Pre-selling We Don’t Have to Be The Building publications to make it possible!

Essays, feminism, Poetry, process, Queer, Uncategorized, Writing

‘We Don’t Have to Be the Building’ (2016) researched diverse community stories about sexuality and activism, resulting in assemblage art and writing in the lightboxes on Courtenay Place, Wellington.

I’d now like to create a beautiful publication that you can own and put on your wall, and keep to remember, or get to know the project. It will consist of:

8 A3 posters, of all 16 panels of the final work, printed on 150gsm paper

30 pages of process writing, images of the process, action sheets and reflections on making the project

A commissioned essay

All beautifully presented in a box for you to keep together, or choose your favourites to put on your wall.

I can only produce this with your help, so I am checking out interest by pre-selling it, like an album. The total costs for this, (Minus some funding from the Armstrong and Arthur Trust, Thank-you!) will work out to $40 per publication, if I make 100.

If you’d like to go on the list to pre-purchase one, please let me know. I need to pre-sell 100 to make it possible. I’m up to  35 as of 16th August, so if I make it by the end f August, I will then ask you all for deposits and jump into production mode!

Courtenay Place Light Boxes Sian Torrington We don’t have to be the building

Intention

Body, Essays, process, Uncategorized, Writing

Intention

Why we do a thing. What we mean to do. The reasons that unfold as we do it.

Intention is not always clear to an artist. Sometimes it is more of an energy, a will to discover, create or express. Other times it’s like an itch, or irritation that drives a form of exploration you really don’t want to make. But you make it, because it says you should.

Sometimes, intention unfolds itself as you are going along – ah, that is what I meant. For me the materials themselves have their own intentions, as do the finished works. Like children, they don’t belong to me once they have left the scope of my body or making. Mybe they never did, but once they are out in the world, they have to stand on their own two feet.

There’s that saying; the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What we thought we were doing, but then what we actually did, and the effect of that. Intention is often an excuse used by those who cause harm to others; ‘Oh but that wasn’t my intention.’ So intention becomes slippery. Intention has to be responsive, and responsible.

I have thought of what I am doing lately as making a series of offers. Offers that you can accept or refuse, but made with an open hand, and ready to hear whatever response is made. My intention is to find things out, and see what creative practice and art can actually do in the world. Make itself useful!

Thinking about intention has made me realise that my main intention has always been to trust the process. I don’t quite see the point of doing something if you already know what will happen, or what you want to happen. Trust for me is a process of yielding; to accident, happenstance, other people, magic. Trust is also a revolutionary process: To trust in our own instincts, bodies and desires; witches got burned for that. And it’s still a thing, isn’t it. There is a mind and body bending amount of telling, everywhere we look and listen, even when we don’t want to, about how your body should be, look, behave, feel, respond. And what is the intention of that? It’s always felt like control to me.

So what happens when the body is not controlled? When it is allowed to be, and find out, and explore, and play? What happens when the materials it uses are allowed to do the same? My intention has been to find out. And I’ve been told off all the way through. When I was studying, trying to find ways to write about a process that I was living; questioning and rejecting the possibility and value of being able to be ‘objective’, I was told, come on, you’re a clever girl, can’t you just ‘write a straight version?’

This is not a straight version.

 

We don’t have to be the Building – Boosted!

Drawing, Drawings, Gender, installation, process, Queer, Uncategorized

My current project, ‘We don’t have to be the Building’, is exciting (and terrifying!) for me because it brings together my art making practice, writing, and community engagement, in a new form of research and public presentation.

I am looking at queer activism around Homosexual law Reform 30 years ago, and what queer activism is today. I’m looking for my own whakapapa through layers of written, drawn, and embodied history. Some of it is challenging, beautiful, sad and brave, and there’s still so much to fight for. I want to represent it all as a series of many truths all together, and they will be in the lightboxes on Courtenay Place from 1st August.

It’s a huge process. I am looking through the Lesbian and Gay archives, interviewing activists from then and now, drawing people, running hui, discussions and doing interviews. I’m generating both academic and what I’m calling embodied research – creating intimacy through korero and presence in drawing and making together across identities and generations.

