I’ve now taken nearly two weeks out from working. I say that, I mean from working full tilt. I have slowed down as I have had a feeling in my gut that something isn’t going the way I’m wanting it too. I am learning to listen to this feeling and give myself space for the uncertainty in my head to assemble itself into something I can recognise and work from.
I am using blood to print, locating a source has taken me nearly two weeks as I struggled to find a supplier. I have an abattoir pretty local and they wouldn’t entertain giving me any. Butchers and local farms also have rejected me. Finally I found a source on-line who I could buy dried blood from, it’s used to make black pudding. The up side of this is I don’t need to keep a bucket of fresh blood in my fridge, and I can mix just the amount I need. It’s an add water substance. I have samples bloodied and I am eager to see how the fabric reacts, if it rots, smells or how permanent the blood is. I have enjoyed more than I thought this process. I am amused that I would consider let alone actually use such a medium, if it could be considered a medium. I did realise last week that it is in fact using blood that has thrown me off kilter. Am I using the right material, is it because I want to shock, is it appropriate, what is it about the blood? It wasn’t until Sunday’s study visit to the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester that I finally accepted, Yes, blood is the right material for me. One of the images I have referenced in this work is a piece called ‘pornographic drawing’ by Cornelia Parker. I had hoped it would be in the exhibition but I didn’t know for certain. The itinerary for the visit looked tight and left me thinking that I wouldn’t be able to visit the exhibition. fortunately we were given free rein in the morning to go where we wished. Parker’s exhibition greeted me as soon as I turned a corner, and there in front of me was the piece. Her use of Customs, confiscated porn films, gave her a supply of cellulose from which, mixed with some solvent gave her a substance she could print from. I liked the whole idea of alchemy, changing something to produce something else. I spent nearly 3 hours with the Parker exhibition. I found it exhilarating, and more than anything it opened up so many possibilities. There wasn’t one piece of her exhibition I didn’t get or like. To say I was inspired was an understatement. What I am finding as I work through the courses is a feeling of possibilities opening out before me. It’s like I am walking down a corridor and the walls and ceiling are moving further apart giving me wider scope to work. Exciting in its self.
I had visited the workhouse buildings the week before to take photographs and to also see if I could bring away any artefacts I could use in my personal project work. I had sat in the grounds looking at the door the inmates would have gone through, wondering how I could touch that moment. Again I thought of using blood, mine. I had come home and on sheets of paper, brainstormed what it was I was hoping to do, what did I want? I wanted to acknowledge the part of me, the DNA that my ancestors had taken into that place, a place that had impacted on my grand-mother in such a way it had affected her ability to parent. The impact that had on my father and in turn his ability to parent. How he parented me had no excuse in the history of his upbringing, though it did have a contributory cause. If I could step into their world and change it, or at least tell them what would happen generationally as a consequence, maybe I would not have had the experiences I did have as a child. I wanted to put my DNA, from my body in the building. I wanted to use my blood to make a print of my feet standing on the threshold of that building. The same threshold they would have trod on. Did this have weight as a piece of work, Was it relevant, did it convey What I hoped it would?
In Parkers exhibition there were four pictures together, ‘Self portrait as a square’, ‘Self portrait as a line’, ‘Self portrait as a circle’ and ‘Self portrait as a triangle’. The four shapes she had drawn in her own blood. If this was endorsement that what I wanted to do had substance, this was it. This moment then acted as a catalyst for the ideas that tumbled out of me over that night and the following morning. I have ideas of three exercises I want to undertake as further development of part 1’s work. I explored my ancestry and the foot prints in blood on the threshold will be the first exercise. I got to wonder about how experiences of my ancestors went towards shaping how they behaved and more importantly, parented. How could I show this?
I have had for a number of years a small box with 6 reels of cine film inside. The films I am told are of me. No-one knows what the true content is. I have been afraid of viewing them as there is a possibility that they contain images of extremely traumatic and disturbing times in my life. I began to form ideas about how I could use the workhouse building, which is soon to be demolished. I want to project the unseen films onto the exterior of the buildings. I see it as representing the experience of my ancestors, mainly my Grand-Mother, and the resulting experiences in my childhood. I will not see the contents until that showing, the whole exercise will be filmed. The practicalities of this are being ironed out this week I have acquired a projector, the cine film is being converted into a DVD format, and I have a technician who is looking at ways of my using my car battery to power the projector. I am looking at ways like Parker, of using the original cine film to produce something that will transform the once feared film. A conclusion. I also want to project the images I was given permission to use in my work on to the building so I can honour those who were inmates and celebrate for them the demolition of those walls that incarcerated them. I will take still photographs which I am going to donate to the archives. I also want to seek permission of the inhabitants of the house I was born in and in which the cine film was taken, to project images of my daughter. I see this as symbolic of how the cycle of abuse was broken. My experiences enabled me to know what is not appropriate or constitutes a loving relationship. My relationship with my daughter is one of deep, mutual love and a constantly deepening and growing friendship as she is now in her 30’s. She always tells me that her childhood was wonderful and how her friends all wished their Mother was more like me. I was a conscious and conscientious parent and, hope I still am.
My friend is a nurse and she has agreed to extract some blood for me to use in the foot prints. That would have been a major hurdle. I didn’t want to use the dried blood I have as I wouldn’t have felt I was being true to myself. I need this work to be authentic.
I am sure that the work will be emotional, hopefully cathartic, but most of all I feel I am able to find a way to express myself in a way I wouldn’t have even considered just four days ago.
The theme for the screen printing which is given in the course is ‘man made landscapes’. I have explored female genital mutation as my subject for this. I now recognise that in telling my own story as a development of my work in part 1, I am exploring this self same concept.