You Can’t Shake Hands With A Clenched Fist – The Library

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AA2A Artist in Residence at De Montfort University

As part of my AA2A residency at De Montfort University, I am writing a blog documenting the development of my work whilst on the scheme, plus reflecting on the arc of my practice to date and the day to day concerns of surviving as an artist. So far I have talked about: The comparisons between graduating from university now and 1993, i.e. pre internet and social media How your practice can change dramatically when faced with changes of location, peers and audience. How it changes further still once you become a parent. Investigations into screen printing after a 25 yr hiatus and the heightened feelings of anticipation and nervousness as to how the prints will 'turn out'.
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‘You Can’t Shake Hands With A Clenched Fist – The Conversations’

You Can't Shake Hands With A Clenched Fist - The Conversations In Full NN Contemporary Art, 2nd-5th August, 2017 All Participants are Adults - unless otherwise stated. Where I have commented during the conversation, I have noted this in speech marks and marked ED. The Subjects EDUCATION, DIVERSITY, MONEY, THE ENVIRONMENT Participants One and Two - Diversity Participant One: 'At what point has sexuality been confused with gender? I've heard the thing is to stop writing the child's gender on their birth certificate. How does that help the child grow up? How does that help women grow up? Young women? I am struggling to.... I am feeling that my identity is being taken away from me - I'm starting to feel that I can't say that my father is from Pakistan. I am a woman. I have feelings that happen in my body that make me a woman. I am struggling with that. But I don't want to take that away from anyone else that that is something they identify with. Human Rights - A Human Right. The role is different to the physical person' Participant Two: 'The mileu of who you are as it naturally happens'. Participant Three - Money Many years ago people used to save for what they wanted such as a car or a new carpet. Because for the last 25 yrs, we've lived in a credit culture, we've lost the value of ownership, it's because of saturation, there is too much of everything. Profit, companies making money out of us i.e Windows being updated. If you go and see a film, there are adverts for cars. We feel like we are encouraged to be envious of our neighbours. If neighbours don't have credit, they might not want things. So for me, now, I don't want to be in debt to a bank. Experiences are my future. So it's a memory, I own it, it's in my mind. Take children to places, explore the world, new skill sets, introduce them to art, music and a range of cultures-That they can do with their friends and they feel that they might have a career or a hobby out of it. Money breeds dishonesty - we don't get transparency from our politicians. Decisions are often made with a selfish gain i.e. a lot of scandals, decisions are made about building developments, not decisions for constituents, but decisions that support them or their party. I think we are slaves to ego. Community or Slavery. Participant Four (aged 6yrs) - Education, Money and The Environment (Education) At my school, lunchtimes are really noisy, when we eat it inside. Learning - I like it. I like Math's. I like working out stuff and counting numbers. (Money) I like seeing how much things are - like seeing expensive jewellery. (Education) Math's is important as you need to learn it, know maths as an adult. If you don't learn maths, it will be harder when you are older. (Environment) People are putting on perfumes that are going into a big bubble around our earth and popping it (the ozone layer). We shouldn't be silly to our planet - we should keep it clean. Our poo goes into the sea. We need a human poo and wee cleaner. Participant Five - Diversity and Education (Diversity) I am looking at funding for arts organisations, to get y. people from BME communities into creative education programmes in the theatre. Is there an African Caribbean youth theatre in Northampton? No. I read a report yesterday by Andrew Lloyd Webber Associates about lack of routes into creative industries from BME y. people. There is a lack of role models. The situation has improved a little bit i.e for Black and Asian actors, previously there was a huge lack of roles in West End Theatres for BME performers. I went to a conference last week - talking about Diversity - statistics re organisations who have women on their boards - profits increased by something like 35% (?) A guy from a company specialising in online marketing says that 70% of mainstream advertising doesn't cater for them (women). There is now new legislation for Gender Roles in advertising - so this is really positive. It seems like a big scary difficult thing, but it comes down to talking and listening to people. Comes down to communities being self segregating - self selecting. (Diversity and Education) My daughter goes to a Catholic School - nominally open to other's, but the school is oversubscribed - so no non-Catholic children can go. I find this extraordinary - Is it allowed?!! Lots of parents in Brighton - people power - actively campaigned to all send their kids to the local comprehensive - so to support it. Free Schools - in an ideal world, we wouldn't need Free Schools. Everyone should be catered for. Diversity and Education - there are massive overlaps here. (Diversity) 44% of Londoners weren't born there. In Bedford, in 2020, I think there is a stat that says that 50/50 y. people wouldn't have been born there. My parents were Irish Immigrants. There were signs (when they moved here) that said 'No Blacks, No Irish'. Immigrants were forced to be segregated because of racism, so it has stayed on from there. My husband is London Irish, he always puts White Irish on the forms. He thinks it's important that he's only one generation away from a generation that faced all sorts of barriers. It's important that he identifies as Irish. But his sister doesn't identify as Irish, but wouldn't put up with racism. Diversity isn't just about visible minorities. There is a quote from a Disability Campaigning group who said something like 'Nothing About Us, Without Us' If you are developing a programme for a section of the community - then talk to that community. "A lot of diversity is invisible" ED. We are forced to make a choice re Miss or Ms - why do banks need to know? Participant Six - Education, Money, The Environment and Diversity (Education) I read a phrase this morning but I don't agree with it. 'If you educate a stupid person, then they just become a stupid person with education'. What a load of rubbish. All this fake news and post truth stuff, it's a way of controlling people through fact or science, it's dangerous, but the only solution is through education. A better phrase is 'just because you don't believe something, it doesn't stop it being a fact'. (Money) Immediately, it's about politics. There's a community in Mexico called the .... (translates as the Running People)... they are relatively poor but they have something called 'Korima' and that's basically a trust and favour system, it just happens - not a 'I've done this, so you need to do this back'. I had an interview once, but I was stuck in a tutorial at college and the students needed me. Eventually, I went to my interview - I ran - and I was there before the person who was interviewing me. I got the job. So the universe did me a favour. The two things were unconnected, they didn't know that the tutor group over-ran or that I had run to get there. There doesn't have to be a log of favours - a tally- things work out. 'It will be alright in the end, but if it's not alright, it's not the end. However... (The Environment) I am concerned for the next generation and as I am about to 'start' that next generation, I have to believe in human progress, so it might be that my son might save the earth like Flash Gordon! There is no doubt that we are in the shit - but there are still people who are perpetuating myths - that climate change is not happening. Some people who funded the tobacco industry have funded the anti-climate change campaign. More specifically on..... (Money) It's obvious that capitalism doesn't work, you can't keep growing if you have a limited planet size, so we need to have a new system. It may have to get worse before it gets better. 'Turkey's didn't vote for Christmas'. (Education) I keep hearing the debate about if participation in the Arts improves attainment in Science and Maths. That's saying that these subjects are more important than the Arts, but it should be that, can these subjects improve attainment in Art! Question - Why is it that politicians fall over themselves for Olympics Opening Ceremonies, but that the same politicians cut funding to the Arts and scrap Arts from the school curriculum? Answers - Their stupid! They don't want the likes of us participating in the arts. Go right back to the beginning - Education, Art and the ability to explore and express yourself, means that you ask questions and that people who ask questions are harder to control. Back to - Are they stupid? I had a conversation with a civil servant - he was talking about the amount of industrial espionage that comes from China. You can train a workforce to make things, but they are not spying on us to learn how to make things, but what they can't do as a society is come up with original ideas, as they don't enable creativity. So what's our Education system following - China! (Diversity) I couldn't care less about Diversity as I believe in it being diverse. I hate the term white as it's vast and anyway, it's pink. Is endless. I don't (as a white male) - I don't need to think about it as other groups. But I think, there is inverse snobbery or retrospective equality. The only way to even up discrimination against hundreds of black people is to have hundreds of years of white slavery, which is not right to do, but as long as we talk about us and them, we'll always be segregated. No-one is like me, or anybody else. And there's not a single box you can tick that can describe any of us apart from human! P.S. (Money) - I don't want to go to Rushden Lakes! Participant Seven - The Environment FOOD WASTE. 30-50% of all food produced is wasted - most of this is perfectly good to eat. Food is essential for life - yet food poverty and hunger are growing in the UK - A FIRST WORLD NATION! The over production of food shows the world COULD FEED ITSELF 30% over! As population grows (9 BILLION by 2040!) the waste problem must be dealt with - yet political will to do so seems to be non-existent! FEED PEOPLE NOT BINS! Participant Eight - The Environment I was very upset recently when walking my dog in the local park. There seemed to be much more trash than usual, beer cans and bottles, but the thing that upset me most: someone had discarded a 'BAG FOR LIFE'!
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‘You Can’t Shake Hands With A Clenched Fist – The Process’

