Artist Statement 2017: As Told Through the Grow Up Great Manifesto

Artist Statement as Told Through The Grow Up Great Manifesto: Summer Term 2017

Judith Butler states ‘To what extent do regulatory practices of gender formation and division constitute identity?’[1]. This line is useful in encompassing my ideas and practice throughout the past year. I have predominantly looked at the formation of the individual, in this case myself. Is what I choose to do, to wear, to study, to be- already an assumed predetermined predicament because of my gender?

I have taken on the third point from my manifesto ‘Be Nice To Others’ and have been writing 100 letters to 100 people who have inspired and influenced me in my life. I am who I am as a result of the people who I immerse myself in- writers, actors and activists.  Additionally, my aim is to question the tenth point of my manifesto- what does it mean to ‘Be You Proudly?’

The letters are an ongoing process and the list is incomplete. This is ok, however, because I am still being influenced and evolving every day.

Furthermore, Kathleen Hanna states ‘while everyone’s experience of oppression is different and complicated and often overlapping, I really believe that if you have privilege, you need to learn as much as you can about the world beyond yourself’[2]. Hanna’s words compliment the aims of my project. As I previously stated, a lot of the project has consisted of looking at my own identity when writing letters to people but ultimately, I am looking at everyone’s identity. I have continued to make badges with inspirational messages on. Through the badges, I aim to fight oppression in all the forms which people experience not just the oppression I experience myself.

  1. Different is Good

I had underestimated how long it would take to write the letters because I personalize each one to who I am writing to. I do this because it ignites a conversation between myself and the recipient on the issues I am interested in concerning them.

  1. Following The Crowd is Boring

The ‘Grow Up Great’ map has been inspired by Harry Beck’s design of the London Underground map. Each colour on the map represents a point in the manifesto. I have grouped together people who are in similar fields such as writers, musicians and politicians.

3. Be Nice to Others

Each person I have written to has been given a badge which has been tailored specifically for them.

In addition to this, I have been designing badges on invisible illnesses and disabilities because I strongly believe in tackling stigma. My reasoning behind doing this is to branch out and explore other topics which matter to me outside of my manifesto.

  1. Wear What You Want

The aesthetic for my work has been inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement of the 1990s. I first became interested in the movement by reading ‘Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl’ a book by musician, Carrie Brownstein, who participated in the movement.

  1. All Colours for Everyone

The colour yellow has been very important within my project because it is bright. The letters were typed up in typewriter font on yellow paper. I have done this because it will stand out from other letters people receive.

6. Gender is a Construct

I went to the ‘Women of the World’ exhibition in London (Friday 10th March) which really inspired my work because I heard speakers talking about issues that matter to me. I was particularly inspired by the ‘Feminist Library’ stand. I emulate my own version of this in my exhibition through selling my own badges and having music playing which has inspired me.

7. All Love is Legal

I have written to people who are LGBT supporters and allies including people who I directly have contact with on a daily basis.

  1. Perfection is Not Real

I visited the Guerilla Girls ‘Is it even worse in Europe’ exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery, London. It was a beneficial exhibition to attend as it demonstrated to me the different ways letters can be displayed in a gallery space.

9. Dream Big

I have not been limiting myself to who I am writing to. As well as writing to people who are alive I have also been writing posthumous letters to people who have died and letters to fictional characters.

  1. And remember to be you proudly.

To conclude, my art practice has taught me that being yourself proudly is reclaiming your identity in whatever form you wish that to be and questioning the regulatory practices of gender and sexuality.

Blog: https://elliewilsdenart.wordpress.com

 

[1] Butler, Judith. ‘Gender Trouble’ (New York, Routledge, 2007) p. 23

[2] Hanna, Kathleen. ‘Why I’m Glad Default Genders Wrote A Song About Sexism And Rape Culture’ article. NME. Published: 5/09/2013. http://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/kathleen-hanna-why-im-glad-default-genders-wrote-a-song-about-sexism-and-rape-culture-22420 [accessed: 21/04/2017].

