I was reading about this #bagspill phenomenon in the Sunday Times Style Magazine last weekend. It said a good bagspill is crucial for your personal brand platform. So here's mine.
In January I attended the Creative Connections Arts and Disability Conference in Galway. The event, organised by Art and Disability Ireland, involved presentations panel discussions, performances and top class international speakers.
Travelling to the venue and surviving a two day conference with my chronic pain/ fatigue/ anxiety combo was a big concern but when I heard that Jess Thom was going to be one of the speakers that sealed the deal…I was going. I had seen the live performance of her show Backstage at Biscuit Land on BBC4 last year and was blown away by it. The Musical Finale was a thing of wonder.
Jess was the first speaker of the conference, setting the bar very high for the rest of the event. She opened by telling us she created her alter ego Tourettes Hero as a creative response to living with Tourettes Syndrome. Through Tourettes Hero Jess has turned her tics into a source of imaginative creativity and her show had a hit run at the Edinburgh Fringe last year.
Jess is a wonderfully articulate speaker with a mischievous sense of humour and she invited the audience to laugh at her mostly humorous tics. The two tics I remember fondly are “the alchemy of David Blaine’s butt cheeks” and “tiny cat tits”.
In her presentation she spoke of the damage of diminished expectations and how we must not expect less of ourselves just because we are disabled. She urged us to challenge ourselves and to be open to new approaches even if they don’t succeed, suggesting we try to build in failure and nurture unpredictable outcomes. Getting it wrong is how we learn.
Once Jess finished her presentation she became a member of the audience for the rest of the conference. To begin with her vocal tics were very noticeable but after a while they faded into the background along with the normal coughs, sneezes, laughter and crisp eating of any theatre audience. This was inclusiveness at its best.
I only got to meet Jess briefly but she kindly agreed to answer some of my questions by email. Thinking about how challenging it is for me to be away from home I wondered if she found travelling difficult… turns out she actually enjoys travelling. All that is required is some good planning around her access needs and the assistance of a trusty support worker. I love that she has never had a major problem flying despite how often she shouts “Bomb”. I asked Jess about the ear defenders she was wearing at the conference dinner at the wonderful, but loud, Club Tropicana. It turns out that, like me, Jess suffers form heightened sensitivity to noise but unlike me she has the sense to kit herself out appropriately.
Amongst the many things I learnt at C.C was that we as a society need to think about the changes that need to be made that will allow us to fully participate in society and make good artwork. That like Jess we must own our disabilities by having big thoughts and make work that reflects our unique and particular worldview. I also learnt some things about myself, like how difficult it had become for me to continue participating in the mainstream art world due to what I now know are my own particular access needs. That with good planning I could attend events such as C.C. where the quality of the program outweighs the discomfort involved. And finally for me to make good work in the future I have to own the affects of my disability, get over myself and buy a damn good pair of ear protectors.
Give yourself a daily smile by seeing her new tics on the Touretteshero facebook page, twitter account @Ticbot. I would also highly recommend her book Welcome to Biscuit land.
Letting in the light.
I am well chuffed that my piece Bats in the Belfry was selected for the Letting in the Light Exhibition now showing in Stratford, London. Bobby Baker's Daily Life Ltd has teamed up with Outside In and Bethlem Gallery to showcase work by 35 artists with personal experience of mental health issues. I love that the exhibition took its name from the Groucho Marks great line: Blessed is the cracked, for they shall let in the light.
The video below was made by my son Finn who attended the opening in my place, had a photo taken with Bobbie Baker and drank my share of the wine. Nice one Finn.
Exhibition continues until March 24th.
Its Monday, it's January, I'm sick again.
Earlier this year I attended a group CBT course for Generalised Anxiety Disorder. Years of chronic pain and the associated depression and fatigue has taken its toll and I am now what my older neighbours might call 'Bad with the Nerves'. That description, old fashioned as it, pretty much nails it. Keeping on top of it is a work in progress.
