The Heart of The Matter: Hope.

About 2 weeks ago I found out that I’ve been shortlisted for another award, this time for — “Most innovative student-driven digital tool” — for the design of my *future* Radiotherapy Treatment Patient Information App – “RADcare”. And I’m still blown away by the shortlist. I don’t think I’ll win, but this definitely feels like one of my most proudest moments of my life so far, and I don’t know why? I’m just so honoured and surprised by being shortlisted!

My story is one we can all relate/resonate with. I got stuck. Like, really stuck. I encountered an illness I never saw coming – and for the first time in my life – felt really lost, and out of control.  At such a young age too, in the middle of building my artist career, and shaping the rest of my life. I felt so misunderstood. And when you’re not understood, you feel almost worthless. Dealing with these feelings on top of very distressing symptoms whilst trying to continue to run your life as normal as possible is actually really hard.  I had experiences with the healthcare system – both amazing and poor. As a patient I often felt powerless, stupid, a hindrance — and ultimately — voiceless. This lead itself to personal anxieties. Sometimes I felt like no-one cared. (But this was not true at all). But also I got treated every-now-and-again-like family. Like an old friend, with kindness, love and care. I’ll never forget those moments. And I soon realized that, that’s all I wanted to do; To make people feel cared for & important, and needed, and even loved. And as with my art practice, all I’ve ever wanted to do is make a positive difference. To help people. To make people think, think of the injustices, to act upon these inequalities, to feel better, to make the world a better and more just/equal place. People are struggling all around us. Every single one of us has something we’re struggling with each day – although the degrees of struggle are massive.

People need people, and they need truth, heart & hope. Authenticity wins, every time.

I look to the world around me, with this continuing experience in hand. And I see that we need coffee shops, sunsets and roadtrips. New & old songs, planes, trains and food. Fast internet connection & Twitter – but most of all – we need other people in our lives.  And at some point in your life, you will need to be that “other” person to someone else who needs you. You will be their living breathing, screaming, invitation to help them believe in better things.

We do not know how long we’ve got here. We don’t know when fate will intervene. What we do know is that with every minute that we’ve got, we can live our lives in a way that takes nothing for granted. We can love deeply. We can help people who need help. We can teach our children what matters, and pass on empathy and compassion and selflessness. We can teach them to have broad shoulders. And that’s all I want, really.

My friends say that I’m a “Smizz of all trades, master of none” – because I go out of my way to learn new things if I can’t understand it. That’s why I do work in all areas, from art, to printing, to photography, to web and app coding and designing – I’m very well read in political & economics too – and now radiotherapy/healthcare.  If you’re unhappy with something – don’t wait for someone else to make the change for you.

So every encounter that I have with a person at work (colleague, friend, patient, ect), or outside work, I try to make them feel understood, AKA – valued/respected/dignified. 2 days ago, I did a first day chat with a patient & at the end I said I was a student – and she said, “That explains why you’ve spent more time with me & listened to me.”  Time is extremely fraught in all of our lives, but we must make time to try to understand people and their journey.

So that’s why I decided to make my Radiotherapy app (RADcare). To hopefully help patients and their careers understand what’s going to happen, be able to feel like they can take more control by knowing what’s going on and have good, coherent, interactive and personal information covering all aspects of their radiotherapy treatment journey.  I hope that by all of us having a better understanding, we can make time for the really important things. I hope the app will be really useful in the future, and really helps patients and their loved ones going through their journey, a better – less stressful – journey. (It’s worth pointing out here that the app is just an addition to a service & MUST NOT be used in place of information contact in person with healthcare professionals).

Living with an illness, or after, is really, really hard. Normal life is never normal again.  It makes changes – both psychological and physical – that you had never anticipated. But it’s not all bad. I now feel more empathetic to other struggles than I ever did before, I cry more than ever at injustices (not on you- so no worries), and I know now that time is what ever you make it – the days are long but the years are short.  It’s not about your grades, or your clothes, or car, or house. It’s about being with those who love you, doing what you love, and trying to be the change we need.

