Things repeat, in good ways

Essays, installation, Poetry, process, Sculptures, shows, Studio, Uncategorized, Writing

I’m in the process of making my second publication about a project. Both of them have been to do with buildings, and process, and how to create and hold things together. The first, a physical building, the second, the building we make together by how we stick together. The structures that we form through solidarity, love and connection.

Both are using the same method; assemblage, complex, sticky and with each piece related actively. You can read one way, and then the other. This is the best way I can make sense.

I found this piece of writing and images from the first one; Inhabitance, so here they are… if you’d like to pre-purchase a copy of the second one, about We Don’t Have to Be The Building, contact me on siantorrington@gmail.com

Meeting points of nature and human maintenance in buildings and the built environment. I walk around to see what I find in the neighbourhood. Gutters are rich with trees, drips have made drawings down the side of buildings, and posters have made a mummy of a house. There is a bin which has been papered to make it look weatherboarded. Drawings are everywhere.

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I found the information about this place in the archives. It was owned by a woman and she wanted all of the best materials used. The best concrete, rimu and roofing. Now there are holes everywhere made by borer and when I bang a nail into the wall dust falls and falls. Without maintenance there is accretion. This is a scene where human action plays against inaction; because nothing has been done these patterns of mould and falling paper pile up. And my drawing repeats them, extends them, makes them clearer.

Someone broke the window in a shop next door. I looked in and saw that there were flags in there. I hadn’t noticed them before. Is this what I would do if I broke in? Is this what I am doing in here? Leaving a mark, leaving many marks. Leaving a sign of inhabitance and noticing what was found here.

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The tap drips. The bath is accumulated with water which has stained it brown. So what would I accumulate here? There is colour which drips also and builds up. The glitter in the bath, and the pastel which is imitating the spread of mould on the walls. There is a kind of communication here.

Things hold on, and things hold in. Lines are travelling through this space becoming tight and slack, falling into puddles or holding doors closed. Paper, wool and wood all serve the same purpose,

a structure within a structure which is holding its own

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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.

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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.

Pre-sales of We Don’t Have to Be The Building publications

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’m now creating 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.

If you’d like to go on the list to pre-purchase one, please let me know. They are $40 each as pre-sales and will likely cost a bit more after that, so grab one now!

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.

 

Interviews from Intimacy stages / Active Empathy, Auckland

Drawing, Essays, Gender, installation, Poetry, Queer, Uncategorized, Writing

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I did two interviews; one with Artists Alliance, one with Phantom Billstickers, about this project. Read more here:

Interview | Sian Torrington

http://0800phantom.co.nz/interview-sian-torrington-intimacy-stages-active-empathy/

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.

Writing about the making process

Uncategorized

This is a piece of writing I had published last year about the process of writing and making. For a long time I’ve used the metaphor of building. Sometimes building up, sometimes tearing down. There’s a sense of submission that happens, a letting oneself go into the unknown. So often it feels like there is no way through, or at least no clear way. Anyway here I tried to describe some of it… IMG913 4th Floor journal

This is the only way I know how to be revolutionary

Uncategorized

ImageThis is the only way I know how to be revolutionary.

To speak, to write, to tell my stories. And there have been times when this has not felt like enough. But we have learnt, through feminism, through queer theory, through all of our ongoing fights for liberations of our peoples, that the personal is political. Because we cannot be what we cannot see. The place where you wonder if you are ok, if there are any others like you; this is a quiet place. And the silence is a numbed limb.

One of my monikers has been Scheherezade. She’s the woman from The Arabian Nights, who kept herself alive by telling stories, always finishing right before dawn, so that her murderous potential husband was compelled to keep her alive for one more night, to hear the end of the story. It’s a story with a lot of control, manipulation, like most of our fairy tales. But for me, it’s important, because it is stories which have kept me alive. Jeannette Winterson writes in The Passion, “Trust me, I’m telling you stories”. We get given the wrong stories sometimes, too narrow, too small. Sometimes the stories don’t have anyone we recognise in them. Sometimes they’re just not brave enough.

I want to make the world bigger, not smaller. I want to make more things possible, to open and open.

The world we live in is all narratives, and it’s the dominant ones which keep us quiet, tell us our stories are odd, marginal, unimportant. But they are all we have. And they belong to us. And they are all true. And how do we take care of our stories? Stories love to be told, and they love to be listened to. And sometimes, when they’re finding their feet, their language, they need to be listened to by people who just want to hear them, however ragged they are. And sometimes, often, our stories take time, because they need entirely new languages to be able to speak. Because the dominant language didn’t invent words yet for our sexuality, our genders, our dreams.  This means that sometimes they are hard to understand, because they don’t walk in a straight line. How could a queer story walk in a straight line?

And sometimes they take time, because they are hard to tell. I’m learning Te reo Maori right now, and it’s hard. He said to me “Keep going, there are many in us, and they don’t all want us to learn, they are not all with us. Keep going, it’s yours if you love it”

And often, our stories take enormous courage. Because we are ashamed, afraid, unused to hearing our own voices. I am already ashamed of everything I have not said, of the struggles I have had to ‘just be myself’, of the time it has taken me to know who I am and speak that out. I berate myself – how can it have taken me 36 years? How did I not know better, faster? And sometimes, I remember; because I had to invent a whole new language. Because I had to try out story after story. Because I had to find a tribe, an identity, a whakapapa. Because I had to learn to make myself visible.

This is the only way I know how to be revolutionary. To tell my stories, in all their ragged, open, glittery, difficult glory. To place them on shaky legs and say darling, I believe in you, you can walk. To write them in secret and begin to tell them in public, and trust that you will want to listen. That there is someone there who is just hoping that these words might open the world a little wider, so they get to breathe themselves, walk themselves home.

And when you tell me with shining eyes, when I see through you your little child who got told today yes there is nothing wrong with you, when you give me glass stoppers and say these are for you, to remind you to never hold in your words, I know, this is the right story. This is the revolution.