I asked artists and creative friends to contribute to this project.
I was motivated to start the project around the slowing down of life during lockdown and having no choice but to have to confront oneself. It was something about being 45 right now and just to celebrate being alive and also to normalise middle aged women’s bodies. I felt the need to insist on people having to look at my sack of flesh, by placing it bang slap into their social media feed. I didn’t ENJOY this, I felt it necessary in some way.
I say ‘middle aged’ as I do feel in the middle right now, not young or old, and for me that is to be celebrated, not seen in a derivative light. Also a friend had spoken to me about becoming invisible in public as she got older- that men no longer noticed her- I thought this was interesting and it got me thinking about how much we do/do not wish to be seen. If you wanted to be noticed would you try harder? Is the adulation of youth and vigour something we value more as we ourselves age? I’m not too worried about whether men notice me or not and I feel that ageing has brought its advantages, which far outweigh the disadvantages. But I do know it requires energy to be ‘seen’ if that makes sense.
And as for self love, as already mentioned, when I saw the photos of myself initially I had to hide them away on my laptop and process them for a week. I felt 16 again and all my inner critic voices were shouting loud, I was having a hard time not hating what I saw. I was able to get a little more objective about it after a few days, but those initial feelings were the catalyst for going ahead with the project- It felt necessary. I reminded myself that it’s only a body, flesh and bones, I am basically just one more sack of flesh crawling around this big rock.
I continue to make performance work, it has become at its most basic level a way to stay grounded and sane during this time. I have lost a lot of the initial inhibitions I had around putting myself out there and am now in a place where I mostly appreciate the fact that I get to make it. I am still time poor and do most of my thinking whilst engaged in other tasks, but I’ve come to accept that this is how it is and that as long as the work gets made one way or another that’s what matters.
It has been a really interesting and emotive experience receiving these collaborations, I am just starting other work shortly and am in the process of wrapping up this project. On the most basic level the project made me feel lucky to have all these amazing creatives that I know around the world- it was a source of motivation and comfort during lockdown.
This had started the last time I posted. As in; I had received some works back but I am not sure if I had started posting them to insta. here is what I have chosen to post so far:
I have been posting the images I have been sent to instagram, not that that is the final destination as such for the work but to showcase them to a wider audience. I am not sure how I will collate the work ultimately, I will wait and see how many responses I get first. Seeing how each artist addresses the image is very interesting to me and has been nice distraction, maybe too nice, during some pent up days lately.
And below are the ones I have not posted yet as a lot of people sent me more than one:
It’s interesting to look at these 2 sets. I am going to look at them again in the morning and think about how to treat them. One idea I had was to actually make performances out of the images. As in, respond to the images through a performance work. As in how? Possibly by becoming the person in the treated image created by the artists. Which means dressing as myself being reimagined by someone else as myself. I like the complicated duality and layers of this. Multiple personalities. Multiple faces.
Thinking about how to frame a work like this. When it comes to talking about the work and labelling it and describing it I get serious imposter syndrome- I don’t feel like I can or want access to the discourse used by other artists and about other artists work. I resent the need to elevate the work to a privatised platform that cant be accessed by Joesephine blogs. But I need to acknowledge that this is partly because I have made stuff like Nightcrawl, Pack,Unpack, made in public and seen by public, not deliberate gallery audiences, so I have made sure it is accessible purely as an action, that in some way, anyone who sees it might get something from it. I am not sure why it matters to me so much that the work be accessible to all, it feels more honest I think. Anyway back to framing and talking and of course submitting proposals for work. I would like to develop this concept of making performance pieces in response to the artists responses, but first I need to film the tutorials for Body Alphabet and sort out the webpage to direct people to. Maybe as I do this answers will come.
I am sat here reviewing the guidelines for applying for a visual arts bursary with the arts council. It is almost humorous how the very act of reading the guidelines gives me acute imposter syndrome. I then read over the feedback I got from the recent Covid 19 award application, which was just scores,
and the feedback for the first round of the bursary awards, from April 2020, which was more comprehensive (when I emailed and asked for it)
Artistic quality: The applicant’s live art, performance, and drawing installations channel a variety of experiences. Her performance work is physically demanding and performed in various situations, including directly to the camera and public settings. She has developed a good series of prior projects. She is working in partnership with glór to create new work and develop her professional practice.
