Posts tagged ‘video’

stop and start again

CN: PTSD, ‘domestic’ violence to women, hearing voices

Lots of ways to read that – one meaning is that the internet wifi has gone down irretrievably and my one hour callback from the tech dept arranged by customer services after the first fail [tsk tsk] still hasn’t come 9 days later.. my new router from a different company should arrive sooner than that though πŸ˜‰ meanwhile a 5m ethernet cable from the Β£shop is making internet access possible, though not comfortable.


I’ve had an emotional break-apart/through too, I have had a painful experience in taking on too much and having to excuse myself… I was tagged to The Women’s Quilt, a very brave endeavour, where there will be a square for each of the 589 women in Britain known to have been killed by a violent partner, father, other male relative during the period 2009 – 2015. That’s 2 a week, in a relatively small country. I volunteered to make some squares, though finding out we had to do the research ourselves on the women was where I should have dropped out. I assumed there would have been a collaboration with the friends or next of kin over what they would like a woman remembered for. Having to read up about 8 women and a 16 year old girl’s horribly violent deaths and try and find any source of information about the woman other than as the victim was very difficult.. every newspaper covered the number of stabwounds etc very few said ANYTHING about the woman. The Facebook page became filled with heart rending stories as more people making squares shared how terrible the deaths were but also how horrible the gaps are… The admins were careful to tell people to protect themselves and only take on what they could, but the constant reminders via Fbk notifications were upsetting – yes I turned off the notifications, it takes a couple of days to take effect… I managed to make 4 squares, two of which are very plain because there just wasn’t any personal information. One woman was about to go swimming so I made her a mermaid


another was the concert pianist Natalia Strelchenko, so I found some music printed on fabric for her [ it’s The Holly and the Ivy, but needs must..]


I was really surprised how much this experience shook me… I think to be fair if I wasn’t already upset by my brother-in-law dying [the oldest and last of the three brothers, my poor mother- and sister-in-law] and his wife now being seriously ill in hospital, my therapist of the last 11/12 years having suddenly being diagnosed with cancer again and having to stop work, a friend being diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma… then it might have been less upsetting. Combined with my personal griefs, the Trumpland woes and Brexit suicidal xenophobia… I just felt very ‘precarious’, a word I use when I feel the PTSDs are running amok and I can barely hang on to the wild horse of survival… I’ve made it, and learnt – yet again – that pacing is some tricky shit.


I feel I need to withdraw from Facebook and use it much more carefully. I signed up as an artist and then Facebook made me have a personal account and a ‘business’ account. It’s a useful tool and a tyrannical master… my friends have a broad range of politics, so my home/feed is full of bad news with the occasional positive…no one means to be negative, but that’s a lot to hold your self and daily purpose against. While I was feeling ‘haunted’ by the details of the deaths, mixed in with life stories of others and my own experiences of violence and helplessness, I felt bombarded by all the bad news in the world, how the right are rising and fascism may overtake Europe and the US… and as the feelings of uselessness rose, I was rescued by the reminder [yes, voices in my head πŸ˜‰ ] that you can only do your OWN work, that in the face of death and destruction, all I can and must do is make art, however I can. It was amazingly reassuring…

somewhere else

I can’t only make art of course, but if I accept the loving reminders of politically aware friends like Uditi Shane and Jennifer Moore, then my art IS enough of a protest to make… and the rest of the time I need more mental space, I need to have more space to experiment and be playful. Because life sends enough challenges without the constant flood of negativity the news etc brings. In my own words, “I am one 7 billionth of the problem – sometimes it’s ok to only be one 7 millionth of the solution”. I usually laugh as I say it, because it can be very easy today to feel we aren’t doing enough, and putting that perspective on it changes everything. I’m pretty sure even on a bad day I manage to do my share, because my ingrained habits of thrift, recycling, buying fairtrade, vegetarianism and giving to the foodbanks etc do that… During my internet hiccups, I didn’t miss Facebook very much at all – because I could connect for long enough to message friends but not long enough for general browsing or reading the feed, which I had come to dread. I read books, sewed towards the Empire piece, caught up with some dyeing projects, slept off the adrenalin rushes… and now I’m starting again, trying to follow Olitski’s excellent advice πŸ™‚



Peace (the 100th heart) film

Keith Turner has made a lovely film of the installation, with his video and recording of me performing the poem at Nottingham Peace Fair 2014. l wish l’d fitted in some more rehearsing, you can hear me relax about 10 lines in – that’s a Suffolk accent that starts to come out πŸ˜‰

Thanks again for all your support, Keith!