I hope I can bring big heart to every thing I work on. I especially hope I can achieve it with the app. Life is hard. And I wouldn’t have got here today – feeling extremely loved – without the support of all my amazing friends (you guyz!), course-mates, my mom & bro, my colleagues (NHS, uni, art, Doc/Fest- ect), my doctors & other healthcare professionals and everyone else.

Hope you can help me evaluate the prototype app soon! Much love, Smizz!

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Everything is fragile.

Mid-20’s isn’t that old, but I feel like I’ve aged 2 lifetimes in the past 3 years. Maybe aging like that makes you look back a bit more. Just as you can see from my blog, my focuses in life have shifted; I’m not just looking for self-improvement in what I can change per-say, but  more to learn how to have grace in the parts of me that won’t budge, or have grace in things I can’t control right now.

One of the hardest parts of having to adapt to being a much slower, less  interesting and hardly a multi-tasker Smizz due to illness, is being observed 24/7. I used to invite people to watch my performance of trying to make it in the artworld— I’d post lots of things I’d make, constantly advertise myself – I kind of craved the attention— but I had no idea that it was going to open me up to some damaging mindsets. It now makes me feel like I need to be on top of my shit 24 hours a day, and I can’t do that anymore. Mainly because I’m either in bed (mostly), studying (secondly),  drawing, or out trying to live life (making up for 1 & 2).  I’ve been trying to learn the “It’s okay to say no to things sometimes. Because if you can’t say no, you can’t fully say yes”.

I’m no longer  living up to the persona I assigned to myself.  I feel like I’m not only letting everyone down who invested their time into me, but I’ve let it make me believe I’m letting myself down too.

So after feeling like I was going to die, and feeling really sorry for myself. After not having the mental /energy capacity to work on my own work, just enough to work on others (which has been/is amazing, and I needed it to survive- both mentally & financially). After seeing people who I admire and respect because of their vision & dignity, struggle in this world. After months and months and months of wishing I could be part of it,  I returned from this ordeal to resume work and rejoin the artworld, but  my membership had expired. I felt like the Artworld had forgotten about me. And everything I made and saw seemed like trivial bullshit—because quite a bit of it was/is (not all of it). Disingenious money grabs.  all speed was stupid.  Some things was just despicable, because it stole the dignity of everyone involved. We deserve better.

This is harsh criticism, and way super cynical, but it is how I felt at the time. These feelings have eased a lil bit, but I’ve always had a critical view on the Artworld because I’ve always been coming from a disadvantaged point anyways. And I’m a Marxist. However, noticing the bad also makes it easier to see and notice the good. Many of the things I love about the artworld are still here, and doing maybe better than some of the crappy parts of the Artworld.

 

My friends, Lesley Guy & Dale Holmes did this super cool show  at Bloc Projects in Sheffield about Pizza  a few weeks ago. It was so good I went home & ordered a Domineos.

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One of the best artists out there Gregory Sholette is trying to crowd-source this phenomenal project. http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/imaginary-archive-kyiv –  Which is an Imaginary Archive – a collection of fictional and real documents from a past whose future never arrived of Ukraine. It’s such a special and important exhibition, and so necessary at this time, so if you can find the time/$ to support it, that would be amazing!

 

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I really, really, really want to see William Powhida’s phenomenal “overculture” show at the most AMAZING gallery Postmasters NY, that just opened this week. Powhida’s practice is about helping us see how fucked up things are and to inspire us to strive to a world of justice, supporting (art) world which encourages criticality and  risks.  it’s basically the (art)world we all really want, yet too scared to bite the hand that feeds us.  I keep putting (art) like this, because the artworld is just a microscopism of the ‘real’ fucked up world. Every problem within the artworld is a problem within non-art-related society. Mainly because it’s the same shitty force that drives both: greed and value in the banal, and unethical under-valued/under-paid labour in order to make $$. When in actuality, there’s significant power in our dark-matter-ness if we realize it, together.

 

My focus  and definition on “progress” made it easy  for me to forget that you can turn around from traveling in a wrong direction, and return to the place where things last felt right. You can go back. Now I feel like I’m starting from the beginning with my personal art practice, and it felt like a failure. But I’m slowly accepting that sometimes going back is sometimes progress.

