I have been so very blessed to be able to spend time away from the city this summer, working on a project close to my heart.
Make=Believe is progressing well – I’m working hard on the installation, and it’s coming well – but I am also spending my time considering (and re-consdering) all the resonances and histories the place holds. Many kids of archaeology here, many types of rootedness … .
And surprises, always.
A delightful moment in my last work trip: a man, a flute, a magpie, and the trees that lend their bodies to the work of this installation.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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! :)
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.