts practice.  It reminds me also that our forthcoming, Neither Use Nor Ornament  (Arts Council England funded) exhibition and programme incorporates embodied research. I hope to invite academics to view and comment in a further iteration of the project.

Developing a performance piece, called Hung to Dry,  for the conference has invigorated the performative side of my practice too. Oh the joy!

I can’t end this post without a massive thank you to my extraordinary collaborator, and the stage manager/ producer for my performance, Dr Helena Buffery.

Now I want to do it all over again!

See you soon,

Sonia Boué

All Things Considered…Material Culture and Memory, conference at University College Cork was organised through CASiLac: ‘Memory, Commemoration and the Uses of the Past’ research cluster,  Departments of French and Italian, School of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, UCC. 

The organisers were Chiara Guiliani and Kate Hodgson.

Portrait of My Father?

Perfume Bottle

Hello there, it’s Sonia Boué.

I thought I’d write a quick blog post, but keep it mainly visual. The Museum for Object Research (Arts Council England funded)  #NUNO project is well under way. In fact we’re approaching our fourth month! We have a show and exhibition programme to pull together, and we’ll be making a film and booklet too. We’ll be launching on the 30th March 2019.

A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to project manage – but I’ll also be a contributing artist, and my creative work for #NUNO is evolving.

To cope with my dual roles on #NUNO, I decided very early on to place a cabinet next to my desk. The idea is to experiment with and document the contents of the cabinet as I add them, move them around, and even discard some! Easy access from my desk means I can keep this work in mind and add to it when the spirit moves me. It’s proving to be a deep and very satisfying piece of work. It’s also shifting as I go along, and I no longer know if the title of my work will be as I planned – portrait of my father, may take on a new title and I have to decide before our booklet goes to print.

The objects all relate to my father’s exile from Spain 1939-1989, as viewed through my eyes. It’s a ‘postmemory’ piece, which means that it refers to inherited memory. I love the ease with which this works. I have my tripod always to the ready, and while I began with iPhone captures I’m now using my trusty Canon EOS 400.

What I want to share today are some new photographs I’m excited about. I feel like I’m getting somewhere with the documentation, and have a better idea what I want to achieve.

Take a look!

Perfume Bottle

Perspex box with hair Moussel classic shower gel bottle Small blue liquorice tin Open Ilford film packet Colourful tin of Ortiz tuna

10×10 at 10 – by Kate Murdoch

10x10 artwork by Kate Murdoch

October 10th, 2018 marked ten years since I first presented 10×10.

10×10 started its journey as part of Deptford X fringe festival in 2008. Ten years on, my intention was to return to the Art Hub studio space in Deptford, SE London, the venue where it was first launched. It was all set for 10×10 to be a part of this year’s Deptford X fringe events – opening up the cabinet of objects for further exchanges and even hoping to reconnect with people who had been at the very first exchange event in 2008. Sadly, due to a two week stay in hospital (the result of a severe ear infection which spread to the bone) followed by an ongoing convalescence period, none of this was able to happen.

In spite of the deep disappointment I feel about having to cancel (not just the Deptford X exchange, but all sorts of other plans), I’m happy that today on the 10 year anniversary of 10×10, I’m at least able to focus on writing and updating some of the narrative associated with the events and exchanges of the past 10 years.­

10×10 responded to a call for artists to make work answering to the theme of barter and trade. I gave up 100 objects which were precious to me and invited people to take one, leaving an object of their own in exchange.

Throughout the past ten years I’ve taken 10×10 to a number of venues – Lewisham College, Herne Bay and Whitstable museums, the Stade Hall in Hastings and the First Site gallery in Colchester. Participants were asked to share the stories behind the objects they left behind if they wanted to, but there was no obligation to do so. I’ve collected some amazing stories associated with some of the exchanged items over the past decade; I’m looking forward to writing them up and sharing them one of these days.

The concept of exchange was particularly pertinent in the year 10×10 was launched: 2008 is a year synonymous with one of the biggest financial crises in global history. In the wake of a monumental financial crash, top banks & financial companies folding, I posed the question: how long would it be until people resorted to bartering?

The very act of bartering adds an emotional reality to the process of exchange that currency somehow lacks. ‘What is an object worth to you? How much do you want it and what are you prepared to give up in return?’ are among the questions I asked.

10×10 is about letting go, and exploring the powerful associations that we sometimes project onto objects and the emotional attachments we make to them. It is also about human nature and our response to being challenged away from a monetary system to one of exchange and barter. ‘Would it be people’s generosity or meanness that triumphed when it came to the value of the objects that were bartered? Would the piece be ‘worth more’ at the end of the process?

10×10 was once described as ‘a comment on humanity.’ It has been fascinating to witness the various ways people have responded to the exchange process. Overall, humanity has come out of it pretty well. Other than a restriction on size, people are allowed to leave whatever they want and for the main part, people have responded with great generosity and thoughtfulness. There’s always the odd ‘rebel’ of course, but it was interesting to witness the peer group pressure faced by participants who decided to ‘have a laugh/take the piss’ – call it what you will. Like I said, there are no hard and fast rules, other than that the object had to fit in the space provided within the cabinet.

I remember one particular young man who spoke out loud his intention to leave a 10 pence piece in exchange for a vase that caught his eye. He told his friend: ‘My Mum would like that and it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday – that’s a good, cheap present.’ He was overheard and observed by a group of people interacting with the objects in the cabinet as he began to make the exchange. They were quick to voice their disapproval – ‘you can’t do that’- ‘show some respect’ – ‘cheapskate’ and so on. I can’t remember exactly how much he left in the end, but it was way and above 10 pence. It was interesting in itself to me that money started to creep in as an object for exchange. I was never over enamoured with £s and pence being introduced, but I decided at the outset that I wasn’t going to police what went in and out of the cabinet.

Things aren’t always what they seem, of course – quieter, more subtle exchanges have taken place. Many on the surface, have appeared quite straightforward and uncluttered by any sort of narrative. But dig deeper and it often transpired that an object left in the cabinet was in fact, highly emotionally charged. A real diamond bracelet was left behind on the first launch night of 10×10, for example. It was an exchange that might have gone unnoticed had the person who left it not written in the ledger book I always invite people to write in, should they want to. In the event, this message was left: ‘This bracelet was given to me by …. perhaps one day I will tell the tale …’

It’s a classic example of the concept around value and worth: genuine diamonds and their actual monetary value, versus the emotional worthless-ness of the bracelet to this particular person at this particular point in time. In contrast, a seemingly ‘worthless’ object in the shape of a small candle stub was left in the cabinet. It was exchanged for a pristine new candle by an international student on a tight financial budget. He told me he used candlelight in his bedsit room in order to save on electricity costs – a practical, pragmatic exchange.

