I reread the post I had written when first come across the artist parent carer opportunity from PS2. At the end of the post I had written
‘I have decided I am going to be more vocal about my own carer role. I am proud of what I have achieved over the years in my carer role. Being a carer has taught me to be stronger, more resilient, less compromising, and has taught me patience and most importantly, to stop giving a shit about the small stuff. It also hugely informs my work, and always has done.’
When I was selected for the residency with PS2, and then had the chance to actually think about how I was going to spend the time, I decided to explore the notion of being a carer, and how it informs my practice. I had not deliberately set out to do this before, and ironically when I started to take a deep dive into the subject, I realised quickly it had indirectly been informing and pretty much shaping my practice for nearly 10 years. It was an audacious prospect for me, to address this theme, and I had to grapple with privacy- how to look at such deeply personal subject matter.
The residency allowed me, literally gave me permission, to take a step away and think about things. I had the official support of an organisation for a month, to use in any way I felt suitable. A significant opportunity for any artist, and for one who is a carer, much more so.
I decided I was going to work remotely for most of the residency, from home and from my studio space here in Ennis. And also, I was going to make two short trips to Belfast to spend time in PS2. These trips would allow me the luxury of just being with myself, and only having my art practice to focus on. The trips proved to be very significant, and useful in more ways than one. As I’d predicted, my best laid plans to work remotely weren’t as straightforward as I’d hoped, given the chaos of summer holidays and other contributing factors, and resulted in time being snatched here and there in short bursts.
So the scheduled trips up north were so valuable, as a chance to temporarily leave my parenting and carer duties in good conscience, and to allow myself the opportunity to develop and think about the work in a different space.
Thinking about what I hoped to achieve- given the open ended nature of the residency, deliberately crafted as such by PS2 in order to allow the recipient to use the time in whatever way worked best for them, I had set goals for myself. I ‘achieved’ these while in Belfast, but once back home in between trips, my ‘productivity’ lessened. I had to rethink my goals and whether my plan to produce a new body of work within the space of the residency was realistic. I travelled to Belfast for my second trip, changing trains and hauling brown paper up and down the country.
The trips allowed me space, to sit, to ponder, to get some objectivity and perspective on things. To slow down. I realised the value in giving myself permission to do this, to be afforded the time away. I hadn’t realised the most valuable part of all this experience would not be in the production of the work, but the time on the train, the walking around Belfast, the lovely chats in PS2, the opportunity to think and plan. All this was the start of something, not a timeframe to be used up, completed and neatly boxed off.
I left PS2 after the second trip and travelled back down to Clare on my various trains, festooned with brown paper and rolled up canvas (thanks Davy Mahon from PS2 for the packaging help) knowing that I would not get an uninterrupted opportunity to think and make again for some time. But that was ok, as the uninterrupted time I had just experienced meant that I was returning home as a more rested, calmer version of myself with a better perspective on how to move forward with my practice.
This is why residencies like this are so important for artists like me. PS2 not only extended support, but also officially recognised the importance of carer parent artists being deserving of time and space. Making the invisible visible.
I would like to thank PS2, especially Jane and Davy, for their support, kindness, generosity of spirit and also extend my admiration, as the steering and management of an arts organisation is not always easy, when regular funding is not a guarantee. It takes resilience and strategic thinking, and a deep love of the arts.
I got the opportunity to rest, and to research, and to commence the development of a significant new body of work, all of which the residency afforded me to do. My summer is back to its normal chaos. I will continue as usual to think, plan, grab time here and there and make work in short bursts, but with the benefits and memory of my month of PS2 support behind me.