Reflection (Late-April): Covid Recovery

By 30th April 2022 May 16th, 2022 Creative Practice

Video of tree using graphite to draw in the wind

(Co)Creations, experiments and doings in the last fortnight

 

Note: edited later on to include relevant links where I’ve written up a bit later.

Coding: References to codes should be connected to this meta-post.


As it was my birthday, I took a week off work to celebrate but also with the intention of working through a whole load of practical experimentations on site… but instead I caught COVID-19 and spent the week isolating alone in the bedroom (lest I infect others in the house). And since I came out (a week tomorrow) I have had zero energy to do much more than the bare minimum (and it seems half the time I can’t remember what the bare minimum is!). Needless to say, the ‘roll’ I was on a fortnight ago has ceased and I have not achieved half as much as I was hoping. Whilst laid in bed however, I tried to remain productive by continuing to work through an online Master Herbalists diploma course I started around Christmas, and rethink how I practice sustainably.

Here’s a few reflective and evaluative thoughts on what I’ve been doing and making and thinking over the last fortnight:

  • As I wrote in my previous reflective entry, I’m still in the position of not knowing if some of the things I’m making or doing will be effective or worth pursuing until later in the year. However, it’s just struck me that a lot of the things I’ve been doing (or wanting to do) in the last fortnight have offered a more immediate effect… a subconscious decision?
  • I was isolating during the waxing gibbous (period before the barren period), so it’s been a little quiet planting wise. Unfortunately, some young plants didn’t make it through my isolation (as I couldn’t tend to them as required), but that’s okay. It isn’t helpful to be annoyed or upset about it. Lots of my at-home germinating seeds didn’t take this year – I wonder if it’s because they were older seeds? Or didn’t like the heatwave we’ve had this April? I’ve bought some plug plants in anyway, which are now getting used to being outside in my garden alongside all the seeds I’ve sown that have survived. I’ve focused on buying in plant-lings that I know have strong magical or healing properties (STEK01) – such as marigold and passionflower.
  • Made some seed papers (EE01), which I enjoyed doing – more info in the blog post I wrote about it. In the time since, I have learnt that the seeds do not germinate on paper – at least, poppy seeds. I’m thinking that cress seeds probably would though? I may re-try using cress seeds, if I have any available. However, the gum arabic is water soluble… so spraying them with water just makes them stick less to the paper…? Therefore I don’t actually know how viable this would be as a thing in and of itself. I think this would be a process that could be developed… as I was making them I had grand visions of making huge scale drawings and seed-covered sculptures. It would be beautiful. These would be physical works of art that at some point would be buried as the start of a performative piece, where they grow up and out over time. The seeds are starting to fall off the test papers now however, meaning I should probably make a thicker gum arabic glue were I to develop this further.
  • Continuing with the old wives gardening lore, where new opportunities arise (STEK01). It’s too early to know if they’re making, or will make, a difference. I realise that I like the idea that I’m tapping into tradition and heritage when performing these. I’m reminded again of ritual, of a form of traditional escoterism.
  • Did the footprints thing as a riff off the Trace Walking thing… but it doesn’t feel meaningful or interesting to me, and rather, really cliche and a bit cringe. Oh look, my footprint on grass. Per-lease. I feel like I might’ve even seen something similar elsewhere before? It felt like a good enough of an idea to try but then when I actually did it, I felt myself cringing inside. Then I felt a little embarrassed about posting it to Instagram along with my other stuff… I’m not sure why I had such a strong reaction to it? I’m pleased I gave it a shot, but my body/instinct tells me that I won’t be pursuing this avenue any more (EE01)
  • The bark rubbings also felt a bit cliche and ‘easy’ to do but I actually enjoyed doing them. I did them in a cemetary near me, one of 3 cemetaries that I find myself doing most of my work in  . I love the marks and lines, especially on the tree trunk one. I found myself wanting to do larger scale rubbings – I’m not sure why – perhaps to make a larger impact, to push myself (I often work small-mid size), to offer legitimacy to a really easy, simple process? I don’t know, but I’d like to make these again. I felt a bit like a portrait photographer capturing the wrinkled lines of an old soul, and it felt like a real human:non-human creative collaboration (HNH01). I spoke with the trees, explaining what I was doing and thanking it (/kin) for being my sitter (STEK01). As a result of making these rubbings, I’d like to do a process more like a massage than a rubbing… that is, cover my hands in graphite powder or similar and rub into the creases and contours of surfaces (trees, rocks, plants) through paper or fabric… I think I’d get a different kind of imprint as well as experiencing that more ‘direct contact’ with the sitter? )
  • I spent some time helping trees to draw . The process is completely inspired by someone I graduated with, Lauren Drake, who dangled drawing implements from tree branches and enabled them to make marks on paper below. I loved what she did at the time. I have had reservations about trying this process out for myself, and even more reservations about sharing that I’ve tried it… but I’ve given her full credit where appropriate. I really, really like the concept of it, but it was much harder to achieve than I thought, and the test had mixed results. I came thinking thread and charcoal would be a great combination, but I was very wrong. Thread proved to be too light, and charcoal – surprisingly – made no mark on the page. This proved true irregardless of charcoal thickness and weight. I also tried out different drawing media, including pencils, biros and graphite sticks. The latter was by far the most effective, as the others failed to make tangible marks. The tree I asked to work with (more on this in a bit) seemed right at the time – the branches were just over a metre off the ground, were not on top of graves, laid on flat(ish) ground and moved well in the wind. However, as the suspended thread/drawing implements moved in the wind, the distance the pencils wanted to cover widened significantly, and ended up being on an uneven surface. The thread was too light, kept snapping and became easily tangled, and the branches were far too high off the ground. I also had to keep shifting the paper around to follow the direction of the wind. It was incredibly frustrating trying this out, but I know for next time what I need to do to obtain clear marks: use string/twine to suspend, use graphite sticks to draw, ensure flat ground, and select branches that are close as possible to the ground. I’d like to try this again to at least get some clearer results and because I love the concept, but because it’s been done before by someone I actually know I don’t think I’ll pursue this much further.