Much of queer activism is based in telling our intimate stories, about our bodies, and our sexualities. It’s brave, challenging and vital work. This project will show some of my story, and those of others. It will weave together an assemblage of art making and writing not to create answers, but to offer diverse truths and experiences through drawing, collage, photography, and words.

Every part of this project is both an offer and a call out, to see who answers. I’m reaching out to my community, in all its diversity, fragmentation and glory. For a fairly private studio artist, it’s incredibly vulnerable, but I know it’s the right thing to do, and that I have all the skills to do it. But I do need a little help.

I have been generously funded by Wellington City Council, Creative New Zealand, Rainbow Wellington, and The Armstrong and Arthur Trust, so my production costs are covered, but I need help to create time for myself to do it all. I need to work on this between now and August, so I’m asking for $7500 through a Boosted campaign to support me which you can find here;

http://www.boosted.org.nz/projects/we-dont-have-to-be-the-building

email8Crop studio shotBoosted is a funding platform for the arts run by The Arts Foundation. Any donation you make is fully tax deductable.

I am hugely grateful for all support offered, great and small.

Arohanui,

Siân

 

A feminist proposal

Body, Drawing, Drawings, Essays, feminism, Femme, Gender, process, Queer, Uncategorized, Writing

This post is a beginning and end of a show, ish. The work began before the proposal, and it will continue beyond this show. But I wanted to be generous, and share what I wrote, and then what became of it. I made a decision about a year ago to start writing proposals that really said what I mean, what I really want to do, and use the language I really believe in. This is the result;

Sian Torrington – Proposal for Feminisms in Aotearoa, Enjoy Gallery

(Show later titled ‘Enjoy Feminisms’ at Enjoy Public art gallery, Wellington. Artists were; Dilohana Lekamge, Single Brown Female, Sian Torrington, Fresh and Fruity, Ann Shelton, Faith, Leafa and Olive Wilson. For more details about the show go here http://www.enjoy.org.nz/node/3665

and for my collaborative writing with Creek Waddington to accompany the work, go here http://journal.enjoy.org.nz/love-feminisms/conversation)

I wish to discuss female sexual aggression and dominance. I want to draw out my own queer body, which expresses its sexuality through diverse genders. I want to address the fear, shame, blockages and discoveries which accompany a series of coming outs around gender and sexual expression. I want to do this in the context of a feminist show because I also want to explore and address the fear of no longer belonging within feminism, of being a ‘bad feminist’. Of returning to the body and finding it changed and changing; an inconveniently uncategorizable process, and so linked to a process-based making.
Uncertainty, passion, expression, weight, effort. Self made, self defined.
And if I can only come when I close my eyes and my cock is half way down your throat, am I still a feminist?
When you do not see your body, desire or sexuality represented, it is imperative that you represent it yourself, and as honestly and in as much of its complexity as you possibly can.
The problem is still the body. My body is queer, kinky, strong, genderqueer, bolshy, sick, sensitive and hungry. It is excessive and intuitive and gut driven. It is all the things it is not supposed to be in a cool, irony driven art world. My life has been a series of coming outs. Feminist, artist, lesbian, queer, femme, dominant, activist, masculine, brute. The work I want to offer for this show is another coming out; of my body and my mission to explore its many rooms, through figurative and abstract drawing. My body and the things that are attached to it which are not imagination; parts of my body which you cannot see but I can feel.
I have always identified as a feminist. I believe that feminist thought, in its centering of the body, has the capacity to disrupt phallogocentric ideals of rationalism, objectivity and straight lines which have no relation to any body. And yet the body feminism represents can, and has, excluded many embodiments that still need and deserve its strength and protection. My feminism is queer, femme, genderqueer, body and sex positive, and includes all who identify as women, have experience being treated as women, and who claim femininity and femme as a place from which to speak.