Award objectives/priorities: The applicant wishes to fully resolve her research and create a new body of work with two performances and also perform previous work across different towns in Ireland. The bursary would allow her to bring her work to a different and unique audience and document this work with a videographer. The application lacks effective detail about the thematic or rationale for this representation
Feasibility: The supporting letters and documentation demonstrate that it would be feasible to create new work. The support letter from glór details supports offering performance development space, mentoring and developing new engagement initiatives at the venue. Ultimately, the critical and thematic aspects of her artistic plan for this programme of new work are not developed to a high level.
Conclusion: The applicant’s commitment to developing her work is evident. Documenting her work with a videographer would expand the potential of the work andcreate new opportunities. The proposal does not describe specific development plans that will develop and build on her current work and will document it to better effect. Arts Council support is not recommended.
Supporting material: The application includes a CV, artistic statement, a budget, 6-page document of images with details and three YouTube video links. Night Crawl is the most provocative here. Scroll to the end of the documentation to see the end. In Conversations with Myself, the first two performances spell phrases: ‘If you find yourself’ and the second spells ‘Trying to work out’. The application also includes a letter of support from Orla Flanagan (glór) confirming mentoring and programming collaboration, and a letter of support from Thomas Conway to support her live practice.
So there is a new round of bursaries to apply for. But after thinking about it I think it is not a good use of my time. I am better off using that precious time to develop other income streams that have a higher likelihood of success. There are so many people applying for these bursaries. I am not hugely sure of how I can change my submission enough to say what they want to hear. I am still making performance art, mainly by myself. I don’t have a list of influential art world gallery and curators who I can say I am working with as this is not true. I don’t have huge plans of how I am going to make socially engaged art and have a gallery space ready and waiting to exhibit my work. The act of applying makes me feel depressed and reminds me that my ability to speak this language they request is limited. I called them and spoke to someone on their front desk who was nice in fairness, but he confirmed that they don’t provide consultation services to help artists make submissions. He recommended I look up VAI who in fairness have a good section on making proposals.
But I still think I owe Patreon the same amount of investment of time to see if I can get this working for me. And ArtPal. If either of these were successful I could potentially yield an income stream. One that I would have conceived, created, and could command and control rather than trying to mould my projects around generic submission processes.
One other thing to note is that I have made most of the stuff I proposed funding for. I made INTBR Tasks 1-15. 16-20 are germinating in my head at present. I made pieces in response to my rejection letter for the Covid Fund; ‘Suck/Blow’ and I am working on new material right now, my WTF series and my Digital Collaboration project. Maybe I should make the application for three new funding just so the future rejection letter can inspire more work 🙂
So thats my next step- patreon and ArtPal. Besides the Arts Co submission deadline is not till 30th July so if I should change my mind I can.
Here are the images people I have asked to be involved have sent back so far. I am happy because what I had hoped would happen is happening- the image is being transformed in the hands of the collaborator. Each time it becomes less about me and more about them which i had hoped for- so it would become more of an entity and less of a focus on me. I am going to keep asking people in the hope that more will come on board- If i got 50 images I would be very happy- 30 even would be great. Its also about reconnecting with people- I have has lots of nice email experiences with people from OCA and my old NCAD mates and Clare too. Its interesting tracking the people who I am asking initially I thought I wouldn’t know enough people but I think I will if they all get involved or most of them. I know some of them won’t do it and thats ok, I’ve asked them not the other way around, they don’t have to. More later..
I did not get an email acknowledgment of submitting. Let’s wait and see. It’s unpaid but I can’t really talk as I am asking people to collaborate with me on my drawing project. This is the info that I am sending out to people:
Digital Graffitti- a collaborative drawing project by Rachel Macmanus
I am asking you to please collaborate on a project with me. I’m producing a digital graffiti project based on the body, my own specifically.
Please find attached an image of me. I am asking that you digitally draw/make marks on it. A digital interaction.
How to: You can just screenshot the image on your phone or computer screen, and then draw on the screenshot. Or if you want to print the image out and draw on it etc, then photograph the result and send it to me. Or use a drawing package on your laptop. Whatever you want to do, I would not want you to spend too much time at it- ideally you would make a quite quick response to the image, and just send it back before thinking about it too much.
You can send it back via any platform you like- my email is email@example.com or you can use facebook/whatsapp/Instagram messaging services if you are linked to me through social media.
I am collecting different responses to the image that people are sending. Like online graffiti made by a variety of people.
