Life is a Journey. MA Fine Art.
Before returning to the UK I had spent years researching my personal history as an adoptee. I felt I had come to terms with what I knew and didn't know and probably never would. However I had always been uncomfortable with not knowing and uncertainty which often caused me quite severe physical symptoms and stresses as I had explored in my BA (Hons) in Fine Art in 'White Noise.'
So I chose to continue developing this research for my MA Fine Art , also at Plymouth University. My research regarding being as an adoptee concerned the affects of displacement and loss examining how an embodied arts process can express a wide range of felt experiences. I wanted to explore how not knowing about aspects of my life could still affect me. I wanted to re-find a place in the world where all was well and complete.
My research following the BA (Hons) in Fine art reminded me of Georgia O'Keefe's words which sum up my experience as an adoptee at that time
'I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for "
To colour and shapes I would add movement and light as part of my own creative language and so the development of a personal expressive vocabulary unfolds and deepens. This language can incorporate a full range of pre-verbal feelings and felt qualities from the most intense to the most vague and confusing.
The 17th Century philosopher Spinoza suggested that whatever traumas affect us leaves an intangible, felt, confused memory indelibly carried within. An example of 'affect' is when we say something e.g. a picture, action or phenomena strikes us (Dewey 2005:51) and we notice physical sensations, odd feelings and confused thoughts, before we have any understanding of the experience, if we ever do. Moreover, Spinoza, (Nadler:2011) thought that if we didn't understand how everything is determined by universal laws, purposeless systems of cause and affect, then this would result in negativity and passivity.
Sometimes trauma means we simply don't move beyond confusion to understanding and are left tongue tied and unable to articulate what is happening. I can certainly attest to that experience, as before understanding this process I would often be unable to find words, left feeling confused and stupid even though I knew I was not. This was very shaming and difficult to live with. However, luckily I did have an innate faith in my intuition and when sailing and travelling this became a much utilised skill which I have found all experienced professionals working on the land or sea rely on and highly value.
As Spinoza suggests everything material flows in constantly changing patterns and forces affecting us all as physical sensations, thoughts and feelings which create bodily held felt memories even before we have verbal communication skills. So pre-verbal memories, feelings and sensations may continue to affect us in response to particular materials, colours, movements and tempos in the present and throughout life. However Spinoza found that 'intuitive knowledge' of universal laws explains why everything naturally is the way it is. This can weaken the affect of externally induced emotions and feelings thereby activating and enlivening life and giving us a voice. This is important (Brennan 2004:155) because
The more conscious we become of what we repress (remembering here that primary repression is the
repression of unprocessed sensory information) or ignore... the less consciousness is drowned in the
swamp of affects. But such conscious consciousness is only possible when we invent or reinvent the
words to say it
Consequently I wanted to explore how the stress of loss and change what was still affecting me, at that time. Where were the blank spots which left me speechless and inarticulate? To explore these intangible qualities and feelings I chose to explore this indirectly through a similar huge loss in my life. The imminent loss of my childhood home, a traditional dairy farm in East Devon. This was just prior to the farm being developed into Cranbrook, the first new town (6,500 homes) to be built in Devon since the Middle Ages. This home was my heart and soul and I was devastated to be losing it in this way. Even though I hadn't lived at Tillhouse for 40 years and can't remember the field names, responses to the farm are still engrained in me and always will be.
To approach this emotive subject I used an embodied meditative practise to photograph, video and work with materials subtle felt qualities. I spent days and hours at the farm, dwelling in the farm, noticing and recording subtle phenomena that happened to create intangible, embodied responses in me. Processing the images and videos in a variety of ways, slowing them down, reversing them etc revealed strange connections and new perspectives hinting at the mystical and deepening my understanding. this in turn strengthened my intuition and ability to be present. The installations and videos which ensued are open to interpretation. They invite the viewer to examine their own responses to the unknown and inexplicable. These video installation experiences, which are never resolved, may uncover underlying feelings and memories, interweaving both tensions and delights to both intrigue and inspire.
To see the videos of the images below please follow the links below.
Sadly there was an arson attack during the building of Cranbrook and Tillhouse Farm house is now a gutted ruin.
For further information please read my presentation at The Home and the World Conference 2012
in downloadable pdf of Life is a Journey
To view the videos please click on these links and view in full screen:
To listen to the sound work please listen here, preferably using head phones:
Poetry has been important to my process work throughout.
For poems that link to this work please read here