It is 3 weeks into Covid 19 lockdown in Aotearoa New Zealand. And I am thinking, as I often do, about the places that art can occupy. And what it’s for. There is a lot of amazing things happening online: galleries showing how people wear their favourite jewellery, or tours of galleries, or artist studios. I don’t really have any great ideas yet about my work operating online. What is stimulating my imagination, is thinking about our humble fence. It is the part of our home that faces onto the road. It is the in-between. It is the place that all these people who I’ve never seen before walk past, in their bubbles.
I don’t know what to do with it yet, or if I will do anything. My partner and I talk about painting it a bright colour, leaving messages, offering connection outward. I was talking to everyone on my daily walks (from a safe distance) until recently. Then I heard that we aren’t supposed to do that. People started keeping their dogs on leads, in case they transmit the virus. I find this increasing lack of physical connection tiring; it saps me of energy and motivation.
It’s been a while since I made a big installation, but when I do, they use structures that already exist, and local materials, and things I’ve collected, to talk about different ways of being here. Often of shelter, protection, and different kinds of spaces that we might build for ourselves. Ideas are mere threads at the moment, but I did collect and trim some branches that started to feel like a boat. Our tree is shedding its leaves. It’s autumn, and our pumpkins are orange. I remembered harvest festivals from when I was a child. Offerings and plaited bread and piles of vegetables, to say thank-you. Sculpture has lots of functions, and lots of different names.
I am wondering what I should do, and listening for small messages. Meanwhile, I rake the leaves, I mulch the beds, I lie upon the earth and try to let go.
I let the memories come, of things I have built, and the reasons and spaces they lived in for a while. The conversations they started, because they were in public space. The shared language of sketch books, when we had no words in common. The conversations that begin from questions, because the thing being built is not a building, but it reminds this person of something they built, or wanted to. The making, the re-making. The imagination that allows us to build anew, to make new connections. To not be limited to the spaces inside; the ones we thought were the ones that mattered.