Yesterday I attended a workshop entitled ‘Writing About Your Art Practice” which was part of a series of Artist Development Days run by Burnley Creative Alliance and funded by the Arts Council. As part of the day we had to explain our “practice” to another person who then introduced us to the group, members of the group could ask questions of the person presenting. It was an exercise in demonstrating how much information we fail to give to others because in our heads we know what our practice is and so unconsciously make assumptions that others do too. The whole day was extremely illuminating both for myself and the artists I shared a table with.
It got me thinking about what I’m actually doing and why. On the surface of it I go for a walk and document that journey via photography, film and written word. But I asked myself what was going on underneath these actions. With talking to other women, it seems common that going for a walk is a way of providing the space for a creative part to express itself. This part is younger, irrational, wilder who has to take a back seat in normal life because of adult responsibilities for example, work, family, domestic chores. When I was about 6 years old I began to go for a walk in order to escape being under my parent’s control. Getting out of the house was freedom from this power dynamic. So when I now go for a walk it is this younger creative imaginative part of me that is able to be free again.
Sometimes, I have to have internal conversations where I try and work out what is going on whereby that younger part needs to express emotions and thoughts there’s not space for in my non-walking life. Other women have talked about this split in their consciousness where they have amazing ideas, stories emerge, lines of poetry, insights and enlightened solutions to problems. However, as soon as they step back inside, the ideas go as if they never existed or as if they belonged to a dream. Try as I might to bring this consciousness inside I cannot, this part only emerges outside and with movement. The answer? To take my notebook or voice recorder with me. This young part wants nothing to do with depicting reality as adults know it, she does not want to draw anything representational, she wants to create stories and listen to the words in the wind, to hear the stories of the land and how it got its scars. I have managed to agree with this creative part that she will do a large drawing soon after she has returned from a walk. This is not representational but in response to the walk.
Here are three of the drawings:
The third drawing felt too representational so I ended up cutting it with a scalpel and rearranging the cut parts. This way of documenting the walks feels much more real than by other methods. I will continue with voice recordings. The drawings may develop into paintings or textile pieces.
This feels such a relief to work in this way after last week when I began to film my walks. The part of me that has been thinking and researching had entered into and “took over” the walking space so that my younger part, to whom the walking space belongs, had been annoyed that her space had being colonised, scrutinised, measured and documented. Her space to imagine, to make stories, to daydream had been invaded. In the Walk On Festival catalogue, Norman MacCraig writes that the more you know, the less you see and that what you experience is your knowledge of it, not the thing itself. So, to keep the younger part of us full of wonder and astonishment it may be useful to curb the mind’s desire for finding out “Why”. I noticed this recently after I had been finding out how glaciers shape the landscape so that when I was out walking I was looking at the boulders on the hillsides and imagining them being rolled down by the glacier thousands of years ago. I stopped seeing the shapes, the patterns on their surface, the spaces in between them, I stopped seeing something beyond the scientific, rational explanation, I stopped making up stories. The official adult interpretation had silenced that part of me.
It’s time for a rethink because a huge part of my life is about words, research and thinking but I need to keep my walks for my imaginative part. What it has clarified is that I also need to find other places or spaces in which this creative aspect of myself can safely venture out. The house doesn’t seem to be safe enough for me or other women. I was looking on YouTube at some images of mothers with their babies and fathers with their offspring and was struck by how fathers had the permission to play whereas mothers had to be the caretakers, the dependable ones, the moral gatekeepers. Where is our playtime? On solitary walks? I interviewed a woman today who described how as a child she would go for a walk with her mother and grandmother and would take herself a safe way away to explore and then return. She now enjoys walking in groups of women where she walks fast in order to take photos whilst she waits for the group members to catch up, in other instances she jumps off rocks and climbs trees, exercising that need to be physical as she would as a child. So, this part of us is always young and needs experiences suitable for play.
This is not specific to walking as other people will find spaces for their younger parts to play and daydream. What activities do you use in order to give your child like parts space to create and play? I need new ideas.