Sculpture magic

Body, Essays, Femme, process, Sculptures, Studio, Uncategorized

I have been trying to figure out what the function of these objects is. Outside a gallery, outside. Close to a body, yours and mine. I lent some sculptures to a theatre group for a piece they were making. They came to my studio, and when I saw them cradle these objects, a flash of something came across me. It’s like a message too fast to see; a glimpse of the sense I am seeking. They held them like living beings; like live beings. Alive, to live, tricky and changing, processes halted mid stream so they still look like they are growing.

Sculpture at May contain Sex Scenes 1

I have been trying to figure out what I have been doing with my life; what I have spent my time practicing and perfecting. What is this craft, and what use is it?

Recently a friend died of breast cancer. There’s nothing that makes you feel as fucking useless as serious illness. All of our human efforts small in comparison to the inexorable passage from this body to the next place. The huge wave. I was in the studio one day, and just felt so strongly to give her a sculpture. It’s not often I do this- I think people should be able to choose what they want to live with visually. But in this case, it felt like all I could do. I gave her Femme Club, a glittery, encrusted, lumpy weapon for the spirit. How we resist what we cannot change in poetic ways. How we try to offer each other strength and hope, beauty and the fierce moments we need to survive every day.

Club

I started making these clubs when I was verbally assaulted and stopped on the street by a gang of men, one of whom pulled out his dick to show me he was a man. At the same time my genderqueer lover was being teased and bullied in their workplace and both of us felt like getting smaller, as well as fighting, standing our ground. These objects were like talisman, ritual objects, my attempts to make the internal battle visual, external, physical. To make it real. Here it is, it looks like this for me, and maybe it can help you too.

The way through. The ways things come through from that side to this; through matter, lumpy, drippy and complicated. Barely held together, trying to get born in the most difficult ways.

We have always needed objects to remind us: memento mori to remind us that we will die, and flourishes to remind us to live.

Recently I watched a video interview recorded with a witch, Pam Grossman, who lives in New York City. I watched it in an auditorium in City Gallery, and afterwards there was a live Skype where we could ask her questions. I asked her how we can keep ourselves safe when we bring these things into these most unsafe environments. The gallery, the institutions, the white and hard spaces. How do we bring the guts and fire and tangles that lift us through and keep us safe? How can we be brave enough to do what we need, and what we know, what our ancestors knew and passed down in their bones and ours. My acupuncturist told me that week that in Chinese medicine there is no distinction between the mind and the belly, the emotions and the bones. That they are literally the same things, and everything holds everything else. Your bones are made of your fear and your guts are a tangle of your love. Maybe the body, the matter we are here in, has some connection like this to the matter we make from.

IMG_2171

I said to Pam the witch that in this country, the indigenous people have vast knowledge and wisdom over how to protect and bring things from the spirit world to the human one. I have been blessed to be supported by tangata whenua in many of my openings, making the safe paths with ancient and powerful knowledge and practice. Other times I have made it up, feeling for my psychic ancestors and the resonances that come through. Asking for help from people who can welcome me in when there is no-one and I feel like a vampire who literally cannot cross the threshold without an invite. I saw it today with a five year old. Asked to go inside my home because it was cold, she said no I would rather go and be in the car. I thought hey, of course, she hasn’t been invited in, and jumped up saying I’ll walk you, I’ll show you the way, you are welcome. Children know these things and say so much more easily.

We all have something we know. One person who welcomed me said in Chinese culture we would sweep out the space, so they did. They brought me crystals, and the other person brought me a flower, and we banged the silent, white walls.

I asked Pam, what would you advise to keep ourselves safe? She said throw a circle. Decide what your intention is for the space. Ask from the seven directions. And make sure you have eaten enough food, meditate. Keep yourself grounded so whatever swirls around you, you are grounded.

Always this balance between the body and the spirit, one a gateway to the other and both the same and kept separate and put through the processes that used to be done by a church. But witchcraft is outside the church.

I think, I have always known this, and I’ve been taught it again. Pray, make physical, make the path, maintain the path, breathe, feed the people.

We need objects to take us through and carry us back. We need them to protect us, to remind us and reflect us.

Could it be that this practice is a kind of medicine?

Could it be that these objects are a kind of poultice?

I am finding out.

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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.

 

Drawing it Out

Body, Drawing, Queer
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Image credit: Harry Culy/Enjoy Public Art Gallery

Part of Wellington Pride Festival | Tū whakahīhī e Te Whanganui-ā-Tara

Drawing it Out invites lesbian, bisexual, queer, femme, butch, takataapui wahine, trans*, and female-identified people to participate in an embodied research project on our sexuality. If you have experience of female-identified sex, now, in the past or would like to in your future, then this is for you!

I’ll draw whatever people offer me. It might be your finger, arm, dildo. The resulting collage will help form a sense of what we want to show/conceal.
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Drawing sessions are available between 11am and 8pm on March 7th, 8th & 9th, 2016; please contact me to make a booking.

This is part of a wider project, We don’t have to be the Building, that uses HLR30 as a prism to reflect on queer female sexuality and activism, in our past, through our whakapapa, and today. The drawing becomes a site of acknowledgement. A consensual survey of our bodies and sexuality. A document of intimacy and sharing.

The drawings will form part of the artwork exhibited in the WCC lightboxes on Courtenay Place in August 2016.

Bookings: Phone or txt 021 1080 540 or use the contact form below to send me an email. (Your details will not be displayed here.)





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.

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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.

