I guess in many ways these kinds of looking-back thinking-out-loud pieces of writing are useful only for ourselves, so perhaps sharing this is all a bit pointless/narcissistic. But we live at present in the age of the narcissist, this is simply how we communicate: through ourselves first and foremost. All of these sometimes silly webpages and monologues and social media sites are not social at all at their heart, it’s a bit of a perverse use of language, they are mirrors for us to look at ourselves in different lights and from different angles. Who are we really thinking about when we read each other’s updates online? Them, temporarily, and then ourselves - how should I react to this, how am I important in this particular event. Digesting the news - another way for us to model ourselves in our reactionary prowess. How could I share my take on this in a funny way, or how can MY INDIVIDUAL BRAIN really dissect this in a way that BLOWS PEOPLES’ MINDS? You get the gist. Anyway, I’m becoming tangental already and this is meant to be the welcoming line. Welcome. I choose to rejoice in this particular consideration of 2017 being a valuable piece of introspective exploration, at a time of year when suddenly we find ourselves a lot of time to look back and question everything.
2017 started on a high because I was so thankful to leave 2016 behind. And if I’m honest almost all of it has been good. I shaved my head! I made some work! I exhibited some work! I talked about some work! I helped start up a photography critique group! I encouraged multiple artists to exhibit their work and helped a few of them achieve this and secure sales! I left the country on my own, I bought myself a new laptop, I learnt to print in the darkroom, I learnt to process colour film, I learnt how to use very basic functions of photoshop, I worked hard, I had fun, I worried less (but still quite a bit), I opened up, I made friends and I drank a lot of beer! This sounds like some kind of lame brag-list a primary school child might write on their first day of school (although if they were drinking beer and practising photoshop I would be impressed) but I think it’s essential to think back about these things in order to recognise what we have done for ourselves. Already it doesn’t feel praise-worthy that I ‘made work’ as somehow this has once again become part of my routine - but at the time, after two years of complete creative and motivational drought, this was massive.
Of course, globally, the world has continued to stun me in its potential to be a really messed up place, but I have excused myself of being able to change all that. We have incredible access to information and to news now and all the small social updates and massive global-scale problems exist in the same space. It can be very overwhelming to try and process so much data, of varying spectrums, through one digital channel, and within one and-held device. This is especially true if you are stuck in a routine that doesn’t allow you much space to explore other attitudes as our environments are key for communication. A sort of dependency develops on this feed of news and it can become incredibly difficult to be able to separate your culpability from all of the shit you see online that is so obviously wrong with everything. Don’t underestimate how much of a lifeline a phone and social media can be for somebody stuck in an unhappy mind-set or even a constricting routine. Free time and free cash to go and socialise physically is a luxury - and I think many become really incredibly dependent on their social media spheres to fill this gap. It’s a little worrying, if I’m honest, the importance that many of us put on our ‘digital spheres’ and online declarations. But YADA YADA ONLINE REALNESS IS SCARY it’s nothing Charlie Brooker hasn’t told us all before right? And I’m saying it through an online platform. Go figure.
But I feel like at long last I am finding some kind of rhythm to making work and sharing work and discussing work that felt completely unattainable this time last year. Things are becoming more balanced. When you are used to having this supportive environment provided for you by the educational infrastructure it is a difficult thing to accept coming out of a course program that actually to make this space for yourself will take time and work and allowing yourself to appear vulnerable. You gotta admit to people you don’t know very well that you need help and hope that somebody else in the same position and acknowledging this could be mutually beneficial. Luckily for us, Nic at Stills allowed us the space and legitimacy to make this community happen. Nic was and is the driving force behing Fresh Focus, from the initial recognition of a challenge facing graduates, to going ahead to address the problem. Not everybody will have a Nic and a resource like Stills to make this easy for you but it doesn’t mean it’s not worth putting some kind of group in place, if you can. Things get easier and things start to happen when you get together and talk about your work.
I have discovered this today, unpublished, written on my train journey home for Christmas in December last year. Thought I would share because reading it back, especially the last paragraph (and after Fresh Focus has gone from strength to strength so far in 2018) I couldn’t agree more. Work hard and make things happen!
I will post something more up-to-date very soon, but thus far 2018 has been very exciting indeed…