What’s in a Name?

So I’ve been interviewed 4 times in 2 months, and two of the interviewers were reluctant to accept Singing Bird as my action name. As an agoraphobic, this is an avatar that helps me be somewhere that sets off panic attacks, so their attitude lands very badly. One accepted it but his editor called it my pseudonym, my false name, and this annoyed me excessively until I thought about what I’d said during my interview with Kristina, that this is my ‘true’ name, expressing a part of me that has struggled for a long time to come out. And as the editor has no idea about that…no blame…


Interview by Kristina Lewis-Shipley for her forthcoming book on Street Artists and their handles:

KLS: Please ignore ‘SprayCan’ throughout the message, (hahaha) Ok, so the two questions are really simple:

Why did you first pick up a SprayCan? Where does your Street Name/ Pseudonym come from?

SBA: I feel the tiniest bit intimidated, but I’ll just pull my big girl panties up and speak loud πŸ˜‰

The two questions you put are 30 years apart in my life, and why I feel like my life is finally making sense – a big wound has started to graft πŸ™‚
I first made a piece of guerilla paint and fibre art in 1983, but it was a street action for peace. I was used to making peace flags for the barbed wire fences at the MoD missile sites or the Trident base at Faslane, but when I suggested doing it in Newcastle upon Tyne, the other activists were really snobby about it. They didn’t want to be accused of vandalism 😦 Luckily my best friend and my boyfriend were supportive, because on the day I was down with a stomach virus, and they had to execute the designs. I’d made pieces to hang in a tree and a piece to write on the walls and pavements in chalks, and after they’d done those, they added some of their own, which made me sooo happy πŸ™‚
Why did I want to do it?
I dreamt it.

A lot of my art comes to me that way, now that I am an artist, but at the time I was a bit lost, my parents had refused to let me do art at A Level, they were abusive in many ways, including physical and sexual, but looking back the biggest damage was withholding my way to be in the world. How is that possible, that a parent refuses to buy their child even super cheap felt tips? And pours scorn on everything that might encourage her?
So I grew up very bent out of shape and this was my first experience of genuinely needing to make MY mark in the world, and my new people, the activists did not like it, but I did it, and when I was up again, I added to what the others had done for me – it had been made for Valentine’s Day, so it couldn’t wait…it was a message of love to the precious earth and to her humans to stop the trashing…
I loved it and one of the ‘real’ artists I knew (he could draw!) decided it WAS effective after he heard about it and we should do some street art/ performance art and we did… πŸ˜‰
But it was interesting to see how flyposting was political and ok, and heartfelt messages and pictures chalked on walls, bedizeners hanging from trees…not so much…


My street name has been Singing Bird Artist SBA for five years, since my husband died and I could no longer paint, so since 2008/9. (er, long relentless optimist story, broken collarbone and ribs trying to save him, permanent damage, learning Machine Embroidery as a new skill to keep sane through staying creative…)
City and Guilds courses are REALLY tough, super structured and meticulous, I was an “interesting” student πŸ˜‰ but I found myself needing to express my wild side/politics and myself more freely, more directly…


So I started with hanging freeform fibre art in bus shelters etc and public crafting/freeform crochet and leaving bedizeners/happy makers in public spaces πŸ˜‰ My husband was an artist/poet and we would do this together before, we made environmental art in the woods too, so art for people to find has been important to me for a long time.

