Author Archives: Gini

enable empathy, swipe left for civil communication, scroll down for kindness.

When I started this justfindgini venture, I hoped to create an online presence that would allow me to explore my ‘artist’ self. I wanted to make something that showed the process, the very human process, that goes into the making of my artist and my artwork. I began joyfully; but almost before I began, felt pressured into editing, re-presenting and, well, entertaining…

I hoped technology would come to my aid, but it wasn’t ready. One step forward, two steps back … and the frustration. I looked to a web designer, in vain, we spoke without communication. My site took on a mangled look that lacked any real connection to a recognisable version of me. The joy was fading.

I wanted a site that was responsive; a site that smiled back at you on sunny days or offered a virtual umbrella in a storm. A site that prompted questions and acknowledged the fluidity of the living, growing, developing people we are or strive to be. I wanted a site that allowed my online ‘avatar’ to be someone I recognised and was happy to acknowledge, but also, as an artist, I need to be able to peer into dark places and ask questions without my world imploding. I set up my twitter account hoping to gain some practice and confidence in doing just that, by poking a toe into its turbulent waters. I failed and became a sadder, more cautious person. I failed and became a twitter voyeur, not wanting to gather followers or blindly follow. Not wanting to get caught up in its vitriolic tides, content to occasionally stick my elbow in – to test the heat. Resigned to passively checking out other gentle people who share positive thinking.  I am bewildered by the volume of people who fail to practice any form of civilised communication.  As an artist, I would like to ask questions, to listen, to give this phenomenon my attention. As a fragile human, I am actually frightened of possible consequences.

And this site…it turns out I need loads of money and loads of technical expertise for it to be any kind of reflection of the artist I strive to be. The dream hasn’t gone away. The joy? It may still be waiting in the wings, if you click, swipe, scroll …

 

Home v Economics, another layer of reaction:

Emotional intelligence is something we all start out with. Babies start life far more connected within their brains, their emerging selves, but early in their development we teach them to compartmentalise their senses and we teach them to section out instinct and emotion from the goal: the goal of ‘grown up’

I aim to respond instinctively to life, to creation, with emotion; always heart over head; seeking to reconnect the components of a state of wisdom/knowledge/reason – a state of being for which we no longer have a name.

And inside my body, my skull, my brain, neurones start firing; connections are created and patterns evolve – the ectoplasm of art morphs into being. Sometimes this substance demands time to incubate, other times it emerges so fast and fleeting that I am frustrated in its capture. Most frequently it shapes itself into words that clamour to be heard, to be written and to be shared.

 

I didn’t get to Venice this year. My first awareness of the Architecture Biennale 2016 was the call for volunteers for the Home Economics exhibition at the British Pavilion, peaking my curiosity – curiosity specifically around issues of access…

Curiosity swiftly dampened by the restrictions placed on volunteering.

And then, online, via Twitter, the tentative reaching out of images pretending to be homes. Suggestions that provoked memories of homelessness that still sit like sores on my soul. Damage demanding its own attention, demanding I revisit and re-search the concepts behind Home Economics from my own painful point of view. On my way lurk memories of Always Coming Home, by the brilliant Ursula K LeGuin.

And suddenly Rebecca is there, telling her story even as it fizzles away into the silence of chronological progression and compartmentalisation:

 

 

I was Rebecca, walking on water. Walking towards my home, transitioning through to my own space. I was Rebecca, sliding into Becs as knowledge stacked into neatly processed piles gathered like cardboard boxes around my feet. Except, in Hours there was no space for cardboard boxes, only facts contained inside my head and remote; and Becs was a short-lived transition, heart way above head. Shedding Becs, I strove to be understanding of what was expected of me. I dedicated myself to the gleaming red energy of youth. As Skeeter I worked and paid my way. As Skeeter I worked to work and longed to own a tiny crystal glass: clear with milky streaks and dots of gleaming gold. As Skeeter I longed to escape Hours.

And as I progressed towards Days, home remained a figment of my dreams. My feet slid into the lakes of water embracing my knees as the siren-songs of capitalist mobility lured me down. I longed still to nest. I longed and comforted my longing with treasures abandoned as I moved from Day to Day. It was here I left Skeeter behind.

