Elsewhere – some concluding thoughts

The end of new normal is in sight and we can begin to live more easily with the mask and the distance, knowing it will come to an end. The idea of normal hoves into view for many of us but it seems a bit stranger than expected, can we really expect life to be normal again, will we recognise it when it happens, do we really want it anyway? Maybe we will lose something great that we have grown into by thinking more about the good of others…or we might have to finally get our act together after months of not quite having to. Months thinking about building back better and greener and fairer will now be brought into the cruel focus of reality, will be put to the test of post-covid no-deal brexit(?) big business madness. How strong can we be in the face of organised greed and recklessness? We might start to realise our only strength is in numbers, the numbers of humans wanting to share generosity and kindness in the faceless face of corporate chumocracy. Thinking back over my involvement in the Elsewhere project for The Stove Network, I realise we have to look for the transformative qualities of words, actions and materials. Since we moved up from Essex in September I have been moved and impressed by the Stovies’ faith in using the possibilities of loosening lockdown to create opportunites in the community. You need to believe in making the potential achievable in order to create a meaningful response to life – both now and in life generally. I used the earth to make the two sculptures for Elsewhere because it was what came to hand during the first lockdown. You could say I used the ground to keep myself grounded and it was very satisfying to do this. The sense of viscerality of the medium was a valuable part of the response and it fed into the idea of moving geographically from Essex to Dumfries, a complete change of landscape. But the transformation of natural material into something “man-made” got me thinking about the impact we are having on the planet we love. A recent study by the Nature journal (9/12/20) suggests that in 2020 the earth will reach a cross-over point when human-made materials will outweigh (literally) the Earth’s entire biomass. The amount of plastic alone is greater in mass than all land animals and marine creatures combined. Material mass made by human activity (anthropogenic mass), which has doubled roughly every 20 years in modern times, will surpass all global living biomass this year. So…what does this mean for the production of material art? I think it means to stay mindful of the precious nature of physical material itself and create with respect for the source of what we have. It adds a layer to my ceramic work as I realise the raw clay with potential for a thousand forms (or not) becomes an irreversible work of vitreous finality when fired. This of course adds to its power if the concept is solid as well, so the onus is on the artist to produce decent work.
Expectation – biscuit fired stoneware, 2020, Andy Brooke
The Elsewhere project has been a great help in the physical and mental transition from life in SE England to life in SW Scotland. There is much to anticipate as well as enjoy now, and I am looking forward to saner times next year and actually getting into my new studio to create fresh works! The public evening viewings of Elsewhere in Dumfries back in November were positive harbingers for the slow journey of returning to easier times when we can meet without masks and without danger. But more than that, they encapsulated the idea of living in the now, whatever the restrictions, and transcending the gloomy predictions in whatever form they take. It was great to meet folk of a like mind enjoying being out in the evening, looking at art in interesting spaces. Even the spaces were unusual, some not being open to the public for many years – this too was symbolic of the spirit of Elsewhere – that we can remain fully ourselves in all situations and geographical spheres, when we believe in it enough.
Where were we then, Where are we now? – Dumfries High Street, 2020, Andy Brooke

2 Comments Add yours

  1. It will happen. We in Victoria, Australia have just gone through a flash lockdown that lasted only days, and today, no cases reported. The UK, Europe and USA, not to mention so many other countries have it so very much tougher. But you are right to point to the more crucial, overriding issue of human ecocide, the killing of our home, our environment and how that impacts on the responsible, conscious production of art. Best wishes as you settle into life in Dumphries!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. aljbphoto says:

      Thanks James, we love it here but it is hard engaging with folk during this time – I hope to produce art with extra layers of experience coming out of the pandemic…


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