The Space Between Us

Into roughly the 8th week(??) of isolation (time has become incredibly fluid for me), and as the days pass, I think increasingly about what will be in the “time after.” Everyone is in such a rush to “get back to normal,” to reopen businesses and relax some of the protocols that have kept many of us safe and healthy – if not employed. I do absolutely sympathize with those who want to re-open their businesses, who are desperate to earn an income to support themselves and their families. It’s at least as frightening to have the economic rug pulled suddenly out from under you as it is to come face to face with a pandemic. This is about survival, on so many levels.

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https://www.carfac.ca/news/2020/03/30/a-notice-to-our-members-and-our-community-regarding-covid-19/

BUT. I am going to articulate  massively unpopular opinion.

I DO NOT WANT to get back to “normal life.” Not soon, and if I am honest, not ever.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about how ‘normal life’ breaks people and communities through its enactment of privilege, how many people are silenced in so many ways, how at its root this is all about the trade of labour and creativity to enrich the few on the backs of many – and at the expense of the environment and all other beings. How I desperately, urgently, passionately want it all to CHANGE for the better on the other side of this. How afraid I am that it won’t. And how I feel increasingly paralyzed by the prospect of a ‘return to before.’

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This is true for me in relation to the broader culture in which I live, and for the sector in which I work. This is a moment in which we could – and should – recognize that not only will the ‘new normal’ be with us for a long time (2 metres for the win!), but the ‘old normal’ is something that we should neither wish for nor return to. It also may be moot – because the ‘old normal’ may not exist for much longer, regardless of what some (or most) people desire.

“Normal” or “business as usual” has been exposed with utter clarity by the pandemic:  the glaring gaps in care, the enormous disparities that are actively cultivated and maintained by the systems in which we live and work. How many people have no choice but to risk their health and that of their loved ones & work in this time, in order to survive; how the most vulnerable of us have even fewer options to remain safe and healthy.

How many of us have seen our entire sector shut down, cancelled, income evaporated, in already tenuous livelihoods.

So this is a point in which we can CHOOSE what kind of world we want to live in moving forward. And we need to ask these questions of ourselves – NOW – while we have the time and opportunity to do so.

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What are you prepared to do to create a more equitable culture and community as we come out of this? How can we work together to make that happen?

What aspects of ‘normal life’ are you happy to see gone?

I leave you with these questions – and encourage your replies … and also with an excellent essay by Lou Sheppard; they articulate far more eloquently than I some of the things that have been worrying me about what comes next.

Take Care of Each Other.

Sharing … at a Safe Distance

It’s been quiet here in some ways – and definitely not in others! Whilst we have all been minimizing our in-person contact with friends and colleagues (well ok, with EVERYONE!) for the last few weeks, there’s been a flurry of activity behind the scenes regarding advocacy and support initiatives of various sorts. It’s been confusing at times, and much has happened very quickly – so it’s been challenging to keep up and understand what is relevant to my profession as an independent visual artist, and to the sector as a whole.

Happily, CARFAC Alberta and CARFAC National have been doing a fantastic job of compiling and distilling information as it becomes available, and advocating for appropriate support for our sector. I have never been more grateful for the work these organizations do to support artists and advocate on their behalf. As a board member in both, I continue to offer my time and effort to help them help all of us.

If you want to chat about what’s available, what you are facing, and what CARFAC is doing, I’ll be part of an online session on MAY 2, from 1:00 pm – 2:30 pm MDT

Join CARFAC Alberta for a SATURDAY ZOOM ENGAGEMENT…
What CARFAC is doing for Visual Artists during COVID -19
Hosted by Chris W. Carson: Executive Director, CARFAC Alberta and guest Sydney Lancaster: CARFAC National Board Member and Alberta Representative on the CARFAC National Board.

The ZOOM coordinates are here:

Join Zoom Meeting: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87871667746
Meeting ID: 878 7166 7746

I hope to see & hear from you then!

Being Resourceful

We are all hunkering down – making the best of social distancing, of being at home (the privilege of those of us that can work from home … or find themselves now out of work).

We are reading, making art, caring for and educating children, caring for friends and others at a distance, going for walks, venturing out as little as possible otherwise … life, in silos.

Those of us facing down this strange time in human history by removing ourselves from the community (or being removed through unemployment) are where we need to be right now, for the protection of everyone, not just ourselves.

