fiction is a stand-in for the truth.
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Life feels really sweet and sour at the moment. The exquisite balance of gratitude and a shit storm of WTF. I haven’t written in a long, haven’t even rambled into a notebook, or dumped my brain into a video. Sure I do yoga, fortnightly therapy, and get into the studio as much as I can, I sketch regularly, but often just feel like I’m talking to myself. I haven’t done any big talking gigs for a while. It?that is mostly about what I’m not saying. Quite often, when talking live and doing Q&A I’m horrendously honest, I have to be careful, if you ask me a direct question I’m probably likely, in that setting to say the unfiltered truth, sometimes that can be unsafe and unfair on those who share my narrative.
Recently I was asked to talk at a mental health open mic night happening soon, it does well in Shoreditch, hopefully, it will do well in Norwich too. I didn’t want to talk about or present any visual work, I feel incredibly unable to talk about my lived experience of mental health, parenting and abuse at the moment, so at first, I was eager to get other creatives involved but, what the hell would I say?
The name of the event is UNFILTERED. I’m wearing a thick wet woollen coat of frustration. I would cherish the time and ears to be truly unfiltered, in the not too distant future I will, it’s just not safe to do so right now. There are some juicy details that effectively convey the part of my experience of mental health, the bits that connect people to understanding, I just can’t say them out loud right now. To tell the whole truth, would be so fricking validating. However, right now I’m not going to. The almost full story is enough. So a story is what I will produce. I have been working on pockets of narratives and visual meaning in painting and drawing for a long time, so this is going to be an enjoyable process.
Recently while discussing this frustration with a friend we looked at the ideas of truth, story and fiction. It made me think of the realisation I had some 4 years ago that NO ONE person will ever truly understand what has happened or how I feel. It’s a mind-bending universal truth. I could sit and discuss in detail a chain of real-life events, but I will never be able to get even one person to truly understand my truth. I had a hard time coming to terms with that at the time. It pissed me right off. I’d worked so hard to find my voice to find out it was never going to be able to do what I naively thought it would. I had changed my perspective enough to understand my own behaviour and emotions, I was able to create artwork that I actually understood, that I wasn’t asking an audience to decode for me. All of that felt useless in terms of my practice, in terms of saying anything out loud because what was the point of saying it out loud if everyone would interpret those words differently? I had grown up with this idea that words or text where facts, hidden inside thick books and paragraphs I struggled to read. Art and image was something to interpret and guess about, something deliberately vague. Visual image and language was something I could do, so my dyslexic “slow coach” thought it had less value. (Which is total horse poop) I was the ripe age of 31 when at a zine fair a teacher friend reassured me that even if I miss read the words in a poem, the meaning gained from it was valid. Fuck the author. Nothing is really real, cheers Barthe, the author IS dead.
The interesting thing is, I can no longer tell THAT struggle in the same way, I have grown and evolved so much that that in its self is fiction. As I retell any given moment of my own truth, it becomes fiction. I could tell you about one moment or time frame and each time tell it more sympathetically to one of the key characters, in my understanding of how they might see and feel the environment and serries of events. Each one of those would be true, but also very much fiction.
For selfish and valid reasons, while I take up a little bit of space during UNFILTERED I will tell a tale of total fiction with so much emotional truth that it quenches that thirst to be heard and dries out the woolly coat of frustration.