Reviewing key research questions

img_6812With the summer 2019 seminar complete, I look back on my key research questions, and I see I have worked out some answers to the things I didn’t want to talk about…

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How do I explore personal histories and experiences with some neutrality or distance? Without sharing too much; is it editing, is it media, such as text, performance, stitch, or objects themselves?

Inviting other women to participate in I say a little prayer for you, and acting as a collator / facilitator, I was able to shift the focus (and intensity of the content the work) away from my personal narrative, while still, hopefully, not diluting the content. I think other voices and experiences opened up the project to both a broader discussion and created space to hear diverse stories within the framework I established. There were echos of myself in the portraits and stories shared.

This was a move in another direction, whereas earlier I had been looking at recontextualising the content or material to translate it.

Performing potentially brought focus back to me, however, and I stepped into a more vulnerable space to make the performance. Which is actually what I was trying to avoid. But I think it was key for the work…

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How does performance change the work? Do I need to look at more diverse methods / media to ‘perform’ or ‘activate’ the work more fully, or more effectively open up the conversation? Sound/audio audio visual for example?

Performing and reading the stories and reflections women shared attempted to draw attention away from the objects and ask the viewer / listener to consider deeper questions and ideas present in the work. It seemed the most direct way to present what felt like the true heart of the project, where the meaning resided. I’m considering other ways to ‘voice’ these stories, via audio recording, more contemplative spaces? Making books?

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What is the ‘art’ and where does it exist; is it in the work I present, is it the experience in the making, the social interaction, or the finished object itself? Where do I sit with projects that are collaborative, am I a facilitator? artist? collaborator? editor?

This is the most challenging part of the project, I think the really important moment in this work, I say a little prayer for you, happens in the private spaces where women created their portraits, in the bathroom, the bedroom, intimate and domestic.

My challenge is to work out how to bring this space, which I haven’t even seen, into the institutional context, or bring the institution to the space. Somehow. Is this an actual move, a physical location, or documentation, re-enactment?

My role is more about care, support and curating, I created a framework for organising and assembling the portraits (they were sewn together in the order they were received), which removed the chance of creating a hierarchy, gave me some distance, and less decisions to make. I feel a sense of responsibility to the work that the participants have brought to me, their words, and the time they have given to the project. So, it’s about feeling supported by these women, and also feeling a duty of care. Complex. Also, life.

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Thanks Victoria Hollings for the photos.

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