Practice until it feels normal

Body, Essays, Gender, India

Today was my third dance class, and I hit something again. I’ve been doing really great with my compassion and expectations; I started by telling myself look, you will be the biggest, most graceless, clumsy and only white person in there. And that’s ok. Totally ok. Be with your own body and see it progress at its own pace. Last week I didn’t have any moments where I thought I would burst into tears from feeling like I can’t do it, but this week I just couldn’t make it through the last hour. I also have another thing to go to; a dance thing which is apparently more of a ‘ritual performance’. I think it’s something I am more familiar with, so that was part of the compassion too, to leave early and give myself a chance to get there.
I guess it’s the self consciousness that gets me, and when my mind gets involved. I’m trying to remember the sequences, and I have flashes of knowing it’s not remembering through mind which matters, it’s trust of the body. That’s where I hit something. It’s a wall of fear, long taught and held, about what I am able to do with my body. It holds my hips tight as I try to move over them, and makes me clumsy. So many times I have heard ‘be careful, don’t hurt yourself, I’ll do it for you, here, let me, that’s too heavy’. And on and on. So it’s a gender thing, and a being controlled thing. And like all the worst kinds of control and fear, it’s gotten inside my own skin, my own muscles. And I want it out. That’s why I’m here, bringing as much softness and compassion as I can, noticing the shifts, congratulating myself like a small child.
She says release, release! And I’m trying. It’s just that my release, my trust in my body is still so quiet. My faith that the floor will hold me take me time to listen for. I want so bad to release. I love that floor that I can sink into. And sometimes I can do it. Today I nearly managed to spin across the floor, something very roughly like a ballerina.
And I know the release comes with grief. Letting go means losing something which has been held. My body has tried to protect me; to clench around the fear it has absorbed. It has responded to the clear and repeated messages, and tightened. Beautiful, wise body.
I have always had lovers who can climb trees, play sports, who are unafraid to move their bodies; who are loose. I long for that looseness, and the ability to try and fail. To be crap, and still be loved. This class is so welcoming, so warm. It’s a place I can try.
Last summer my sweetheart taught me how to throw a ball, and how to hit one. The simple joy of being able to hit a ball. The pleasure of being shown how to move my body, how to make it easier. The sense of achievement was wild, free, energetic and hopeful. It’s not my fault that I can’t spin yet; I need to learn that it is my upper body turning which will guide me. I love being taught. I love to follow the guidance of a wise teacher with patience and faith. I can rest in that.
Today I tucked my head in further and did a forward roll. It was fast, and unthought. She says practice until it feels normal. Trust in doing, in repetition. The stories are old, and need no retelling.

email Doll

Growing, multiplying, breathing

Body, Essays, India

On the last night of my sweetheart being here with me, we heard a fight happening on the street. We heard a woman’s voice, and both of us froze. It was right outside our building. We listened; shall we go outside? We opened the door. There was another woman who was putting her body between the man trying to grab a woman he was yelling at. My sweetheart said to me, there are seven men out there, shall we go and add two more female bodies to balance it out? I didn’t want to. I was scared. I have known violence, and in my own country I know how to combat it. I know the phone lines, the ways to donate, and the ways to knock on the door and intervene. I know that the police will probably help. But this is not my country. I don’t know the rules, and I don’t know how to help. My body does not feel strong here. I don’t know how to understand my body when it is in the closet, when it is white and means so many things to others who look at it. It doesn’t quite feel like mine. I wanted to go inside with my darling on our last night together; back into the arms which make it clear what and who my body is again.
I felt ashamed. Selfish and powerless. We went outside. There was shouting, and a crowd of people. A car had stopped. The man shouting had her by the arm, and was saying she’s my wife. The family in the car were Indian, with a man in the driver seat. As soon as he said she’s my wife, the driver said right, that’s it, let them go. The French woman who had got in between them was screaming, saying what, it’s ok, because they’re married, its ok? You just let him go? And we did. He walked down the street, dragging her by her arm.
Last night I watched a dance show by young contemporary dancers. There were parts when the women were thrown on the ground, and others where they held the men aloft and threw them down. It was complicated, powerful work about violence, the street, and complication. It was made from here. I understood some things, and not others. Sometimes it is so much easier when it is through the body.
The street I am living on has a lot of men on it. At night, it is almost a completely male space; drinking tea and eating samosas. In my proposal, I wrote that I wanted to make work on the street. But this is not my street. Where should I make it? I miss my body, and I miss womens bodies. I miss female energy. And at the same time, I hear about Shakti, the mother goddess. Suresh tells me stories and shows me the drawings on the street which symbolise the lotus, and the womb; creation, growth. He says you start with a cross, and then you join those points, and then you join and join, until you fill the room. In Bangalore there are billboards which say “When you kill a girl, you kill many others.”
Shanthi Rd is built around a Badam tree. It is huge, reaching almost the height of the house, and far onto the street. Growing, multiplying, breathing, it forms a curving roof over the courtyard; one with holes that the full moon crawls through, offering surprising patches of light to skin. It reaches over the row of black motorbikes which park on the outside of the wall.
I plan to build a scaffold on the private side of the wall. I want to make temporary sculptures which will reach over the wall. Shy, trying, dripping, getting stronger. This will be my feminine intervention into the street. This is my body. She is solid and process based and feeling. This is not my city, and not my country, but I am here. I am invited here and I have to find ways to speak. I will speak about my experience and about my body. I will offer my femme and my feminine to the street. I will make an enclave where maybe I could drink tea with other women. It will be made of bamboo and tied with coconut rope. They feed it out from their aprons and it weaves into rope as if by magic. Maybe we could share some skills. Maybe I could invite you. There is a generosity that I need to learn; to offer and to accept. I’ve been painting banana leaves purple and blue. They are the same colours as the houses down the road. I have dripped blue onto them, like the fat rain. I am making a roof. I am laying a floor.

email Painted banana leaves email Studio shot email Paint

Images by Cop Shiva http://copshiva.com/

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