It has been 17 months since my last post. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write, it’s just that since the beginning of 2013 I have had a pram in the hallway – and as Connolly wrote it does indeed appear to be the enemy of good art. And bad art. In fact the enemy of any art at all.
So whilst I have still been critically engaged with cultural life, much of it has been a critical engagement with the cultural life of motherhood rather than art making or writing. At the beginning of 2013 just after my daughter was born I packed up my studio and my practice came to a standstill. It had been a busy year with various exhibitions and opportunities, I was really engaged in my practice and enjoying what seemed to be a positive trajectory.
A few weeks ago I connected with an organisation called Enemies of Good Art (no less), who “seek…to investigate the possibilities of combining art practice and family commitments.” They “encourage participation by parents and their children in a series of public discussions and art based events.” Enemies of Good Art held an event at Beaconsfield Gallery and a discussion took place within the exhibit Dissolved by Station House Opera with Florian Feigle and Christopher Hewitt. Despite a few technical hitches we had a fruitful discussion around issues of parenthood and art with artists in Berlin. And children were welcome!
It was an important encounter for me. Although the terrain covered in our discourse was familiar for any working mother (i.e. the difficulties of juggling parenthood, work, relationships, childcare and money) it was good to be in a room with critically engaged artists with whom I felt aligned.
Parent artists in Berlin (and I am sure throughout Germany) are very lucky to live with (comparatively) cheap accommodation and massively subsidized childcare. I think it’s OK for me to say that it’s a lot easier to be an artist and a parent in Berlin than in London. Artist and organiser of the event Martina Mullaney refuses to see her daughter as a ‘problem’ or barrier to her art making. She did suggest however that London is both a problem and a barrier. Artist Leah Lovett wants to find positives around parenting and art making and questioned why the subject of parenting seems to be taboo in critical art practice. Whilst I would like to feel positive I don’t often do so.
I have resisted writing about being an artist and mother. The territory seems to have been written about so much in the women’s pages of broadsheets and magazines. I have often complained that I feel like a statistic or an article – that I am a cliché. I’ve also been afraid of aligning myself with the sort of hobbyists or earth mother craft types (such as this sorry, it’s just not for me). But perhaps I have also resisted because I have felt my identity as a creative and professional individual has been under threat. As neutral as Enemies of Good Art are about gender they note that fathers are not present at their meetings. This is a women’s issue and a feminist issue. It’s tricky enough being an artist, throw a child into the equation and it’s tempting to give it all up.
Even if I do not unpack my studio soon I am happy to be emerging from the first extreme year of motherhood. Although I am doing so with a certain amount of unease I am in the process of forging a new identity. I am proud to be a mother and an artist even if I don’t make any art, good or otherwise.
There’s no more sombre enemy of good art than some nobhead telling you “you can’t make good art because there’s a pram in your hallway”!
Ha ha! Well. I seem to be doing a little better with a scooter in the hallway!