Friday 10th October 2008 as I said, was the date I first launched 10×10. I had no idea when I did so, how things would turn out. There are many accounts (both oral and written) of what specific objects have meant/mean to specific people along the way. As well as the actual objects that people have brought along, it’s the narrative behind them that has also been a real source of fascination for me. I’m looking forward to fully documenting the stories associated with a decade of 10×10 in the future. But for now, on the 10th anniversary of starting 10×10, I’m pleased to feel well enough to at least acknowledge the date – 10/10 from 10am – 10pm – a decade ago, when my twin sons were 10 and my Nana reached the grand age of 100 years.

10x10 artwork by Kate Murdoch

10×10 – the original 100 objects.

The Duck: Rhiannon Lloyd William’s Play reviewed by Sonia Boué

an origami duck sitting on top of a theatre playbill

Photo by Alex Forshaw

The Duck, a production by Autact Theatre Company, is a remarkable play, and, going to see it at the Stroud Theatre Festival last week, felt like a significant cultural moment.

Playwright, Rhiannon Lloyd-Williams is a late diagnosed autistic woman, and she  forms part of what has been termed the ‘lost generation’ – I count myself among their number. Our diagnosis’ have been delayed into adulthood through cultural ignorance about autism as anything other than a series of stereotypes which exclude us. I won’t list them here, but suffice to say that males, savants, and geeks have dominated the cultural landscape (through no fault of their own, I might add).

Before continuing I want to state that this review is not the place to detail issues of gender identity within our community (which have also fallen under the radar). This play is not about women, it’s about one woman.

The play opens at the moment of recognition. I’m a duck! The duck in question is a metaphor for autism, and for 50 spellbinding minutes the audience is immersed in the thought processes of an autistic mind. For some of us (autistics) this is familiar territory and we can insert our own detail and nuance into the narrative. For non-autistic audiences this is instructive, in the best sense of the word. The play is not didactic, and the learning arrives through the offer of empathy – Lloyd-William’s brilliance is that she enables the non-autistic person to inhabit her mind, to loan it (if you will) for a brief yet vivid moment.

This is a one woman play, and actress, Lucy Theobald, gives a quite extraordinary performance. Coached by Lloyd-Williams herself, there is a sense in which she acts as her avatar. Theobald is her physical stand-in, complete with ‘stims’ (the gestures we often rely on to regulate emotion and sensation), but also allows the playwright the necessary distance to write from the gut. There are no punches held here.

As the diagnosis unfurls we are treated to the rawness of a lifetime of alienation which is unknown in origin. The torture of autism as a condition not yet revealed is really in the not knowing, which provides a vacuum for self-blame to be sealed in as tightly as superglue. My own experience is that unlocking this knowledge is redemptive. It was never autism that troubled me. I  now understand that my difference is simply  another way of being human. Not all autistics will share my sentiments but we can unite on the core message of this play.

I sat and squirmed as the labels which had been conferred on our heroine in the place of ‘duckness’ were rolled out in a devastating sequence. My own label was ‘naughty’. My poor parents were not to blame. They weren’t to know why I ‘disobeyed’ them royally – and did the opposite of everything they asked me to – and to their great credit they still found a way to love me.  Such labelling and misunderstanding of our behaviours can be immensely damaging and even threaten our emotional survival. Our heroine makes a passionate plea to peel back the labels in order to understand and accept us.

My favourite passages of this one act play are when Lucy Theobald revs up the theatrical encounter, breaking the forth wall. Autistics are supposed to struggle with communication – and so we do at times, especially when asked to do so in conventional manner. Lloyd Williams breaks this assumption with the sheer articulacy of her writing, Jo Loyn’s direction of Theobald to engage us with eye contact and pointing underlines the point; and so the table-turning begins! Audience members are questioned (rhetorically), and drawn in to the heart of the action. We’re both inside her head and onlookers – I honestly don’t know how the author did this.

In many ways this is a confrontational work, but the beauty of the writing is that the voice is gentle and the audience is held. I like to be in two places at once. I’m prone to wriggling in my chair and casting my eyes about the room. I am also fond of observing faces and was treated to a section of the front row, which curved around almost facing me (albeit from some small but helpful distance, as I sat at the very end of the middle row by the door). I saw three things; wonder, care, and compassion. I might have glimpsed discomfort (but it was fleeting and productive, I felt).

What you want in a production like this is to feel safe while being challenged, and it’s a fine balance to achieve; so it’s all the more impressive to find it so deftly handled in a debut play from an emerging writer.

What I saw on those faces, now embossed in my minds eye, were the flashes and flickers of shifting emotions as Theobald dealt out the play’s denouement. A twist autistics will be familiar with (but no less thrilled by) and which will leave unsuspecting non-autistics gasping. No spoilers from me.

I am reminded of my own debut speech as an ‘out’ autistic person in which I declared myself a person in translation. My audience feedback was that I had changed perception – that they would never think in quite the same way again.

This is what I think the incredibly talented Rhi Lloyd Williams has achieved with The Duck – a paradigm shift. As a blogger on autism (at Autism and Expectations) she is immensely popular and widely read on a global scale because she has a rare capacity to straddle neurologies with writing that is also beautiful. She is also a poet and a performer.

As an autistic person who (disclaimer) is also a friend, my one wish for the play (in the moment) was for the author to act the part. I quickly saw why for many practical reasons this wouldn’t work. The remove, in working with an actress rather than making this a performative piece for the author, reveals itself as the production’s strength. Theobald’s embodiment of Lloyd William’s words is an extended act of empathy, as I suggest at the top of this piece. She leads the audience in a parallel act.

This is not the usual autism shtick so many autistic people have come to dread, which only serves to feed unhelpful stereotypes. We’re tired of Rainman and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. This is something wholly new. An authentic voice has emerged, and it’s my fervent wish that The Duck can be seen and heard in many venues across the land.

The Arts Council England funded Museum for Object Research and WEBworks collaborative project, NUNO (Neither Use Nor Ornament), is also proud to count Rhiannon Lloyd Williams among our WEBworks creatives as Poet in Residence for the project.

Witten by Sonia Boué

Autism and systemic ableism in arts networks.

drawing of a little girl with a bunch of flowers looking at a doll sized woman sitting on some steps

Network ableism is an under explored topic. Sonia Boué has written a new blog post about autistic artists and the problems of networking in neurotypical systems. Encountering ableism in the Arts Council funding system she seeks to uncover serious inequities in the application process. First published on The Other Side.