  • I mentioned that I asked the tree to collaborate. I did. It (/kin) was a red maple tree, and I explained out loud what it was I wanted to do, why and how, and asked if it was okay for me to do. I felt a response which challenged the insensitivity of me using charcoal and paper to do this (wood products) – which surprised and took me back a bit – but I felt the tree tenatively agreed to my requests. I know how this sounds, by the way, but I felt what I felt and I have to trust in it. I’m going to continue talking to the non-human, especially if I’m wanting their support in creating something
  • I ethically picked a bag of dandelions for their current abundance and magical association of creativity/inspiration, healing and psychic work (STEK01) and used Fabbri’s Anthotypes book for guidance on how to turn them into a simple anathotype emulsion (HNH01). This was a simple process of blitzing dandelion heads (30 in total), mixing in a little tap water, allowing it to drip through a coffee filter, and slapping the mixture onto bases. Successful emulsions darken/lighten when exposed to sunlight – the book suggests that dandelion+tap water emulsions work quite quickly in response to good sunlight.  I made up the mix and have done a few layers of emulsion on white card and white watercolour paper (currently residing in a dark space), but the weather hasn’t been great here for a few days. Well there was one but covid-brain made me keep forgetting until it was too late. I’m waiting for another sunny day! Making the emulsion was really simple though, and enjoyable. The handling of natural matter and the smells and colour was fantastic, and enjoyable (EE01), although of course I can’t be sure if it will be an effective process or not… Hoping to get an anthotype in the coming week.
  • I used most of the remaining dandelions (the rest I froze for later) to create dandelion play-doh. This is a simple mixture made using blitzed dandelion petals, flour, water, salt, lemon juice, oil and intact petals. Making and playing with the dough was an absolutel joy in and of itself, as was noticing the flecks of dandelion throughout the material (EE01). I made a few small sculptural tests, which are still in the process of drying, and a large ‘imprint’ test. The imprint work records a selection of some of the plants growing in front garden on the New Moon, on the eve of Beltane (SP01, STEK01). I think this would be a lovely activity to do with children some day?
  • Such a shame the stapleless stapler didn’t work on leaves. I had visions for making huge chains of leaves that would hang amongst the trees… ah well. Perhaps I’ll come up with another way? I did think of string or thread, but I’m not keen on the idea of leaving things there that don’t belong there, or things that birds could get tangled up in. The leaf-chain/connectivity thing would be a really lovely meditative exercise (EE01), which is the main motivation for finding a way that works.
  • Not much to yet comment on with the camera. I’ve set it up facing my bird feeder in the front garden. Fully anticipating a million photos and video clips of fat pigeons and not much else, but I’m not sure where else I can leave it without it potentially getting damaged or nicked by humans? (HNH01, SP01) Update: first night, got lots of fat pigeons, as predicted!
  • Reflecting on all my walking routes in the last 2months or so has been interesting… it’s really helped me to indentify the areas I inhabit, both regularly and occassionally (SP01). I’m intending to continue adding to it until the module hand-in date. I’m not sure on the significance of this yet, but it feels important.
  • Continuing research by working through the Herbalist Course e-programme (STEK01, EE01, HNH01). In all honesty, the programme is kinda shit and clearly dated, but it’s offered routes of further research and practice that I’m keen to explore, formally or informally, both for myself and as part of my creative practice. As I went through the course content, I made notes on the things that awoke my interest, or that I felt important to record at the time. These posts can be explored elsewhere in my MACP blog.
  • It’s not practical in the makey-arty sense, but I created a guide for myself (and others, should they be interested) in how I could – and should – conduct myself as a professional artist so that I practice ethically and sustainably (in relation to the environment) (GDGS01, DA01). This arose from questioning the authenticity of ‘green’ artists – which I ranted about a bit in this blog post – and reflecting on how I can respond to the responsibility I feel to act dutifully. It has been useful to revisit this ‘policy’ (which I originally developed back in 2018 but updated) because, even though I already do most of the points pretty faultlessly, it’s reminded me of how I want to continue to practice and conduct business without becoming complacent.
  • I have been looking into British TEK – again, but have been struggling. It’s been recommended to me on Reddit to check out Stuart Press, who offer a load of guides on historical reenactment. I’ve emailed the library asking if they’d order me in a stack of relevant ones (15 isn’t too many is it? LMAO). Today, I’ve also found a 12-part BBC series – available on Bob – called Tales from the Green Valley, in which experts, archeologists and historians try to run a farm as it would’ve been ran during the reign of King James I (1603-1625). I’m keen to learn about the ecological practices of my ancestors and see if I can find roots there for a ritual or artistic practice? (STEK01, EE01, SP01)
  • I started doing what I said I’d do about looking through Quaeria meditative or intuitive practices that I could do, or be inspired by. I took a load of screenshots on my phone to remind me, but I haven’t got around to actually doing any of them yet. I’m so foggy post-covid that I’m really struggling to keep my focus. (STEK01, EE01)
  • I had the opportunity to get close to some friendly and stunning horses as well. Which perhaps doesn’t seem directly related to my practice, but I’m finding myself really valuing every experience I have with the non-human so much more than I already did (EE01). I already had a deep love and respect for the non-human, but I find myself having a much deeper reverence to life (GDGS01). I felt like the horses knew how I felt about them?
  • I think that I’m doing a really good job of responding to the themes and learning that arose from my Literature Review. Everything I’m doing links back to at least one of the thematic codes I’ve devised, all codes of which directly relate to Geopoetics as a theory and a practice. Well done me 🙂
  • This isn’t really related, but it absolutely is… I’ve got something coming up soon where I’ve been commissioned to present/deliver a workshop about my creative research-practice, as part of a Building Research Culture Project at Leeds Arts University. I know that the research I do is very practice-based, but for some reason I don’t know how on Earth I’m going to start articulating it? I feel I need to do a little work around exploring that more… not just for professional purposes such as this, but in terms of generally situating my practice geographically, much like Hawkins (2020) suggests (GDGS01). I’ve got myself a reading list, and will probably create a blog post recording my thoughts around it soon. One of the central tenants to Geopoetics is about sharing your practice, so this is a great opportunity to do that in professional practice.