******

I find myself feeling like I need to rein things in; rub out the finger prints on the edges of drawings, keep a clean space around the edges and select less rather than more. Galleries are white, clean, and there is an assumption that if you put a lot of things in it, you didn’t make enough decisions. Even though mass is a very deliberate and bold decision. It’s not that you just accidentally ate too much; it’s that you want to feel your body and this is the only way you know how to find your way back to that; to say yes to everything you want to eat. It’s not that you are not bothering to be feminine; it’s that you always felt secretly sexy when you are strong and lifting and building your own way, regardless of whether anyone wanted that. It’s that you are trying to explore something which doesn’t want to be regulated.
Artists make many things, but when we show in galleries, we hide the many in favour of the one final work or body of work. In doing this we exclude failure, accident and the trying energy of practice; the fact that making involves many repeated tryings and failings.

The work I want to make for your show is about being an aggressive, queer, tangled up, sexual, dominant emerging from fear and a busting-out genderqueer feminist person. I propose to make a large-scale drawing on the back wall of the gallery, compiled of many pieces, which shows body, appendages, fucking, being, remembering, becoming. The drawing will be assembled of many pieces which move through figuration and abstraction. The drawing will also be made from partial sculptures, which will extend the work into three dimensional space. I want to acknowledge the slippages, strangeness and mass of simultaneous embodied experience in sexuality and gender. I want to cease censoring and controlling the body and also the work, by including a mass of drawings, experiments and trials.
The drawings and sculptures I am proposing use my body as subject; active, embodied, messy, aggressive, self-formulating subject. The marks and gestures draw and repeat actions that are made in sex; in battling this body, these genders, this sexuality, out of itself. Through intimacy, reflection and interaction with itself and other bodies, it becomes known. Through the process of making, it becomes visible. But what is represented is from the inside. I cannot speak for anyone else, only for me, from me. In this I reflect the highest value of consent; that to be a fully consenting adult, one must be fully informed, and know oneself as fully as possible.
I am involved. I am implicated.

Thanks to Enjoy Gallery and Harry Culy for the images.

In female company

Essays, feminism, India, process

Yesterday two women came and built with me. Wrapping, twisting, layering. I warned them in advance to bring messy clothes, and they weren’t afraid of heights or climbing. Sometimes climbing, sometimes clambering, we found ways to get up, stay up, and be there together. It’s hard to explain how much it meant to me to have this female company. I’m queer, and I spend much of my time at home with female bodied or identified folk. Or people with experience of being female; people with experiences which means they can hear me, see me, make space for me. People who are aware that sometimes you have to create space so others can speak. It never ceases to amaze me how much airspace cis men take up with their talking and telling. The silences we find ourselves in, and watch each other in, are the reason I wanted to only work with women. I wanted female hands on this sculpture which is so much to do with expressing my female, femme identity here in India. I don’t know how else to do it; I don’t have my wardrobe, my swagger, my community. I feel looked at enough, and don’t want to stick out any more. I bought jewellery, even just to wear inside, to remind me of the outrageous, eccentric shine I love.
But I have my practice, and I know how to be brave with that. Priyanka and Varsha made me feel so much braver, with their immediate enthusiasm, excitement and encouragement. Both artists, they had a beautiful visual sense, and the work seemed to grow like a truly living thing in response to their touch. I felt nourished, and seen by them. I unfolded a piece of glimmering pink chiffon fabric, and the noise Priyanka made was a moment of recognition and affirmation for me. Yes, it’s beautiful! Yes, for no reason other than sensual, yummy beauty! These pieces are a gift, from a woman who identifies as ‘obsessed with recycling’. She told me they come from another woman, who had collected them for forty years, ever since she had a sewing machine. They are the second blessing on this project, and they are absolute treasure to me. We sift through them, looking for the pieces which are equally light, to drape from the ceiling like soft petals.
While we are building, Varsha says to me ‘I’ve always wanted to build something like this. Like a treehouse!’ And that is how it feels. The femme treehouse, taking up space, spilling over into the road. No men came to talk to me today.
In the afternoon, I take us for coffee. It began to rain torrentially, and we sheltered under the eaves, laughing as a fat raindrop fell exactly into one of our coffees, splashing us with its force. I had been worried to come out to them; I didn’t want to ruin this natural closeness which felt so good. But we talked about marriage, and I threw it in there, my big queer, eccentric wedding. They were wonderfully fascinated, wanting to know about the dress, the ring, how it is to get married where I come from, and bemoaning when the law will ever change here on same sex marriage. We talked about how in love I am with my sweetheart. We talked about Indian weddings, ceremonies, and how both of them would rather elope.
Feminine space is precious, and sure, it should be everywhere, anywhere, but it isn’t. Today I felt like there was a small space I had created, and we kept creating together, which allowed me to breathe easier, feel myself reflected, accepted, and encouraged, in female company.

