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

 

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.