One of the techniques we used on the course is 'Worry Time' where you sit for 15 minutes every day, write down all your worries and troubleshoot them with the CBT tool kit. Over the past 5 months I have single handedly used up a small rainforest of paper and drained several wells worth of ink dry. Dreaming up things to make from the produce of all this anxiety passes the time and diverts me from the sad pointlessness of most of my worries.
In the beginning I tore them up and put them in glass jars for possible use in a papier-mâché sculpture. As this could only happen in a parallel universe where I still have the energy for such noble pursuits I have started to keep them nice and neat in this box instead. I hate the worries but I like the look of the worry box. Go figure.
Since joining the ranks of the chronically ill I have spent way to much of my time waiting. Waiting for appointments, waiting for test results, waiting for treatments to take effect, or not, as the case might be.
The main waiting I do is in the waiting rooms of the various hospitals and health centres my bits and pieces, from my brain to my belly, my arse to my elbow are being treated in. One bit improves for a while just as another bit starts going on the blink....at this stage its a holding operation.
To pass the time I have been documenting the various waiting rooms I visit. It's the nearest I get to holiday snaps these days.
I was inspired to put this image up after reading Dolly Sen's last post which was a riposte to the World Mental Health Day theme: Dignity. She is fed up waiting and so am I.
I have been thinking a lot about the standard wheelchair disability symbol lately and how there is still no equivalent for people like myself who have a invisible disability. There are lots of jokey tee shirt and badge slogans but nothing that has the universality and gravitas of the wheelchair symbol.
I have taken to standing in disability parking spaces on my occasional trips out to see if I get inspired to create a symbol that represents me.......knackered, in pain, terminally bewildered and badly needing a sit down and a nice cupatea....and this is before I have even reached the shops. Still waiting for that inspiration.
Sent from my iPad
I have been sidetracked from my blog this last few months as a result of getting involved in the Vote Yes For Equality campaign in the Referendum on Same Sex Marriage in Ireland.
I made some work around the issue which I posted online.... it's the best I could do as a militant armchair activist. Being part of a winning vote in Ireland is a new and wonderful experience for me.... a sensation so strange that it may take some time to get used to.
All manner of nonsense and sour grapes continue to flow from the Vatican where there seems to be some confusion about the difference between a disaster and a democracy. The morning after the Yes Vote carried the day the Vatican spokesman called the result a "disaster for humanity".
I felt moved to made this visual aid to assist them in their Democracy/Disaster confusion.....in fairness though it's an easy mistake to make what with both words begin with the letter D and all.
Good to know someone's at the controls in the Brain Dept today because I'm sure as hell not.
Got this darling new star shaped meds box.
Looking for beauty where I can.
I am making an inventory of all the dust gatherers in my studio which, like myself, are on the road to nowhere but just cant be thrown out.
I just keep moving them round, from shelf to table and then back to shelf again... not so much work in progress, more rearranging the chairs on the Titanic as the ship goes down.
Alive...... without a body........fed by an unspeakable horror from hell!
That just about describes my day so far........such fun!
Solpadine badges anyone?????
Christmas greetings to all involved in DAO from Middle of Nowhere, Ballybackwards, Ireland. It's snowing!
My niece sent me this comprehensive list of conditions that would be reasons for admission to a Lunatic Asylum in the late 19th Century.
She thought of me when she saw it.....I know I am inclined to have dissipation of the nerves, uterine derangement, brain fever, time of life, women's trouble, occasional gathering in the head and feebleness of mind and much more but I have never been a decoy in the army, shot my daughter or been kicked in the head by a horse.....yet.
A disability is for life, not just for Christmas!
I think I just bought the last 5 boxes of Judsons Gold paint in the whole of Ireland. I have been using Judsons gold since forever as a cheap substitute for gold leaf.
It seems while I was dozing it went out of production. After much searching online and in art shops I discovered these 5 boxes gathering dust in good old fashioned country hardware store.
The precious: it's little things like this that brighten my day.