'You Can't Shake Hands With A Clenched Fist' is a public participation project. It engages the community through conversation and the creation of an installation to express, in a safe and non judgemental space, their thoughts on subjects that are current within the public discourse. Post Two The pilot of this project took place at NN Contemporary Art between the 2nd and 5th August 2017. It was a chance to test out the planned methodology, to see if it enabled conversation to flow, ideas to spark, participants to feel comfortable and the thought and creative processes to make sense. What I didn't want was for participants to feel pressured in anyway, so left it open as to how long or briefly they engaged with the work. Some had come prepared with thoughts, others popped in, absorbed, then quietly retreated to deliberate in their own time, returning to deliver a wonderfully succinct viewpoint. Although I was 'on the go' the entire time, visits from participants happened to fall on alternate days. I was thankful for that as it allowed time to process, contribute to my wall of information, to prepare the wallpaper, shapes,'write out' the conversations and finally hang and install the individual pieces for the installation. Below visually documents the whole process. [caption id="attachment_765" align="alignnone" width="300"] Conversation Area[/caption] [caption id="attachment_767" align="alignnone" width="300"] Conversation Starters[/caption] [caption id="attachment_769" align="alignnone" width="300"] Conversation Notes[/caption] [caption id="attachment_773" align="alignnone" width="226"] Conversations Written[/caption] [caption id="attachment_771" align="alignnone" width="300"] Participant Painting Symbolic Washing[/caption] [caption id="attachment_784" align="alignnone" width="300"] Washing and Writing[/caption] [caption id="attachment_786" align="alignnone" width="300"] Posters[/caption] [caption id="attachment_788" align="alignnone" width="225"] Participant Poster[/caption] [caption id="attachment_789" align="alignnone" width="300"] You Can't Shake Hands With A Clenched FistSection[/caption] Post One Piloting at NN Contemporary Art in their Project Space on the 2nd to the 5th August, this experimental project engages the community through conversation and the creation of an installation to express in a safe and non judgemental space their thoughts around four set subjects. These are: Diversity, Education, Money and the Environment. Inspired by this quote from Indira Ghandi, this project seeks to reach across the barriers and divisions across communities, political divides and those that are often present within our own relationships and peer networks. The current political debate is swamped with people shouting at and over each other and I want to explore a more gentler approach, through art, to see whether it is at all possible to learn from an find common ground with each other. If we shout, we can't hear. If we can't hear hear, we can't listen. If we don't listen we don't learn. If we don't learn then we can't move forward, individually, as a community and society as a whole. This blog will document what I learn through this process. The Experience of Process, Useful facts, Information, Reference Material, Feelings and Opinions. It will be categorised under these headings.
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