Keirartworks's Blog

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Impossible.

There is too much to absorb, digest, translate, re-form into something good and relevant, and far too little time.  Someone – Leonard Bernstein? referred to this as one of only two things needed to accomplish Great Things.  But when, as my marvellous friend Maria puts it on Wednesday, “every minute of my time is accounted for from now until Monday at 10pm”, Bernstein does not comfort, despite my really good plan.

So thank you Annie Lamott, for your timely, perfect, pithy truth.  I have read and received it from three disparate sources these past three days, and now the angels of safe containment and healthy boundary are here (I called them) to guard the perimeter while deep focus reigns supreme within; it’s buckle-down time.

To tell a good story well, and thoroughly – a living, breathing story, this is necessary.  Necessary to trust that though all hell may be breaking loose out there beyond the perimeter, this story is relevant, it needs to be told.  Necessary to filter out the hooks and pulls, the triggers and the waverings, and make use of the fine fine sieve that lets in only the heart of things.  The heart of things, that resonates with everything and everyone you love, that threads and connects this good story back to their good, strong hearts.  Resonates and strengthens, if the story is told well.

A heart breaks; snow falls steady onto five inches of itself.  A woman drives slowly through zero visibility; a cat eats the head of its kill.  Wildfire claims someone’s beloved farm; blame is released like a sigh, back into love.  Tears fall in shock; another paragraph is written.  Someone wanders, lost; the kettle boils for tea.  The Heart of things.

Humility meets courage; another page is printed.

The Heart of things.

Impossible.


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Door, Window, Kitchen

As if I know how to do that.  Of course I don’t.

As if not knowing how has any bearing whatsoever on the fact that I will do it, regardless.  Honestly, what utter nonsense.

I’m feeling rumpled.  It’s not a comfortable feeling, through not a dangerous one either – I wouldn’t classify this as a mental health issue, for example.  I believe it’s easily managed.

I just don’t want to manage it. Not at all.  I’d rather feel all the way rumpled.  Taste what this feeling might be suggesting to me that seems so unpalatable.  Taste then spit, if necessary.

I’ve been investigating examples of the applied philosophy of inclusion, mostly in higher education.  Treatises, exhortations for reform, sincere and accurate laments.  This has made me prickly.

Just now I’ve taken a short break to read about “Manifesto”, a video installation project by Munich-born artist Julian Rosefeldt which features Cate Blanchett playing 13 diverse characters. Each one spouts “a call to action without a care for consequence” (Guardian review), “about the need to wake up, tool up, use art to revolutionise humanity and humanity to revolutionise art”.  I’ve bought the movie since as an artist I’m fascinated by cultural action and reaction, by art and revolution, and it’s another, artistic interpretation of my reading focus.

I’ll watch it when I’m through the day’s tasks.  I’ll also watch more video installation made by Rosefeldt (lots to see on his website).  After, I’ll dip into DJ Elliot’s new book, Artistic Citizenship.  I’m thinking it will all piss me off, but hoping I might instead be surprised, and find humour.  It would be a welcome relief to find myself snorting with laughter.

Perverse.  Reverse.  Re-version, re-story.  Open and closed ‘forms’, i.e., classical baroque versus collaborative composition.  A spectrum of open and closed applies to everything we participate in, every choice we make.  Dapper Dan and Haute Couture; collaborate or conduct; don’t participate in the old toxic systems with their embedded, power-distorted rules, or cling to them in desperation; people or sheeple, dualism of all kinds, gender-based habitual thinking.

But, by god, if you’re a voice for inclusiveness, for open forms that invite collaboration, innovation, and creativity, that encourage voices that have not been heard to speak, make it relevant to us, all of us, right now.  If you see or hear something important that is not accessible to those of us that don’t read, that don’t ever enter galleries or concert halls, that struggle with poverty and have been dominated all of their lives (by white people, for example)…it’s your job to interpret.

I don’t give a damn if you don’t know how.  Figure it out.  Find a meaningful way to connect to people you can only imagine right now.  To people way way out of your comfort zone.  It’s not supposed to be comfortable.

There it is, that’s it – not a bad taste, just different.

I’m uncomfortable because this is my job, and I haven’t the faintest clue how to do it.  But I will figure it out.

Door = way through.  Window= view beyond yourself.  Kitchen = where people gather.