All I want for Christmas is my smile back right,
my smile back right, my smile back right,
all I want for Christmas is my smile back right
So then I can wish you merry Christmas.
I have taken the plunge and lost a few brain cells setting up a Facebook page for my work called Jane Mccormick Not half right. Hope to share lots of information about disability arts when I get up and running. If anyone has got any helpful tips or advice about managing a page just for my own work please let me know and maybe more importantly any pitfalls I can avoid also. Input from DAO artists and other visitors to DAO with Facebook pages much appreciated.
Attached link below
Jenny Murray interviewed 2 members of Pussy Riot on woman's hour this morning. If you didn't catch it you can listen to it on BBC Radio 4's playback from this link.
Absolutely amazing women to have lived through the brutality of Russia's Justice system (or lack therein) and still will not be silenced.
My protesting days may be over but I can still dream.
If I am in a reliquary does that make me a relict I wonder?
The dictionary describes a relict as 'a surviving remnant of an natural phenomenon'. That just about nails it I think.
Being too sick to come out to play began when I was 9.
What was an inconvenience in childhood is a scourge in middle age.
No silver lining.
For some bizarre reason when I am sick in bed my brain tends to throw up jolly 'look on the bright side' soundtracks from from movies like Cabaret, Song of the south, and even, god help us, Mary Poppins. The worse the pain the more persistent the 'cheer up and be brave in the face of adversity' the song. A spoonful of sugar does not help my medicine go down. Not now, not ever.
Let me make this clear, these songs arriving uninvited on my internal iPod do not cheer me up. Not even a little bit. In this condition I am impervious to all attempts at self affirmations, positive thinking, relaxation, mindfulness, living in the now (especially as the 'now' is bloody awful) and being a brave little soldier.
This situation is more akin to the final scene of The life of Brian or the sinking of The Titanic than Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah. It's only purpose seems to be to throw up images that illustrate the widening gulf between my uncomfortable present reality and the irritatingly cheery words of the song.
Let's kick off with this one.
Having a bed day today and was a more than a bit miserable and then this came in the post.....what a wonderful surprise.
A Liam Gallagher is not my grandad badge and a bonus profile image of Her Very Very Highness herself. Cheered me up no end.
I had forgotten all about my meagre contribution to Scottees Liam Gallagher is my grandad Fund it project back in May. He was planning to turn his grandad into a contemporary artist.
I can't find anything about the project online... does anyone know if it has come to pass? Maybe it did or maybe it didn't... either way Scottee made this nothalfright contemporary artist, in the middle of nowhere Ireland, smile today.
I made this image on a trip to Saint Dympna's well not far from where I live in Count Cavan. The well is said to have cure 'nervous afflictions and mental illness' so my husband drove me there to take the waters on one particularly bad day in August past.
The shrine is in a beautiful glade that looks like a deserted Hobbit village. Along side the well is a shrine to Saint Dympna, patron saint of nervous afflictions, and the ruins of a ancient church. We had to get permission to visit from the farmer who's family have been the keepers of the well going back generations.
He functions in much the same way as a discrete receptionist at a mental health clinic and I wondered what a desperate trail of melancholic pilgrims he must have witnessed going for the cure over the years. We spent so long at the well documenting the ritual I imagine he thought us both very bad cases indeed.
The well itself is just a hollowed out stone that sits in the middle of a river with a foot bridge for access. I knelt down in the river and gave myself a good long dousing of the waters. While I really enjoyed the ritual involved in taking this cure and was most definitely refreshed by dunking my head repeatedly in the freezing cold water I am sorry to report I am not cured of my 'nervous affliction' as yet. I live in hope which, as you can imagine, requires some extreme magical thinking for an ardent atheist.
There is another St Dympna's well with the cure of 'the mental illness' in nearby County Monaghan after which the local psychiatric hospital Saint Davnets was named. I am feeling the need for another pilgrimage coming on and wonder if the well in Monaghan has a better melancholic pilgrim recovery rate than the Cavan one. Either way desperate times calls for desperate measures, even for atheists.