My Praxis-Forum presentation is coming up. It’s going to be on 8th October. Last time, Andy and Dionysia were the ones who showed us their work alongside a talk by guest artist Karel Doing. I like the difference between meeting people through the ways we normally meet people – being in proximity to each other and making small talk, often about the reason we are in proximity to each other in the first place – and meeting people through the art we make. As we said our goodbyes at the end of session, I realised that I’ve been with Andy and Dionysia for 4 months now without really being “with” them at all.
4 months was the length of my last romantic relationship. It felt long for me and short for them. I wrote to my friend Siân about it using lots of inverted commas. I was writing to invite her to an exhibition I was in (which featured the work I’ll be presenting next month) even though she lives in Edinburgh and the exhibition was in London. I also wrote to tell her I was about to order her book that came out in July called Naked and Practical, which she describes as a collection of short stories about how people come to know what it is that they want. I typed: I’ve got plans to read it with someone I used to “go out with” but it wasn’t turning into “a love thing” so now we’re “just sleeping together”.
Who are you and what do you want? is the quote Karel Doing has up on the screen during his talk. He’s a film maker and is running us through some theories on utopia. I can’t remember who he said said Who are you and what do you want? now but this man, whoever he was – I think someone artistic and well-known – used to say it when he met people to figure out if they were worth pursuing a relationship with or not. If they answered something that was of interest to him, he’d go for it. If their answer didn’t interest him, he’d leave it there. It seemed quite efficient and the kind of thing I’d aspire to do, although I wondered whether I’d be a bit annoyed if I was the person on the receiving end.
But why? Questions are great – they can reveal the intentions of the asker and give the responder the opportunity to give their chosen truth. Asking questions and being prepared for the impact of the answers is an important part of learning about consent. Asking for and giving consent was a significant part of the work I had in the show I invited Siân to. Meg-John and Justin’s Make your own relationship user guide is a downloadable zine full of activities to get a little bit closer to as they put it to a more consensual and intentional way of doing relationships. I’m a massive fan of theirs and have been using this zine to think about the whys and whats of my relationships for a while now.
Thinking about questions and power dynamics, I’m reminded of the questions we asked Dionysia in response to her film. She’s been interviewing people in Greece involved in the Civil War between 1946 and 1949 to give an alternative history of the USA’s humanitarian aid programme called the Marshall Plan. As we watched snippets of her film and viewed the absurdly long rug that her grandmother had woven from the donated clothes that were too fancy to wear, Dionysia was asked, what is your agenda? what are the ethics at play here? It seemed murky, it seemed tricky; it felt to me as if it was art about people and how they relate to each other.
People and how they relate to each other is what I like to make art about. I was thinking about this as I listened to Dionysia as well as when I momentarily zoned out – suddenly feeling the need to add *paintbrushes so got 7 *put TV up and see if plug works + headphones *get extra ends for gutter to my notes from the evening. It was the night before the first day of install for the exhibition (the one I’d invited Siân to) and it was weighing heavy on my mind.
Before Dionysia and Karel, Andy spoke about the splash of a diving figure he’d made entering a body of water. The splash represented Andy’s experience of the neurological disturbance created when the surface is broken between the conscious and the subconscious. We discussed his black to white fractal patterns triggered by the presence of the public as well as the spiritual interpretation attributed to such subconscious experiences. Several members of the group questioned the pleasantness of Andy’s rendering of the experience, which he’d described as the opposite. Is it cathartic? Shouldn’t it be more horrible?
On 8th October I’ll be asking to hear my fellow Praxis-Formers’ responses to A Facility for Fluid Sharers (pictured). It’s a work station I made over the summer complete with mucus membranes, fluids, dispensers and stimulators cast in silicone. It’s the setting for live workshops that provide an opportunity to practice making choices together within the context of sexual relationships – specifically which fluids you’d like to give and which you’d like to receive – via the medium of paper marbling. I made the work during my participation in LCN – an artist development programme at SPACE. My production tutor Levin Haegele really took to the silicone simulators, talking about the bodily curiosity of being met by an object you’re not sure how to use, adjusting your body to it and bending it to adjust to you.
Our abilities to adapt and adjust and the willingness to do so in a society that seeks to disempower those of us with disabilities was a conversation we briefly touched upon during one of our Praxis-Forum online meet ups, and is one I’m really looking forward to talking about more…
Watch the demonstration video for A Facility for Fluid Sharers here: http://www.chloecooper.co.uk/index.php?/project/a-facility-for-fluid-sharers/
Cummin up is a Caribbean takeaway with a stall in Lewisham Shopping centre – I sometimes stop by for a lamb patty on my way to pick up art materials http://cumminup.co.uk/
Siân Robinson Davies is a writer, performer and teacher. Naked and Practical is out now https://www.sianrd.com/
Meg-John and Justin are all about sex and relationship advice, ideas, and education. You can download their user guide here: https://megjohnandjustin.com/product/make-your-own-relationship-user-guide/
London Creative Network (LCN) is a tailored development programme for artists and creative practitioners in London with a focus on innovative technologies or processes. More info on the 5th edition here: http://www.spacestudios.org.uk/artist-development/space-lcn-showcase-sep-2018/