Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


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Hamilton Residency 10: Manifesto.

Lightning: it is wise not to make a target of yourself.

Enlightenment: what you feel as you walk away, unharmed, if you successfully apply this to any dangerous situation.

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My Manifesto, then, as informed by the following list of encounters, ideas and experiences, as far as I can name them in the moment:

J.F. Martel, Guy Laramee, Brian Eno, Kate Raworth, Rebecca Solnit, Greta Thurnburg, Werner Herzog, my Masters study of Community Music, Rutger Bregman, hundreds of conversations and encounters with the valued people in my world, Nora Bateson and warm data, Donna Haraway and ‘making kin’, Carl Jung’s Red Book, Wassail! 2018, my nine portrait collaborators, the Cotton Factory Artist’s residency, Hamilton, Emerald Street, Georgian Bay, the Great Lakes, trust, love, betrayal, trauma, and four decades of good and bad artistic choices

To all artists, in all media and discipline, everywhere:

Do not ever paint, write, act, dance, direct or sing  for money.

Get paid, yes. But the primary objective of your work can not be financial compensation. In fact financial compensation is the least significant objective in making art.

(Read J.F. Martel’s Reclaiming Art in the Age of Artifice (2015). He’s right.)

Never starve for the sake of your ‘art’. That’s an old trap of an idea, and it never applied to you. Starving’s a waste of your time; figure out how to live and thrive, so you can work. Keep a weather eye on your ego; you need less than you think.

Werner Herzog put it this way:

“If your project has real substance, ultimately the money will follow you like a common cur in the street with its tail between its legs.”

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Do your work out of love and respect for your human self, and all other human & non-human selves who struggle, fail, make wrong choices, and right ones. Paint for the dangerously passive-aggressive narcissist in his fortress of victimhood; for the seventh generation Welsh sheep farmer who calls out Peta on social media for denouncing the use of wool.

Sing for the young girls and boys with multicoloured hair who are entering a life in which their bodies are commodity, where there is no such thing as physical, emotional or psychological safety.

It is all “We”. You are not separate from any of this; it is your job to include, to speak for.

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Artists are the ‘voice’ of a natural ‘We’, which includes all living species.

Write, for the clearcut trees, the hurricanes and the fires, the floods and the traumatic, catastrophic changes in this world. Paint for all refugees, of all species.

Act, compose, direct, for the bully boys and their muzzled wives who get elected so they can take an axe to our carefully crafted, compassionate safety nets. This too, is human, they are also “We.”.

Make art that supports indigenous voices that speak for and to the land – people all over this planet who claim their integrity and walk their talk, through centuries of genocide.  Learn how to be a good ally, on your own steam, without entitlement.

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Go direct. Look beneath the surface of things, then widen your gaze to see the larger context.

Take a straight, objective look at power and its misuse, at how abusive behaviour always always always originates in deep private, personal insecurity, unhealed trauma, fear. Paint the humanness of that. Hold difficult space for change.

Mind your tongue and use your ears – the ones in your soul as well as the ones on your head. Use your anger to find and name the difficult beauty in all that you see. Paint that.

Learn to walk away when nothing more can be done; always forgive as you do this.

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Stand in your truth, then express that truth, through action, through art. Understand that your truth is not a weapon, it’s a shield – for you and for those in your care.

A corollary:  Some people do not have a truth to stand in. Accept this. Forgive their choices, support them as they search. Do not let them borrow your integrity and claim it as their own – that is not a kindness.

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Do all of this, but also: connect, find relevance. Find ways for people to discover themselves in what you do, what you make, how you choose, what you choose. Articulate with clarity why any of it is important. Art is relational, connective: provoke and make space for honest discussion.

A corollary: divisive, abusive work is not art, it is propaganda. Do not indulge in easy smallness, or the exclusion of anyone.

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As Rutger Bregman, Ocasio-Cortez, Greta Thunberg, Rebecca Solnit and a growing ocean of people have realized, the “Us” of this world is endangered.

So. Find what you value, build ways to name and present the difficult beauty that We are.  Do this with love, and with hope, inclusively.

Make your work count.

 


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The Well

stare and stare at these paintings, make a choice to add paint, increase opacity, move a line, stare again and question and re-form my understanding of the work and my own approach to collaboration – what is changing?  why and how the change?  How can I follow – willingly submit to change myself, when I cannot see the future?

I started working with bells as a response to the great political divide of the Canadian Election. Alarmed, that we are so susceptible to fear-mongering, that we permit racists and bigots to rerpresent our country and run for parliament, that

I started working with bells as a response to the great political divide of the Canadian Election. Alarmed, that we are so susceptible to fear-mongering, that my country has turned so dark, that art, science and all religions but one – or two when convenient, have been muzzled by oil and money…

Always another voice that insists on clear answers, ‘What am I trying for here?  Does this work resonate outside of my little world?  What is my statement? If challenged, could I defend the value of this piece?  I don’t know. I’m only sometimes clear with my thinking.

