Day 4 :: Fee :: All the Feelings

It could be Friday night roundabout now (or it could be any other time AT ALL) but I’m feeling in a Friday night/end of the week reflective mood, so I’m going with that. It’s been a long, and yet rapidly moving week. Now it feels like it’s coming to an end, I’m wondering what it all means.

I came in to this process really open minded, but wondering two main things:

– what happens when you lock me away & ask me to be creative?
– what happens when i am taken away from my gadgets and network?

So here’s what I’ve learned.

What happens when you lock me away & ask me to be creative?

I’ve written/ spoken a lot before about my shift from a Creative Producer to an artist, and the self-doubts that naturally arise there. I think this residency has confirmed – through SCIENCE! – that I don’t need to ask myself ‘am I an artist” anymore. What happens when you lock me away and ask me to create is that *drumroll* – I create. I observe every nuance and partake in every conversation thinking ‘how can this become something else, something more than the sum of its parts?

’I reflect on what and why I create. ‘what’ I make can be playful, experimental or have meaning, but (although I always put huge pressure on myself to end up with the latter) it’s OK to do it all. I create because I just bloody love seeing that inert space become something else – something unknown even to me. Whether a blank sheet of paper with a kernel of a story concept wanting to reach its conclusion, a moment waiting to be caught on camera or a cereal box and some paint waiting to be shaped into a door bolt. I don’t consider myself a visual artist or a writer, although I dabble in both. I’m not just one thing, and that’s just fine by me.

I think about the other things I could be making if I had my usual tools – the arduino pieces i’ve been learning how to make, modelling tools for 3d printing, the knitting and sewing and of course the crowdsourcing and community engagement side of my practice. As Jen said, my world is inherently social and to be removed from that is bound to be disarming.I freak out about not working hard enough, or berate myself for not being good enough/not being anywhere near as good as this or that person. Certainly being so close to Thom, Jen and Sean this week has been almost intimidating; they are all prolific craftspeople and make my non-portfolio shameful. On the one hand this thinking is stupid and counter-productive, on the other it’s what drives me to a) make and b) make BETTER.

Of course the bonus of having smart people around you is that they INSPIRE you. I honestly couldn’t have chosen a nicer, more perfect bunch of folk to be locked away with. Thanks to the selection committee for that – this could have been HELL with the wrong people! It’s been a real honour to share personal and creative thoughts with everyone here. At some stage there will be ‘an artwork’ that comes from our experiences and the data gathered but all through the week little shared moments have filtered between our collective voices and images. Labs bring you together in a way no other creative environment can. A sleep residency – with its social lockdown, extreme challenges and shared procedure pains – has just intensified that.

What happens when I am taken away from my gadgets and network?

Having been living in a bus with no electricity for the last couple of months I’ve already had a chance to wind down from my old-typical ‘always on’ existence. That’s been a good thing – I think coming in here cold-turkey might not have been so fun.

The first adjustment (which started happening in the bus) is that I needed to alter how I immerse my thoughts into my gadgets. If I have an idea I would typically grab a device and type it out, either to action a to-do, to capture the right phrase or context for an artwork, or the stimulus for a blog post. Now those moments have to be scribbled using a pen & paper for later contextualisation. I bought my first moleskin (red cover, of course, plus a fountain pen with red ink) so that my notes on the hoof can be written up in more depth later (much how a to-do would transition into an evernote document on my phone).

In here I have two notebooks (both graph paper) and a stack of post-it-notes. The postits & one notepad are for the momentary ideas, the fragments and sometimes flows that erupt. The moleskin continues to function as the home of more considered reworkings of those thoughts. It also contains the albums, books and other references my colleagues here say I should look up when I get out. One notebook has a page titled “things to add to your diary when you get your phone back”. It’s a different system and i’m still tweaking it but it’s working for me for now. What’s lovely about the notebook is that I’m (nervously but increasingly) doodling and even sketching – my thoughts are considerably more graphic than on a phone. And in colour! (I have a red and green fountain pen, a mechanical pencil and a black biro).

Jen calls us ‘each other’s Google’ which is a pretty perfect description. I have found I can’t remember how to spell certain words – partly exhaustion, partly the lack of being able to hit the dictionary on my laptop or just land on Google to check accuracy. Seriously if these guys hadn’t been here – or had not been so abundantly cool – this would have been a damn sight less fun (not to mention productive). What I have missed most, then, is the social part of my world – which is pretty huge these days. I miss throwing out thoughts and ideas and seeing what comes back. I miss random questions, articles or challenges coming from afar and how they change my perception for that moment or infiltrate my work further down the track. I miss the minutiae of other peoples’ worlds coming into mine. I miss the buzz of snapping a pic and watching the likes and comments come back across instagram, facebook and twitter. I miss the random conversations with strangers from other countries who I may never meet IRL but who sparkled my day with their otherwordliness.

But mostly – the thing I try to avoid thinking about at ALL! – is that I constantly worry that things are broken. My server has gone down. I’ve been hacked and am spamming everyone I’ve ever (or never) met. The blog post material I’ve passed on to someone else to post for me hasn’t been published the way I want it. The people waiting for the next instalment of…something… are cross with me because i’m off somewhere lolling about instead of doing PROPER WORK.

But really, I don’t think anything is broken, and I’m luxuriating in the decadence of time and space to not be distracted… except by the next procedure. Which is now… so more will have to wait.

Fee Plumley

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