Needy sheep and a 50 mile time trial resulted in a solitary run for me this morning (only Big Dog for company and she is not much of a conversationalist when surrounded by wide open spaces, wildlife and fresh horse poo). The result was ponderings a plenty as I had the luxury of seven miles of peace and quiet to contemplate the happenings of the past week and was surprised to find the thread of a theme running through it.
Here in the UK we had a minor political event last Thursday, that being the small matter of a General Election. Right up until the last moment I was still umming and aahhing, influenced by the last thing I had read on social media or heard on the news, and it occurred to me how much easier these decisions had been for me in my twenties and thirties when I had a strong political identity. I didn’t need to listen to promises and try to work out how much Peter was going to be robbed to pay Paul (and whether this was acceptable) as with an identity came ideals and it was these that guided the cross (of pencil in box variety).
Identity matters! It gives us a sense of belonging (you only have to venture into Southampton city centre on a Saturday afternoon amidst the sea of red and white striped shirts to know this). It helps us to relate to one another in social gatherings (being a something makes life so much easier when asked the inevitable “and what do you do for a living?”). But while we may embrace the positives associated with wearing our label on the outside we also recognise that while we might be individuals with a shared identity, who wants to be a stereotype? I cringe inwardly when friends introduce me as a Knitter and describe what I do as Craft. Knitters make sweaters, socks and gloves, right? Yes I knit and I used to be a Knitter but my identity is currently evolving into what? artist? maker? designer? procrastinator!? Heck what do I call myself? My inner critic panics in these situations suggesting that this unintended faux pas in labelling me and my intentions, suggests that my friends don’t get me which, rather than resulting from a lack of communication on my part, surely is a reflection of the inadequacy of my work!
Labels and names have connotations too (for us and/or others) so in the words of Prince Roger Nelson: what’s in a name? I’m sure the revered Purple One didn’t realise he had anything in common with a teenage witch in denial but both Prince and Agnes Nitt knew how important a name can be. The former famously changed his to a symbol in 1993 so that his relentless productivity could not be tempered by contractual obligations to his record company. The latter developed a pseudonym into a full blown second personality as Perdita X Dream complete with black lace gloves to give her permission to be more than just a great personality and good hair, something that an Agnes is probably always destined to be.
During the much loved by tutors humiliation of the around table introductions on a recent art workshop (how on earth does one sum oneself up in a few sentences without sounding pretentious or boring?), two of the participants labelled themselves apologetically as “scientists”. Up until that point it hadn’t really occurred to me that being a scientist and an artist should be mutually exclusive. I wonder how many people have been told by teachers, parents and society in general that their inherent ability in one means that they shouldn’t indulge in the other. Have they heard of Leonardo da Vinci, I wonder? Anyway, this links nicely to an event I went to last night at the Winchester Science Centre who are hosting the Observatory Artists Studios, an opportunity for three artists in residence to make work in this amazing space in the first half of 2015. The aim of the project is to encourage collaborations between artists, architects and engineers, and students. Art meets Science, yay! Current artist in residence Sean Harris took us from daylight to darkness looking out onto the South Downs while enjoying his animated imagery (digital and clockwork) and in his words: “exploring our relationship with the land – past, present and future”. At the end of the evening I wasn’t sure whether I had participated in performance art, collaborated with other “artists”, or viewed an artist’s work but I did feel that I had connected with the space, coming away mesmerised by the imagery of the evening including that provided by the artist, the sight of other visitors laying out candles in jam jars around the hut as darkness fell, and the inherent beauty of the landscape.
Well, dear reader(s?), it feels better to get some of these ramblings off my chest. Rumour has it that I shall have some human company on next Sunday’s dog jog so provided there are no more sheep related incidences to divert his attentions he will bear the brunt of my week’s musings and I shan’t have to subject you to them. But then again, we haven’t even touched on the definition of Art yet…………..Have a good week.