Concept: When developing the project I was inspired by a mural I saw of a family, here on a wall in the town I live in. Someone had come along and drawn beards onto all the painted figures in the mural -and I liked it so much more with the added beards!
Using a body as the subject to draw on/around/over sets out a trajectory from the start. The body has so many social and cultural connotations.
The photo provided is untouched and of me now at 45 years of age. I am using my body as I use it in all my work, it is a tool that has served me well. I am interested in how it, as the body of a 45 year old female, no longer young but not yet old, might be responded to. I have a working relationship with my body- I feel very differently towards it than I did 20 years ago. Also bodies can be held sacred and also be reviled. It’s important to add that if you feel offended or unhappy by being asked to contribute to this project then of course please do not hesitate to tell me.
How to use the image: You can draw whatever you want onto the image. You can be serious, silly, political, and you can write on it, doodle, collage it, whatever. I am hoping you might send me a couple of lines of your thoughts on the process too if you don’t mind. Your thoughts are very important to me.
Long term I hope to collect a lot of these responses and display the collective imagery in some form.
I am thanking you in advance for the time you give to the project. I cannot afford to pay you for your time but everyone who contributes to the project (and who wishes to be) will be acknowledged.
here are what I’ve done messing around so far
here are some Paula did for me:
Ive asked around 10 people to collaborate so far. I am going to ask more. Fuck it! They can only say no. In other news the arts council have another funding stream coming. Stephanie was telling me. 3rd time lucky? I don’t know if I have the motivation to make that laborious application again which takes so much time. Didn’t I say last time that my time would be better spent working on self initiated funding streams like patreon or portraiture/drawing projects? Ive been rejected twice this year- the definition of stupidity is continuing to do the same thing over and over again without success. I could ask for help on the application but its the spinning you have to do about these socially orientated projects you are proposing that you will make that are going to impact your community in a positive way bull that I have the issue with. Im shit at this. I will think about it. Closing date is 30th July so I will see. I would need to read over my old ones and find out what ‘track record’ means……
one other thing Ive been doing is a pastel version of the insta heads- heres where I’m at- its very relaxing and a nice distraction from reality- its also challenging to get a likeness with pastels which have no capacity for fine lines which I’m used to- so I am finding myself blocking in shapes and colours- I think it might be good training for actual painting which I really want to try
So in a bid to maintain some control over things Ive been getting up early, Im managing 2 or 3 mornings a week at 6am. This is, when achieved, very productive. I get emails sent and this week a job application rewritten and sent- all of which are very hard to do unless I get some peace and quiet to concentrate. So yes its great on the productivity front but it means by 3pm I am wrecked and my tolerance is low. But if its the only way to get work done right now when the kids are off school and now into the summer hols- then it’s the only way.
I have been releasing footage of my INTBR 11-15 this week. I always feel apprehension around releasing work on instagram or any platform- it makes you doubt yourself putting anything into the public sphere. Anyway I need to address the full body photos. I was amazed at the ferocity of my reaction to seeing them. I was literally horrified. It was like being 16 again and engulfed in a white hot hatred and repulsion of your body. Everything I have ever disliked about my physical appearance loomed large at me. I had to check myself and remind myself of who I am and that the flesh I am encased in has done a lot for me over the years. But jaysus what a reminder to me that I am far from comfortable with myself. Far! I am not even ready to post it as I am still processing it. The laugh is on me, 100%, as I actually commissioned this photos. Ha ha! But now I need to do the project in some form. I think this will be a slow burner. I need to for sure not allow my image of myself to plant self doubt and negativity in my addled brain. Or if so to use the doubt and negativity in a positive way.
There is one that might work, I have made it black and white and will reproduce it VERY SMALL here, so as I can handle it…
I mean, as I said myself, full of bravado, it’s just another bag of flesh. We are all bags of flesh walking around on a rock. And if I sent this out to my friends who I trust at the start, to draw on.. it might work. I need to think about the brief which I would send with this when asking people to collaborate.
Think this starts on 26th? Today being 23 that means I will be starting Friday? OK I jsut checked its the 24th, starts tomorrow. They asked in email:
What does the word SPACE mean for you? •How would you use SPACE? •And what do you want to MAKE SPACE for?