So it’s a ‘social good’ – but the varying degrees of lockdown across the country also mean that people with precarious incomes – like artists – have seen the income from their practices all but disappear, and the gig work they do to make ends meet has evaporated.

It’s still not clear (to me at least) where people that had ‘potential’ income that has dried up will fit into federal and provincial relief programs … hopefully that information will be forthcoming soon.

So – WE HAVE TO BE PREPARED.

Yes, that’s right … just when you hoped to avoid paperwork for a a while, since the deadline for tax filing has been deferred … you need to keep track of ALL the income you have lost.

It’s ain’t sexy or glamorous – and might be a bit depressing – but it is SO NECESSARY right now. By tracking our losses, we can provide an accurate picture of the financial impact of the pandemic for workers who don’t “fit” into the regular systems of income-generation and accounting.

There are many of us – so it’s vital that we have the facts to hand, so the case can be made.

Here are some tools & other resources to help:

Stay safe, take care of your self and each other. And do your paperwork! :)

This String of Moments

I’ve been thinking a good bit over the last few months about self-care, and in particular the need for conscious self-care on the part of artists.

In part these thoughts come from my own understanding of what I need – starting with saying ‘no’ more often – and honouring the fact that I need LOTS of recharge time on my own to be good to and for others and for the community I wish to support and serve. That means fewer opportunities sometimes – which has its own sort of stress. But for me right now, that’s necessary. These thoughts also stem from many conversations (truth to tell, too many) with other artists over the last couple of years about the reality of their lives, and about exhaustion and burnout.

How incredibly focussed and dedicated my colleagues are – and how tired. Juggling jobs (two? three? more???) some of them, to keep head above water in a gig economy. OR, finally landing “THE job” – the one that pays enough to forego the side gigs – just to see time and energy eaten week after week by the needs and demands of the work at hand, because there aren’t enough hands to do the work, or hours in the day … and they are responsible people, who care about their colleagues and the work they do.

And these bright, talented people ask themselves (and have admitted to me): “I wonder if I am still an artist? Can I even call myself that anymore?

That’s a hard thing to hear, especially given that it’s evident how much talent they have and how much they have to offer the world and their community, on all kinds of levels.

SO – why on earth am I talking about this, and interspersing these observations with pictures of autumn leaves, and glancing sunlight, and panorama photos of coastlines and sky?

Because I have the privilege of being able to take some time for myself just now; I have joked that I have “run away” temporarily … but I haven’t really. Not at all.

If anything, I have gone away to be more totally present. I had the opportunity to get away from my home city and all that is familiar, and to spend some time in another part of the country. I jumped at it. I knew I needed the break very badly, and was (and continue to be) incredibly grateful for the good fortune that has allowed me to do this.

To just be for a little while.

To figure a little bit more out – what next, why, what are the limits, how far and hard to push, and in what direction.

What is healthy (for me) … what is healthy for each of us? It can’t be the grind that I see so many people inside, in all walks of life. Is it any wonder so many of us are angry? Sad? Feeling desperate?

Do I have the solutions or answers or tools to help? I have no idea. But I do know that not having the opportunity to just STOP for a little bit, every so often, absolutely precludes the opportunity to consider these questions – and to seek the answers that are right for oneself.

May the world shift in favour of more humane ways of being for all of us.

Tomorrow is another day, and perhaps it will be a good one, for more of us.

Off Again …

Just about to leave for Vancouver for the CARFAC National Conference and AGM!

Looking forward to seeing my colleagues from right across the country, and sharing ideas and practical tools to assist artists.

I am particularly happy that there will be a panel on Indigenous Intellectual & Cultural Property Rights. This is an area of artists’ rights I need and want to learn more about!

I am also really excited to hear updates on two different projects to help artists protect their copyright and earn more for their creative work:

The Prescient Blockchain Project, and the Image Bank and Licensing Platform from Copyright Visual Arts!

It’s going to be a busy few days … but it’s going to be really informative and fun too!

Speechless.

Just back from an amazing, life-and-practice affirming few days on Lethbridge at IAST 2018. More on that later, when I aim more grounded and in a better space.

Being immersed in such a creative and positive environment made the return to ‘the news of the day’ perhaps more jarring & disheartening, I don’t know.

What I do know is that what is going on globally, and most certainly to the immediate south of Canada is deeply disturbing, more so by the day. And it is mirrored elsewhere in the world, including in my home province (to a lesser degree, to be sure – for now).