But we chose change, and elected Justin Trudeau, who has been swift to change our course to one of mutual respect, of collaboration with first nations, of removing muzzles from scientists, building bridges between government and constituent, addressed climate change and invited representatives from each party, and across the country to Paris for the Climate Conference.

But we rose and chose something different by giving Justin Trudeau a majority.  He and the elected have been swift to change our course to one of mutual respect.  We gave a gender equal cabinet.  We will answer for our history with our First Nations. our Scientists, civil servants, citizens are encourages to engage, witness, and collaborate with the Government of Canada.  Trudeau has invited representatives from each party and to Paris for the Climate Conference.

Discernment = Self respect.  There is no other way to choose well than from a position of strength and humility, which is perhaps the greatest form of strength.  Always the painting is stronger, more alive than I.  Always it wants something I can barely imagine to happen.  My response is to simplify.  Simplify again.

Paris. Last night at least 127 people were killed and many more injured by a terrorist group. In Paris. The western world weeps and buckles down into fear: close the borders! Protect our own! But there are bombs also in Syria, in Bagdad, in Beiruit. We do not respond to these by changing our profile pictures in solidarity...

Paris. Last night at least 127 people were killed and many more injured by a terrorist group. In Paris. The western world weeps and buckles down into fear: close the borders! Protect our own! But there are bombs also in Syria, in Bagdad, in Beiruit. We do not respond to these by changing our profile pictures in solidarity…

I look up after pause moments (knitting a scarf with cables so I need to count:  perl three, knit three, perl three, four rows, then knit one, perl three, knit three.  It’s four feet long now…), and I notice that there is a pattern also in the drawings on each canvas.  The bells are progressively getting louder, their mouths wider…

You can add up the parts, But you won't have the sum, You can strike up the march, There is no drum. Every heart, every heart To love will come, But like a refugee. - L. Cohen, "Anthem"

You can add up the parts, But you won’t have the sum, You can strike up the march, There is no drum.  Every heart, every heart To love will come, But like a refugee. – L. Cohen, “Anthem”

We shall see where change takes us.  I go willingly.


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The Bells that still can ring

This 2015 Canadian election.

I don’t want to know how many hours I’ve spent online trying to write through and responding to ‘stick with the brand’ thinking, or the conversations that possibly should have been more focused on personal issues.

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Ring the bells that still can ring…

At the beginning of each day I tear myself from Guardian articles and online debates about the pros and cons of strategic voting and move on to more immediate and practical things, like building the integrity and health of my meagre artist’s income:  details about rehearsals and performances, venues and instruments, music part distribution, class schedules and coaching in schools, cello practise and pedagogical research about teaching; the development of a new art course about Line, Light and Colour in time for folks to make Christmas gifts; the development and manifestation of new functional art for the November Studio Tour; at home, gathering up fall bounty and cooking/freezing soups, stews, stock for the winter, putting Summer into the back shed…

...forget your perfect offering...

…forget your perfect offering…

To not attend to these things would be to exhibit a total lack of self respect.  But I’m aware that the current reward at the end of each day is permission to engage wholeheartedly in the process of this election, which grows more and more like a comic book each day.

The personal is political.  In this 2015 National Election Canada struggles to reclaim, rebuild and then manifest our Self Respect, while the world watches.

...there's a crack - a crack in everything...

…there’s a crack – a crack in everything…

I fully intended to use these days in my studio to work on the #Water project, but this election has changed my mind.

The Massie Hall #Water show has been postponed until April 2016, when the ice cracks and the streams flow again after our long long freeze.

Instead of a Massie Hall show in November, I’m opening my studio to show new work, inspired by the election, by Canada, the state of the world, and by Leonard Cohen.  That will be on November 28, we’re thinking (several artists will be involved), and you’ll hear more details from me soon.

...that's how the light gets in. L.Cohen, 'Anthem'

…that’s how the light gets in.                                       L.Cohen, ‘Anthem’

I’m alarmed that we have come to this, in Canada, in my beautiful riding of Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.  I want to be represented regionally by a states-woman, who can articulate my concern to Ottawa, about Truth and Reconciliation with First Nations people, about the toxic distortion of human governance that is Bill C-51, about climate change and the development of clean energy sources, about access to our own locally grown food, about poverty and dignity and full support for the arts in this country.  Our Beloved CBC under threat via TPP.  Our Beloved lakes, streams and waterways sold to China through FIPA.

I’m painting ships bells that call all hands on deck.  They will be hung at The Bean Cellar in Owen Sound the week after my studio tour, on December 4.  I’ll be posting them here in process until then.

Please Canada.  Election day is tomorrow.

Please vote for Self-Respect.