Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Rat Rose Bird(ing) again...

Whilst putting together a Tour Pack for Rat Rose Bird (my current fun task) I came across this piece of writing I did for the Fierce Festival brochure in 2011. It reminded that I showed the same two pieces there as I am currently thinking about now. Here it is:

Video Still from My Compass Rose (Sheila Ghelani 2008)
Covet Me Care For Me and Rat Rose Bird

Two sides of the same coin.

Two pieces about the same subject.
The same period of time.
The same events.

Two different approaches.
Two different outcomes.

Moving in opposite directions.



Covet Me Care For Me was made in 2007 in the middle of a maelstrom.
It involved a short focussed making process and took me to some precious places:

Into the glass-makers studio and up-close with alchemy.
Over to Farringdon to explore the local jewellery quarter.
Into the wholesale shops of East London's watch-sellers.
And over to Angel to an engravers stall.

Stationers, haberdashers, junk shops, picture-framers.

I bought the hammer in a local DIY store.
The long rubber audience gloves in a very conveniently placed plumbers.


Rat Rose Bird has been its opposite in every way.
Although begun in 2008, it will only just be finished in time for Fierce (2011).

A long, lengthy, drawn out process, involving short bursts of making, interrupted by long periods of forgetting.

Perhaps to make it possible for me to:

Keep going into wedding shops.
Smile sweetly whilst buying roses and champagne (to waste and smash).
Discover a gruesome freezer at the back of all pet shops.
Spend hours and hours reading about colonialism.
Pretend my house has rats in order to buy traps.
Ignore supermarket lights as I queue for small pots of cream.

Sift through toys in pound shops.
Sift through thoughts at bus stops.

Carry a chest of drawers up the hill in the rain.
And up the stairs.
And up the steps.
And into the van.
In the middle of the night.

To drive through traffic, with a stranger making me explain.


Several times whilst trailing from shop to shop I've wondered to myself what it's all about.


Once this piece has been shown for the first time, I think something new is going to start:

A new phase of work.
A new interest.
A new type of looking.
A new love.


I am going to spend my coin.


I am going to buy a glass of something nice.
To raise towards the future
To start something new.
Video Still from My Compass Rose (Sheila Ghelani 2008
My arms are going to be wide open.

I am going to be smiling.

I am going to be looking forward.

I am going to be looking towards you.


I will be starting again.


Fingers crossed eh?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Thought stalking

I'm off to a swing dance class in a moment in preparation for Clod Ensemble's Swing Night next week in Stoke Newington.  Aside from wondering if I'll remember how to dance I'm looking forward to it.  It'll be nice meeting some new people and getting to move my hips a bit.  I'm looking forward to having some new conversations, the big band sounds, the mingling of lots of different people, chatting to strangers.  Which, is becoming a bit of a theme this week, because at the weekend I was in Ipswich at Pulse with Rajni Shah Theatre Company literally 'Writing Letters to Strangers'. We met some incredible people there... 

The invitation is simple. Write a letter to someone you don't know and in return you get one back.  It's an idea people immediately 'get' and are intrigued by. What would you say to a stranger? I guess the main thing that is delightful for me (and what makes me feel really lucky to be involved) is that people are so open to sharing their life stories or titbits of advice or just sharing a cup of tea, if space to do that is provided...  And it's always the people who you think would be least interested that actually are...  It actually makes me love people (which isn't always easy)...

So, whilst I'm yet to make it to my studio this week (sigh), meeting and working with others is really useful for my own practice.  New vistas open. New thoughts pop into my head...  Unexpected conversations are had and that's really refreshing. And when it's in a festival context (like Pulse) I get to see the new and brilliant work of others (of which there was much).

Stalking a thought in Newcastle in 2010
But, time soon to start gathering together thoughts I'm having for the next work I guess.  They're there alright.  At the moment I'm just coolly observing them as if I'm not interested in them at all.  Giving them space. Not letting them know I'm looking... Doing that purposeful ignoring thing.  None acknowledgement. I like to make this moment last at long as possible... The circling around a thought.  It's a precious moment when anything is possible. 

Time to shift all that soon I guess though... BUT... Not quite yet.  
 Tra la la...

Friday, 1 June 2012


This week my studio moved to Portslade, to the Blast Theory space just outside of Brighton.  In a way, it's an odd thing to do, to come away from your own environment, your own things, to inhabit somewhere else.  But that's also what is kind of nice.  To be freed from 'stuff', to sit in an empty room and see what that feels like.  Ummm... Mostly, it's meant I've sat at my computer all week, writing a public talk, writing an application, writing emails, writing this...with a few jaunts out in the evening and day.  To see other artists, to see new work, to look at the sea.

The sea...

Hove Beach/Sea

What is it about water exactly?  I went and saw Dream Think Speak's show last night and there is an epic moment when as an audience you feel submerged.  You become surrounded by footage of water and Ophelia floats around you and about you weightless and looming and it's like you're in a container somewhere. It's a really nice moment in the filmic dream-like Hamlet...

Lots to think about. Lots of food for thought.
Questions raised about 'practice' from the talk I gave on Wednesday and more plans emerging out of some of the conversations I've had...