SO considering these: Obviously I am constrantly trying to make space and to validate the time I spend and need to make work. My situation w my kids means that finding the time and space to make work has to be considered stategically each day. I have to plan for it. At present during covid the only answer is to get up early and have a couple of hours to myself. The needs of my kids take over after that. Before there was time every morning while they were at school to think and take time to try things out. Now I do my thinking whilst engaged in domestic tasks and home schooling. I try to write down ideas into a notebook that I keep around. I’m not the first artist to be time challenged. I try and think about what I can do within the time I have. Best advice I ever got was from a guest tutor on my masters last year who said to me ‘it doesnt matter to the world if you make work or not. The world will be unlikely to be irrevocably changed by whehter you make work or not. You need to decide yourself if you are going to do it and just do it. You need a tremendous amount of energy and motovation to PUSH work out into the world. Its not easy”. This might seem obvious but it was tremendously helpful to me. It was an admittance that making work is NOT easy, that the energy needed to make, and then communicate the work, is often consuming. So I’m going to make this insta residency all about my daily effort to dig out the space to make work, and the pay it forward ideology I work by. Everything I make and do is because I want to make it and consider it worth the creative and physcial energy required to execute it. I also make it because I have sufficient ego to consider it to be good work. It seems to me that other artists get funding first and make the work after. I see posts saying things like ‘great to be supported by the arts council ireland and such and such gallery’. So far I have not been very good at this, ha ha! so my feeling is rather than NOT make the work because my efforts to secure funding have by and large been unsucessful, make the work anyway, push it out by whatevermeans possible. Its just about finding a way!
So the making space insta thingy needs to be about the ways in which I am finding the time and creative space to make the work, and the process of finding a way to make it take up space, to put it out there into the world.
OK just spent 20 mins trying to update my passwords in my new mac. Done rnow. Sigh. If you could keep emotion out of things it would be so much easier sometimes. Like yesterday. Ronan came home from work with the news that the house we had hoped to buy, had nearly bought but had backed out of because of the realisation that we were not able to sell the one we are in, had sold for a load of money, more than we could have paid for it, to the great delight of the inordinately smug prick of an estate agent. Queue feelings. Helplessness, anger, sadness, frustration, worry, annoyance at myself as I feel responsible for not earning more, negative negative. It would be easier if you could process this and move on, no emotion.
I am making a new piece called most appropriately Working Through Feelings. Use the feelings I say! Its like taking all this ridiculous action prohibiting emotion and forcing myself to be instinctive, not my natural state, I prefer to pontificate and ha ha I cant even remember the word for when you talk around it an do every other thing you can think of instead of getting it done. I made this image:
And wrote down a load of stuff very quickly. No problems finding content! So it kind of worked. Thinking about where I could make it. Paul offered his studio but he is always busy and I would not be in control of proceedings and think I’d prefer to be by myself initially. Could potentially do it here but would have to be v early morning situation before everyone wakes up. Maybe Laura Bennis’s studio? If I could film it in a space at the top where there is no other stuff around so relatively clean background except for mirror? I’d like to see how long I could keep doing it for, so as make it a durational piece. Also how to film? Iphone fucked. battery on way out. Another atmospheric transference situation. Do you finish feelign the same way as you started. Is it a cathartic exercise that allows you to finish, exhausted, cleansed of anxiety? Certainly it would be easy to make, just write the stuff down and do the work. No excuses!
Filmed the performance work INTBR 11-15 on Friday, in Ballybeg woods. It was a nice morning, I wore black trousers and a black jacket and black t shirt and black boots. No more dresses. Got- blending in/hiding/hugging/climbing/shouting/hanging done.
I stood between some trees motionless for blending in. Hid behind a tree for hiding. Climbed up a big rock and hugged it face down. Climbed along a branch, not very well. Hung from said branch. My hanging skills need work. Stood in road and shouted as loud as I could. Some people shouted back form somewhere in forest, which I don’t know yet if enhanced or detracted from the piece. Awaiting footage.
