Days pass into weeks and weeks pass into months and a sense of timelessness grips hold as all familiar structures disintegrate into an unknown void. The world has currently changed the way we once knew it, at least there was some kind of security in having a sense of familiarity in out lives, getting up going to work, school, college, university, the studio, shopping, the park, seeing family and friends and meeting people in cafes, galleries and museums. Now all these are closed and in the UK we are in lock down, which came later than most other European countries.
So what does it mean? Staying at home basically, don't go out unless you really need to or exercise, shop or a medical reason, but if you don't need to go out, then don't go out is the message. Everyone is dealing with it their own ways, the media language has changed, advertising has changed, which now gives us images of people sharing their lives via the internet.
And artists? Well artists like me are doing a lot more on line collaboration. A lot of my work is overseas rather than based in the UK, even though I live here, the opportunities I have abroad is far much more accessible than opportunities I have on my doorstep. This has also slightly changed as now with the on line network wave of collaborations I have been thankful to be included in such projects, which wasn't on offer before lock down. My income is erratic as I work as and when needed in delivering party balloons and drive a van, which I love doing, as it gets me out of the studio and into the world, it breaks my routine as I work from home. I am one of those neighbours who is always there, when everyone else goes to their normal nine to five job I have the freedom of the back garden where my studio is, which is actually a shed I have turned into a studio as it was cheaper to have a shed than to rent. I look forward to when the tax man gives me a refund as I haven't worked enough to be taxed, so I am grateful of that.
Since the lock down I still continue to work in the back garden but now everyone else is back home, working from their sheds or whatever space they can find to set up an office. I have to respect their working time as I like to blast music and make performances to or vocal sounds, but since no one was ever around it was never problem. Now I perform in silence, and use the garden as much as possible now the sun has arrived. A few years ago I made the conscious decision to focus my work on line especially after the UK media outed me as being the man behind the rabbit mask that appears every first of the month, this then went international then world wide. So to keep up with the time I have made even much more of an effort to have as many online networks as possible. Even though I already have this wonderful Weebly site, which has been a gift from the Gods, its been invaluable to let the public have some kind of access that isn't just face book or you tube, but these three social networks play a really big part in my work, in storing, in promoting, in communication and in making. Though I do use other media such as Twitter, Instagram and other performance networks as well as Linkdin.
I am not quite sure how much value any of this gives my work or who has access or who is really interested in some conceptual artist doing his thing from his back garden. The way I have broken the intensity of just being on line I have focused on performance festivals in various countries that has been an amazing experience, helping to build my confidence and boost my ego and my morale as well as raising my own artistic reputation as a conceptual performance artist. Now it seems everyone is on line, everyone is out chasing that golden nugget, that star ship that is going to take them to promise lands, to new heights tin their career and life path. So the competition for air space has now increased massively, so how do we get beyond the invisible wall of tapping into an audience out there waiting to discover the artist in here, without having to pay huge amount of money that doesn't exist on people giving your the key to the promise land and the more you pay the further you will be discovered. Sadly now there isn't any cash flowing, its stopped, people are out of work, the UK Government has set up schemes to help businesses that will help to keep them afloat for a period, but it seems that this lock down is going to continue until Christmas! This is awful as there will be businesses going bankrupt, people will be out of jobs and in unemployment and seeking benefits.
It doesn't look good, but there is a wave of optimism, especially from artists, it seems this is when we function better, when we look at other ways of surviving out of the norm, thinking out of the box. It lights a creative fuse, not all artists get it, some delve down into the darkest corners of despair and fear, after all we are human, we have feelings, we have bills, we have families, we have to live, to eat, to survive. Our creativity is our gold nugget, it is our commodity our bargaining tool, its our wealth and it could help to pay bills, it can give the artist a path to walk down that will help them to survive like everyone else.
As for me I set out a strict routine from the start since returning from travelling and performing throughout Japan, the pandemic was very much present there, so my eyes were open, as I returned to the UK I felt we had not taken it seriously enough, except worrying about other countries, and now our death toll is rising each day in the UK with COVIDvirus, the reality is hitting us all hard. I have applied to various schemes hoping like everyone else something will come from it, who knows, its worth applying for it. We have to keep a sense of focus, well being so to also keep the creative pallet moving, mixing every colour of the days experience into some kind of artwork, be it performance, painting, sculpture etc, we need to keep the porthole open.
From Monday to Friday I set about creating work or focus on activities that is also based around my work, re writing this, keeping up my internet presence, keeping up my on-line collaborations, keeping up being focused. I start each morning with on line zoom prayers with my local vicar and other members of my community, also there is a mediation rise and shine facebook page a friend has set up, which I combine both of these together, keeping a sense of mediation while during silent prayers. I also then focus some domestic tasks, like washing, hoovering, tidying up etc, though I still have to get some grips with my studio, but I am sure by the end of the summer it will be accessible again! But since the local dump is closed I have to pile up everything at the back of the garden I need to throw away. And with the rest of the day I will set up a space to perform in, creating a little structure that will compliment the performance in mind, once done I film it on my Android phone and then up load it to the computer, then edit and send it via We transfer to the artist/composer etc I am collaborating with and they then do their stuff and send it off to the project we are connected with and so it goes. By Friday I wind down and stop everything by the weekend allowing myself not to do time, not to pressure myself to make work or keep up any structure but to veg out in front of rubbish TV, though recently I have found lots of art programs to watch. On Sunday I attend on-line mass and by Monday I am ready to get back to the structure of making.
I have no idea how long this will all last, but I need to for my own sanity to keep myself focused, proactive, in touch with others, even though I go out once a week to do shopping, I do not go out for exercise only because I am asthmatic and so need to be even more careful, as said earlier the death toll is rising in the UK and I fear it will get worse. So for the time being, while we have some wonderful weather to be thankful for I will continue to create. Below is the you tube link to the many performances I am creating.
Spike Mclarrity is a duration based conceptual performance artist.