How to treat all this work?
I asked artists and creative friends to contribute to this project. In total 21 artists collaborated, which is pretty fabulous. Some of them sent multiple responses which were very different, so in total I had about 30 collaborative responses. It was a great way to objectify my physical self, in an abstract way and address all the issues I had experienced initially around being photographed in this way, by seeing this photo treated in so many different visual ways.
I was motivated to start the project around the slowing down of life during lockdown and having no choice but to have to confront oneself. It was something about being 45 right now and just to celebrate being alive and also to normalise middle aged women’s bodies. I felt the need to insist on people having to look at my sack of flesh, by placing it bang slap into their social media feed, ha ha! Feast your eyes on this, suckers! I didn’t ENJOY this, but I felt it necessary in some way.
I say ‘middle aged’ as I do feel in the middle right now, not young or old, and for me that is to be celebrated, not seen in a derivative light. Also a friend had spoken to me about becoming invisible in public as she got older- that men no longer noticed her- I thought this was interesting and it got me thinking about how much we do/do not wish to be seen. If you wanted to be noticed would you try harder? Is the adulation of youth and vigour something we value more as we ourselves age? I’m not too worried about whether men notice me or not and I feel that ageing has brought its advantages, which far outweigh the disadvantages. Also I’m not that bloody old I do realise. I can still do whatever I want physically if I really try and devote the time to train for it. No excuses there. But I do know it requires energy to be ‘seen’ seen, as in if you want to be noticed, if that makes sense. But how might you want to be seen is what interests me.
And as for self love, as already mentioned, when I saw the photos of myself initially I had to hide them away on my laptop and process them for a week. I felt 16 again and all my inner critic voices were shouting loud, I was having a hard time not hating what I saw. I was able to get a little more objective about it after a few days, but those initial feelings were the catalyst for going ahead with the project- It felt necessary. I reminded myself that it’s only a body, flesh and bones, I am basically just one more sack of flesh crawling around this big rock.
I continue to make performance work, and during lockdown it became at its most basic level a way to stay grounded and sane during this time. I have lost a lot of the initial inhibitions I had around putting myself out there, well some of them, and am now in a place where I mostly appreciate the fact that I get to make it. Never enough time so no time to overthink it when the time comes! I am still time poor and do most of my thinking whilst engaged in other tasks, but I’ve come to accept that this is how it is and that as long as the work gets made one way or another that’s what matters.
It has been a really interesting and emotive experience receiving these collaborations, I am just starting other work shortly and am in the process of wrapping up this project. On the most basic level the project made me feel lucky to have all these amazing creatives that I know around the world- it was a source of motivation and comfort during lockdown. I was thinking initially about how cool it would be to make performances responding to the images- as in invent characters based on the digital collabs made for me- still thinking about how this might look. Going to make some drawings to develop this idea.