SBA was definitely a response to him dying and me having to work without his support – I have agoraphobia and can’t be out alone after dark, or in isolated places. Then I mixed in with Nottingham yarn’bombers’ for some joint blitzes. I prefer yarn ‘tagging’, cos I’m a pacifist, but I understand the excitement of saying yarnbombing, and also the backing off from the guys within graf (def NOT all, waving at you, lovely Popx!)Β  who are hostile to using tagging for yarn/fibre work.
I have had fibromyalgia for over 4 years now (following the neck injury) and use a rollator, so can’t action very often, but am blurring the lines where I can, I have 2 fibre art installation pieces in a gallery in London in February and they want me to make a ‘live’ piece for the private view. What they don’t know is that with the help of the friend I’ll be staying with I will yarntag across London while I’m there – coming to a railing near you, peopleΒ  πŸ˜‰ [Due to the injuries following installation, I couldn’t actually do this, but made it into art for the Anti-ATOS/WCA protest on February 19th and Robin Hood’s Rally against Budget Cuts on March 19th 2014]

I chose to use my yarntag name as my ‘fine’ artist name (big thanks to Banksy for showing the way) so I can link the two sides, legal, illegal. It also frees me to work a different way – the art world is full of puffed up entitlement at one end and genuine heartfelt making at the other. I have struggled with writing those pompous post-modernist windy statements, and then last spring I cut through it all and declared I would only use Singingbird Artist/SBAΒ  for ALL my art/social justice/permaculture activism. It comes from a Chinese proverb “If you keep a green tree in your heart, maybe the singing bird will come.” To me it means that if we are true to our deepest calling to make our mark in the world for what is needed (to cut through the mindless consumption junky culture capitalism demands, at the cost of the earth and all her peoples) then we each become a singing bird for those around us who need to hear that things can be different, change is possible, every *small* act counts.
Since I got my ‘right’ name, amazingly, loads of doors are opening for me, so your question about the name strikes home!

As Singingbird Artist, I make what I like, as fast as I can πŸ˜‰

Which is not very fast, grrr,Β  I have permanent damage to the deep tissue in my hands, but all the joy that pours out into the work and the world makes me really happy. I even like it when people steal the work to take home, if it speaks to someone that much, great, I’ll make another, keep spreading the song πŸ˜‰


re photo, I need to be anonymous – the Dept of Worry and Persecution will stop my disability benefits at this prioritisation of my energy to art not hoovering πŸ˜‰ so I like to use this one as a thumbnail- the rollator makes the point that physically disabled people can still make art/actions πŸ˜‰

Well, back to making! I have been working on the brown – blue water waste piece, some tricky freeform knitting, but first there are some garden photos to edit πŸ™‚

happy solstice 2013!


Wishing you all a happy, peaceful, reflective and creative space within your own activities, whether festive or not, at this time of year πŸ˜‰

and a recycled offering:

all good wishes,

Singing Bird πŸ˜‰

Hollie McNish: the best poet of the streets since Benjamin Zephaniah?

A friend sent me a link to Hollie McNish on you tube, and I was stunned: she is the best poet I’ve heard perform for ages! I went to a lot of performance poetry events with Andy (Andy Postman, my missed by many super funny/ out there surreal/zany poet and artist husband) and I have seen some very good poets, call outs to Mark Gwynne Jones and Dave ‘Stickman’ Higgins, local stars Sue Allen and Michelle ‘Mother’ Hubbard, and the nationally acclaimed, truly amazing uncrowned poet laureate Benjamin Zephaniah (the ‘Naked’ album is outstanding…)

So this accolade is not given lightly.

She is human, witty, politically aware in a very “personal is political” way about the underpinnings of the system, but, as she says in ‘Mathematics’ she has done her research, she has found out for herself, she has checked her sources. Like Zephaniah she is on the side of life, the overflowing cornucopia ofΒ  delight it can be, that is imperilled by thoughtlessness and greed. Like him, she knows WE have the power to change the unquestioned into the unthinkable. She engages us, and leaves us wanting more – I’ve checked with friends and I am far from the only one to repeat play immediately, with a “wow, that was good!”

She appeals to the part of everyone who knows what is fair, but may have been gaslighted (manipulated) into silence or denial, shouted down or isolated to the point of self doubt. She knows when to be positive and affirming; we must protect the wild places, honour the mothers doing the best for their babies, stand up for our right to be ourselves…

