“Round peg in a square hole” (adapted traditional saying)
Take a look at the first picture. This is a print by Tracy Emin, the queen of contentious art. What do you think? The second picture is a picture that I have made recently in response to the process of redeployment. My current employer has outsourced their HR support and we are all invited to use an online platform, which tries to match our skills to possible jobs. By the time I reached the page where I was asked what ‘I would like to learn’ I had lost all patience with a process which did not recognise the job title of ‘artist’, ‘art teacher’, ‘art enabler’ or any criteria including art and wanted me to be an Adobe designer. And so, I started to become facetious. My response to ‘what do you want to learn?’ was ‘love’. Because that is what I’m still trying to learn in everything I do. But, not surprisingly, there was no match found. I also wrote a poem about this experience as follows:
No match found for your love
We don’t have a box to tick for faith or hope.
There are no criteria for community, collaboration. We want your compliance: Your nine-to-fives
The right outcomes, monitored blue sky thinking
And wash up meetings, scheduled please. None of your ‘Lets work together’ creative nonsense: Care in the community as long as it fits the agenda, And you don’t seem to have one. Session timed out.
A recent post on Facebook showed a survey in the Singapore Times where people were asked who they considered essential and non-essential workers. Essential workers included, interestingly, all those people we have previously taken for granted; nurses, refuse collectors, cleaners. But what caught my eye was that the top non-essential worker, above telemarketing and PR specialist, was artist. When I shared the post in a fit of self pity, the response was instant and interesting: comments reflected on the fact that what most of what my friends do could be considered non essential, as they work in community charities caring for the most vulnerable in our society, support refugees, create art events with local communities, make peace across different faith traditions, or educate our children. I particularly liked this comment “Wow. A world with nobody creating anything. You’d wake up to grey listen to nothing see grey taste cardboard wear a sack and go to bed bored and itchy!”
A recent conversation with a friend reminded me of one of my nemesis questions when meeting someone for the first time, which is “What do you do?” Where do I start with this? I understand that it is a way of trying to get to know others and is often genuine so I will always try and answer it. But maybe we need rethink the pigeonholing that society employs to label us and perhaps implies that some people as more important, some jobs as more essential, some lives matter more than others. Perhaps we need to think more about who we are: to move from human doing to human being.
Take some time to look at the pictures and consider these questions:
How do you define yourself?
By your job? By your friends? By your voluntary activities?
Who are you deep inside?
How can you learn to be more?
You will need washable felt tip, smooth surface like a piece of glass or a tray, paper (smooth printer paper works best), spray bottle with water, kitchen or loo roll
- You will be making a version of monoprint, which is what Tracy Emin used in her image. This is a type of printing which is made by the imprint (or shadow) of a drawing.
- Who are you? What defines you? What human being are you?
- Draw a picture using the felt tip onto the smooth surface to represent you. It could be as simple as a stick person with symbols all around them. If you want to use words, bear in mind that the finished image will come out backwards, so you will need to use mirror writing.
- When you’ve made your drawing, spray the piece of paper with water to make it wet.
- Blot the paper with kitchen or loo roll, it needs to be damp but not too wet
- Place damp paper over the image you have drawn and press with your hands, rubbing the paper thoroughly with your fingers
- Pull paper up from the surface to reveal your monoprint
This meditation is commissioned by Leeds Methodist Mission