9th April 2020: Wandering, voices, and what is happening to time

The oddness of the current situation is palpable, but I’m finding it strangely enjoyable (always aware that this is a privileged position). The world feels slower, time feels stretched and blurry around the edges, nothing feels rushed at the moment, there is time to wander, both mentally and physically, and I’ve been thinking a lot about wandering.

Wander:

  1. to walk, move or travel about, with no particular destination; to ramble.
  2. to stary or deviate
  3. of thoughts etc., to flit randomly

I’m thinking about how this idea relates to me and what happens when I think while making, it doesn’t feel like my brain is ‘flitting’, that only seems to happen when I think directly about something (maybe that’s why I find it hard to write?) but the idea of moving without a particular destination – feels like there’s something in that. A wander implies a certain slowness, there is time to observe, allows meandering, following paths because they look interesting, turning back if they come to dead ends – the slower pace gives time to explore and examine.

I’ve noticed this in my periods of making but I’ve also noticed it in my daily walks – we are walking through parks and woodlands I wouldn’t normally pass through every day. I do usually walk a lot but it’s normally as a means of transport to a destination, brisk marching along urban streets, preferably with something loud and fast paced in my headphones. The walks we are going on at the moment are different, they have no destination, I’m in limited company, occasionally talking in quite voices, the pace is slower, I’m listening to the sounds of the space – birds, water, trees moving, distant greetings from strangers, and for the first time in such-a-long-time-I-can’t-really-remember-the-last-time I’ve had the chance to observe the spring. I’m reminded of the long walks I used go on when I was growing up.

I’m wondering about making some embroideries about these walks. I’ve been photographing flowers, plants, birds and other things I’ve noticed – these are still urban spaces for all their apparent ‘naturalness’, framed by the structures of the city and littered with its waste. There’s something oddly beautiful about the way the ‘urban’ and ‘natural’ merge. I wonder if it might be a bit of an unimaginative response, but I was thinking about the motifs of historic Blackwork, how these might may not carry the same meaning for a contemporary viewer beyond the decorative – so what about taking the stylistic Blackwork form and applying it to contemporary subjects?

All of this thinking links to the discussion in yesterday’s seminar about the voice of the researcher. I suppose the main question this conversation threw up for me is how much of the ‘I’ do you include as a researcher? I think there is an assumption that the use of ‘I’ in research somehow implies a lack of rigour, it clearly is a biased position. But I’m thinking about my research, about how a major aspect of the approach I’m taking to Blackwork is as an embodied action, and there can’t be an embodied action without a body to act it! This research is also based in MY art practice, my response as an artist – the ‘I’ is unavoidable.

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