She is an original thinker, with fresh imagery and an ability to set out clearly the issues that may have been niggling at the back of our own minds – the school uniform fetish has always set my teeth on edge and I’ve been able to articulate why quite easily. The cloying cutesy cupcakes/vintage housewifey thing has annoyed me ever since it came in, but I assumed it was an age thing that these girls/women had no idea how much physical hardwork and brain numbingly boring real housewifery was in the 50s, whereas I could remember my aunt talking about getting her first hoover: in a pit village, dusting and sweeping was a twice a day job and depressingly pointless. Hollie joins the dots and holds up an image that makes me shocked, yes, little girls playing house are little girls with no power and could be depressingly easy targets for the predators waiting to pounce, but more importantly they are women missing out on their own lives. They are missing the now, the only place where we have power to respond to what happens in our life, to set aside the endless daily lists to make the memories that will sustain us, and if we are caring/parenting, making happiness for others too. No one at my memorial will stand up and say I was always on top of the dusting (friends rock with laughter at the very thought!!) but they will remember fruit smoothies in the garden with laughter as we made bunting to cheer up a friend moving to a new city, they will remember calls to say, the chestnuts are ready, fancy a bike ride? Paints and fabrics at the ready, seeds and trowels, and yes funky food….though pesto scones, 20 ingredient salads and lemon and marzipan cookies are what happened this week, not cupcakes, and duster, no, fraid notΒ  πŸ˜‰
She breaks down the barriers of political thinking that run on rails, with no room for manoeuvres… if ever there was a time when we needed fresh, heartfelt thinking, humane values and clearheadedness, this is it. And the best news: she is young, all being well we have years ahead of us of her work, her questioning eye and clear voice calling society out and inspiring us to find a better way. Viva Hollie!

slideshow: sea change, meadows 2013

I have been resting lots, predictable really, but also because of discussing pain levels with the doctor…all the wet weather sets off the inflammation aches and pains… 😦

I have been gathering thoughts and components for the next piece though, so being on bed rest doesn’t have to stop me being creative (mwhahaha!) which hopefully will mean pictures of new things next post πŸ˜‰

agoraphobia and exhibitions

– a short film made by the Nottingham Contemporary crew about the course and how it affected some members, at 3 minutes they did well to fit in the WEA assessor, Chris, Daphne and Stephen, though you can see more of us in the backgrounds, of course. It’s interesting how huge an experience it’s been for some of the group… I think I felt that way about the Art Access course I took 97-99 with Charlotte Finlay-Broadbelt and Chris Lewis-Jones (yes, the same!) and then the City & Guilds Machine Embroidery with Chris Standen, that my art making skills expanded exponentially. This should feel as transforming to me, it has been my ability to take my art into the world that has grown…and I realise I am not remembering to celebrate it enough!


I’m finally walking through the wall I identified in therapy in 2000…the agoraphobic barrier that stopped me or punished me for even trying to broach it is now a pile of rubble I am picking my way through. I watched my fibromyalgia spoons soooo carefully during the installation, trying to rest as much as I could (my new homehelp had a baptism by fire today πŸ˜‰ ) but agoraphobia-wise I have been really struggling when I am out this week, with high anxiety and tearfulness and reluctance to go out… a bit of oversharing too 😦  Luckily my new doctor is an absolute sweetie and handled it! The rubble is pretty big, and I am getting very tired and wobbly, but…I’ve just walked through the Berlin Wall of internal barriers! Wow!



The work we did on presence and presentation:

was hard for me, but has really paid off. By comparing myself to Banksy I set myself free from the agoraphobic/ fibromyalgia issues of maintainingΒ  presence in spite of rising adrenalin/anxiety because, bingo! I used a variation on his anonymity, I extended the singingbird avatar from yarntagging to my facebook profile and promotion. It made things a lot easier, and though I had to still be very pushy, sorry, I had to be an efficient promoter of my own work πŸ˜‰ I didn’t have to see my name over and over again. I don’t know how well this would work for other agoraphobics, but I’m talking about this just in case it helps anyone else. Cold calling is my worst nightmare,Β  to the amazement of lots of people who have seen me being very confident! Aren’t we all interesting mixtures πŸ˜‰

Lovely Suella prodded me to approach Nottingham Castle about linking up with the lace tagging… and in my new expanded space, I did. Being able to assemble images so quickly and email them for free (sending slides used to be so expensive and time/effort consuming, the internet really is great for this) and with the extra freedom/non-attachment to results that gave me I already had a big win, but to my delight she liked the images and is keeping me in mind to link up with fibre/thread artwork in the future! Which means I can send her updates as new pieces complete in their slow and meandering ways, without triggering the huge anxiety of cold calling. I was nearly crying as I told the doctor about it…