My name is Sonia Boué and I’m an autistic artist. I’ve had a lot of luck in my career lately –  which has largely come about using my own autistic methods and working with two truly wonderful mentors. On the face of it I look pretty networked in, but most of my opportunities have come from sharing my work and ideas online. At the end of each project I have to start from scratch, and I have no idea how to ‘use my contacts’ or network neurotypically. The sheer scale of the social labour involved in networking neurotypically is beyond me.  This is why I have created a new kind of network called WEBworks, which is autistic in conception and in all it’s various manifestations. It’s for autistic artists and has a focus on professional development and creating access to opportunity. It’s a small pilot project – manageable and yet ambitious. It’s about empowering us all to become more visible and gain parity in the arts.

People are probably attracted to my work because of the intense autistic focus I am able to give to it – my attention is directed at what I do and not who I know.

So it’s been a jolt, and a hugely painful experience to be told by someone from Arts Council England at a recent conference (in a room full of professionals) to just “get networked in.”

Invisible disability is a box you can tick on a funding form to indicate who might benefit from your project, but it remains invisible in terms of just who might be present in a room full of professional people all grappling with the diminishing funding pot in the arts.

Autistic people are invisible as players. We’re so invisible that I’ve unearthed a major inequity in the funding requirements for those like me who aspire to be players. You see, I need big funding for my project, which includes support for WEBworks. Under present funding rules I need to prove why I can’t compete on a level playing field to match fund my project – and make the case that disabled people should not have to match fund their own access needs (and in my case that of my autistic colleagues). Perhaps no-one has thought of this, because no-one like me has ever applied to be a player?

I made a largely sound based video about this funding anomaly if you’d like to know more.

When I found myself quite by accident at an ACE funding surgery in my local area and brought up the possible problems with match funding for disabled people in general – I was told this would have to be proved. If you just have a foot missing we wouldn’t be convinced.

I let this ableist comment go at the time, but made a mental note – this person needs training – and I  (and all my autistic colleagues) hold much of the the missing knowledge.

A missing foot (if you will call it thus) could imply almost any level of impact in a person’s life (invisible disability such as PTSD, chronic pain, fatigue…we just don’t know and shouldn’t assume) which could affect their ability to raise the signifiant sums of match funding required if they are also not networked in. We’re not talking peanuts, we’re talking resource rich networks from whom signifiant favours can be drawn into a project – for which you have to be resource rich yourself to earn them (in ways I, and those like me just can’t be).

I shouldn’t really be blogging. I have my Arts Council application to finish, but this is way too important not to bring to light.

You see something profoundly (if unwittingly) ableist just happened to me, so aspects of Arts Council England’s disabling funding system have literally fallen into place.

I  tried to speak about access in the system at a recent arts conference where Arts Council representatives were present.

For context, I rarely go to arts conferences because I find them inaccessible and they often don’t tend to speak to my experience.  I don’t generally go about with a large ‘A’ stuck to my forehead, or a, hey, I’m autistic! t-shirt on either. In fairness not many people knew my status (though I did make a point of telling everyone I spoke to). If I go again – as I now feel I must – I will break all my own sartorial rules and wear the t-shirt (with flashing lights if needs be).

But when I raised what I consider to be a very real problem of access I have myself encountered and blogged about on the a-n blog site, I was just not taken seriously by the Arts Council representative. In the time it’s taken me to cut and past this link I’ve received a comment from another artist. I know I was speaking for many.

“Yes, yes, YES! Keep going! I didn’t know there were diversity officers. Thank you for writing about this.”

Yet when I did speak up I was assured that everyone could have access to this particular service – just like that!

One person who heads a National Portfolio Organisation agreed. We have a regular meeting where you can talk to an Arts Council relationship manager (people who hold key information and can help with an application process)  – as though I should perhaps have known about it.

Like the Alf Prøysen character in the illustration above, I immediately shrank to the size of a pepperpot! But something made me go on (I’m autistically stubborn and all about justice).

But you have to be networked in to have this access, I pointed out, without stopping to reflect that this might seem rude. I was contradicting someone who had (oh to hell with it) contradicted me. As I look back on it now – they were essentially making my point for me.

Well, get networked in! the Arts Council rep replied, as though this were the easiest (and most equitable) thing in the world. That appeared to be the end of my ‘non-point’. I was to join the NPO groups’ monthly meetings, job done.

I felt the room close in on me. I had both humiliated myself and been silenced.

In the break that followed, there was no processing time. One kind person offered to send details of the NPO group meetings, and another told me they too had struggled to get access to a relationship manager.

Then darkness – a film presentation to end the day. An unexpected event. Tears rolled suddenly down my face. Have you noticed how obvious tear wiping can be – so much rustling and grabbing for tissues, and elbows wiggling as you surreptitiously dab at your eyes. I let them roll.

But why tears? People had been nice to me, and the moment had passed.

I cried because the film was just so beautiful. Broken lives were being made whole again through the arts. I cried because I had been disabled by taking a risk and speaking out. The profound silencing of autistic people is historic and deeply painful within each one of us.

I want to talk to all the regional directors of Arts Council England. I want to talk to thedirector. I would like to tell them about our struggle, and the bias of their systems.

I want them to know how art redeems every aspect of my life and keep me connected.  That I and others like me have so much to give – that we can be players if the playing field is levelled. What’s more we bring authenticity to the table. Truth is that Arts Council need us as much as we need it.

I’m not networked in, I will probably never be so in a recognisably neurotypical way. I rely on people to ‘get’ me and meet me half way. What interests me is how to make the system open and fair.

I want people at the very top of the organisation I apply to funding for to know how hard it was for me to stay in the room at this conference. How hard I have to work to be present, and what it took for me to raise my voice.  So here goes.

One of the presentations just goes on and on. Everyone in the room is loving it I think, but the stage lighting sends an never-ending series of blows across my retina. I’m sitting too close to the stage. And the voices won’t stop. So many voices.

I’m caught by surprise. This shouldn’t happen now – the conference is in its opening stages and I have all day to manage. I struggle to find a strategy or any kind of relief. I begin to wriggle in my chair conscious that I mustn’t do this too much or someone will notice. Surely it will stop soon I think, so I try to hang on. But no, it just carries on and on.

