October 9, 2018

After pausing for the summer holidays artist’s Sarah Cole and Annis Joslin think about what’s next for the Self-Identity Artist Commission with domestic violence support group Joining Hands, Joining Hearts (JHJH).

Thinking Through the Mess of ideas, time, money and pain

We have had a long summer break. We met a few weeks ago at the V&A, ahead of returning to Sittingbourne, to gather up our thoughts and make some plans for this next phase of the work. We compared notes to see whether we were on the same page, if we both imagined a similar way forward. We visited the Frida Kahlo exhibition for inspiration, discussed depictions of physical and mental health and how she constructed and developed her own self-identity (interesting to look at this body of work in the era of the selfie).

We agreed that the best way to capture the aspirations of Joining Hands, Joining Hearts is to make a set of short films. Each video needs to work as a provocation, to open up conversations about domestic abuse, to be used pedagogically; online, in workshops and presentations and when JHJH visit schools and other support groups. But (and this may be overly ambitious, but we are keen to try) it is our hope that, when viewed in a particular order, the videos offer a narrative arc that speaks of relationships that become violent, the insidious nature of abuse (how it affects more than just the couple themselves), how it is endured and the journeys people make to get out of it, and the time it takes to heal thereafter.

So, we pitched this idea to the group when we met on Friday 21st September. It was a hectic day, a lot going on, not least the post-party chat from Keeley’s wedding the week before! Keeley and Sue also made a big announcement that they have just received formal notice that Joining Hands, Joining Hearts are now officially a charity! This will not only offer them more routes to funding but also a greater voice in relation to policy change at a national level. They are incredibly excited about this next phase for their organization and it is a testament to the hard work and passion of this group that they have got so far in a relatively short time.

Everyone is up for working towards a set of short films and have agreed to trust us to make some editorial decisions which we will then run by them to test what they think, or see how the ideas could be pushed further. We have been collecting the negative things that the women have had said to them over the years, creating a list of toxic verbal abuse that we are trying out with different visuals and voices, including the voices of our own young adolescent children. Sheppey Bridge, and trying to cross it to extricate from an old life, has come up a number of times and there is an idea bubbling away that involves a flowery dress and some roller-skates that look like avocados. And this week we recorded everyone’s eyes though we’re not yet sure what or how to use them.

Our biggest issue now is time and budget as both are tight and are ambition is huge! Joining Hands, Joining Hearts want to change the world, and we are keen to play our part in this…!

21 September 2018, Sarah Cole & Annis Joslin

People United Artist Commission: Self-Identity in association with Joining Hands, Joining Hearts and Optivo

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