New Badges: Exploring Invisible Illnesses and Consent

I have been creating a new set of badges based on invisible illnesses such as mental health and disabilities which are not as obvious. Furthermore, I have also created several badges on another topic which I feel very strongly about: consent.

These new badges will premier at the Summer Term Exhibition.

My interest has been sparked on these topics through conversation with people close to me and by watching several videos online:

I found Jessica Hellgren-Hayes’s video very inspirational because I believe it is vital for there to be representation for people who have invisible illnesses, especially younger people when it is not something that is talked about.

Also, this article on having an invisible illness in the work place is very thought-provoking: https://www.theguardian.com/careers/2017/feb/21/hidden-disabilities-at-work-everyday-im-fatigued-and-in-pain [accessed: 21/5/17]

The article raises the idea of having an invisible illness in the work place. The writer discusses the fact that it is rarely spoken about. Furthermore, she talks about there  still being a huge lack of understanding and that she feels as though she is ‘weak’ because her illness is not something which is obvious from the outside.

Sending letters to fictional characters

Following on from a conversation with one of my peers about writing posthumous letters they recommended that I write letters to fictional characters who I am inspired by and then make up a reply. My making up responses this adds an element of creative writing to my project.

I am compiling all the letters and replies to put in a book which I will eventually self-publish online and as a physical copy. I have been looking on websites which I could use for this although it is still awhile yet until I complete all of the letters.

I will categorise all of the letters into chapters on different types of people such as: writers, musicians, politicians, artists, personal letters and posthumous.

I have been inspired to do this following on from my group work in the Image, Action, Text module that I took this term. It has given me an insight as to where I can further take my project, such as publishing my own book and creating a zine.

Playlist for Exhibition/Song Inspiration

I am compiling a playlist to be played on loop throughout the exhibition.

The songs come from artists who I listen to, who I have written to or am planning on writing to. Furthermore, the songs are also associated with certain people I know.

The songs have been chosen specifically for the lyrics because they link to the issues I explore in my project  such as ‘inequality promises that it’s here to stay’, ‘it’s hard out here for a bitch’ (Lily Allen- Hard Out Here), ‘give me a human drama not all human sexuality is the same’, ‘trying to find the words to explain my sexuality- it’s liquid, it’s living’, ‘this love can go wherever it wants’ (Planningtorock- Human Drama). The lyrics  explore body image, sexuality and what it means to be a woman.

Kathleen Hanna- ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ (Nirvana Cover)

Sleater-Kinney- ‘Jumpers

Tegan and Sara- ‘Monday Monday Monday’

Tegan and Sara- ‘Back in Your Head’

Ani Di Franco- ‘In or Out’

Planningtorock- ‘All Love is Legal’

Planningtorock- ‘Human Drama’

The Cranberries ‘Dreaming My Dreams’

The Eurythmics- ‘Sweet Dreams’

Lily Allen’ ‘Hard Out Here’

Lily Allen ‘Fuck You’

The 1975- ‘Loving Someone’

Kate Nash- ‘Mouthwash’

Posthumously Sending Letters

After going to the Women of the World talk on ‘Badass Feminists From History’ I have been thinking about women from history who I wish I could write letters to.

I have decided to posthumously send letters to people I have been inspired by. Although they are no longer alive to actually read the letters I think that it is important for my art practice and project to look at people who have influenced the people who are alive now. Furthermore, I want to have a conversation with these people about what they did in their lives and what they would think about events that are happening now.

Initial ideas on who to write to include well known people but also people who were close to me and have died:

  • Jennifer Worth
  • Emmeline Pankhurst
  • Amelia Earhart
  • Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon
  • Miss Weller (personal)
  • Nana (personal)

About and Out Exhibition, MERL Reading

Thursday 30th March

I have been working for several months with some finalist students from Museum Studies at the University on a project called ‘About and Out’. The project predominantly featured my artwork as it was on how we label ourselves and label children.

I went to the opening at the Museum of Rural English Life and my badges were sold and I networked with people who had projects linking to the LGBT community in Reading.