I dig into my bag for the the soft tangle brush I sometimes use to rub across my palms to regulate the build-up tension, but by now I’m honestly near screaming point – the option of screaming occurs to me but I fully understand this would break an unbreakable rule. I realise after the event that the voices were too loud – the mics were set at the wrong level for someone with my sensory issues sitting so close to the front of this theatre space – I receive information from the sound system which others can filter out. I’m desperate but rooted to my chair. The brush is as effective as a wet sponge. I dig it into my palms but it may as well be in my bag for all the good it does me. The voices just won’t stop – I close my eyes but not for long. Drawing attention to myself is the last thing I want to do. As the presentation draws to close I suddenly remember to pinch my skin under my sleeve and I step out of the storm.

The lighting shifts again and we’re brought back into a room I can regulate myself in more easily. I can appear ‘normal’. There is no visible sign of my distress or the energy it took for me to survive this level of unexpected sensory onslaught. I’ll know in future to sit at the back with easy access to an exit.

I want everyone at Arts Council England to know that telling anyone who begins a conversation by saying that they have struggled with access  (in any context and for any reason) to get networked in, is simply not equitable. And I’m sorry, but for invisible disability it’s like telling a wheelchair user to grow a leg.

If you listen bottom up to authentic voices you’ll also discover why not everyone can just speak to a relationship manager.

It’s time for social currency (and who’s got it) to rise up the Arts Council diversity agenda.

An Arts Council award can be a profoundly life changing event in the professional life of an artist. This is what I want for all the artists who are involved in WEBworks.

In fact, I might just attach this blog post to my application. Why not – it sums up the need for my project perfectly.

Professional development & opportunity the WEBworks way – new film by Naomi Morris

a blue and grey landscape painting with collaged female figure in a long red skirt . hanging in front of the painting is a pair of wooden castanets

Commissioned to make a short film response to MfOR, Naomi Morris has chosen to focus on the practice of project lead Sonia Boué. A lyrical and sensitive reading of her mentor’s practice Naomi shares her own insight into what it means to work with objects as language.

Naomi’s film will be used in a forthcoming series of workshops with the community of St Luke’s Church in Oxford, to illustrates object work in artistic practice. St Lukes is located in an area of social deprivation and Naomi’s work will help enable members of the community to engage with object work themselves,  as assemblage and through the medium of film.

This film will also be shown at a “WEBs” programme screening at FILMOxford in 2019

You can view the film HERE

Naomi MfOR film
Naomi Morris – film still

 

Professional development decoded #creativecase #actuallyautistic

a woman with short hair and glasses talking and gesturing in front of a small group of people

 

Professional DevelopmentProfessional development and funding bid success as an autistic artist is a long road.

I’m back at the coalface of the Grantium portal, but this time I’m making a higher level funding bid for a complex socially engaged project very close to my heart.

Once more I feel I’m facing Everest. The step up feels immense as I gradually absorb the additional requirements and scrutiny that a higher level bid demands. Yet if I don’t go there how do I continue to develop as an artist and project lead?

But in going there I am uncovering (all over again) exactly how biased against autistic artists this application process is.

I learned (with inordinate difficulty) to write a £15,000 and under bid. I blogged and made a video documenting my process. I understand – this is public money – that it’s not easy. I understand that in asking for more public funds it will be harder.

I just want to say how very much more difficult it is when you have a hidden disability like autism because many micro tasks are involved each one representing a barrier (I’m not kidding). Our challenge with executive function can be great – it can also oscillate, meaning there will be times when we can manage more or less. One thing is certain, as tasks accumulate we become overloaded and overwhelmed. Recovery from overwhelm takes time and of course the tasks involved don’t go away. We are inordinately slowed down and may lose the will to go on.

I felt that yesterday. But I know I won’t give up because my practice is driven by an inner compulsion – I won’t be beaten but my efforts are extra (not ordinary) and this should be recognised. It all takes it’s toll – including falling over and getting a black eye.

Yesterday, in supporting another autistic artist I happened on a brilliant talk by a relationship manager about funding bids. A serendipitous but random event, which made me aware for the first time of the mysterious ways of this vital support for artists. I’ve spoken to a relationship manager on the phone (so helpful to my first bid), but I have never met one before – they’ve seemed progressively more elusive and shadowy figures (the cuts!) who were once available but are now not so much. Some NT artists/ arts professionals I know talk about them as friends and contacts but this has always seemed foreign to me as so many (seemingly random) examples of social relatedness in the workplace do. The social labour involved in such relatedness is often beyond me. These are the hidden codes.

And this is the point – as an autistic person I can’t relate to shadowy figures, to people obscured in far flung regional offices, who may well be part time and/or work in multiple locations. People whom, from Oxford say, you may need to get to Brighton to see, or catch them on the phone on a Tuesday, or pre-arrange a Skype call with.

I get vertigo just thinking about it. The organisation and planning involved in accessing such a ‘moving target’ represent a barrier. Arts Council England, you are giving me more micro tasks.

At the meeting I see before me a dynamic young woman and I understand for the first time that there are people out there who can help me, really help me. People who I can talk to about my project, really talk to. I ask for the diversity officer’s name. It’s thrown to me quickly mid talk and I write it down but of course, this was not the moment for contact details.

Arts Council used to list them on the website I’m told? But now they don’t because…the reason given was impossible to process and is obscure to me.

So now you have to ring up or write to get contact details. I sigh. I sigh one huge and heavy sigh. I feel a potential ramp falling away.

Arts Council England – you have a beautiful shiny section on your website about the creative case for diversity. I’ve seen your lovely video featuring wonderfully diverse voices. It makes me glad, but I am so very frustrated.

You do not list your relationship managers (with at the very least email contact details) up front on your website.

In failing to do so you give autistic and neurodivergent artists like me more challenge – you obscure for us a vital source of help. We may not be able to access the brilliant helpline you provide, we might just not be able to write that email asking for contact details – so much to say here about why not but I don’t have the time. I sat before the relationship officer, in this room of arts professionals thinking I want to train you. I want to be commissioned to write a report. This is only one tiny aspect of what’s wrong with the application process as it stands. SO much is taken for granted and works against us.

The main point here is essentially, and it is essential, that we may not pick up how important it is to access relationship managers, we may simply not clock them as a vital part of successful application processes because we can’t SEE them. For many of us seeing is vital to knowing.

Something so simple and so vital to many ND artists could be changed with a tweak.

I find it so very neurotypical to have a showcase list of relationship managers on the website with nice pictures and  a paragraph or two about working for ACE. It’s quite lovely but the list is incomplete and there are no contact details.

