"We are not unique in our pain."
"My body is a piece of land, a space for conflict..."
"My body is a piece of reclaimed land, with different weathers moving across it."
We went to film in Brighton today. Following our conversation about 'constant beginnings' that many of the service users experience and struggle with, we decided that waves would illustrate that process well. Hypnotic movement of the sea should then be interrupted in the post-production stage, which we will work on next week.
Then we thought about an urge to escape, that I believe we all sometimes feel. How does it sound, that feeling of running away? She said it was like running down the fire staircase, the sound should be loud, distracting...
We installed a small video installation at ISIS today, working with the video footage we took last week. We changed the speed of the video and cut it to create a sense of being stuck, being unable to move on, constantly beginning. Here is the link to the video:
On some days we set on and around the sofa in one of the corridors at ISIS. The video was on and I kept meeting and talking to people who came for the treatments. Someone said that his conflict was cold, someone else that he was like a dead tree that was never stable, that he would like to stabilise it. We also talked about norms, as many of us experienced feelings of shame in the past. A woman said that people were sometimes making other people feel small, and that we should stop being judged.
One man talked about the 'wind of life', that blows harder for some people than for the others. There are conflicts that come from the outside and it's hard to find a safe place, where we can escape them. Other conflicts resemble being in a desolate space, where we are lonely. Someone described a feeling of calmness, then suddenly you start to feel heat inside of your body, a flame comes, it's like a volcano, this is how anger starts, he said.
Yesterday the two of us went to Hampstead Heath to film. Today I went again, to finish the job. We were looking for the images of trees that resembled human body. The idea for the trip came from earlier conversations we had at the ISIS. Now that we know where we can find these images, we would like to come back with more people.
We installed a new piece at ISIS - sort of a sketch for the final work. (Actually, over the last few months ISIS became a project of CRI). Videos of trees and tree branches that seem to embrace one another made us think of support, which ISIS is providing to the service users, and the support that service users provide to each other.
Today was a bit unusual, as I was filming with one of the ISIS clients at her house. We were pretty clear about what we would do, as we were organising it over the past few weeks. The very beginning of our video-making journey started from wanting to make work that somehow related to the body. Last week we looked for the representations of it in nature but we didn't really filmed it yet. Today my partner from ISIS became a performer and I was filming her movements.
Inspired by the images of the trees, some of the service users reenacted the scenes using their arms. Later, when I looked at those clips on my computer screen, I realised that there was something quite powerful in the way their fingers moved, gently shaking, trying to find stillness within a fighting body.
I was supposed to meet with Patrick, but he didn't come. We filmed few short scened with the stuff, mostly their hands. I realised how important hands were in the process of the recovery, how important touch was and how we all need to feel being touched. ISIS provides free acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, head massage and some of the people I met told me that it was helping them to bring self awareness back and to feel calmer.
I started editing video material I collected. One of the managers at ISIS would like to take a work-in-progress version of the work to the annual competition titled 'Celebrating Recovery'. I want to include most of the images I collected meeting service users. This will be presented on one screen, so it will differ from the final multiple screen installation. It is quite hard to edit, as all the ideas for the videos were somebody's contribution and it can be painful to take them out from the work.
We watched edited version of the work at ISIS. Brian will take it tomorrow to the annual conference, where it will be presented at the conference titled 'Celebrating Recovery'. The work I edited is quite different from the planned public projection and I was thinking about the multiple ways work can exist, about the way it can communicate with different audiences, and whether I would like to make that version of the work I just edited public.
We went for a two-people trip to Hampstead Heath. It happened that me and Patrick had a pretty bad day and it felt quite liberating to see London from above. It left us feeling in control. Things seemed a bit more manageable to us.
At ISIS today. The person I was supposed to meet didn't come and I felt worried about her. I installed another fragment of work at the small TV and we started planning the opening event.
Sitting in a dark projection room at Central Saint Martins College of Art with Jojo from ISIS and Tomas from AIR. Patrick couldn't come today, because he didn't reach his weekly financial target. He texted me around 8am to explain that he would need to go out and sell the Big Issues.
We are going trough all the films we made, putting them in sequence. It will become a two screen video installation. We rejected a lot of them. Jojo and I didn't agree on the way text should appear in the film and we explained our reasons to each other. We decided to think it over and to talk about it next time we meet. At this point I start to feel protective towards the final outcome. Sometimes I have different expectations to these of my collaborators and it's hard to decide when to push my ideas through and when to let it go. If I'm totally honest I push more then I let it go, but it all happens quite naturally, as we always talk and come to an agreement. With Jojo we normally communicate telepathically - I don't know what would happen if we don't come to an agreement.