 

 


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I seek privacy

I seek privacy while I taste these new things.  These ideas and thoughts that co-mingle inside my being, each one changing the colour and tone of the one before, sparking new thoughts in marvellous chemical reactivity. 

More like alchemy, it feels.  As though I’m levitated, it feels.

All of this internal, so I have few words – there are no words in fact, at this point, to describe the changes in me.  My feelings are volatile, powerful enough to do damage, and yet I know they must be felt as they are, acknowledged, contained, allowed to move.  I do not happily sit in conversation these days for fear I might erupt.  I’m sure people who don’t know me well think I’m the same as I was.

Artistic Citizenship (Elliott, 2017); Engaging in Community Music (Higgins &Willingham, 2017); Teaching to Transgress (Hooks, 1994); Pedagogy of Hope (Freire, 1992); I am Woman (Maracle, 1996); Unsettling Canada (Manuel, Derrickson, 2015); The Mother of all Questions (Solnit, 2017); Remixing the Classroom (Allsup, 2016); Success for All… (New Zealand – Rakena, 2015); Women’s Work, The First 20,000 Years (Wayland Barber, 1994); Klee Wyck (Carr, 1941); at least twenty mind-changing journal articles from all over the planet (1996 to 2017)…

For these ideas to take, they need to spark, and oh, but they are.  This is not a mental exercise, but a heart-based one. I’m not new to academics, but I have been away from the process for some decades, in which time I obtained some common sense about the way things work.  Heart first.  Then mind.

Then Voice.


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radically inclusive

Let’s say in a fit of wild enthusiasm you’ve made a generous statement about the music you love to play:

“Anyone can play in this band!  Come on over and jam with us!”

 

Word gets out because your music is fun so five new people show up to the next band rehearsal, in this order:

Geoff, a classically trained oboe player who’d like to try playing your drum kit

Ruby, a 12-year-old angry slam poet in a hoodie (no eye contact)

Mairy’s whistle-playin kitchen-jammin Uncle Pat

Pete’s mom Sherry, who sings twice weekly with the Sweet Adelines (so knows how it works)

Rico the PTSD’d army vet (in his wheelchair), who plays a mean harmonica

 

Your bandmates Eric the Ego (lead singer) and Tasteful Steve (guitar) are over there with their mouths open, staring at you in disbelief.  Your pal Sam (great bass player) is smirking through her inscrutable look and has shrugged, just now.

” Well.”, you think to yourself, “Um.”

But this is what makes you so good at what you do: you decide in that moment that this will become a band project, and ‘the band’ will rehearse as usual, but on another night. With a little finaegling, this makes the situation okay for everyone (indicated by a second shrug from Sam).

What ensues from there is perhaps one of the best, funkiest, tastiest most heartfelt art-records ever made, a massive collaborative process of laughing changes-of-mind & heart & music & life for everyone, including Eric (the less overblown), SuperTasteful Steve (the less serious), Sam (who sang at the Adelines’ last concert in full leathers), Geoff, Pat, Sherry and Rico, who now regularly go to slam nights with Ruby and her African-Canadian girlfriend.

Next Project?  How about an online thing linking Iqaluit midwives with spinners/weavers from Georgian Bay who then write songs with retired Mounted Police?  (Sam’s idea).

Bell Hooks would say….  Huzzah!

Paolo Friere would say…  Huzzah!

Lees Higgins and Willingham would say… Huzzah! Huzzah!

Rebecca Solnit would of course write a review of the entire mad thing for the Guardian, with exhaustive research that proves without a doubt that yes, inclusiveness requires great courage (and willingness to laugh at ourselves) but makes us all so much better.

 


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Shock and shift

What happens when we don’t take responsibility for healing our own lives, and instead project our buried trauma out onto other people – our children, our families, our friends, our colleagues? 

What happens when we use all our energy in criticism and complaint, when we use charity and judgement as a way of maintaining privilege and superiority over ‘weaker-thans’?  When we use power like a gun and intelligence only to manipulate?  Is this not a way of describing blight?  Does this not weaken the entire system of life?  Weinstein.  Ghomeshi.  Trump.  Any person of any gender who identifies with embitterment, any person who inflicts their own still-festering injuries on others. 

So, at any point in our lives, each and every one of us, until we choose to do the work and grow up.

Mill Dam, Owen Sound. Fall 2014

What happens instead when we don’t accept diminishment, and instead use our considerable strength to knit together, to hold space for change, to join, to empower and build.  What happens to us.  What happens to the world.