You’re almost there Arts Council England – I urge you to go for it and give ND artists another route in to making contact with the people who – not only can they make a difference to your application – but with whom you can have an ongoing relationship (yes – radical news for some of us) about your professional development.

Alleluia – I finally got it. My next step is to track down the diversity officer I so want to talk to about all of this and so much more.

BLUE GILLETTE

close-up photograph of someone's fingers holding a vintage razor blade

BLUE GILLETTE

BLUE GILLETTE

I open the jiffy bag. Sellotaped inside clear cellophane, a man stares out in the manner of Lord Kitchener, demanding allegiance . Distinctive and dashing, with a high collar, his assured masculine confidence exudes Victorian ascendency. He represents a deliberate nod to a bygone age of the ‘gentleman’. Somehow he just about gets away with the moustache. It’s way before the Village People undermined that particular visual iconography.

Now I do remember this little package so I’m not imagining – but in today’s world everything about it seems from another time; a time even before my own boyhood. A monotone lithographic portrait set into a two colour print of turquoise and dingy royal blue . It feels a decade earlier; early fifties. I’m led to believe that this pack actually does come from the fifties, but still, I remember the design well into the sixties for sure. Perhaps they just never got round to changing the artwork; I guess brand identity evolved more slowly in those days. Maybe my dad had acquired old stock, who knows. Whatever the reason, this is the pack I recall from my childhood. The pack I first saw in our bathroom cabinet. The cabinet where adult things were stored.

I have hunted down this distant treasure on ebay in order to confront my crime. The crime of a child is typically transparent. There was no cunning in my actions, although later there was calculated deceit in my choice of where to conceal the stash. Mine was indeed more a compunction than a crime and is, to this day, without obvious motive. The victim was my father, though I’m not sure he was ever aware of my transgression. He is now in his nineties and, writing this, I am wondering if I will spill the beans. But I’m not convinced of his capacity to do much with the confession. It would probably seem like an inane act to him. Would he smile wryly or think… hmm that just about sums up my unfathomable son.

The blades seem not quite as perfect today as they did then. Smaller now I’m an adult; really quite small. The miniature Victorian gentleman’s stare is knowingly aloof, but not forgiving. He dares me to open the packet again – which of course I must.

‘Time to confess’, says the small voice. ‘J’acuse, monsieur j’accuse!’ Suddenly I feel Gillette Man is French.

The bathroom cabinet was a lock-up of secrets; a place where pristine, clinical things were kept. None more so than the multipacks of Blue Gillette Blades. I don’t recall the exact moment I decided to steal the first box, but I do quite clearly remember how it felt to open the packet and reveal the treasure inside. It was something to do with the waxy paper and the precision. These were objects that had no purpose in my world; no practical gain was to be had in taking them. It was the thrill of the new. The rush that comes with transgression. I was coveting a wafer of sharp silver in its delicious double wrap packaging. Mesmerised by the theatrical reveal.

Once laid bare, there isn’t much you can do with a razor blade if you want to maintain its perfection. Make a single cut and it’s virginity is lost. So I always packed them back up with care. Exquisite gifts from the mirrored cabinet. Folding the paper wings into their embrace of steel and sliding each blade back into the box.

Now I had moved beyond coveting, they were potential evidence. Evidence of my crime; smeared with my DNA. Even though I knew nothing of DNA at the time, my instincts were good. Like stolen goods they were hot. Very cool, but too hot to have around. Too incriminating. Yet I didn’t want to give them back.

Their eventual hiding place was arrived at via a process of elimination. My bedroom was small in those days with just enough room for a single bed and a pull down cabinet where I attempted my homework. Mother did the general housework and would be sure to find any secret spot, as nothing was deemed private at that young age. Obviously I couldn’t use my parent’s room so that only left the slightly larger one my older sister occupied in our three bedroom semi. If I was to use this as my treasure island I had to find a place neither of them would look.

They may have had an early version of carpet grippers in those days, but I recall ours being held by crudely fashioned flat headed tacks that kept the carpet in place. These were easily lifted, so I decided upon the classic hiding spot. Not exactly under the floorboards but under the carpet at least. Lift an edge, slide the blades in, and push the tack back into place with a furtive thumb.

Time passed. On finding after a while that there was no comment, no ramifications, no thunderous accusation, the mind of this criminal longed for further excitement. Was repeating the act merely satisfying the same craving, or had I a longing to be found out? I can’t answer that but, regardless, my plundering of the bathroom cabinet became ever more frequent and greedy. How many blades did father think he was using? Surely he would notice at some point? If he did he never said and thankfully he never grew a beard. He must have continued to buy blades. I fed my habit and added to the hoard. It was like money in the bank.

At some point I must have grown tired of this. Perhaps the carpet began to undulate with the accumulation of blades I hid under it. No doubt I became interested in other things. As an adult I occasionally have pondered this odd behaviour. Admittedly it was only a petty crime, but I do wonder what Freud might have had to say about it. I also wonder what the new owners of my parent’s house thought when they lifted that old carpet years later.

As an adult I have, on occasion, looked for some reverberations in my later life that might provide a motive. The best I can come up with relates to computer graphics.

In the mid eighties I was a demonstrator for a video based computer graphics system, presenting to industry professionals at media shows and the like. The world was by and large unfamiliar with such technology. Almost without exception, the audience would be wowed by the ‘instant colour graduation’ routine.
‘So I click here’ (clicks on colour palette.. let’s say deep blue)
‘then I click here’ (white perhaps)
‘and then click here’ (oh I don’t know – something similar to the first colour)… and hey presto; a perfect, shimmering tonal graduation instantly appeared on screen. The kind that used to take ages to achieve using an emulsion, film based process (typically employed for graphic overlays of captions and other such tele related stuff).

That little trick now seems profoundly trite and uninteresting; anyone can do it in photoshop with just a quick tutorial, but in those days it was amazing. It amazed me too. I felt like an explorer who had journeyed to distant lands and brought back something exotic and forbidden to bamboozle and astound his tribe. In the trade show context, I was a medicine man rocking up with my mysterious Pandora’s box of dodgy elixirs.

The look of computer graphics attracted me in the early days for precisely this reason. It was new, it was shiny and could achieve the immaculate in a way which denied any trace of the human hand. It was alchemic. And there, I feel, is the parallel. I was fundamentally drawn to the razor blades and their perfect packaging in the same way as I was drawn to this smooth computer generated graduation.

In the quest to make things look ‘realistic’ computers are now ever more required to produce images which appear distressed and imprecise, some might say subtler, but in the early days of CGI that effortless perfection represented the shock of the new. The birth of a flawless way of making things.

