Artcore residency blog no. 7……..I have been thinking a lot about Walter Benjamin’s notion of ‘constellations’ and its application to art as having multiple points of connection. In the same way that we look at stars and find patterns even when there is seemingly no ‘real’ or tangible relationship between them, we look at fragments and objects, events, acts…and create relationships between them.
Last week Steve Pool came in to talk about his projects Never-land and No place for the future and the ways in which he has worked with people and communities; making connections with audiences. This week I started working with a group at the Women’s Centre in Derby. It was difficult to find the right label for this workshop. The Women’s Centre called it ‘celebrating your successes’. It isn’t quite that. The idea is to gather together and in the process of making, share things we have done – small but valuable things that we do for our families.
It is less about the clay than talking. Clay is so therapeutic –it’s like a stress ball as much as a creative malleable material. It’s relaxing to mold things. I’d love to meet women who might donate stories to the project and perhaps even show their small clay figures but it will be on their terms. I’d love it if they had a sense of value through sharing their work at Artcore but it will be whatever they decide.
Thinking of art as ‘non-finalizable configurations’ with multiple and unexpected confrontations makes art part of a process in which anything is possible –  like stars with ‘infinite conjunctions’. Human beings of all cultures have created and attached stories to the stars. It is part of human condition to make sense of the world and to use stories to help them do so.
I thought I might share a few of my own personal stories and experiences at the women’s workshop to encourage others to tell theirs, if they felt like it but instead l ended up doing this – to my surprise – as part of my contribution to the Never-land talk. I hadn’t intended to tell my personal story -or a version of it.
I met Rhiannon Jones at Nottingham Primary and we talked about – Theatre of the Self –and how it informs what I am doing now. In working with diaries, autobiographical theory Julia Swindells in The Uses of Autobiography (p.206) says that
‘shared individual experience is an important part of the social discovery of a common condition…Once we can perceive what is common to women, change and transformation become possible and the cycle of guilt and personal recrimination can be broken.’
Reading, editing and destroying 30 years worth of my own diaries as an art project Theatre of the Self (2017), was more than a cathartic act, it was a conscious starting point for re-writing and re-valorising others’ stories – the constellations of care that women are involved in, that often come at a heavy price to women’s mental health. I saw it as a spring board to find ways of  creating contexts in which women can re-write their own stories and change a cultural narrative that simultaneously trivialises women’s caring and domestic roles and creates pressure to live up to unrealisable ideals.
Valorizing the realities of women’s everyday lives and creating stories – is part of a personal and collective project in which women can have a voice. Perhaps the idea of ‘constellations’ help us understand connections between and how as artists we can help create and generate relationships and communication between individual and collective needs.