I be myself

India, Poetry, process, Sculptures

I be myself. I build these things to express and shelter this being now. There is no shelter, there is only being. I cannot protect myself from who I am, I can only accept it and show it. I am the storm. I am the heavy rain. I am the gentle shy sunshine. I work to make myself visible. I shed layers of shame which would numb me.
There is no shelter, only expression
Making myself visible, finding the threads
To join together in difference
Threads of the feminine
Feminine space
Weaving myself in.

photo 5 photo 5_1 photo 5_2 photo 4_1 photo 4_2 photo 3_5 photo 2_3 photo 2_4 photo 1_2 photo 1_3 photo 1_4 photo 1_5

Stages of making

Essays, India, process

Stages of making;
Opening, listening, searching
Collecting based on attraction with no judgement
Sifting
Trials, experiments, allowing
Writing making drawing photographing
Collecting. Making visible
Remembering,
Step back
Step back in
Trust
Fear
Trust
Doubt
Doing and doing some more
Tidy the studio. Organise into boxes. Sweep.
Letting go of what didn’t make it in time
Accepting a state of finishedness
Sheltering from rain. One fat raindrop to land exactly in her coffee
Allowing miraculous surprises by not trying to make the outcome meet the initial expectation
Finding a title while walking under a bats flight path
Asking for help
Accepting help
Getting up, walking, working, eating dinner, sleeping.

