November 14, 2018

As our 2018 Self-Identity Artist Commission approaches its last few weeks, artists Sarah Cole and Annis Joslin share how they are finalising ideas with domestic violence support group Joining Hands, Joining Hearts (JHJH).

Gearing Up

We have just spent the day reviewing the video material we have so far, working out what else we might need, playing with meaning, intention, rhythm, language, image and text.

For the last few weeks we have been making shadow puppet films and recording the women’s stories, tales of memory, traumatic revelations and a foreboding Lazy Boy chair.

We have been experimenting with giant balloons, squeezing ourselves in to spaces, thinking about obstacles, oppression and release. There was a lot of squealing and laughter. One of our group had been due to do a sky-dive which was, sadly, cancelled due to high winds. It has been re-scheduled and we are looking forward to getting the footage of her falling through the sky, which we hope to use.

We also drove to Sheppey Bridge, where we did some filming. The island has been a site of abuse for many of the group, and they speak of the bridge in terms of fear and anxiety; trying to get over it unseen, learning to drive in secret so as to be able to escape. One of the group mentioned that she had once lived in a car under the bridge for a week – when you see the bridge, it’s scale and enormity within this stark landscape, it is quite shocking to imagine a family taking refuge there.

We met with People United to look at potential venues for a final sharing of the work. We are expecting there to be six or seven videos in total and our goal is to find ways to disseminate this material, to reach a wider, and also targeted, audience. The sharing will primarily be for Joining Hands, Joining Hearts and their guests, a celebration event to mark the end of this ‘Self Identity’ commission. A chance to take stock, think about what we have all learnt and to view the final videos together from a safe space before we send them out in to the world.

Meanwhile, next week we will be travelling to Sheffield to take part in the Social Art Summit, an artist run two-day event ‘exploring what it means to be making art through social engagement right now’.

Our proposal, is to show the films we have made so far within the wider context of a conversation about surfacing control. We will be sharing this session with John Hume, of the People’s Health Trust. This organisation raises and distributes funds with the sole purpose of addressing the fundamental causes of ill-health, adopting a ‘salutogenic approach’ – focusing on factors supporting health and well-being rather than those that cause ill-health.

Keeley Nash and another member of Joining Hands, Joining Hearts will be with us in Sheffield and we have just heard that Maureen Storey, director of Vida Sheffield, is able to come too. We reached out to Vida a few weeks ago, hoping to make contact with another, local women’s support service who can bring their voice to the discussion at the Summit.

We have four videos so far that loosely tell of the tales we have heard: of family and the pervasive, drip-drip effect of abusive language; another evoking a sense of breakage and mindful endurance; a short pithy video about getting rid of the bad stuff; and a more hopeful scene of beginning to emerge, bruised but stronger, out the other side of abuse.

23 October 2018, Sarah Cole & Annis Joslin

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

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