During these times of uncertainty, fear and great change, it is important to take stock and reflect upon the journey our lives have taken us on so far. As an art student about to cross the threshold of graduation, this sudden halt in the academic year has been a shock that no one could ever have predicted. The world has come to a standstill, but yet it keeps moving, a strange concept for us all to grasp I’m sure. Schools, colleges and universities worldwide have shut their doors, with technology now becoming the back bone of every day life and learning.
The 3rd year showcase for my art degree has obviously been cancelled with the hopes that we may have an exhibition after graduation. This would have been an extravaganza of mixed media achievements from all students across the cohort. Not only is the degree show the final, most important mark of the BA, but it is a chance to show the art community what we have to offer as graduates. However, taking things into perspective, it is important to use this time as a learning curve, rising to the challenges as artists, changing and growing as necessary. As a group, we decided to have our exhibition on-line on 5th June (which would have been our original show date) and are now working towards this.
Since I began the 3rd year in September 2019, after the challenge of dissertation. I have been researching, reflecting and experimenting for my narrative about the Thwaites Tower. This consists of a 3 part narrative about the emotions of memory and includes poetry, projection, installation and public conversation. I am determined to exhibit this piece at some point, whether it be as part of the art school, or independently, but due to circumstances, I will only be able to submit this as a proposal in order to obtain my degree. Which also means that it was back to the drawing board for ideas about what I would enter into the on-line exhibition.
I am an NHS nurse, which I have continued to be throughout my degree, and now, more than ever the world is heavily reliant upon its medical professionals to provide them with the emergency treatment needed to attempt to combat this pandemic. I’m not going to sugar coat things, at the moment it’s a tough job, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t shed a tear or two over the past months. However, as I have discussed in previous blog posts, I tend to thrive artistically from my emotions. I use art to understand the world around me, and my place within it, how I deal with situations that arise and how I can express these creatively.
Quarrantine art for on-line exhibition: Part one
This brings me back to the current climate, and the realisation that I was having all of these creative thoughts due to the nature of my job. Most of my research intertwines perfectly with the way I want to express myself, and I was excited to re-imagine a past piece of art I had done for ‘the great austerity debate’ exhibition in 2018. As a political response to austerity, I designed a hospital sign and had this made for me at the making rooms, Blackburn.
I wanted to respond to the covid pandemic as an NHS nurse, and re-constructed the original sign to reflect this. Of course, I cannot have the sign physically made at present, so I manipulated it digitally with the intention of using it as a staged projection in my own home. So with the help of my 13 year old techno-geek daughter, we redesigned my original digital version of the sign using photoshop.
I wanted to stage the sign as if it was in a hospital and insert myself into the picture, so with a precariously balanced projector, and me in my scrubs and PPE (please note this is my own personal PPE and not taken from the hospital). We projected the image onto the bedroom wall, used a plant as a prop and a bedside lamp angled up from the floor to create an eerie glow, and I stood next to the sign. We took many pictures, some with me in them, some without, but there were only a few suitable ones due to the focus or the elongation of the projection, and we were limited to an ipad as a camera. I was happy with the darkness of the photo’s as I felt that it reflected the atmosphere I wanted to create.
I also took a ‘selfie’ which I was really pleased with, the sign becomes more realistic I thought even though only some of it can be seen. This was the image I was thinking of using for the on-line exhibition we were organising as a group.
I began to experiment with digital photo applications, using some of the images to collage and add different filters to.
The final image I chose will be added to the professional practice blog as part of a post quarantine proposal and I have sent off for an A2 poster to be made through an on-line company.
Quarrantine art for exhibition: Part two.
I had also been experimenting with the many bricks I had from the Thwaites tower and had been thinking about a performative or creative way of using the bricks whilst in isolation. As I have discussed in an earlier blog, I find that I often become a part of my art work, either physically, through my writing, or poetry and through my voice. This actually became a family project as I asked for my Partner Andy, and daughter Milly to help. My intention was to collect together a group of photographs, very much like I had done during year 2 when I projected poetry onto my skin.
This was also another chance to reflect upon past work and revisit my ideas and research. I guess in a way, my own art became my primary research in this case and made me think about how I could bring this into my current project. I wanted to be buried under the bricks with my face showing, whilst of course thinking about health and safety! So I laid on the patio in the garden, Andy placed the bricks gently so they were safe and not about to get me injured with Milly taking charge of my safety. Then Andy took many photos of me while Milly photographed the process. It was a creative afternoon and not only did I get loads of inspiration and photos to use, but we bonded as a family and had a lot of fun in the process.
There were lots of photos for me to manipulate and formulate together as a video project which is just what I was hoping for. I also had Andy lie on the patio whilst I made a silhouette of him with the bricks, just to see if these added more dimension to the video project, then I took some close up pictures of the bricks on their own.
I contacted friend and fellow student Michelle Elaine Ayers who is a photographer, for a critique and advice on how to add drama to the images I had chosen. We discussed what my project was about and what I wanted to achieve and she helped me manipulate the photos in light-room in order to create this.
I was really pleased with the overall outcome of the images and could already see the narrative I had in mind coming to life. I started to experiment with time lapse applications by adding the photos and started thinking about the dialogue or poetry I wanted to add to the finished piece.
Whilst making the video I wanted to think about how the effects of covid-19 had impacted upon the world and how I personally felt as a mother and NHS nurse. I have been reading a lot during lock down, my favourite type of books being science-fiction or dystopian novels. I was directed by my tutor to the work of Daniel Defoe ‘A journal of the plague Year, written by a citizen continued all the while in London’. The book is Defoe’s fictionalised account of one mans experience during the great plague of 1665 has some frightening similarities to what we are facing in 2020. Uneasy jolts of recognition indeed washed over me as I read the haunting passages about the emptiness of familiar streets, and how they were told that avoidance and quarantine was the only way to stay alive. Defoe describes the transmission of the infection and how the unsuspecting ‘breathed death’ upon those they came into contact with. It seems strange to think that Defoe was describing events which took place 355 years ago as the correlation between the past and present is strikingly familiar. The book was published in 1772 and although it is a fictionalised account, it almost feels as Defoe is describing at least the mass fear and panic and the unknown that sits uncomfortably true with me.
Reading the book gave me the inspiration to add what feels like the beginning of a dystopian novel to my video. I wanted to change it up a little from the poetry that I would normally express myself through and made the choice to write a short, creative passage as If I was an author embarking on a science-fiction novel. The question ‘what if’ lingering in the air with the realisation of ‘this is actually happening’ reaching the viewer by the end of the short video. It didn’t take me long all to pen down the passage that was bubbling to the surface and I intend to read this and add it to the video to enhance the images further.
The finished video will be uploaded as a proposal for the online exhibition and will be available on YouTube once complete.