This July marks the 20th anniversary of my first graduation. (For anyone who doesn't know, I went to Art College 3 times.)
It was a bittersweet day filled with happy tears, relief, family and friends' love and support, and a darker undercurrent of feeling like a fraud and very undeserving of the degree I had just been awarded.
I had spent three years struggling with a course I had no passion or general aptitude for. Time Based Art is an odd fish, I hated digital media and found it time consuming, clumsy and lacking in the immediacy of drawing or making things in clay.
I had no choice but to stick it out as I was refused a change to the sculpture department, so I got on with not learning enough about video production, digital media and life outside of art school that the only thing stopping me from failing completely was my Art History tutors and a very good dissertation.
I had lost my self worth, I stopped doing most things I found pleasure in almost as a form of penance, and had learned to put on a fake smile worthy of a best actress Oscar, so nobody was more surprised than me when I was then accepted to do a Master's degree just over 2 years later. I will forever be indebted to my course director Kevin Henderson for giving me a second chance, but again, I struggled. I couldn't find my place or what I was adept at and fell into a world of familiarity- video production and performance art.
This time it felt different. The rich creative environment, and encouragement from tutors and classmates instilled a tiny sliver of confidence in what I was doing and made me feel I finally had something worth saying.
My projects were based on memories of familiar locations and maintaining a connection to the memory, and often the (personal) history of a place.
Through several performance pieces I attempted to physically connect people and landmarks using ‘drawings’- chalk lines, serving to highlight the impermanence of the connection or memory, with a tinge of nostalgia to childhood street drawings.
I had also started dancing again. One of the many things I had given up on whilst losing all sense of myself.
My original plan for finishing my MFA was to incorporate both drawing and dancing in a video performance. It never materialised, but it’s always been a quiet voice in my head that I hear when I’m willing to listen… dance, draw, draw,dance...drawdance.
This is the important thread, as it connects what I was doing then to what I'm doing now.
Fast forward 17 years, 2 kids, a husband, and a third stint at Duncan of Jordanstone, my first instinct was to find a regular life drawing class after everything came to a grinding halt in 2014.
To cut a long and convoluted part of my life into a bite-sized chunk, I was once again feeling I had lost my sense of self. Motherhood can do that, add in to the mix a whole host of SEN, I was too exhausted and drained to care about much else.
A friend strongly suggested I go to a dance class.
I was horrified!
When I’ve mentioned dancing before, it’s not in the accepted sense of going to a structured class and learning a set of moves. Oh no. I’ve always been much more interested in moving. Wild, free-form, throw yourself around the room, rag-doll dancing.
The dance-like-nobody-is-watching type of dancing, because nobody ever was watching!
I relented and went along to my first 5-Rhythms class. 4 hours of free-form, throw yourself around the room dancing, but with other people, partner work and sometimes no music. I spent most of the session sobbing through fear and anxiety.
But I was hooked.
Fast forward again, to last year- February 2019.
I took part in a weekend workshop called ‘Drawn To Dance’. A full weekend of dancing, drawing, drawing,dancing... drawingdancing.
If anything in the world was made for me, then this was it.
And so I’m back to making video and performance work.
I'm still dancing.
And this time I am trying to create a physical connection to a very restricted and disconnected world during Covid-19 lockdown.
I think I may have finally found that sense of self, ironically when all other avenues have been restricted and I’ve had no choice but to listen harder.
“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.”
Below is a video of a performance piece which was part of the PARIP forum, filmed outside The Arches in Glasgow in 2003. Almost, where all of this started.