Images by Sandeep TK

You try to change your body, you try to accept your body

Body, Essays, Gender, Poetry, process, Queer, Studio, Writing

Something like a year and a half ago my body gave me a wake up call. The message was simple and clear; “You have to stop hating me”. I was pushing, demanding, ignoring, piling. So it needed to be clear. I became sick. I was overseas, and it was hard to breathe. Literally, not metaphorically. I’ve read about people who developed vertigo as they climbed too high and too fast in their careers, and I’ve always gotten strong signals from my body. So I listened, though I haven’t always. My chest rattled, and it was hard to walk across the room. It was Christmas, and I gave myself an extra two hours on top of the three they recommend to make my flight. That’s five in total. Five hours. They need to search your bags and put you through the machines. I needed to walk really slowly and repeat; there’s no rush, you can have whatever you want, there’s no rush. People looked at me, but I was incanting my antidote to denial, shame, fear. My body needed to hear that she was acceptable, even when she was weak, endangered, sick, slow. I have been afraid of not being able to afford what she wants, of feeding her what she wants until she becomes unacceptable. I have been afraid of having such a needy, uncontrollable body. So I have given her less, eking it out. We do this with children, the idea that if we only give them a little bit of what they want, they will learn that they can’t have everything, that there has to be limits. But the body expands and pushes, then, when ignored enough, begins to remove unappreciated privileges and pleasures. It’s always been hard to come, but when it becomes hard to breathe, listening gets easier.
The new deal began with trust. Listening and trust, and acting on whatever I heard, no matter how much I wanted to keep doing the same familiar old things. Survival. Expression. Demanding more.
I’m not even sure she is a her anymore. Like everything else in my life, she is a collection of many. Identities, pronouns, names and genders jostle in an embodied stack of being. They aren’t that interested in whether you use he or she because it’s not so much about the outside world, and you recognise them anyway though you may not have the language to speak to them. But your behaviour shows you see them. They don’t mind, because they are in creative space and they’re quite sure of themselves thanks.
My gender has always been a private thing, like my sexuality, my body, all of my spaces. I like to get to know them myself before I share them with others. I grew up without television, relying instead on books and stories; made up and connected with things in the world. My dad used to walk with me and make up stories about magic trees and people and weave them in with reality or his past; tramps, psychics and foraging. We read books of heroic anti-power adventures where I was everyone. For me, the connection between the physical world and imagination was strong. They affected one another, they created one another. And the other world, the spirit world. I come from lines of psychics stretched through both sides, people who knew when to move, and what you needed, just before you did and it wasn’t too late. Or maybe that’s just listening again. There are some stories I know about my ancestors, and many more I don’t. But it doesn’t matter, because I feel them, and they are real.
I realised that when I am in the studio I never hate my body. She is, they are, we are, allowed. Right from when I first ever had my own space, this was the rule. This is the place where everything is allowed. Noone comes in, and nothing goes out, without my say so. Here I am allowed wrinkles, fear, pain, insecurity, exhaustion, repetition and glory. I am even allowed to not be productive. I am allowed to sleep on the floor. This is a recent development and it’s so much kinder than driving through. I drip, collect, stack. I dance, I am quiet. I keep the door closed. I draw in my underpants. I look into my bright eyes and hold my white and lumpy belly. I grow a cock, compress and release dusty palms. I reach, I fade, I build muscles. I ride. I watch myself try to get born, adding paper for the overflow.
It is something about flesh, and action, and movement, the absence of hate. It is also about the decision not to be looked at, and to claim my space. This one room, I have been lucky enough and stubborn enough to hold on to. For ten years I have had a room of my own. Once it was a paper tent. Once it was a tiny room under the house which still had a toilet in it, but I painted it white. Once it was the realm of a book which I could carry with me. I am an expert at making space, and holding it. I watch the birds and how they do it with their mouths. I grew up near a festival which raised a city in a matter of weeks, then returned it to pasture every year. Temporary, but present.
There are materials everywhere. I have had help. Someone has always bought a drawing at the last minute. One time a guy helped me lift a desk.
The world encroaches, always. It has ways of making you behave. It has walls and they are owned. It has fences and barriers, rules and judgements. It has payments which you make for every space. It has boxes for your body, identity, sexuality. Imagination can replace the entire world. Try to stretch it as far as it will go. And then further. Feed it with pictures and stories. Inventing entirely different value systems, ones which reflect what matters to you. Make up words and practice them. We make them real through repetition. Practice. Your survival depends on it. The survival that is, of the one / s you want to be, the ones which are jostling and asking for a way to speak. The ones who will make you sick if you don’t learn how to listen.
Shame is a key method of control. Also wanting to belong. Also wanting to be loved. What would it be like if everything about you was acceptable?
How long is a piece of string? Once I started untying the knots I found the tangles stretched out and out. There are more lines than I knew in every direction and none of them are straight.
I pull a drawing out of the bin. It is dusty and brokenly, heavily overworked. I use it as an example to myself. How far is too far? What is a good drawing?
It seems to me that there are these two things:
The way I thought it should be / I thought it could be / how I saw it happen before / how all of the others said it would be / the way everyone else was doing it / the way it looked before / what they wanted / what you expected / what I expected / what I wanted / what it should’ve been / what I was working towards / what I thought would happen
And
The way it is.
You try to change your body
You try to accept your body
This, all bodies have in common, they change. Under your eyes, skin changing, mutable flesh, beautiful flesh. Graspable, feedable, flexible, dryable, stretchable, wrinkling, shinking, sagging, filling busting, beautiful flesh, shifting flesh.
I burn my hand on unexpected steam and it makes me lie down, hand in a bowl of water. It sends messages to my heart which are hot and fearful. It sends messages to my brain which centralise the body, which remind the brain it is part of the body, in service to the body. Put your imagination to use. Imagine the water is cooling and cooling. Body says, your thinking is not helping, the emergency is here, we are racing. I burn my hand and time seems to slow down. The time which is driven by a list; what needs to be done by when by who by when by when.
I see myself trying to get born
In a tangle of limbs, boy ones and girl ones and other
ones
they push first, the many fists, thighs
the parts unformed, the parts unmade
the parts undis / re covered, jostle.
All I know are shoulders and the head kept low
If I can keep it down
I can get on through
Before she sees
Before
The gap closes.

image_2_1 image_2 Sian studioimage_1_1 image_1