If you have grown up with computer technology you might not understand this epiphany, but if you are a tad older, and interested in the appearance of things, you will recall a world where such perfection was hard won. The razor blades to me as a boy were that perfection made real; to all intents and purposes an actual trove of treasure, beyond function; beauty for its own sake.

In retrospect, I see that the blades represent the achievement of an old way of manufacturing. Those processes associated with factories and smoke, ‘heavy industry’ and the skill of the hand. The astounding new technology of all things computer generated has assumed this mantle and headed off apace, but what hasn’t evolved so rapidly is ‘us’ and our emotional being.

Here in the present, although the humble razor blade might seem mundane to some, to me it remains as magical as ever it was because of the associations I bestow it from my past. I’m thinking that the on-screen colour graduation, though less tangible and admittedly now bland at first glance, might, in time, prove to be similarly profound. Something to meditate on – quite literally perhaps.

Listening to the radio this morning I heard a phrase ‘from hands to head to heart’. It was being used to describe societal evolution. First we made things with our hands and then we refined them via our intellect. That’s the ‘head’ bit. It is generally accepted that in the future machines will perform ever more of our manual and repetitive tasks for us. Though robots may indeed take over our practical functions, we hold as unique our sense of what it is to be human; to care; to genuinely empathise. Our ‘heart’, so the theory goes, is the bit that can’t be replicated or replaced by androids.

Holding on to our uniqueness may be a deceit, but for now I’m going with that as an idea. Let the razor blades stay in their box and let me imagine them. In that way they transcend their intended function and become the hero’s of my personal narrative.

Neil Armstrong Jan 2018
www.neilarmstrong.me

Going live: Launching our new website! #MfOR

IBMT newsletter - Museum for Object Research

We have now officially come to the close of an exciting Arts Council funded research and development phase, which has seen this project change shape in order to truly reflect and accommodate its autistic leadership. I’m incredibly proud of all that has been achieved, and of our contributing ‘neurotyopcial’ artists who have remained so patient and open-minded during this process. For a period this meant not knowing what our project outcomes would look like, and it takes a particular kind of faith to pin a professional stake on an unknown quantity. I hope part of the reward is to see it all come to fruition and be part of something pioneering and potentially revolutionary. We also have some exciting ‘realtime’ outcomes to be getting along with.

I’m especially pleased to have been able to develop a mentoring scheme called WEBworks, for a small group of autistic artists, and to have offered employment to two of my mentees during the latter half of the project.

As a result this website is designed, built and curated autistically, and I’m delighted to say the Museum is an ethical and congruent project both at front and back of house. A huge thank you is due to artist Hugh Pryor for his work on the website.

I’m looking forward to building more content about our WEBworks artists, and tracking our progress as we roll out a new model of mentorship for autistic artists – who so often get  left behind despite their great talent and potential.

The website now has a quite wonderful Artists section where you can view each proposal for an exhibition in realtime – which will form part of our next Arts Council bid. We have also included a new Features tab where you can find resources on object related matters, including a growing list of book recommendations and links. You can also read about the fascinating project, Family Snaps! created by artist, Linda Hubbard, in our Artist Interviews section (the first of what we hope will be many such interviews with artists working with objects.) There’s a brand new blog page for Autistic voices – which will gather in posts about autistic relatedness to objects.

Our original Art Blog also remains at the heart of the project as a space for reflection and conversation about object work within artistic practices.

I’m delighted to announce that during this phase of MfOR, we have been able to commission a new video work by artist Naomi Morris which will be ready for upload shortly. Her video piece will be a response to objects from an autistic perspective.

It’s been a hugely enriching experience developing this project, and it’s been a joy to connect with others in the autistic community, notably aritst Jon Adams and the pioneering project for neurodivergent artists called Flow Observatorium.

Especially rewarding has been the opportunity to share my recent research at an event organised by Oxford University TORCH (The Oxford Centre for Research in the Humanities) – a pod cast and transcript of my talks are both available here.

I can’t end this blog post without expressing gratitude to my two mentors for MfOR and Webworks, Miranda Millward and Sarah Mossop. My project has thrown up many challenges and they have been steadfast in guiding me – I think mentorship (in a freelance context) for artists is a seriously underrated and unspoken need. I can’t wait to carry on our work together to encourage and support our WEBworks artists.

So watch this space! MfOR has become a living breathing entity, which can grow and develop both in online and ‘realtime’ platforms.

Is a passport an object?

Jenni Dutton Passport

For the past few years I have been systematically culling a lot of my possessions.

I am making a virtue of it to my friends, who often lament their accumulated stuff. There is a defiance about the way I relish the process.
They are impressed and I am now known for my fierceness in facing up to the task. I feel smug that I won’t have to do it when I am older.

Now I am wondering, how much older? I am already 66.

My mother died a couple of years ago, but I had cleared her house way before that, to make way for tenants who helped to fund her stay in the care home.

I have a very few of her possessions, only the small stuff, some valuable but mostly not. I come from an army family, we were never encouraged to hoard possessions. My home is small, it has my accumulated stuff and some of my daughters and most importantly contains my studio space.

Recently I needed a passport, I hadn’t renewed this important document, for 15 years. I kept putting it off. For those 15 years I was looking out for my mum and my daughter, my focus was on them. I didn’t feel the need to travel.

Getting back to the Museum for Object Research, is a passport an object?
I have kept all the old ones.

As a way of exploring self and identity I am making paintings of the 6 passport photos.

The portraits then have selected objects painted in the foreground. The objects are related to the time span of the passports. They are items of significance, but just ordinary things.

However I am aware that the objects I have kept and what I choose to add to my work represents my life. I become self conscious, imagining observers will judge me and it makes me feel vulnerable. The objects accompanying the image cause me to reflect and remember, which makes me nostalgic, regretful and sometimes sad.

I wonder how I can manipulate the choices I have made to enhance my offered persona, to present an alternative narrative, to appear a little more edgy……. I could cheat, just a little.

So far I have made 5 paintings and half way through the 6th. I refine the objects, adding something that I notice fits the narrative and seems to be jostling for attention. The reason some of these objects have survived is quite random. I mourn some objects that I no longer have. I toy with the idea of replacing them, but I know that would not work. Authenticity is key.

By the time I had made these five paintings ….. I had two rings, two hand written objects.
Two objects associated with travel.
Two associated with my daughter.

Two items for my father. Two with ex husband. Two with ex partner.
Three angels! (I had tried to ignore the wooden angel, but was proud when I bought it 55 yrs

Nothing yet linked to my mother.
So then, should decisions about what to include became about fairness, breadth and balance. I must include her, I have a choice of objects.
Do they fit the time span? Does that matter?