From Days I learned to swim towards Months. My heart still intent upon my home, I was Womanfish as water lapped into my mouth. Womanfish wove between the weed; flitting, darting, losing direction. Womanfish learned to leave regret behind, together with the tiny crystal glass. Womanfish wriggled, wandered far and astonished wide beyond herself, her dreams, until she did loose herself.

The Lost One learned to loosen bindings to the dream of home. The Lost One shivered and shuddered away from shoals, from connections, The Lost one learned to wait on Years without yearning; lost the dream of home; lost the need for nesting.

The Lost One lost the years in Years, swam into the shallows and climbed out as the Thorn.

Thorn became repetition; repetition until surplus to the capitalist machine. Thorn gathered to her heart a tiny crystal glass that made her weep, perhaps for Skeeter; perhaps for forgotten dreams.

As Forgotten she was moved from Years to Decades, unaware that she was coming home.

 

 

 

 

The bench, warm, in dappled shade, sat under

a ballet of shivers and tender sighs

as leaves, busy in the process of food

production, earned their keep. And bare of grass,

the worn earth bore scuffled witness to last

night’s party in the park. Nessun Dorma

mocked the morning and the 20p glass

that shimmered like fine crystal beside me.

Bought in a real shop, for real people with

roofs, rooms, homes to decorate and adorn,

20p – money enough to feed my

soul with memories of fitting inside

a system keen to shed me like a leaf;

a leaf in winter, or drought, a burden.

And my life, the leaf dangling its own slim

dance of shivers and apprehensive sighs;

its own Nessun Dorma of wakeful nights

with no roof, no room, no home. Just moments

existing in a restless suspension.

 

 

 

 

We meet in Hours. Though of course she doesn’t see it like that. We come from different backgrounds. She is in Years, while I am certainly in Decades, if not my Forever home.

She is an amazing woman, but not my wife. She doesn’t want to be anyone’s wife, something I find unsettling. I do already have a wife, so I know I should be happy about this lack of need … relieved maybe, but I’m uneasy. I do love my wife and our children. I would never want to hurt them. I know that they need me and that is part of my identity. The man who lives in the Forever home and is a necessary component of a family unit.

The man who lives in Hours, is not. It adds to the excitement of course, and the danger. And yet, while in Hours, I find myself doing everything possible to reduce the contrast. Our life in Hours was already in Days, edging into Months, before it began. It is now Years and yet, will never move beyond Days except in my imagination. In my conversation, in my behaviour in Hours, you would never guess how fragile Hours is. And I wouldn’t want you to. I find it hard to accept myself.

Except of course, when I’m in Forever, I do find denial persistently ready to slip from my tongue, should it ever become necessary to detach myself from Hours.

 

To be honest, I am in conflict with myself, with my love/hate relationship with the excitement and danger. I recognise my duplicity on several levels, but find this place, this space, alluring. I’m free from the fragility, the uncertainty of Hours and simultaneously free from the constricting commitment of Forever, yet I enjoy both.

And I am trapped by both.

between escapes

 

a spread of white muslin covered from the midground to the distance in feathery shipets of the same white fabric. Sharply focused in the forground the image fades to black in the unfocused background.
Remnant feathers, aftermath of angels

Most of my sculpture involves white muslin. Playing with the fabric and the tiny offcut shapes reminded me of wings – bird wings and angel wings – fact and fiction, the here and now and the not yet…

 

Between my escapes to Japan, there is life in UK.

I write, I draw and I sculpt my way forward. I have exhibitions, I make an effort not to create in isolation. I blog and tweet.

And I stack up a load of stuff that I think about sharing, but get riddled by doubts…life is so full of fleeting moments and I’m not sure I want to freeze them in the public domain. But equally, the public domain is so full of the concrete and the fixed that I enjoy the experience of some ephemeral, briefly held thoughts and ideas on their way to becoming; ideas in the process of forming, capacity in the process of growing. I’m working my way towards a new exhibition – exploring notions of reality, possibilities in evolution, conversations on kindness. I’m writing, making and watching connections form and reform on their way towards a state where I will let go of them.

I will let go hoping they will make their own connections, spark thoughts and ideas in other minds, speak unknown languages of meaning and emotion to strangers I will never meet:

 

 

I seek in vain

the wonder,

the small and obvious

wonder that currently escapes

my frozen brain,

but one day soon

the: ‘ahhh yes why

couldn’t I

think of that’

will envelop me

in its own familiar

embrace.

