Can I still care and practice art? Or should I stop art and practice care?
1. the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something: “the care of the elderly”
Trust, parenting, mothering, fathering, concern, consideration, attention, attentiveness, thought, regard, mind, notice, heed, solicitude, interest, caringness, sympathy, respect, looking after
1. feel concern or interest; attach importance to something: “they don’t care about human life”
2. look after and provide for the needs of: “he has numerous animals to care for”
1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power:
“the art of the Renaissance”
Fine art, artwork, creative activity Works produced by human creative skill and imagination: “a collection of modern art”
Creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture: “she’s good at art”
2. the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, film, print and dance: “the visual arts”
Care and art instinctively coalesce. Artists care for their work and audiences are cared for or experience solitude, welfare and respect by engaging with art. But there are dualities which require negotiation, tensions that need to be fixed. Care is spoken of as people acknowledge unsta- ble working conditions in the industry but support is often absent. Instead it often feels that we are consumed by conventional definitions of art. The expression of creative skill, imagination and self-interest surpasses the fundamental elements of care i.e: nurturing, respect, feel- ing concerned, providing help for those who are more vulnerable or environmental care.
Seeing the definitions of care and art together are like a puzzle that connects but is missing pieces, it is impossible to complete. The connection and disconnec- tion between the two words reflects the challenges of practicing art. Art is time consuming and insular; we work multiple jobs to support our practices. We produce great things but this often results in neglect or disregard of others and ourselves.
Care is a vital framework within the intersecting communities of artists, activists, writers, environmental- ists, academics, health and social justice workers. Its lineage stems from radical queer feminist Audre Lorde who proclaimed that:
Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.
Lorde’s definition of care is both political and personal, a framing that many of us consciously work from. To be political, to create change requires us to preserve energy and look after each other and ourselves. These thoughts and actions resonate in the works presented in Notions of Care.
Katie West’s pillows are filled with eucalyptus leaves, bringing the smells and materiality of the natural environ- ment into an urban setting as audiences are invited to sit and rest. The pillows are accompanied by a tea ceremony encouraging audiences to connect, listen and play closer attention to environs through smell, touch and ritual. For a moment we look beyond the impulses of city life and the time-poor tendency to rush through gallery spaces in a sensory overload of colour and form, taking little in.
Pockets to hold things we’ve been holding by Snap- cat (Anna Dunnill & Renae Coles) show the possibilities of relationships across distance. Dunnill (Naarm/ Melbourne based) and Coles (Gadigal/Sydney based) collaboratively make textile vessels, informed by items significant to each of the artists in the exhibition. They take turns starting each piece and post them in the mail to be completed by the other. The process embodies a deliberate slowness over time and space, which moves against our capitalistic desire to produce and purchase. Instead a relationship is built through the act of making. While at another scale and modality the performance work of Arini Byng brings the intimacy and immediacy of a live body. We are reminded of the artist’s body as a site of work, care and creation beyond the artifice of the finished product. Process becomes something that unfolds before us rather than separate to the artist.
Kate Tucker’s sculptures also demonstrate that the relationship or the making is more valuable then the result. It argues that care should be elevated over product and outcome. Paintings rest on ceramic bases in a relationship. As the artist states “the base physically supports the painting, but reads as equally important.”
The base becomes an allegory for the work and care that goes into practice but is often invisible, de-valued in pursuit of the end product, the painting/success. Tuck- er’s work cleverly subverts this dynamic stating that “this non-hierarchical compression of acts and elements refer- ences broader artistic practice and the self care required as an artist, as well as the emphasis on a kind of artistic continuum, rather than any individual work.”
Shifting the value of art away from the ‘individual work’ also occurs in Polly Stanton’s evocative video The Spectral Field. The work brings the landscape of the Malle to urban audiences. It gently captures the salt lakes through sound and close-up, connecting audiences with environments, which are neglected. She writes it is “a way to explore the interstitial spaces, resonances and intersections of the more-than-human world.” Similar to Tucker’s work humans are de-centred; our egos or individual work are overpowered by more natural and caring forces.
While care imbues the exhibition it is important to acknowledge the externalities that come from making art (i.e.: exhaustion, burn out, unpaid labor, rejection, disap- pointment, capitalism, competition, financial insecurity, bullying, structural power, exploitation, stress, anxiety, discrimination, expectations, nepotism, ego, exclusion, etc). These causalities demand attention. They often persuade me to consider leaving as if it is the only way to care for the environment, others and myself.
As I write I am conscious that the artists, designers and Bus Project staff are most likely a little run down. Tired from the amount of work they are doing to ensure that this exhibition is important to both artists and audiences. Work that is done while balancing a myriad of other professional and personal responsibilities within tight deadlines, which often feel irresponsible and uncaring. I write while tired, cognitive that the privilege of engaging with the exhibition will be compromised by the need to slow down, to rest. I want to push further into the topic, to reveal these incongruities in the hope of finding new ways of making which resists the cycle of capitalism and connects deeper with community and the environment. But I also need to care for myself and in doing so acknowledge that pulling away, slowing down, doing less is intrinsic to a careful and caring creative practice.