Thursday, 22 March 2012

Back to basics?

Keen to learn about making applications, writing proposals for exhibitions, etc. I went to a Creative Practice Seminar on 3 March, organised by the industrious duo Rosalind Davis and Annabel Tilley, of ZeitgeistArtsProjects. As so often I describe an activity when it’s long past, but every outing (by which I mean leaving the house, about once per week), demands a longish, invisible and incommunicado recovery-period during which I slowly claw back tiny bits of energy.
I went by cab. From my shoulder hung a satchel with a light cushion and a yoga-mat. The event was informative, inspiring even, and during break I briefly chatted to two people I’d met before, which was delightful. But I could only sit for so long and, before leaving early, ended up lying on the floor for a good while, on my red coat, as rolling out the mat seemed too energetic an exercise. There I was, at the front of the small auditorium, near entrance and speakers (I had imagined a room where I could do so unseen at the back) but fatigue dispelled any embarrassment, and after all it enabled me to stay on. Self-consciousness surfaced days later when I started to get over the worst of the exertion, along with useless thoughts about what I had missed.
Why am I writing about this experience when it makes me so uncomfortable to dwell on how having M.E. affects me? Last year I tried hard to focus on my art, most of which I make lying down, and put being ill into the background, of course without ever neutralising its steady, sharp, poisonous sting. My motivation to be evasive about the extent of ‘my’ M.E. was manifold:
• I hate the effects of being ill, how it slows me down so treacherously, curbs control and independence and makes my world smaller.
• I keep thinking improvement is just around the corner.
• I was/am worried that it will negatively affect, even dispel, offers of opportunities to exhibit my work.
• I don't want to be labelled.
• I don't want my art seen through its prism.
• I have times when I judge myself for being ill, as if it was a matter of willpower. (That’s not being helped by the prevailing complacent attitudes towards people with M.E.)
• And last year, which after all was a good one in terms of visibility of my art, I had hoped that my work would pull me bodily out into the world too.
I can’t keep this up. It stops me communicating as I’d like to, openly and truthfully. So this is an attempt at finding a more realistic stance, a valid modus operandi, not just here, blogging, but in my life. I feel I need to acknowledge again, to myself, to you: I’m an artist who has got M.E. It affects everything I do. And here I can and will make a case too: Because of illness I may be limited in what I can do/where I can go, but my art is good and will be out, and I’ve got things to say, and will say them. I will use this blog to write about my art-practice, which includes talking about how my ability to get on in the (art-)world is affected by my physical circumstances and what that might mean for an artist, because there are loads of us.


Susan Kruse said...

Good for you! It is relevant that you share your experience of ME because it affects how much you can make, how you can interact with the artworld, how many times you can exhibit in a year etc. I think that it is good that people can express how they really are. We are none of us super-beings and all of us need support in some way, acknowledging that makes us kinder, more flexible people I think.
For me, knowing that I have a brain on the autism spectrum (a recent knowledge) has changed how I think about myself as an artist and helped me see that there are common things that most folks do without thinking, that are very difficult or impossible for me. So I don't get angry with myself when I do things 'wrong,' knowing that I couldn't do those things properly even if I tried!
I think maybe it is the same for you because your experience of movement and energy is so different to most folks, that of course there are things that you just cannot do.
Also, being open and honest about a difficulty or disability allows other people to express understanding, accommodation and allows them in turn share their difficulties or restrictions. It's a great big circle of acceptance!

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