 

Right here, right now

I know that miracles

are stuffed with joy

and that, when joy

spills thin over days

and dark empty nights

miracles cease to exist.

The stoic plodding

of fate appears

like a handrail, a grab-rail,

something to cling to,

a tool to temper hope;

to keep it

from breaking

your heart.

 

new direction

close up of the patterned ends of traditional grey Japanese roof tiles
temple tiles – Kyoto

I began blogging with my first journey to Japan after the Great Eastern Earthquake in 2011. I didn’t have much of a clue about the process, but was extremely fortunate to have been selected for a New Voices project by Disability Arts Online. I’m still blogging there.

This year, 2015, I wanted to gather up my Japan writings where I could get more of a sense of their direction and, having failed to make this site work well as a portfolio for my drawings and soft-sculpture, am now attempting to dedicate it to the evolution of my life shared between Japan and UK.

I began writing about the process of getting there and the fact of being in the country so soon after the quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. I made attempts to discover the arts scene in Tokyo and to make contact with Disability Arts practitioners.

I was astonished that being in Japan could have such a profound effect on my perception of who I was and how I lived. To my great joy I have been able to continue the exploration on a regular basis, continue learning important life lessons and finding hope for the future.

Living in more than one country has always been integral to my life, it has taken me a long time to even begin to appreciate the value, the privilege, of it. In Japan children of one Japanese parent and one other, are called halfs. My knee-jerk reaction was to be offended (in a non-Japanese sense I’m one myself), but as the world grows smaller and people move around to find peace, financial security and personal growth, a rainbow of halfs will surely be the future of humanity.

And maybe halfs will do a better job of being human-kind.

The blogs include thoughts on the business of belonging, on expectation and desire.

I do still write about the trials of travelling with my wheelchair and comments on access.

 

 

 

 

About my Arts Practice

I’m not working with this as a blog, more a space where I am discussing current work; which today, 01/03/2013, means ‘People Like You’

‘People Like You’ is an exhibition opening in Salisbury Arts Centre, SP1 3UT, UK on 08/03/2013 and  is the result of ‘Creatives in Con.Text’ one of my textart pieces which evolved from conversations held primarily at Salisbury Arts Centre.

 

