As the social, economic, political and cultural implications of the lockdown are unknown and unknowable, I have been vacillating between the horror of what is happening to many individuals and families (including we think though as yet to be confirmed, my own father’s death and mothers illness through the virus.) and the unapologetic glee of the hitting of the pause button, bringing with it the potential for reset and systemic change.
It has been interesting to note how watching ‘the time’ under lockdown has taken on a very different role. I am taking more interest in what I can do in any given day, where I have to be, when and why. For me if it wasn’t for the death of my dad and the loss of income, it has been quite an, ‘interesting’ journey. I can just about tick over with my two days as an associate lecturer’s wages for the short term, and grieving, well, that will just have to wait till I can hug my mum again. As a freelance artist, I am one of those who have fallen through the cracks of the hastily put together Government Covid support package.
When the Urban Workbench team realized that maintaining contact with our tenant groups and the young people on our learning programme was untenable, like most organisations, we spent the first couple of weeks beating ourselves up in an attempt to somehow carry on. We looked at all the online possibilities around ‘how to’ and ‘helpful advice’, we discussed wholly new avenues to explore around our products and design skills but soon came to the conclusion that we needed really, to spend our time planning fruitfully for what comes after. How could we use the time to review our best practice and strategise as an organization and as individual artists, educators, architects, designers and activists, to facilitate a greater control and quality of living spaces and environment, for the done-to and those not deemed worthy of art, design and culture.
As an artist I have been exploring and researching auto didacticism for a couple of years and have recently been developing this within my role as part of Urban Workbench at We Make Places. Working as advocates for tenants in Liverpool and Ellesmere Port, I/ we, had struck up working relationships at different stages of development, with several un/under employed men and women with formidable skill sets in different areas in the development of art and design projects around our shared talents and resources. I am looking forward to seeing these through, and am currently keeping in touch with these individuals as best as possible during lockdown.
I am allocating time to the things I need to do, want to do and like to do, the most difficult thing has been getting the times, necessities and emphasis right. It has been a time to get fit, drink more, then less, fix the roof whilst the sun has been shinning, in it has to be said, a suitably eerie way for this time of year. I have allocated two days a week to painting the house from top to bottom and ticking off a wish list of jobs that where never getting done.
Levelling the cooker is a job I must have thought of every day, well every time I cook so a couple of times a day literally for years, in fact I did that fix today and it has made me surprisingly happy thinking ahead for example, to four equally runny fried eggs.
All the unachieved simple fixes that build up our portfolios of anxiety have been given a little breathing space to be fixed, and whilst I am working to ultimately destroy that portfolio, I have been building the one that matters, namely my art and design work from the past thirty years. Images of the sculpture, installations, film and photography have been going up every day on Instagram after I uncharacteristically accepted the 10 Day Art Challenge, I am glad I did as I will continue with it and undoubtedly wouldn’t have in ‘normal’ times.
Through this daily exercise, I have connected with my daughter whilst she takes me through the do’s and DON’TS, of Instagram, though obviously I still know best. She is seventeen and surviving me very well all things considered.
Most surprising to myself and others, I bought fruit and vegetable seeds in the panic days before lock down, I have planted said seeds and so far, allowed them to live, I am watching them grow and avoiding projecting too much hope on them whilst secretly thinking, we could go all ‘The good life’ if it really all come tumbling down.
Andrew Small works as a Learning Programme Leader on our Urban Workbench programme and Artist in Residence at Grove Street. He is also an independent artist/designer/lecturer