A few painful years has taught me 1 of the important lessons about life: you only become bulletproof when you refuse to disguise your injuries. The wounds are a gift: You learn how to accept help, and better yet, how to better give it. This in turn is another reason why I’m studying again, to emulate the best care & understanding I kind of know that the patient needs. Remember: if you need help. Ask for it. We can’t do it all alone. All the time.

Life is now somehow more precious and less. I’m now back to my humble beginnings: To share what you know.

So that’s part of what I’ve been quietly doing/working on with F/O/R/C/E, a collaboration with Paul Harrison and a few others – >  forcelectures.org

Don’t wait for a life disaster to be the thing that spurs you into action. Everything is fragile and you are more resilient than you think.

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A Valentines Day message for YOU!

“A master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play; his labor and his leisure; his mind and his body; his education and his recreation. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence through whatever he is doing, and leaves others to determine whether he is working or playing. To himself, he always appears to be doing both.”

– L.P. Jack from his Education Through Recreation, published in 1932.

Let’s not cross examine this with a Post-Fordist, neo-liberal critique, but remind us to do what we love. Let your passion be an incredible motivator.

 

Site Gallery Residency, so far.

SO!

There’s 10 individual artists who got a Site Residency. We came with our own proposals. We can still do our own proposals. But where would be the fun in that? NO FUN! Especially, when like me, you love collaborating. Creating a critical discourse around something: whether that is indeed #class or the artworld, or politics, or education, ect ect.

What is even better though is this really gives me a great platform to test some of my ideas about the criticality in collaborating and being in a collective. So Abi Goodman (http://abigoodman.com) and I realized we’re totally more-or-less into the same stuff & have combined our residency together. This is gonna prove to be super fun.

Anyways,  that’s enough for today. I will be posting tomorrow our proposal and what we NEED YOU to do. (or would like you to contribute/participate, to put it in a nice hosting way hehe)

COME AND JOIN US FOR 2 WEEKS FROM 2MOZ at Site Gallery, Sheffield.

You can keep up to date with this project at http://blog.sitegallery.org/atimeandaplace (it’s a great resource for anyone who wants a basic understanding into participant, socially led-, collective, critical discourse, ect ect art work/practices).

WORD.

 

The Mediocre Artist

So, you know I’m thinking that when eventually i start my PhD, it’s gonna be on Post-Fordism, and the Labour of art  in a post-democracy (Dark Matter, Hyper-active economies & art-making et al). \\

And since we know, as i bitch about it like aalllllll-the-timeeeee, i’m (we are?) totz part of that crazy dark matter, the 99%, the crap you scrap off your windscreen.  It seemed only fitting that I pretended, or rather ACTED is more of an appropriate word, that my bookstore job (the only job out of 3 that i have, society see’s as useful) is an artist residency.

What better residency to have? To be surrounded by all those amazing books, and fictions, facts, heartbreaks & happiness. And not to mention the political economy surround retail & physical books & corporate BS. The underpaid labour & the knowledge. Oh inspiration!

But for me, I’m using the work as a way to make more artwork froma  criticality view of labour and post-democracy. (I will note that I don’t do this whilst AT work- obviously – but use the experience to then go on and make more work).

I hope to post more work i’ve been doing. Here’s a piece i’ve grown to like. I’m not gonna explain it: as i think it’s pretty much self-explanatory. It’s a poster, 1 of a series of 5, A2 size, 2012.

* These are obviously not the views of my employer (even though you don’t know who that is). Surprisingly, these are my own! Imagine!

Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

Stolen from – http://www.brucemaudesign.com/4817/112450/work/incomplete-manifesto-for-growth because its awesome and food for thought as well as an inspiration, check it.
Incomplete Manifesto for Growth
    1. Allow events to change you.
      You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
    2. Forget about good.
      Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.
    3. Process is more important than outcome.
      When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we’ve already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we’re going, but we will know we want to be there.
    4. Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child).
      Joy is the engine of growth. Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
    5. Go deep.
      The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
    6. Capture accidents.
      The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
    7. Study.
      A studio is a place of study. Use the necessity of production as an excuse to study. Everyone will benefit.
    8. Drift.
      Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
    9. Begin anywhere.
      John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: begin anywhere.
    10. Everyone is a leader.
      Growth happens. Whenever it does, allow it to emerge. Learn to follow when it makes sense. Let anyone lead.
    11. Harvest ideas.
      Edit applications. Ideas need a dynamic, fluid, generous environment to sustain life. Applications, on the other hand, benefit from critical rigor. Produce a high ratio of ideas to applications.
    12. Keep moving.
      The market and its operations have a tendency to reinforce success. Resist it. Allow failure and migration to be part of your practice.
    13. Slow down.
      Desynchronize from standard time frames and surprising opportunities may present themselves.
    14. Don’t be cool.
      Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
    15. Ask stupid questions.
      Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
    16. Collaborate.
      The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
    17. ____________________.
      Intentionally left blank. Allow space for the ideas you haven’t had yet, and for the ideas of others.
    18. Stay up late.
      Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
    19. Work the metaphor.
      Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
    20. Be careful to take risks.
      Time is genetic. Today is the child of yesterday and the parent of tomorrow. The work you produce today will create your future.
    21. Repeat yourself.
      If you like it, do it again. If you don’t like it, do it again.
    22. Make your own tools.
      Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
    23. Stand on someone’s shoulders.
      You can travel farther carried on the accomplishments of those who came before you. And the view is so much better.
    24. Avoid software.
      The problem with software is that everyone has it.
    25. Don’t clean your desk.
      You might find something in the morning that you can’t see tonight.
    26. Don’t enter awards competitions.
      Just don’t. It’s not good for you.
    27. Read only left-hand pages.
      Marshall McLuhan did this. By decreasing the amount of information, we leave room for what he called our “noodle.”
    28. Make new words.
      Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
    29. Think with your mind.
      Forget technology. Creativity is not device-dependent.
    30. Organization = Liberty.
      Real innovation in design, or any other field, happens in context. That context is usually some form of cooperatively managed enterprise. Frank Gehry, for instance, is only able to realize Bilbao because his studio can deliver it on budget. The myth of a split between “creatives” and “suits” is what Leonard Cohen calls a ‘charming artifact of the past.’
    31. Don’t borrow money.
      Once again, Frank Gehry’s advice. By maintaining financial control, we maintain creative control. It’s not exactly rocket science, but it’s surprising how hard it is to maintain this discipline, and how many have failed.
    32. Listen carefully.
      Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
    33. Take field trips.
      The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic–simulated environment.
    34. Make mistakes faster.
      This isn’t my idea — I borrowed it. I think it belongs to Andy Grove.
    35. Imitate.
      Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable. We have only to look to Richard Hamilton and his version of Marcel Duchamp’s large glass to see how rich, discredited, and underused imitation is as a technique.
    36. Scat.
      When you forget the words, do what Ella did: make up something else … but not words.
    37. Break it, stretch it, bend it, crush it, crack it, fold it.
    38. Explore the other edge.
      Great liberty exists when we avoid trying to run with the technological pack. We can’t find the leading edge because it’s trampled underfoot. Try using old-tech equipment made obsolete by an economic cycle but still rich with potential.
    39. Coffee breaks, cab rides, green rooms.
      Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces — what Dr. Seuss calls “the waiting place.” Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference — the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals — but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
    40. Avoid fields.
      Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
    41. Laugh.
      People visiting the studio often comment on how much we laugh. Since I’ve become aware of this, I use it as a barometer of how comfortably we are expressing ourselves.
    42. Remember.
      Growth is only possible as a product of history. Without memory, innovation is merely novelty. History gives growth a direction. But a memory is never perfect. Every memory is a degraded or composite image of a previous moment or event. That’s what makes us aware of its quality as a past and not a present. It means that every memory is new, a partial construct different from its source, and, as such, a potential for growth itself.
    43. Power to the people.
      Play can only happen when people feel they have control over their lives. We can’t be free agents if we’re not free.