‘People Like You’ – the exhibition, started somewhere else. Confronted in a small shop by a man who looked me squarely in the eye and announced loudly that “People like you should be taken out and shot” my first instinct was to bury it.  It crept into existence as a project – focusing on hate crime – but the project didn’t really take off, something kept getting in the way. I was ashamed.
The instinct to hide from shame is incredibly strong, so poking about in it was hard work. First I needed to understand just what I was ashamed of. I had done nothing wrong, was quietly minding my own business, but in the small shop my wheelchair meant that I was taking up a little more room than your average person. I felt no shame about that, but I did feel personally ashamed to have generated so much hatred in a complete stranger. In trying to figure out why I should take this burden upon myself, the phrase ‘people like you’ gradually became my real focus.
I could relate it to work I was already engaged in: the Con.Text pieces, the soft-sculpture figures and the portraits, and I came to realise that almost all of my arts practice is about people like you, like me.
I doodled grab rails spelling the words and they became a title.
When the director of Salisbury Arts Centre asked for some concrete visual outcome to result from the Centre hosting ‘Creatives in Con.Text’ (part of the DAO Diverse Perspectives initiative) I offered ‘People Like You’
Exhibiting Disability Arts in the White Cube Space of Salisbury Arts Centre’s galleries has a certain resonance. This space, sitting lightly within the framework of a disabled church has at once an air of confidence, borrowing on the instant identifiability, associations  and identity of White Cube spaces, and yet simultaneously offering uncertainties and confusions born out of the restrictions placed on its evolution.
The intricacies of the original building constantly intercede to mitigate the single-minded monologue of that bottom line solution, the White Cube; so one aim of ‘People Like You’ is to transcend the White Cube to achieve a multi-layered dialogue which does also span the history and the future of this original space.
In this way, I draw some parallels with the way the part of me that identifies as a disabled person, seeks to do more than merely exist.
Soft-Sculptures
Antony Gormley references the human body as meeting point for memory and transformation; It is also the confrontation of the personal and the universal.
At some point in my life my body was reduced to an empty shell. I described myself as a dry, dusty skin hanging empty in a wardrobe, waiting uncomfortably on those brief moments when I was taken out to be displayed as a trophy.
In the process of healing I evolved a version of myself as the Borg Queen. She was my alter ego, my party persona, my fancy dress – my artist was coming back to life as a cyborg. Finding freedom with the addition of wheels I awakened to questions and longings that have informed my arts practice ever since.
In 2005 I began my first version of Jessie. A soft-sculpture figure separate from myself, but expressing the strange longings that marked out my time of healing.
Jessie was me in bed and bed was where I breathed my way through pain. Jessie was me stretched out on the earth pushing down to some erie sense of communication with the long buried bones of the dead.
This early version of Jessie still needed arms and legs to express humanity, but with the construction of Kouros and Koure, these inhibitions left me.
These two figures were originally intended to be suspended, but circumstances kept their feet on the ground and it was not until I revisited Jessie that I finally found ways to release my figures from the ties of gravity that pulled them into the graveyard of the past.
Kouros and Koure are where I discovered how to construct a wooden armature and create life-size figures around it using textiles. I chose white muslin for the skin, a fabric that is both strong and delicate. The resulting figures, taking their posture from the classic Greek Kouroi, were part of the installation/exhibition ‘(it might be disability, but) its Still Life’ Shown at Faith House Gallery at Holton Lee Dorset, and Salisbury Arts Centre as part of the ‘Testing the Edges’ symposium in 2009.
I began on the Con.Text pieces because words, language, fascinate me. I enjoy conversing with people and am addicted to writing; text and image chase each other all through my arts practice. Text and drawing (I trained as a printmaker), are physically less demanding than the soft-sculpture, and words come so easily. I work to maintain a balance and working on the next generation of figures while immersed in the Creatives in Con.Text conversations allowed the figures to dictate their own responsive forms.

Jessie, Fons and Kosta are both younger and older, representing the past and the future. Without time and universal, but also unique and personal, they ask questions of a future where diversity appears increasingly problematic. The physical and emotional geography we construct to frame our coexistence in ever decreasing spaces demands ever increasing conformity – a simplification apparently necessary as counterpoint to the complexities of financial structures, political powers and ideologies that threaten to overwhelm us.
They make visible questions of the longings that thread through my arts practice from its beginning and of the questions that come alive in Con.Text conversations.
Con.Text
This is a growing body of work. Each piece has its own specific focus, putting artwork in the context of its venue, its audience, its occasion, and more. The name is a play on conversation and the resulting text/textart.
Conversations with artists and their audience, and with visitors to arts venues, are both performance and data gathering. I began with ‘View: the Con.Text’ and was quite scientific with precise questions and carefully noted answers, but soon discovered that people wanted to know more about the artwork, express opinions about other things they could link it to, and talk about their own feelings on art in general.
These ‘performance conversations’ added to peoples’ engagement and and joyment of the work on offer and I discovered that by not taking notes, by immersing myself in the conversations, I was able to edit this vast quantity of words into useable material much more easily.
‘View: the Con.Text’ 2011
The first Con.Text piece was created for the exhibition, ‘The View From Here’   featuring works by Martin Bruch, Juan delGado, and  Aidan Moesby and was described as ‘an intervention by DAO blogger Gini
The edited texts were revealed daily on a screen and published on DAO (Disability Arts Online).
‘Underwater Con.Text’ 2012
The second Con.Text followed artist and aquanaunt Sue Austin as she developed her underwater wheelchair, evolved live performances and showed 360 film of the artwork that is ‘Creating the Spectacle!’
‘Creatives in Con.Text’ 2013
The third Con.Text first exhibited as three scrolls in 2013, plans are in place to publish this on DAO
‘Creatives in Con.Text’ is a work of three parts – the conversations for the major scroll took place before, during and after the cultural Olympiad 2012 and covered a visit to ‘Unlimited’ at the Southbank Centre. The minor scroll focuses on the intensly creative weekend of FLINT Microfest held at Salisbury and the Pound Corsham in November 2012. The secret scroll is a very personal response to a FLINT performance by Natasha Davis.