Yesterday morning was bloody frustrating and stressful and I feel anxious today. The building company, that was working on John Jones, didn't manage to take the scaffolding on time and instead of finishing video work I had to run to Finsbury Park to check the site. Weeks before they told us that they would definitely clean the site on time and so we printed flyers, invited guests to come, rented equipment, hired staff and most importantly service users were looking forward to see their work presented publicly. It was hard to tell everyone at ISIS that it would not be there until the end of January. Anna from AIR came with me to talk to staff at ISIS. Some of us were angry with the building company, that let us down. I was angry too, mostly because it felt they din't feel responsible for the delay and because our work didn't seem important to them.
We had two options. One was to show the work inside of John Jones, the other was to postpone the whole event. The work would need to be reedited, or even remade to work with a significantly different space and doing it in one day was impossible. We decided to move the date to a safe time in January, when the space would be ready.
I was part of a delegation from ISIS (including staff and service users) to go and buy food and presents for tomorrow event. Despite the cancellation of a main presentation of the work at John Jones we decided to go on with a presentation of the longer version of 'Different Weathers of my Body' at ISIS. Our budget was quite low, but we managed to buy lot's of food and few symbolic items from a one-pound-shop as presents. It was fun, we got into Christmas mood! A change from sitting on a sofa at ISIS and witnessing a lot of suffering, that many service users experience.
There are all sorts of people that come and use ISIS, but before Christmas there is a lot of first comers. Some have been using hard drugs for a very long time and they are week, tired and in pain. I was told that most of the people enrol with ISIS when the year is about to end. They hope to change their life and start new year clean. When I sit next to them I sometimes attempt to start conversation, but they are in a too difficult time too talk about art. Some people just sleep waiting for their appointment with a doctor, nurse or psychologist. It's hard to not to get affected by what I see. Last days at ISIS were harder then when I started the project and sometimes I wish I had more time to make work that was a bit more complex. It feels like 3 months were not enough. I wish I had at least one year.
Christmas Party and a screening ofDifferent Weathers of my Body at ISIS! There was food around, people would join in to eat with us. Patrick, Jojo and I would talk a little bit about the work. I had to call and motivate Patrick as he decided to stay in bed. I told him that we were counting on him and that we needed his help to make the event work. It was important that he was with us, because his opinion about the process was different from ours, and I wanted to us to hear it. We all became involved because of different reasons.
Jojo Adu 'I became involved in the project with Magda in part due to my experience with cranial sacral massage, a complementary therapy I had been receiving weekly at ISIS. The first time I underwent this therapy I had absolutely no idea what to expect and consequently had no expectations. I had complained of holding much tension in my jaw. The practitioner began by holding my feet as I relaxed into the bed. From having read something of the process since, I now know she was listening to the tides inside my body, particularly the movement of spinal fluid. She then came and held the back of my head. I could feel my energy shifting. After a short period of time she gently went to cradle either side of my face. As if she had now put a match to a fire she had spent the last fifteen minutes patiently laying, the flame took, and great waves of sorrow and hurt rolled over me as I shuddered and howled. The relief afterwards was immense.
The next week a similar experience occurred, but at the touching of my knees. Week by week she worked on me. As I lay there feeling energy move around my body I sometimes perceived what was happening in visual flashes. One image was the sweeping curves and little arrows on maps that the weathermen once used to describe high winds crossing the country. On the fourth week I left in a discombobulated state full of unresolved tensions. I had had an extremely vivid feeling on the table, where I perceived my body as a piece of reclaimed land experiencing different weathers. In the bathroom I thought about how I could communicate that feeling, how I might attempt to transmit it. In my own life I practise the 5 rhythms, a meditational form of dance. The body and how we perceive and inhabit it is of great interest to me. The 5 rhythms together represent a wave : flowing, staccato, chaos , lyrical and still. This is a rhythmic journey of tension and release that all of us experience in our lives, from sex to childbirth to going to a party. So, with all this whirling about my head I was leaving the building when the woman at the desk called my name. She pointed to the poster advertising a meeting for the new artist in residence. I had already voiced an interest and she kindly remembered and said they were meeting at that moment. Although I felt a bit done-in something drew me to going. I put my head round the door and was welcomed in. Only 3 people were present in the room, discussing conflict in the body, what does it feel like, how can it be expressed? This was a strange moment for me. It was as if the conversation I had been having with some intensity in my head had suddenly run out into the world. It was almost seamless, these points of internal and external fascination. It seemed somehow fateful, for me an almost mesmeric example of synchronicity and I threw myself into the mix with a strong sense of purpose.'
I read an interview with Markus Miessen today. He talks about participation. It confirmed my view that, in some cases, when working with marginalised communities, if we really want to make our participation productive we have to snoop around, preparing ourselves for a long and deep process of work (often beyond a limited period covered by a funding) where we become an 'uninvited irritant', which to me doesn't necessarily mean creating a conflict, but rather balancing on a thin line
of the 'uncomfortable'.