Harriet Tubman.  Georgia O’Keefe.  Emily Carr.  Gord Downey.  Elizabeth Warren, who persists.

What happens when a small, any or multi gendered group gathers in the kitchen to wash, dry, put away dishes from the meal they made for 30 people? What happens when they gather to weed a garden, repair or build a quilt, build a house, make music, block out a play, collaborate on a project, get something done together…  the conversation knits and weaves, joins and clarifies, connects and strengthens.

It’s about the doing, but the doing isn’t the point.  The weaving, the connecting, the building, the sharing and comparing is the point.  The anchor of hearth, the rhythm of ritual, the resources of valued difference.

In this contemporary culture, many-gendered, magnificent embroiderers, quilters, designers and fabric artists have taken the diminuitive notion of ‘women’s work’ and transformed it into empowerment – an actual, functional, powerful approach to healing our homes and our bodies and building the world anew.  Artists and musicians, actors and writers are more and more equally represented by all cultures, all genders, who have empowered themselves to speak from their own power, to openly share their hard-won strength and dignity with us.  Does this not strengthen us all?  Is this not another way to describe nourishment?

Endurance, independence, perception, wisdom.  Strong opinions, well informed by context and shared with humility.  To do something valuable with one’s anger.

Not the pursuit of virtuosity as an identity, but for joy.  Not to claim then fight nasty to maintain one’s trumped-up value .

Instead, always to include, to hold space for. Powerfully.

The We, the Us, without the Them.  We, the ecosystem from which no living being is excluded.

This requires courage.

 


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A reciprocal boat

Sometimes the boat NEEDS to sink, little miss willpower.  Sometimes it’s just time to release Her.

Boats are practical things that keep you afloat on water, carry what you need for a journey, bring back what you harvest.  They are all female.

Boats are dreams, freedoms, passions, yearnings. They are shared, protected, obvious solitudes.  In them you can aim yourself to the far horizon, traverse the foreign deep and sing the sky.  They cradle in a soft wind, scream in heavy weather.

Without exception, boats require maintenance. Care.

A reciprocal boat carries two, each with her baggage, each with his wounds which, if utilized correctly can transform into oars, a sail.  A tiller, a keel even, to stabilize a fragile idea in rough weather.  Ingenuity is required, shared goals, a willingness to do all the work made necessary by journey.  If one refuses to bail while the other catches the wind, forgets to balance the agreement of labour and care, well then there is no crew, and the boat, She knows it. If there’s no crew to attend to the moment, then eventually, inevitably, down She goes, in sad, sorry relief.

That one sank four years ago, on September 3, 2013. In the course of that time I’ve sung her Her to peace in honour of her ten years of service. Despite a poor crew.

There are fair weather boats, full of jolly shout and sun.  These are white white above but deep and heavy below with a labouring few who may never be seen.  These know Her engines, Her faults, Her upper deck requirements and tend them, cursing the dark.  Below the cursings, deeper still in the hull are dungeons where the scapegoats molder, banished for being born out of place.  Light above, heavy below, She knows full well she cannot be sustained, but grinds the tending souls to breaking point in any case, for the sake of Show.

One like that finally sank three years ago, in long, slow stages.  I watched her break apart and go under, still raging.

It was not beautiful, or poignant.

The boats still out there are better made; They need maintenance at dock, newer crew, so in They come, a float of dignity and good lines, for repair and Captains who understand the weather, yearn for the horizon.

Still others wait ready, clean holds full of nourishment and good sense.

Me, I’ve found safe harbour. Deeply grateful for the peace after the storms.  I repair, rebuild and absorb new information here, I check the shore for the next journey.

I’ll know Her when I see Her; we’ll sail when the wind is right.

 

 


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An ethical line

To draw a line.

A simple line can identify both home and trespasser.

Political lines describe differences, places of meeting:  here and there, you and me, us and them.

Natural lines are always clear, but changing.  Shoreline, treeline, river, snake, stick, shadow.

“Snakeroot”, 6×6″, graphite and acrylic on paper, 1999. Sold

Lines can protect the sacred, the private, the personal from the public.  Open, traveling lines explore, closed ones separate, keep safe.

Implied lines blur understanding, strong ones describe structure.  Like ladders, scaffolding.

An ethical line supports both the one and the other.  If drawn with clear intention, such a line can offer a way through conflict to respect, reconciliation.

A good, quiet line, both firm and generous.  Provocatively simple.