I am embarking in my residency with PS2 this week. I’ve been going about my days thinking, plotting, planning. I’ve been thinking about the stuff I do each day with slightly more subjectivity. I go around as standard in a frenzied trot all day doing stuff, making lists in copy books and backs of envelopes.
I have been writing down thoughts. My initial proposal was to explore this idea of carer/artist. I think it’s interesting to think about what actions, meanings or preconceptions that people connote with the word carer.
Like, a caring person.
Someone who cares.
For me it was a word bestowed upon me 8 years ago, when I applied to get a tax allowance to allow me to be recognised for my carer work and also work part time. I had become a carer out of necessity. Either me or my partner had to. As my income was less at the time, economically it made sense for it to be me. Our kid had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy at 9 months old. The daily struggle to get to physio done, and meeting occupational therapy/orthotics/ hospital/ doctor appointments, manage work and our other kids had gotten to a point where it was no manageable. CP is an open-ended diagnosis. Doctors can diagnose a small child as they recognise the physiological signs but they don’t know what it will mean for a future life. Will the person be walking? Will they need a wheelchair? Will they be able to live independently? All unknowns when the kid is tiny. So you live with the unknowing. You live in the present and therefore learn to maximise what positive actions you can take at any given time. And it’s important to note that you live with the social and cultural reactions of others.
Now, that was all a long time ago as the kid in question is now 11, has 7 pet stick insects, loves pasta and Taylor swift. As, diagnosis or not, life goes on. And I have been wearing this carer hat now for 8 years officially. 11 unofficially. This residency though is not about my kid, even though inadvertently I will end up talking about them a bit. But their dignity and privacy is key here, as it wasn’t them who submitted a proposal to do a residency with PS2.
I think it comes back to addressing how caring, for me, is actually a significant gift. Now that sounds saccharine, like an insta reel about some American family. But going back to people and society’s initial connotations, caring I have found, is perceived as a burden, a sacrifice. (Jane, Curator of PS2, memorably said in a zoom, that when announcing the residency she wanted to avoid any carer porn. People feeling pity. I mean, I couldn’t have put it better.) And for me it has given me much much more than I can give back. It got rid of my nuclear ability to procrastinate, it got rid of my self dislike, it got rid of me having time to worry about the small shit. It made me focus, get serious, stop pissing about, set goals, push myself. Completely stop caring, at all, what other people think of me. It made me approach my work with an intensity that I suspect I would not have had without being in this situation.
I said this in a blog post previously- what I am interested in is how being a carer influences my work.
My carer role was already in place when I reembarked on a creative path, commencing my MA in 2016. So, it has been there, alongside everything I’ve done, made, produced, researched since then. And I’ve come to realise it has influenced everything- how I do things, how I approach things, how I live. Now, that all is what it is, but is it worth looking at, exploring, discussing? Because surely we are all influenced by our surroundings, the lives we lead. Nothing different there.
And, tied in with this is parenting in general, feminism and the role of the mother, caring and gender.
So after these thoughts had jostled about for a bit in my cranium, I started making drawings, I started in a comfortable place. Using brown fruit paper and acrylic paint.
When I talk the dog for a walk locally I witness the changing hedge grows, particularly the sea of daisies bobbing and swaying on the sides of the road. The timing is pertinent, as now they are dying, drooping, the petals withering and falling off. They are at their most aesthetically interesting to me at this present time.
I took photo after photo of these dying daisies.
I had started making marks on my brown paper, with red lines. Red is an important semiotic indicator in my practice. I wear red a lot for my performance work. It stands out visually and has associations of power and strength. I introduced one more colour (2 colours is usually enough for me). The red lines were pretty uncompromising and I needed something that could do its own thing alongside the red marks. The drawings are a series of interactions between carer and caree (caree? just made that word up). The red line represents the recipient of the care, and the teal daisies being the carer.
The red line is strong and wont move, actually it often cant move. The daisies are older, yet vigorous, and trying to find a way to work with the red line. They are hanging around moving enthusiastically behind and around the stubborn red line. The drawings are loaded for me emotionally. I need to make more. I visualise a wall of these drawings.