As I write this, the objects I have chosen so far for the five paintings have begun to assert themselves, to have a relationship and speak to each other. I think I need to give them some attention and allow them to become more dominant.

AND maybe the most important is the painting that I have not made yet. It covers the 15 years when I had no passport. I plan to represent this just through objects..

These small paintings are a prelude for what I hope will either be larger pieces, or a series of another 6 paintings offering an alternative image of me, or an assemblage, or…..

Jenni Dutton MfOR September 2017

Objects of Desire

Kate Murdoch – August 2017

 

What would Meri do? Reflections on the history of a family photograph in an art practice. #ObjectResearch

Sonia Boué

Originally published on The Other Side, this post relates to my research and the family history which fuels my art practice. My mission is to create a body of work around the themes emerging from a second generation experience of Spanish Republican exile to England.

My great grandmother sits beneath a bakelite radio, surrounded by family photographs in Madrid, 1935.

A portrait of a small child hangs to her right, it’s an image of my father which now rests in a plastic wallet in my mother’s house in Birmingham, England. This wallet contains all the photographs which graced the walls of my grandmother’s flat in Barcelona.

When my grandparents made their final journey from Spain to England in the mid 1970s the photographs travelled with them in a suitcase. That suitcase sits in my art studio in Oxford.

Packing and unpacking history is a cross-generational game. We shuffle the decks perhaps, but the intense joy of seeing and holding these images can’t be equalled. They centre me and show me the way forward. They tell me who I am.

This woman called Meri, who bore my dearest abuela (grandmother) sits waiting. Within months (a year at most) Spain would be at war, and after the siege of Madrid she would leave her home, travelling to Valencia and then Barcelona. In 1939, she would flee for her life and face the brutal camps of France where Spanish exiles from Fascist Spain were held behind barbed wire and under armed guard.

She was one of the fortunate exiles, allowed to leave the camps and live a civilian life in Angoulême along with my abuelos (her daughter and son-in-law). Work was tough. I recently learned that my abuelos worked 12 hour shifts in a munitions factory, but they were happy to be allowed to rent a small flat and make a home again.

By 1941 they were able to return to Spain, and grated permission to live in Barcelona. Despite being Republicans they were pardoned – they got lucky somehow.

As fascism rears violently in Charlottesville and I try to process this new horror, I look back at Meri. And I ask myself what would Meri do?

Meri was witness and survivor. Meri I feel, (like abuela also) would untie her apron and go to the market for flowers to make a tribute. We are called on to witness, again and again.

Since I began my art practice and tuned in to this history my work has expanded and diverted at times but I have always retuned to the ritual of the tribute. With the Nazi uprisings in the US my senses are sharpened once more, as with the refugee crisis, there are moments in contemporary life when my heritage kicks in and I can’t look away.

The news overwhelms and threatens to engulf us with all our senseless inhumanities. But now I know what to do. I must head to my studio to gather my ancestors and make some work. However small, however fleeting my witness may be I need to stay human. I need to engage and resist.

Sonia Boué – August 2017

Open Carry: An Exploration into our Attachment to the handbag and Related Behaviour. Part 1.

(A powerful and intriguing blog post by Ruth Geldard, featuring some of her work for #MfOR, originally posted on her own blog.) 

“The handbag is one of our most debated, most gendered cultural artefacts. It can be a powerful status symbol, and is a universally recognised indicator of femininity.” Sandra Mardin

My own preoccupation with them began in childhood, standing at a stall at a Bring and Buy sale, and the dawning realisation that I could buy nine used handbags with my pocket money, equivalent to the price of a Mars bar today. They were all shapes and sizes in different materials; leather, moc croc, plastic and textile. The thing that stuck though and remained with me throughout my life, was the used-ness of them, what today would be described as being, pre-loved. The surface of the bags bore graphic traces that evidenced the previous owners/wearers, their scent and their very battered-ness, resonated and hinted at, other lives. And I loved them all.

In retrospect, I think this early, multiple-bag exposure, set in train, a heightened perception of and material sensitivity to old bags. I would give anything to see them again. And this has made me think of the long succession of bags that followed, I remember them all in graphic detail, I could even draw them for you…

“…handbags are in some way linked to the feminine and one would have to see a direct link with the womb…”                                                                                            Rosalind Mayo

The idea of the handbag performing as a cipher for the womb in dream analysis, was started by Freud and continues to seep into the culture today. It seems I have chosen an object which carries multifarious, perceptual and literal baggage and so this stage of the project: to identify and define possible areas of work, has not been easy. During this research phase, I began to notice certain commonalities to do with, bag behaviour. At a party, the hostess noticed that I was carrying a small shoulder bag. She joked with me about this being a safe place to put it down and seeing my reluctance, ushered me to a point under the stairs where there was what seemed to be a whole flock of women’s bags all clustered together forming a circle. There was something so tender about this and memories of being in busy clubs and saying to strangers, “could I leave my bag with yours?” came to mind. Safety in numbers perhaps, but I find it hard to imagine a parallel situation with men and their briefcases or man bags, of which more later.

I couldn’t bear to end up as an Elvis Presley and sing in Las Vegas with all those housewives and old ladies come in with their handbags. It’s really sick.             Mick Jagger

Interested in the physical evidence of wear, I began a series of bag portraits starting with my own, I treated it exactly as if it was a human sitter. I side-lit the model and placed it on a white background. Then asked friends to come with their bags and sit with me as I drew, while we discussed their bag behaviour. At this point, the project took on an identity of its own, complete with illuminating anomalies, tangents and emotional projections. One friend was “traumatised” when she put her favourite bag in the post, another was so conflicted, she became unable to choose between two of her favourites. The husband of another woman insisted on her giving me a particular bag that he “loved”, but she herself did not and had barely used. There were times when I found myself cheating and breaking self-imposed rules. Each bag seemed to demand it’s own medium, also, I wanted the bags to face me, all in the same position, to do that, I had to pack them out, to make them stand up properly and found myself filling them with whatever came to hand, glasses cases, candles, baked bean tins…Putting my hand inside another woman’s handbag felt decidedly weird.

