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.

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

 

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.