The Free Artist? Conversations have got me thinking… I am thinking things like this…
Fallow time- on the land and in practice. In the early stages of lockdown I gave myself permission to rest and do nothing. I have never had so many ideas. Into space and fallow time, rush new beginnings. In order to be artists, we must be free. But what is freedom? To me freedom is time to rest, time to research. These things are not built into our systems. We need a greener system. One that allows the land, and ourselves, time to rejuvenate in between harvests.
The appearance of levelling verses actual levelling. There was talk of the crisis being a great leveller. “We are all in the same boat”. And we all have the same size box on zoom. But this is an illusion. There are still those who speak loudest, most often and those who are quieter. Zoom rooms can be almost as exclusionary as actual rooms. Some barriers have fallen, others are yet to be toppled. What I love is seeing into people’s domestic lives, no longer the mythical private realm supposedly belonging to women. But now everyone’s office shared with the cat, the three year old, the partner, the bookcase revealed behind you. But new inequalities have sprung up whilst old ones return to haunt us- who takes on caring responsibilities, childcare, school teaching and who locks themselves in the office? Suddenly it is a privilege to have separate workspaces in ones house. Open plan be damned. Rebecca Solnit said at WOW’s online festival “We are all in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.”
Culture of over working – the artist as capitalist enabler. We work hard. Give us a little money and we work even harder. Who knows when the next job will come. Must maintain momentum, must uphold reputation, must not turn down money even if I have three jobs on the go already… We live with the perception of, or reality of, scarcity. It pits us against each other and, desperate to prove our worth we work ourselves raw. I think my new small piece of activism is resting, taking my time, not replying to emails starting with “sorry this is so late”. I no longer work weekends or after 6pm. It’s great.
Are the visual arts given more weight and respect (and £) because there is a tangible product? Our current system expects us to explain what the outcome – what the product- of a project will be before we even begin. See also Fallow time…
Part time is a myth. Most of the time I have three jobs. All of which involved some form of application process, all of which require planning, social expectation, head space and (before all this) travel time. What we go through for each individual short term job, employed people go through maybe once a year at most. I’m paid for the hours I spent at the job. But each job feels full time really, including domestic labour. In order to cope, now that all my jobs occur in one place, I have imposed a strict routine, where before this was not possible. Within that routine has emerged a paradoxical freedom.
Freelancing is a myth. We don’t take full time jobs in order to be ‘free’ to take that dream project that might come along. In the meantime we take low paid regular teaching work that we then have to squeeze everything else around because we need financial security. Without financial security there is no creative freedom.
This year’s buzzword is RESILIENCE and we practice resilience regularly, we have something to teach the rest of the world. We are the experts on reimagining. Restrictions are just the score we dance inside. Cai Tomos once wrote that “Improvisation is the practice of uncertainty” we are well practiced at this. How can this be a gift to the rest of the world? How do we share these skills now they are most needed?
Read Zosia’s blog entry ‘On giving up not giving up’
Zosia Jo is a dance artist, writer and maker. Her work is rooted in a desire for connectivity and communication through movement, improvisation and performance. Zosia’s choreographic practice focuses on feminist themes, use of voice and spoken word, connecting to communities and challenging traditional theatrical hierarchies. She has made and shown work across the UK and internationally. Originally trained at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Zosia also holds certificates in Psychotherapy from Spectrum Therapy, and in 2018 completed MA Creative Practice, Dance Professional Practice at Independent Dance/Trinity Laban. In 2009 Zosia undertook the Speaking Dancer Interdisciplinary Performance training at Dance Research Studio. After three years working between Cairo, Egypt and West Wales, Zosia now lives in Cardiff and- alongside choreographic and performance projects- lectures at University of Wales Trinity Saint David and co-manages Groundwork Pro with Deborah Light and Lara Ward. Zosia’s Pembrokeshire based company, Joon Dance, was founded in 2008 with Torch Theatre and combines participatory community dance with professional performance practice, aiming to bring high quality dance experiences to people in rural communities.