2011: The Six P’s

…peace, patience, productivity, prioritization and pescetarianism, oh and perseverance. These are my six new year’s resolutions, where prioritizing my time better is of key importance so I can see and take care of people more often, and eating better, as being healthy and well is paramount. I’ve been back just over a week and already had a bad cold, though it was expected. Eugh…and whilst it was manifesting in my system I made an office in what was my lounge, moving my grandfather’s roll-top desk from the dining room through into the front room, hence the lounge has been moved to where the dining room was…not that this makes much sense unless you’ve seen my house. It reminded me a little of the articles the Guardian used to do at the weekend where they focused on a writer or artist’s office, including a photograph. I used to like that insight into other writers minds. Anyway, so I’ve painted over the dark red fireplace wall in a shade of light grey, which reminded me of the floor paint used to paint out the studio floor during degree show time at university…and I suddenly decided to actually put all the artworks I have hidden away in my under the stairs cupboard on the walls, instead of them being confined to portfolios and folders. The first to go up were three prints by photographer Richard Heeps, a text and image collage by Pablo Helguera that I won at The Armory Show/Art Fair (New York) in 2008 as part of his project ‘The Free Art Gallery’, and three prints of hundreds of bicycles by the Vietnamese artist Tran Cong Dung that I acquired from my friend Jodie in Dubai who had recently been to Vietnam. I also placed three small traditionally staged portrait photographs of three unknown Chinese women that I acquired in Hong Kong. I am certainly making a den for myself in this new office…I even have a fire in there, which is well needed as there has already been more snow fall outside my house onto the road and allotments since I’ve been back.

Firstly, let me wish you all a happy and healthy 2011 and thank you for reading and continuing to read my whimsical creative and sometimes academic chatter. Since Hong Kong, RJW and I came home via Dubai where we spent Christmas, catching up with old and true friends (I miss you Jodie!), getting up to a whole world of things including sun and beach days; a visit to the Dubai Mall and the tallest building in the world, the Burf Khalifa including watching their fountain show which was strangely enough choreographed to Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’; Arabic dinner in the Souk Al Bahar; a day trip to Sharjah; Karama shopping for harem pants (x3); a desert safari with dune bashing, camel riding, falcon holding, dressing up like Arabs, belly and Kurdish dancing and a full BBQ (great falafel); a skydiving simulation session called iFly; a manicure and pedicure; a day at Wild Wadi water park; many dinners and evening drinks in the evening heat; and of course Christmas day celebrations which was an amazing feast thanks to one man called Hani (thanks again Hani!). It all went incredibly quickly…my tan has faded…my glow from the sunshine disappeared…coming back to reality on the 28th December 2010 and I’m not going to lie it has been extremely strange since I’ve returned. My head is super fuzzy and I don’t feel quite right, but maybe that’s because I’ve had a cold and I’m still jet-lagged waking up at now around 6am (it was 5am). My lips are so chapped they are stinging. As I rub them together they feel sandpaper creating unwanted friction against each other. Where’s the Carmex…?

So what to talk about as I apply a thick coat of lip balm and drink a pot of fennel tea. There is so much already in planning for this year, 2011, including possible creative PhD related trips to  Venice, further European locations, China and of course random escapades in the UK but that’s more so for fun. I was supposed to be going to present a paper at the ACLA conference in Vancouver stopping off via New York, but can no longer attend as I recently discovered I am soon to be without a job at Wolverhampton Art Gallery and my hours have been slashed quite dramatically to one day a week maybe until the end of March courtesy of all the mid-budget arts funding cuts. Well thank you Mr Prime Minister, Sir David Cameron. I know money has to be saved somewhere, but he is affecting a huge work sector, and way of life in the UK. I wish he had more of the mindset of Sir Ken Robinson who believes creativity is needed in every business as well as in education from year dot, and that creativity dramatically shapes the world we live in. I came across a new presentation he did called ‘Session I: Creativity Fueling the 21st Century Global Economy’ at the 2010 Creativity World Forum hosted by Creative Oklahoma.

“If you are doing something you love, your energy changes…you are doing something that resonates with your natural energy…It doesn’t matter what the activity is as long as it matters to you…The only way you can tell is time…”

I love watching Ken speak…he has such natural confidence, humour and an inspirational manner. A real thinker. Perhaps David should speak to him? Just a suggestion…and I doubt David will ever get round to reading this.

