A reflection on the virtual exhibit ‘tweetingageing’ by Jeff Lee
Two more days of the show and then it is time to de-install. I have loved all the conversations about Outing Ageing that the show has sparked. Yesterday, at our conversation at Holy Biscuit words and phrases used included:
surprise and sarcasm
tension between good and bad memories
a haunting which keeps us alive
incarnation and messiness
My word for today is melancholic. I don’t want this time of curating and outing to end. I feel a calm silence descending,
Inside the gallery
What do you remember about learning to write? I remember a project notebook – and concentrating hard on the movement of the pencil. Creating little tails. Lifting the pencil at the right moment. There was a focus on the shape – repetition – getting it right.
To create her piece, Rachel Magdeburg has taken the time to try to relearn writing skills. To write with evenness and consistency requires a discipline of mind and action. Rachel told me that she had to almost trick her mind to adapt itself to producing something with different tools. Not that she can’t write – but her stye of writing has changed considerably since school. No longer as regimented. No longer consistent.
Writing is something we have stopped practising. We are too busy with our keyboards, our thumbs on twitter. Marks made on the page are hurried. Yet tiny details reveal something about us – our state of mind.
In practising her writing Rachel has reconnected with an earlier part of herself and simultaneously engaged with her present self and its habits and practices. The younger pliable mind is a shadow of its former self. Puzzled perhaps that it cannot just write at will. It has to fight to connect hand with mind, mind with hand. Practising handwriting encounters already well practised rituals. There is an unseen collision of past, present and future. There is no backspace, no crossing out. It is tiring to use fingers and thumbs. There is a lack of a familiar rhythm.
Rachel uses the process to create a memo to her future self. She dares to use handwriting from the past to explore future notions of herself – which she will at some point read in her future present and look back!
When she revisits the memo, will she be surrounded by old school jotters in attics. Will the handwritten notebooks of today become the artist’s notebook of the future – not paint and brush but quill and ink? Does today’s text becomes the future’s sketch?
I like the physicality of the work and the humour of if. The thoughts we all play around with in our head but are too scared to reveal are pinned down on the page. The uniformity of the well considered words seem to give the serious and monotonous nature of ageing, room to breath. You have to stay with the material for a while – word on word, line on line.
Outside the gallery
I sat with some older people. We sat round a textile covered table. First introductions. Second words. Words that preyed on our minds forced their way out.
What am i going to do?
How can i live?
My identity – where will it come from – it is so wrapped up in my work and now I have to stop,
70 years od – why that’s awesome.
70 years old. It means something but it doesn’t relate to what is going on inside me, in my life.
Caged animal at 70?
Curating is a difficult but absorbing matter. A call went out way back then. These last few days the works have begun to appear in the gallery. There has been many a debate and discussion as to what goes where and what sits next to what – all In an attempt to tell a story. Some stories are understandable others less so. Snapshots of some of the works to entice you to see the completed show tomorrow at Holy Biscuit.
Good to get the first glimpse of Cath Walshaw’s work – more to come.
I am pleased to introduce you to L. A. Powell – one of the artists in the ‘Outing Ageing’ show at Holy Biscuit 4th – 24th October 2013. The Private View is on the 4th October 18.00 -20.00
When I came across the opportunity to take part in outing aging my initial response was to feel that I might be too young to have a useful perspective on ageing. I’m only 32, I’m still young, but after letting my mind wander around this idea a bit I realised that by the time they were my age my parents had already gotten married and had me, they had their own home, their own business, they were ‘real adults’ and they had their path set out. So I began to ponder on how I’d gotten here, to where I am in my life now and how different that is to where I thought I would be when I was younger. So here it is, my musings on the relationship between my aging, my desire to age and where it’s brought me so far.
It seems like by the time I could walk I had a plan. I always knew exactly what I was going to do with my life. A lot of my early memories are of my saying “when I grow up…”
“When I grow up I’ll be a police woman”, “When I grow up I’ll be a florist”, “When I grow up I’ll be a mum, I’ll have loads of kids”, “When I grow up I’ll live on a desert island and eat jellyfish!”…
Recalling my childish ideas of what I was going to do with my life it becomes clear just how much I’ve changed, I assumed I’d be the same person forever, but as I’ve aged I have become alienated from who I was as at many points in my past. I’ve actively rejected some my goals and replaced them with new ones. Having tried jellyfish and discovered that it tastes more like salty cardboard, with a texture somewhere between perishing rubber and old Vaseline, than fruity jelly, I’m glad that some of my dreams may never become realities.
Perhaps the greatest changes in who I was happened as a teenager but my mantra was still the same, “when I grow up.”
“When I grow up I don’t know which university I’ll go to but it’ll be FAR away.”, “When I grow up my band and I will tour the country, no…the world!”, “When I grow up I’ll have a career, I’ll be the boss, and then I’ll settle down and have a family”, “When I grow up I’ll have a really cool car, or a motorbike, but probably both.”
You would not believe the things I was planning on doing “as soon as I hit 18” and my god how furiously disappointed ‘teen-age-me’ would be to learn that we never got round to having that tattoo, or that flat that was party central every weekend and that the boyfriend who was the envy of all her teenage friends ended up being more “miserable millstone” than “marriage material”. That’s possibly part of my problem, something I have in common with me as a small child or a teenager, as I am now, I (or we) have never suffered from a lack of dreaming, or wanting. I’ve never lacked the support to go out there and try to get a lot of these things either (Thanks Mum & Dad), but it seems that boomerang, I’ll go out hit my target and then come back to a similar place. Moving little, but still moving.
As I am now I would be a stranger to the young woman/ girl that I once was. I imagine introducing myself to them…The past me’s would be amazed to hear about my experiences and adventures, from teaching in America to visiting slums in India, I’ll admit I never learned how to play the guitar or sing so the band never got off the ground, but I can reassure them that this is better than the desert island dream. They would love my hair, they’d be annoyed I’d gotten so fat but they would envy the way I’ve been able to shed that self-conscious timidity about my appearance that seems to dog them. I imagine they would want to know when we (I) got married and how many kids we’d (I’d) had, and I’d have to break it to them that I became divorced from the idea of getting married and spawning a family a very long time ago. I’d have to say to them “never” and “none… ever.” They wouldn’t be able to grasp my career path, either. “You’re still at university?” they’d say and I’d have to nod and reply “Yeah, but it’s a PhD! I (we) worked really hard to get here, it’s such an amazing opportunity.” Teenage me would almost certainly pipe up: “Great, but it’s a lot like still being at school, isn’t it? You’re 32! When are you going to grow up?” Deep down I’d think to myself “I knew they wouldn’t understand, I won’t tell them that I (we) still live at home with Mum and Dad.”
The paintings I have produced for the “outing aging” exhibit are really a reflection on my own personal aging process. In the past the only thing stopping me from achieving my dreams was my age, or at least that’s how it felt at the time. Now reality appears to be my main stumbling block. The paintings are self-portraits done in acrylic paint on canvas. I have chosen the colours for each of them to reflect the intensity and vibrancy of my desire for aging. This means that the image of me now is considerably duller than the images of my younger selves. My work invites you to reflect on your own path, how do you relate now to your younger selves? What does the future hold for you as you are now? Who will you(I) grow up to be?