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Open Notebook

1) Some questions I have been asking myself:

What are the gaps?
What is missing?
What could happen?
Who with?
Who else?

2) A potential name for a new piece:


(A word with a double meaning - To cling together/To cut asunder)

3) Another couple of pieces of knowledge to unravel thanks to James Peto's The Heart:

The Sufi link between the heart and the rose.
The idea that everyone's heart is different and that a surgeon has to get to know its character.
That hearts are capricious. That a surgeon must be humble.
That because there was a belief that the heart could be filled with feelings, it began to be viewed as a recepticle or jar.

Covet Me Care For Me close-up at Trove as part of Fierce Festival 2011 photo credit Katja Ogrin
4) An interest in Taxonomy/Taxonomies...

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Screen Talk

Multiple Screens used in my show Rat Rose Bird.  Photo Credit: Briony Campbell

A theatre student from Scarborough Campus Hull Uni asked me last week why I use screens in my work and I wrote a quick statement for her... It's rather dry, but thought I'd post it up here as may well be useful again sometime in the future. Who knows...Thanks Alice Wicker for asking me the question in the first place!

"I use screens in a variety of ways in my practice. Not all of works feature them but a sufficient number do to warrant identifying them as a medium that is an important part of my artistic palette. I use them as they allow me to draw attention to details that the audience might not otherwise look at, or be able to see, or otherwise have access to.

For example in Grafting and Budding they allow the audience another viewpoint of the live action (a different angle at a different scale). In this work the screen elevates the live action making it epic. The pictures I am making on the tabletop, with spices, apples, materials, become more important than watching me the performer 'performing' (or at least AS important). The screen also reminds the audience to look again. They are silmutaneously being shown alternative viewpoints of the same event. This is particularly important in Grafting and Budding as the work is all about what can be seen or read through looking at the surface of 'things' or people. If the audience can so easily be shown the same event from different angles what else could they be 'seeing'? Should they trust their eyes, or should they dig deeper?

Similarly in Give Me Land Lots of Land, the audience are able to choose to either watch the on-screen glamorous version of me, where I miraculously make objects appear from my mouth, or, the 'real' version lying on a dusty floor with the mechanics of the 'trick' exposed.

In Rat Rose Bird I use both live feed and pre-recorded footage. The live-feed is used to make a very small scene appear normal scale and the pre-recorded footage gives audience access to diary like clips that aren't made for the stage. These images are then relayed across multiple screens at the same time in order to draw attention to the movement of the clips. This again has the effect of elevating them/makes them epic/makes them something 'other'. The onscreen action almost becomes like choreographed dance scenes and the televisions take on a sculptural quality when viewed as objects. The pre-recorded clips hint at other histories and different narratives and remind the audience to remember.

The type of screen I use is also not an arbitrary decision - the television/the largescale cinema screen/the angle the live-feed is shot at and how these are presented in relation to my live body are always very carefully considered in relation to the idea I am trying to convey."


Thursday, 17 May 2012

For the love of objects...

My studio is nearly ship-shape and in order at last.  Only a few piles of thoughts, papers and folders to go through, and then I'm pretty much sorted in terms of everything finally having a 'place'. I guess then I'm onto making the NEXT PIECE (that had to be written in capitals in homage to some distant teenage self).  It's been an interesting process sorting through everything and one which would have been finished ages ago if I hadn't kept getting waylaid by random scribbles and threads of text.  Here's a nice thought I just came across in one of my notebooks: 

"If we give objects the friendship they should have, we do not open a wardrobe without a slight start.  Beneath its russet wood, a wardrobe is a very white almond. To open it, is to experience an event of whiteness." 
Bachelard's Poetics of Space pg87

Objects used in "Give Me Land Lots of Land..."
Its a strange fragment but I like it because if you know my work you'll know I DO love objects...and not just objects... furniture, things, 'stuff', the arrangement of them in the room, on the floor, against a wall... anywhere. I'm always experiencing 'a slight start' in relation to them...and hopefully enabling others to do so also. 

I am a resistant collector. That much I know. 

I must have copied the text down when I was thinking about objects and the work they 'do' in my pieces.  

BUT equally the idea of  'an event of whiteness' is also very useful...

'An event of whiteness'...  

I have a funny feeling I might come back to that...

Monday, 7 May 2012

Let's start with the heart

On the wall in my studio is a gilt-framed anatomical picture of the heart, red, blue, yellowing, clear. The pump. A muscle. Mapped out. Bloodless.  It used to hang in my bedroom. It's been out and about on tour. And now it's here on the wall in my studio in Deptford.  I'm wondering what it will see me doing in here... in this smallish space... mostly alone... day by day...
Perhaps stuff like:
Thinking, Making, Doing, Dreaming, Sleeping, Surfing, Sitting...
Writing. Drinking, Drawing, Cutting, Capturing, Carving, Printing.
Image credit: Nicolas Brodard
Things not yet thought of.
Making hands.
And boring stuff like reciepts. Phonecalls. Skype. Budgets. Lists.
Lots of lists. With things ticked off.
And Art.
Lets hope (!)
There at the centre.
The point of it all.
Some making, thinking and doing of


Okey cokey.
Deep breath.
Fingers crossed...