“Bags also serve as the portable manifestation of a woman’s sense of self, a detailed and remarkably revealing map of her interior, an omnium-gatherum of myriad aspects of her life…”                                                                                                                      Daphne Merkin

And then, talking and simultaneously drawing the model, something I have always managed before, now became difficult, as I was forced to turn my head away from the subject. When I did have a bag to myself, (contrary to expectation) I was able to engage more deeply and with no constraints, would work for hours. But insights from the feedback given by the bag-owners, kept coming and helped me focus. One participant recounted fetching her mother’s handbag and having to hold it at arm’s length, not wanting it to touch her body as it would have made her uncomfortable. This brought up something I have often encountered, bag awe, most noticeable around your mother’s handbag, but in a lesser way, an indefinable aurapertaining to all women’s handbags.

“Of course, I am obstinate in defending our liberties and our law. That is why I carry a big handbag.” Margaret thatcher

With all this talk of handbags, a memory surfaced, of being at a late-night party and a slightly squiffy friend, unable or unwilling to find an ashtray, found an unattended handbag, opened it, flicked her ash into it and casually carried on smoking, occasionally tipping her ash on the rim. Finally, she ground out the butt with the heel of her shoe, flipped it into the bag and snapped it shut. I have never got over the shock and sense of transgression, how could she…? When I recently recounted this story to a friend she looked suitably shocked and said,

“Yes, that’s like spitting in someone’s face.”

Exactly.

Part II follows.

Ruth Geldard – August 2017

Perfect storm.

IMG_1678

This photograph was taken outside the Magdalen Road Studios project space Filament 14, during MfOR’s mid term gathering of artist proposals.

NB. The poem in this blog post first appeared on my (Sonia Boué’s) The Other Side blog site, which is where much of the material about my research on the autistic professional template for MfOR can be found. 

So we’ve reach a mid term point in our Arts Council funded research and development for MfOR. Where have we got to? 

My professional template research was planned to take place alongside practical development of the MfOR project, but in practice has been so radical in it’s findings that a reshaping of the project has been needed, which continues to evolve.

The key questions to emerge – what is an autistic-led project, and have we designed one – were not even framed at the outset, let alone tested.

The answer to the latter is that we haven’t, because (Catch 22 alert) we didn’t know what one looked like before my research began.

Due to prevailing norms we’ve designed a predominant neurotype (PNT) project, based on PNT principles – which (by definition) are largely disabling to an autistic person/professional.

Redesigning the project is therefore a process – ongoing.

In a nutshell, MfOR began as an optimistic experiment with my autism, yet I was from first principles unwittingly disabled by my own PNT influenced project design.

Autism is a non-trivial human difference, and yet PNT systems are so embedded in the everyday that one is easily wrong-footed and (in very real terms) dis-abled despite being a perfectly competent autistic human.  But however competent I may be, I can’t project lead while disabled.

Fortunately, part of my particular humanness is a heightened ability to focus, analyse, unpick and reconstruct. My ‘condition’ (if it is such) makes me a creative troubleshooter par excellence  – I have to be to survive.

The job right now is to allow space for this thinking to unfold. I’m discovering so much about being disabled, about the absolute wisdom of the social model of disability and – more importantly still – how non-autistic humans become disabled in autistic spaces. This really does work both ways.

I hope the Arts Council – if they’re watching at this stage – approve that much of my working through of this thinking comes via the poetic form. My last ACE funded project Through An Artist’s Eye had poetry as a core professional development goal for improvement in technique and confidence. Hey, Arts Council – that was money well spent, and this is too. I can’t think of many more important cultural causes than a true investment in diversity. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to carry out this difficult, challenging and significant work – which I hope will be of benefit to others.  The personal and professional development for me is proving immense.

Here is the preamble to the poem from The Other Side.

“The context for my poem Perfect storm is the research for my Arts Council Funded project – The Museum for Object Research. It isn’t about any one person or conversation, but more about my growing understanding of the ways in which I am disabled – despite being a competent human – by ingrained assumption and the double empathy bind.”

 

Sonia Boué

———————————————————————————————————————————-

Perfect Storm

Dawn brings the perfect storm.

And skylights catch droplets in rapid succession.

Yet I am deaf to their timpani.

 

Undoing the stitches of my carefully fashioned…

…tailoring…

I have spoken for the first time of my disability.

 

A  pointed conversation.

 

But what of…

…my ‘intelligence.’

Yes! I say (quite shamelessly).

 

I do have one.

And degrees and so forth.

(Despite scoring zero for I.Q.*)

And, what is more,

I  often soar above you.

 

(The aerial view is our prerogative.

Including the ‘voiceless’ and the more visibly NEEDY.

Sharing a something you can’t reach.

Ah yes – a club of sorts.

Seemingly without a fee.)

 

And perhaps this difference.

Well. It’s irrefutably so.

Is. Also. Your. Disability.

 

The places you can’t go.

 

I am disabled.

DIS-ABLED.

But by what?

And by whom?

 

And.

What (I ask myself).

Does.

My.

Disability.

Mean.

For.

You.

 

Well…

Perhaps.

And. Most certainly.

I can read it.

In the symbiosis of our smiles.

 

And we can act like kittens.

Playing with string.

Until it’s time.

To bring the dead bird in.

 

A trophy to trying.

A cup to greet the day.

 

* My cognitive profile is not measurable as an IQ score.

 

 

Beginnings: object love #MfOR

img_8455This is how I began the MoFR with a call out to object artists back in September 2014.

“Don’t all museums have a building, curators, attendants and plenty of visitors for company? Well no. Some museums live in our cupboards and imaginations, awaiting their moment of arrival. So it was with my idea for a Museum for Object Research.”

MfOR quickly ignited the imaginations of a core group of object artists who became active readers and contributors to the blog in those early days. Their enthusiasm and wide-ranging interests made my job of curating and administering the space a total joy, until other projects took over and we experienced a lull in energy and admissions. The beauty of the project was that all the content remained online and still reflects the calibre of guest  artist, some of whom are keen to explore further iterations of our format.

Forming a partnership with Elena Thomas  (our very first guest contributor) has led to formalising the idea of returning to the core of the project and developing a fully fledged expression of its purpose in the physical world. From digital to actual.

We’re looking forward to putting our heads together to develop this space and take it on to the next level. As we all know there is a huge amount of work to be done in realising a dream or in this case a vision. No small part is designing a format which will work in the real world and also contribute to our knowledge and thinking about the ways we work with objects in our various practices.

Since discovering the power of the object within my own multiform creative practice I have become interested in understanding more, but my ambition goes further. I want to see the Museum succeed in its role as tool for research, and bring forth outcomes of real worth to object artists in arriving at a more formal understanding of why and how objects come to be at the core of what we do.

We will be seeking Arts Council England funding for our work.

Watch as we transfer materials from our original site and build new content in this exciting new space.