But I wonder increasingly about the entire notion of ‘humanity’ and ‘civil society’ in a time in which we are witness to fewer and fewer examples of both.

So, for the moment, I must sit with this reality, in order to move forward in a positive way.

Wishing you all peace and safety.

*feature image for this post from the work of Micheal Pederson)

Drawing Lesson

I am not usually one to share ‘inspirational’ talks or pithy quotes. To be honest, most of that kind of thing leaves me flat – sorry if that seems cynical or jaded, but there’s a tendency toward the superficial ‘instafix’ in this culture that is served by this material.

However – I have also been thinking a great deal about the power of art & creativity to open doors to new ways of thinking and being. Especially pertinent to my mind, given the propensity toward tribalism and divisive language and action in the world today.

And then I came across this:

This little talk  by Graham Shaw is all about breaking down patterns of thinking – about understanding better the limitations we impose upon ourselves (and others).

It is gentle and fun – and if you are in the tl;dr world – skip to the end if you must – but I do recommend the 15 minutes it takes to view the whole thing.

Good stuff for a Monday.

Be well.

Residencies: A Primer

I will be presenting a Professional Development talk in Edmonton on March 27th 2018. This will be an all-access Webinar, so anyone interested outside of Edmonton can participate as well. Please see the details below to register.

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Free for Visual Arts Alberta ~ CARFAC members, $45 to non-members.
RSVP by 4pm on Friday, March 23. For more information, contact Sharon at (780) 421-1731 or email us.

If you prefer learning in the company of others, you may participate in Edmonton at the Visual Arts Alberta ~ CARFAC Project Space. 3rd Floor, 10215 112 St. Edmonton, AB.

Some thoughts on leaving and coming back

I am preparing to fly West this afternoon, after a busy and very productive several months in various spots in Nova Scotia. A great residency with Scott Smallwood, and new work launched in Parrsboro, at Main & Station. The start of some new and exciting collaborations with Deborah Carruthers and with Susan Tooke.  Time to experiment with cyanotype processes, work on video and audio projects.  Time to hike, to make photographs, to think, to further the long-term process of healing my body (thank you Acupuncture and Massage Therapy!)

It feels like much more time has passed since I was last on ‘home turf’ – or rather, that the tempo and scale of time as I experience it has shifted in a fundamental way – and now I have to find my way back to something more familiar. Not quite there – and I think that’s a very good thing. VERY.

It was a good place and time to be reminded of the diverse (and often very difficult, painful) histories of any given place. How easy it is not to see that – how easy to get lost in the vast beauty of the place – any place – and look but not see. The beauty is part of those histories; it’s woven into the different scales of time inherent in that locale to be sure. Geologic time. Tidal Time. Seasonal Time. Mythic time. Colonial Time (a very slippery fish, this one). Settlement Time. Expulsion Time. Industrial Time. And on and  on … but make no mistake, there’s nothing linear about this.

The ‘present’ as we fashion it in any given moment is its own rabbit hole; a crucial vantage point (and obviously the only one available in a pragmatic sense), but it’s also a very troubled and troubling place from which to assess the relative value of most things and actions and ideas … . The popular narratives that tend to overwhelm all other chatter are still those that yoke the present to doing cartwheels toward the ‘somehow-better-future’. Because, of course  ‘things’ will be ‘improved.’ This is the wish, the hope, and the outcome to be willed into being, somehow.

And under it all, the land remains—a page upon which this story is “written, erased, rewritten,” as author Teju Cole put it. Only memory and history can interrupt this cycle of revision we commonly refer to as progress. And those interruptions are vital, absolutely necessary, if we are to navigate some way toward a better way of existence for ourselves (on all levels), and co-existence with all beings.

Remains to be seen how well I am able to carry these glimmers of understanding forward as I return to the familiar places and routines – but the intent (and hope) is there.  Patience, process, compassion.

Tomorrow!

The CARFAC National Conference and AGM is tomorrow – Saturday, June 3rd!

It’s going to be a good weekend, and it’s exciting to know that here will be visual artists from all over the country here this weekend, discussing issues  and advocacy initiatives pertinent to artists’ careers.

There’s also going to be programming Saturday Evening and Sunday afternoon – so it’s not ‘all work and no play.’

I’m looking forward very much to hearing from other parts of the country, and to reconnecting with artists I haven’t seen for far too long.

Information below – there’s still time to register and join us:

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