 


 

I can’t ignore the fact I had Covid, and the ongoing impact that’s had on me. Whilst laid in bed, I was thinking about the comparisons and contrasts between the natural cycles I’ve been looking at and the nature of illness. Both are predictable, yet unpredictable. Natural cycles are ‘neutral’ for the most part, whereas illness is a negative. Both things have to take their course. I have influence over one but not the other.  I don’t know how important this thought it, but felt I needed to just acknowledge it?

I also wondered – in a tongue in cheek way at first – if my snotty tissues were a human:non-human creative collaboration between me and COVID-19? Or was the act of me isolating for a week a performative creation between me and the virus? But then upon reflection… was this not, after all, an example of me directly experiencing (EE01) nature? Nature isn’t just pretty flowers and beautiful animals… it’s also about illness and disease and (fortunately not in my case) death. It’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? I have to admit, it’s shifted my understanding of nature slightly, and that perhaps I should embrace the ugly parts a bit more. Whilst isolating, I also relied on simple herbal remedies to ease my pain… honey and lemon anyone? (STEK01)

Lastly, I’m finding it quite uncomfortable to be so behind on my GANTT chart, especially as the hand in date is in basically a fortnight. Although I’m telling myself that it’s okay if I don’t do what I set out to achieve in time (it’s okay, nature and life cycles don’t adhere to academic cycles, and I’ve had Covid and need to rest), I’m still finding anxiety and failure sitting on my chest? I’ll be alright, I think I just need to process it all a bit more!

 


 

Geopoetics.org.uk (2021) ‘Scottish Centre for Geopoetics – a relationship to the earth and the opening of a world’. [online] Available at: <http://www.geopoetics.org.uk/> [Accessed 3 November 2021].

Hawkins, H. (2020). ‘Preface’. In: Magrane, E., Russo, L., De Leeuw, S. and Perez, C. S. (ed.), Geopoetics in Practice,1st ed. UK, pp. vi – xiii

 

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