Then went back and took photos in nude bra and pants, for digital grafittit project as mentioned prevoiusly. Not as bad as I thought, but then I did not look at the photos after. I will wait tunil I ge them, and maybe just sit in them for a while until I can be more objective about them. At least its DONE.
made these drawings last week. feeling very aware of my current physical age and physical body. Not got control over my time and the days are slipping away like paper in the wind, I am marking them by drawing. I like the distorted perspective here. I am going to make more. I wanted to try non ink drawing for a change. The graphic lines of an ink drawing weren’t right for these, I want to look at starting to paint the body and I am tentatively starting out with these sketches, which, with the inclusion of 2 shades, black and white, as opposed to just pencil, is a big step for me : )
Update on whats happening not happening. I got up early today to read and review my blog, in a bit to get some perspective on whats happening. I had a bad week last week in terms of anxiety over my practice and where I am not at, its so easy to slip into a state of worry and negative thoughts, and its completely poisionous. Taking action is the only way out of these states so I have booked myself a session with Paul, photographer, on Friday morning to get the naked shots done and to finish the last 5 ‘I need to be ready tasks.’
I am getting around the potential problem of being actually naked by wearing flesh coloured underwear. I am going to not think about this process too much. I want it to be a real, un flattering or flattering whichever way it comes out, photo of me, now, aged 45. varicose veins. Slightly loose mid section skin. etc. We all live in a body. I am lucky to have the one I have. I have had 4 pregnancies and I have had 3 birth experiences. I have lived in this flesh for 45 years and its mine. I have a VERY different attitude to my body to what I had 20 years ago. I want the photos to be well lit, featuring me, straight ahead, full shot, not smiling, not frowning, just calm. Legs slightly apart, weight through both feet, arms slightly away from my body. I am going to ask people to interact with the image digitally. I am planning on keeping it VERY doable. I thought on the most basic level they could just snapshot the image on their screens and scribble on it on their i-phones. The plan is to collect different responses to the image. Like online graffitti. Using a body as opposed to asking people to just draw very much sets out a trajectory from the start. The body has so many connotations. But by not providing a smiling, or suggestible image, it might change how people might draw on it. I anticipate people drawing beards, dresses, scrawling something across it. I must think about how I can ask people to send the image back so as to allow them to be anonymous if they prefer.
The most important thing is to get people to respond. I will think of all the places I can ask creatives to get involved.
in the million facebook groups I am in – surely I could put it there
on instagram by asking people to get involved one on one. Unless I am very clear what I want people might not feel like they should get involved. I am just thinking if it was me , and I saw something like this online. I would feel a little unsure as to how I would come across if I rushed to start drawing all over a semi naked female body. So it might have to be invite by email. I could ask every creative I’ve worked with over the last while online, galleries, people from college, old tutors, local creatives, facebook creatives, people through instagram, etc. Ideally I’d get 100 responses at least.
thinking what to do with the results. could display as one image, could display as a film, showing the changing drawings over the unchanging image of the person underneath. First to get the images in and worry about how to work with them after.
Also going to film the last in the I need to Be Ready series, this Friday. I was questioning the validity of this work at present given how the experience of watching the riots in USA and the marches around the world centring around Black Lives Matter are rightly dominating the news and social media. My INTBR series seems trite and not very relevant right now. But I need to think about it in a bigger context, and I want to se it through and finish it for what its worth. I can show it, the next series, tasks 11-15, in whatever way I like. I can wait and present the work, tasks 1-15, as a whole, which might be more cohesive. Even thought my computer is still, still in the shop getting its hard drive retrieved, I hope, and the imovie app has bloody stopped working on my phone, therefore stopping me from accessing the saved works in the app and also preventing me from being able to make and edit short works at the moment. Venue: BallyBeg woods. I need to get up there this week and have a look at the space to see if I can find a tree to hang off. Other tasks – hiding/climbing/shouting, and one more. Look up name of performance artist who hung off a tree until he couldn’t hold on any more. I would need to name check this guy. Its Bas Jan Ader. The following below is from Wiki:
Ader’s mother, Johanna Adriana Ader-Appels, wrote the poem “From the Deep Waters of Sleep” on 12 October 1975, after having what she described as a premonition of his death:
“From the deep waters of sleep I wake up to consciousness. In the distance I hear a train rumbling in the early morning. It is going East and passes the border. Then it will stop.”
“I feel my heart beating too. It will go on beating for some time. Then it will stop. I wonder if the little heart that has beaten with mine, has stopped. When he passed the border of birth, I laid him at my breast, Rocked him in my arms. He was very small then.”
“A white body of a man, rocked in the arms of the waves, Is very small too.”
“What are we in the infinity of ocean and sky? A small baby at the breast of eternity.”
“Have you heard of happiness Springing from a deep well of sorrow? Of love, springing from pain and despondency, agony and death? Such is mine.”