2 October 1999
Hi Rita :)
>Hello, (hey,hey) My Finnish visitor, l didn't realise that l would be working with such a world-hopping celeb. What's it like being famous? ( LOL).
Totally surreal - I was taken aback, to say the least, when I discovered on Thursday afternoon that I'd also been in the front of the daily paper . . . since the front page is covered with ads, I had a large photo on page 3 . . . I supposed it was bound to happen one day ;-) Yesterday morning I was greeted by a visitor rushing up and saying "I saw you on TV, and I think you're great" - I swiftly headed for the cafe and coffee, only to be accosted by a Finnish guy who 'collects' new artists - by the time I'd signed his autograph book and my newspaper photo and posed for a pic with him, I needed a cigarette rather badly! I was a bit choked when a Finnish artist came up to me on Thursday afternoon and said that after reading the paper, he'd been proud to be Finnish and disabled. It only really sunk in later that it's unusual, to say the least, to get this kind of profile for disability art.
>l can only imagine that it is both exciting and exhausting, lots of things to think over later when the brain isn't in overdrive.
Got it in one!
>I've have already had my fill of publicity, when 4 photographers came to M.G. to take pics of me on-site. No they didn't ask me to pout or take my kit off
It'll come . . .
>but feel very embarrassed none the less. They made me sit on the wet grass with a lap-top, pretending to be writing to you, ugh! These things must be l suppose, but l prefer dry soil anyway,
>you never know l may be in the paper, that'll please my mum.
>Anyway, life seems very exciting in Helsinki, and very close too, what with the Richard Long exhibition on, and meeting folks from VSA, USA. l went with the founder member of the Art House, Pat Sutcliffe to a conference in L.A. a few years ago, we visited the VSA offices. l am not quite sure what l think about the set up, it's bad to make judgements when you know very little. They work very differently from the Art House.
One thing about being here is that you realise how things vary culturally from country to country, even though in many respects disability arts and culture is international in its themes and approaches. In the US disability arts organisations also have more money and more respect, which affects things too as they have to kowtow more - the great thing about being so much on the outside in the UK is the freedom to do what you like. From what John said at the seminar yesterday he has done a lot to change things, such as changing the name of his organisation from the patronising Very Special Arts to VSA Arts - my guess is even that wasn't easy as he would have had to persuade and educate a lot of powerful non-disabled patrons. Anyway, I'd really like to go to the US and find out more and meet artists there.
>Do have a lovely time between all the business, and let me have some information on the piece of work you showed there, as l am interested in dance too.
I'm giving an artist's talk this afternoon, and I feel really honoured to be talking about my work in this setting. I'm going to use the website as a basis for the talk, and show my non-disability arts work as well as the Cyborg site. I'm also going to talk about the two installations that I have in development, including the filmdance piece - one day I'd love to be able to show at least one of them here.
>Mount Grace must seem very far away, in more ways than one.
Actually, closer than when I'm in London, because I can focus entirely on my disability art and have no domestic distractions. Also, I've talked about the residency to the press as well as to people here, and apparently it was mentioned in the interviews, so people are now talking to me about it.
>This weekend will be the biggy. Feet and masks are a simple on-going thing, fun to do, a few visitors, staff and gardeners have added their prints, but l do need a lot more, no problem.
As I said before, we only need traces of people - the marks that the monks and visitors leave of their psyches are not that discernible compared to the buildings and site, and you have to look carefully for them.
>Now it's time to begin the big piece, as my experience with plaster is very limited l find myself a little worried, no terrified would be more like it. David isn't worried at all, which keeps me cool. He's had a lot of experience with plaster ( but in a building capacity ), he also has a knack of picking things up easily ( from pottery to jewellery making), so I am sure it'll be alright.
It might not help, but I like the idea of using plaster rather than clay more and more. Plaster is used so much within the "treatment" of people with genetic impairments that "deform" our bodies in order to try to force us to be "normal", and that was really underlined to me on Thursday afternoon when Sirkke spoke more about her recent exhibition of braces and casts. It had great resonance with my own experience of being cast in order to make my brace, too, although the brace has a protective function in this case.
>Working this way, and expecting to come up with the goods is a very pressurising way to work,but l am sure it'll stretch my talents, I hope.
I seem to remember something in your original statement about liking a challenge ;-) I'm sure there must be an ancient Chinese curse along the lines of getting what you ask for . . .
>The picture of the arch was a stone rubbing, not really part of the work, but fun. If we do get this talk/do going on-site I'll hang it up in the marquee, for fun.
I'd really like to do some too when I come up - it would be a tangible memory for me of the site that I could put up in my studio.
>So keep your fingers crossed, it's Thunderbirds are go time.
How very apt!
>Do look after yourself, l am sure with such a punishing schedule it's hard to make time for yourself.
No time at all, but I'm doing what I love - being in a stunning space, meeting and talking with other disabled artists and activists, focusing on my artwork, and, as they keep saying here, changing the world for the better. The debates on Thursday at the artists' panel, and again yesterday at the seminar, have been really exciting and apparently very radical in the context of Finnish art and culture, although they wouldn't seem so in the UK. Unsurprisingly, I've found them terribly draining emotionally, but thankfully Kiasma has been hosting dinners for us each night and by the end of them I've just about recovered - ready for it all to happen again the next day!
The only real problem is physical - despite the brace and Kiasma making it as easy for me as possible, I'm still doing far more than usual, but it's worth it in every sense. Apart from that I'm missing my animals, particularly given the presence of helper dogs - shame I can't even get my dog to "sit" reliably - but I'll see them again soon enough.
>l am off now for a few day offs. I am back on-site Saturday afternoon with my overalls, ready for action.
You go girl!
Olen lesbo, vie minut baariin ;-)
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