As part of Chapel Arts Studios ‘Inside: Outside Laboratory of Dissent 2′ at Winchester School of Art, artist Maija Liepins invited me ‘in’ to connect, digitally, through text. A poetic ‘conversational baton’ was passed each morning for one week for more or less one hour between myself and Maija.

This invitation to collaborate over Whatsapp has explored themes such as self, belonging, migration, femininity, research as practice, performer, audience and exhibition. For me personally, it has felt like a dissenting action to be using my words primarily, but also as research from outside the constructs of the gallery space and in a way ‘butting in’ to an already framed project.

Excerpt from conversational poetry.

Sarah says:

It is as if
By the mere act of typing
These words
I am defying
Those who always said
Could do better
A gifted draftsman
But not a natural writer
And yet,
Responding to you
Is becoming
A new form of expression
In which
I, for now, belong
So thank you.

Maija would begin with an opening statement or phrase, then I was invited to respond. As, up until now, a practitioner who works predominantly within visual based media, albeit muli-disciplinary, I have only recently begun to explore the written word and its unlimited potential for creative action and reaction.

The ‘non face-to-face connection’ has resulted in a series of free-flowing words ebbing and flowing as if chatting and challenging across the Channel, awaiting a new tide each morning bringing with it another verse.

Excerpt from conversational poetry.

Sarah says:

the ebb and flow
of belonging
or not,
the administration of a normal life
as a dead weight
pulling at my ankles
I long to float
Like your lily pad
Skimming the surface but deeply knowing
What is not the way forward
With strong capillary action
or not,
depending on the day
I am precious, as all animals are
I, a lone tree, within this forest,
In the November wind
For now,
but perhaps
not forever more
This valley with its trees,
abnormally large toads
Wondering the valley looking for their someone to save
And when I am on the rock
The soapbox
With nothing to say
I can merely respond
To your beautifully descriptive prose
Which seems
Conflicted, yes
Rightly demanding space
Not the physical jutting for the clinical
No, not the institutional
But the metaphorical
A harmonious co-existence
A balanced
Death and life
Do not search for resolution
Only the next question
In this series
Of existing
Ask the trees
Feel that wind
On your skin
Build the structure
Stand alone
They will listen
As will I.

The full conversation can be found here.

Featuring the resulting conversational poetry between Maija Liepins and Sarah Misselbrook, the full video/ installation entitled ‘Zeitgeist Non-Grata’ is on show at Winchester Gallery until Friday 6th December. Get along to see the works and talk to the artists, be part of it!

Outside, inside the Forest

As part of the Chapel Art Studios Inside/Outside Symposium for the Laboratory of Dissent 2019 in Winchester Art School, I was given the opportunity to ‘rant’ for 5 minutes.

The platform of a large, flat rock that juts into the valley provided (as it has done for previous performance works) the perfect ‘soapbox’ to climb up on to. It’s as if once my body is there, I adopt the role of performer, audience and valley. With the echoes of my voice shouting across the chasm bouncing back to me, I ask myself ‘is anyone there, are you listening, are we connecting?

Can you hear me? I was asking, shouting across the valley and across the channel to the UK symposium event. Yes, they were there, listening and connecting with me via twitter.

The audio was clear, as if amplified by the theatrical stage of the rock within the valley. The visual aesthetic was an unknown. A barely visible body dressed in black could be made out among the tall pine trees, gesticulating in a plea for connection and understanding.

My words were attempting to understand where I am, inside or outside, or was I both? In reality, I am off the grid, outside the system but with these connections are you every really outside? I rely on these connections, personally and professionally. It is again posing the question ‘is this a performance if there is no audience?’ which is fueling further investigation into social isolation, professional isolation and how to work outside the system. The Critical Moss publication will further explore this in early 2020.

My words were from the forest, with the origin of the word ‘forest’ being ‘foreign’ and ‘out-of-doors’ or ‘exterior’, a play on my status as immigrant, a political and personal cry to those listening on the inside. A fantastically strong connection to the outside then materialises, as if no other can compete with the realisation that I AM the forest and the forest is me. And once this is known or felt then everything is made sense of.

‘I am man, woman, animal… I am all and other.’

Continued thanks to Chapel Arts Studios for the connection.