This leads me on to an event I attended after my first day back at university and after helping Joshua to teach a Postgraduate Certificate in Research Practice in Art, Design and Media session at BIAD with the new set of PhD students. It was at Eastside Projects in Birmingham and called ‘Collecting Panel Discussion’, as part of their Extra Special People SALON events series. It was intended to “demystify how various collections work and the relationship artists have with collections”, however instead (to me) it highlighted further the problems with the current economic climate. Zelina Garland from Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery referenced the budget cuts over the past two years and how this has influenced there collecting strategy, which is primarily “for the people” by looking at artworks merits, balance in terms of how it fits in with the existing collection, value for money and documentation. Paul Hobson then spoke of the work of the Contemporary Art Society and how they primarily want to “build a sustainable arts ecology”. I like this phrasing and it reminded me of speaking to Sun Ning at Platform China in Beijing about their show ‘Jungle – A Close-Up Focus on Chinese Contemporary Art Trends’, which also references the ideas of an arts ecology. Then came Elizabeth Nielson, who is Director of the Zabludowicz Collection in London. She largely spoke of how a collection is built privately and how philanthropy is at the heart of what they do. She did cite a few examples of their contemporary Chinese art pieces, key players in the scene though such as Yue Minjun. Finally, artist Marcus Coates spoke of his relationship and frustrations with art collectors due to how long it has taken for him to finally get representation (now with the Kate MacGarry Gallery). He stated how kudos and reputation has a domino effect, questioning whether in order to be collected, you HAVE to be represented, and can investments be taken outside of London? Overall, I felt there was quite a London-centric standing to the discussion, which I think a lot of you know by now, I do not believe is the way the art world operates in the UK. Also, there was no point at which any of them spoke about collecting internationally, international relations, buying directly from artists rather than from fairs and auction houses…so tell me, how can you buy and exhibit an artwork if you have not seen, experienced, or directly engaged first-hand with the context from which it was born? Just another thought for the day. When I get frustrated with a conversation I tend to start fidgeting and my fingers turn into a claw hand as I get tenser and tenser. As the discussion went on, I think my PhD supervisor noticed so asked me if I wanted leave…yes please. Now.

Other appropriate PhD related news…there’s talk of Skype becoming banned in China. In reality the government are looking at clamping down on “illegal” voice-over-Internet-protocol, or VoIP, telephone services…therefore it may or may not include Skype. Still, if that were to happen, it would hinder business as well as personal communications. Read more about it here. Could you imagine if this actually happened what it could do? Onto Art Market Insight who speaks of the ‘Strong demand for Chinese Modern Art’ in a recent online article where the autumn sales of 2010 in Hong Kong indicated a ‘renewed buoyancy for the Chinese, Indian and Indonesian Contemporary art stars and an explosion in the prices of works by Modern artists.’ Positive news considering the current economic climate. Read more of the article here. Finally, on the flight home from Dubai, I read an article in the Financial Times called ‘Accessing the e-book revolution’ that references the first printed book with an alphabetical index, and now how effortless this has become in relation to e-books such as Amazon’s Kindle…therefore how there is now an “indexing of our times” happening through instant cross-referencing of information in and between e-books, making the printed book or word more and more defunct in nature. It questions how we bring together the book and the web. There’s nothing quite like getting a new book from a shop or through the post though…holding it tangibly whilst smelling the fresh print on the pages…or maybe that’s just me?! I’m frightened that books will slowly disappear, that my children (if I have any), will read from screens not paper pages…but at the same time I think it might cause a resurgence of books art and artist’s book works. We’ll just have to wait and see. The article is definitely worth a read though as it raises some very interesting points.

I am taking part in the ‘type writing’ conference at BIAD, talking about my practice as a paper and book artist, and all things typewriter. I am also coming up with a new artwork to show and discuss as part of the conference paper, which I have called ‘An Automated Reflex: Typewriters, Ghost Writers and Gabriele’. Slightly poetic I feel…and I’ll tell you more about it as the paper and artwork unfold. Robin Peckham emailed me a week or so ago to talk about all things AIVA and also mentioned that he’s been the idea of the “transcultural” with a few of his colleagues over the past few days,

“…much of China seems to be convinced that global economic and political flows are starting to favor Chinese cultural production similar to the way WWII and post-war movements of people and objects fabricated a first order art scene in New York. The scenario might seem ridiculous from our side of things, but we’ll see how it plays out – the idea, if nothing else, has proved tenacious in these parts.”

Interesting notions right? Also, the Director of AW Asia sent me a very beautiful and powerfully worded email of positivity as regards my PhD research and blog. It is always nice to get feedback, especially of this sort. It reassures me I am getting somewhere. Also, because of China and my research, I am now doing more and more arts writing and journalism and thus, because of this, writers block lures its ugly face and is impossible to get past sometimes. I feel like my hand loses the ability to pick up a black bic biro sometimes, like I’ve regressed into being a 3 year child learning to put pen to paper by holding a brightly coloured crayon. Come on creativity…instead I go and make pots of herbal tea and procrastinate on the internet. As for what else is on the cards for 2011…well, exercise is one thing as I’ve missed swimming and running, even though RJW and I did do a little swimming in Hong Kong, and cycled everywhere in China…eight weddings to go to, yes, eight! that’s a lot of love going on this year…and welcoming an artist’s baby into the world. *Smiles*

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