Contested Territories and Grayson Perry, and how they help me to approach my practice.

The thing with Contested Territories is it is almost too interesting. I think I have mentioned this before, at least I have in conversation, it is so big. It is a huge option with so many avenues you can walk down, however, so is my practice. I have read some of the required reading; if I am honest, for where I wanted to initially take this project, I found the reading was too distracting as my area of interest was being documented by the press regularly. I felt engaging with editorial pieces was more important and relevant than academic reading. Some of the talks have been fascinating and today’s has made an impact. I have found throughout the option, my ideas and thoughts have flown freely but for my practice research. I’m not sure whether I have been stimulated enough but not fully engaged with some of the lectures and this has triggered me to take what is being said and take bring it into the context of my option.

I have been watching a lot of Grayson Perry documentaries and questioning how he is able to approach people and get them to engage with him. Is it because he is male? Surely this makes it easier to approach other men and question their identity and ideas of what masculinity means than if I asked them? Is it because he is open about how his inner research on his own identity has enabled him to unpack this in relation to masculinity? Having already done the work on himself, so to speak, does this break down barriers and enable his subjects to feel less judged. Is it because he is an established and celebrated artist who is successful and has acquired a certain status? If you look him up on google, he will appear first, not hundreds of other people with the same name. Is it because he has money behind him and camera crews that makes it easier to source the exact people he is looking for? It would be reasonable to believe it could be a combination of these things and I commend him for using all of them to work to help people. Because that is the desire behind his work.

Perry made a comment during the first episode of Grayson Perry, Who Are You?, ‘there is always an element of myself in there’. He said there are issues that are talked about that remind him of things he has dealt with or questioned. I wondered if that helps to make his work work? Because there is always a personal element in there or because he is able to empathise with the subject/ topic. When I released the videos of my reportage illustration, I might have got a few ‘likes’, but no one really engaged with it. I gave an interview for GRRRLIZM digital art collective magazine and released that across my social media. I spoke about what I was trying to do with my work, what I had found so far and a couple of my own personal childhood experiences. People liked it, shared the post and messaged me about it to say it made them think. I wonder if this is a good place to start? Maybe I can address my experiences first and use them as prompts? Would people open up if I could show this when asking for their stories?

Today’s Contested Territories lecture was on memory and trauma. Something was said; trauma is never in the past, it is always in the present. I believe this is true. Is trauma on the body worse than trauma on the mind? And how is trauma measured? If something small affects you for years, is it huge? Can it shape you even if you can’t see it? This lecture gave me lots to think about and also artists to look at. We spoke of how trauma can be embedded in objects and materials; as with gender. Memories can be triggered by objects, songs, certain smells and maybe this is where I need to be looking? I will research in to the artists over the weekend and go rummaging through my parent’s loft for old objects. I have the email of the lecturer to talk with her about my project.

I am going to email Sian Bonnell too as her artist talk was inspiring and I am thinking about placing objects in certain places to evoke certain feelings… this is a separate blog post, I think.

At the end of the day I wanted to hear a talk given by Gary Spicer as part of his PhD journey but my train was booked for 7pm… I did manage to quiz him on his approach to his work. He said he sees no separation between his reading, writing and practical work. There is no order, he may read until he feels he has to make or document; they are equal in value to the Phd as a whole. He is allowing his research to guide him and has no end goal. He wrote a letter to himself asking what it was that he wanted to find out knowing that he knows himself best and would subconsciously be able to answer. He has his interest in memory, and again, his personal aspect of being of half Jewish and looking at the Holocaust. He found his area of interest during his MA and even though he took a long break after his MA, his interest remained. What resonated with me is that I feel like I know my area of interest, I have a personal aspect invested, and I also have no firm idea after this. I do not know what I want to make and I can not imagine getting to the point where I feel I have read enough and I fully need to make practical work now. I’m not sure whether I need to be completely experimental until I touch on something, investigating one thing, then maybe another area? What if I don’t make anything that particularly works? Does this matter? Because I am still investigating and unpicking? Do I have to be set in where I want to go on MA or can I deliberately leave it open? With this topic of gender and identity, I can’t imagine my work will be done by the end of MA.


Photographs of Gary Spicer’s PhD practice, Necessitating My Alliance.


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