Hello! How are you?
(For those that may have across this without knowing me – I am an artist, a woman, a migrant, I come from a place and a family of cultural abundance and little money, I was born in 1982 in a communist country, I suffer from long term ill mental health- these things don’t define me but they inform who I am and how I see the world)
Since you asked, I am fine! I am fine. Most of my days are half full than half empty, my family is okay, the fridge has some food, and I have nice friends. I make good art which feeds my well-being and my imagination. I rely on little external validation although I acknowledge – it’s very nice when it comes. There is a dog sleeping next to me – I am fine!
Why am I here? Well, I have been thinking.
I have been away from my base (and safe place) for two months. That has been brilliant and interesting and often very hard work. I have been in Europe and in London. So, it seems that naturally I find my return home a moment to reflect. It’s funny really, because I have begun to do a lot of reflection, a lot of observation and a lot of noticing. This is mainly because I have been choosing to stay at a distance, away from the thick of it – prioritizing my own well-being.
I have had quite a lot of conversations with friends in the sector and colleagues in the sector about the shit show, the broken system, the lack of money, the terrible culture of “open calls” etc, etc, etc, you name it – we have chewed it. I would say that in each and every conversation, words like knackered, I just don’t know how I am going to survive this, have you seen what so and so did or said, etc etc etc has been somewhat dominant.
And so, I am so aware of how fragile we all are. Report after report, blog after blog, tweet after tweet I read is about the shit show, the lack of, the closure of…..and I find it so devastatingly sad. Sad with an aura of helplessness. How do I draw that?
W E A R E A L L S O F R A G I L E
And then, the question came our way “How do you guys do it, how do you stay positive?”
And we looked at each other, and kind of smiled…
Because so often we find it so hard to be positive, and often we are not…
But there is a thing we do do, and that is approach each conversation in the hope and with the belief that if a conversation is on offer — we treat it with care, kindness and we know that in that moment the desire to chew the fat together, to look for a way, together is of phenomenal importance. And this moment, this offer of conversation we treat like gold dust.
It has been just over three years since the covid pandemic and the collective desire for better. Better has come in some circumstances, and not in others; for some people and not for others. I have not experienced much of the better outside my immediate surroundings because I have tightened the pool significantly – focusing and prioritizing my wellbeing and that of my trusted collaborators because We Are All So Fragile. But through my conversations, I know that all sorts of workers are not just looking for ways for better and more equitable exchanges but there is some success. And this is what I would like to talk about. This is why I am here.
The other day I had a meeting with a leader of an organization I really admire – I admire the leader and I like the organization, especially in how it has evolved since this new leader. Our conversation was open and honest and hard – hard because there was acknowledgement from both sides as to the endless conundrums around the systemic obstacles, making my life as an artist hell and making the other person’s life hell as a leader of an organization. All of those things were rooted in scarcity, and its effects over the whole time I’ve been a worker. We talked, half-seriously, about moving to Finland, and laughed because you can’t do that if you don’t speak Finnish and we don’t speak Finnish; none of us there spoke Finnish.
I tremble gently, my heart beat quickens “I don’t want this person to leave”
And so – what now? We acknowledge each other’s pain and circumstance and now what?
The system is so broken, we both mutter gently under our breath.
But for as long as there is communication across, for as long as there is dialogue – there is a possibility. This is why I am here. Just to point this out!
To point out the obvious – as we say in my native language Една Птичка Пролет Не Прави One Bird Does Not Make Spring – we need many. To have many we need dialogues – we need open communication and we need to be kind to one another.
I believe we need to try and have the care to approach each and every dialogue in the hope that all sides, all people, all parties have come together to try to find a way. I really believe we are all trying and I really believe that we are doing our best.
I believe that it is only through this, a kind and caring way to have a conversation, we have any hope in keeping going, in keeping looking for more equitable ways. Otherwise we are in danger of eating ourselves and the sector – and that is what the tories want. And, we can’t allow that!
And if you are wondering how so and so are doing, be a human, reach out – find out, it may be the biggest transformative action you can do that day. A divided sector is a weak sector, a connected sector is a strong sector, for us ALL.