Johanna said
you can never go home?

I have not returned, then
a) where am I now b) how long will I stay here c) am i on holiday d) why did you say that

I pretend I'm not hungry when you are looking,
some people eat biscuits one at a time.

I came to Kofu with a project based around the gestures of acknowledgement people give to eachother on hiking trails; these shared moments give attention to a shared love, to similarities, in a world where we focus on our differences, and offer understanding.
I thought this could be a poetic reflection the ways in which we be together.

My work is driven by my frustrations with the world that leaves little room of the complexities of the individual. It challenges our assumed depictions of identity, whether that is gender, sexuality, ability or my personal experiences with race, ethnicity and a sense of multi-belonging. But these questions are hard to ask when listening is so uncomfortable. To come to Japan and work on this project, I thought I had found a way to gently nudge the question of distance by drawing attention to how successful we can be when we come together.

But the project is hard to complete here.
or maybe:
I find the project hard to complete here.
or indeed,
I find the project hard to complete.

When I arrived, I was invited to take part in an exhibition that would be held in an old bath house. The same family had run the bath house for the last 90 years and had had to close last September. Although showing work here would be a new starting point, far away from hiking trails, since my first visit to a hammam in 201, I have fallen in love with the public bath as a space to be together in outside of the gaze of the world. Here we didn’t have to be girlfriends, wives, daughters or mothers, but could be together. And while it was a space for me to give up many unnecessary parts of my identity (and just be), it threw another part of my identity into sharp relief: I was still worried about my hair.

My hair is political, whether I want it to be or not. It is the strongest identifier of where I am as an individual, neither black or white, or black and white, but (as someone once said to me in Yates when I was a teenager) some nex-race. I’ve blow dried the curls out of my hair for a decade at least; to remove a difference was a disguise that allowed me to be seen. I didn't get to chose the game, but I found a way of playing it because I had the privilege of choice.

So although the public bath provides some escape from most of the games of society, I am still left with the decision of how to be seen when I exit. To wrap my hair from the steam, and come out as I came in. Or to let the steam bring back my natural curls, give up control.

This weekly gesture of pulling out my curls is a gentle nudge to a question. But I wonder if it is heard. If in my daily life I am gently nudging, does this leave me room to begin shouting and pushing in my art practice?
Text performed for artist presentation, 26/5/18

Tip-Tip, Plop-Plop, exhibition at Takasago-yu sento.
Presenting 'When I go to the sento, I have to wear a scarf around my hair', a sound work for two listeners.
Exhibition info

I am in Japan for the next 6 weeks.

I am doing a residency in a community. Not an artist residency. This is the best way to describe it. Based in an old gynaecology practice, just outside the city center of Kofu, surrounded by mountains (it reminds me of Bergen, that you can look up between the buildings and see them, but three times the height of Ulriken). The residency has been running for 12 years with the aim of giving artists space (as most residencies offer) but also to introduce the city to artists, and to introduce the artists to the city. Escaping from my Bergen bubble of artists and musicians, Izumi Sakamoto, the director, introduces me to artists, curators, coffee connoseurs, neighbours, old friends, sento owners, pharmacists, libarians, in the same way: this is an interesting person, they know Kofu.
The residency house acts as a conduit between art and the ‘real world’, as a basis for putting art alongside hospitality and community development. I’ve never seen this done so genuinely before. The audience Izumi brings to the residency house, through workshops, cookery lessons and drawing classes, aren’t other artists, but people who are curious about what art does and what it can do. So am I.

While I am here, I have some time away from my self, to look again at my practice. For the last year, it has focused on a project called Anthems (more here). It is a gentle way of dealing with my frustrations of prejudice and as a route to open the discussion around it. But I wonder about the benefits of being gentle, or of pointing at a problem without a solution.
I have this story in my head, that I sometimes tell myself, its 90% true but I made myself sharper:
I worked as a bartender in central London. A middle aged man came to the bar and said, incredibly slowly “Could I have a pint and a glass of wine wine?”, I replied, also incredibly slowly, “ Would you like a Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio?” and he laughed and said “Oh, thank god! I was speaking slowly because I thought you were foreign!” and I replied “Oh! I was speaking slowly because I thought you were old”.
At last we think that prejudice exists, and we are told, on one side, to accept and tolerate, and on the other to adapt and integrate. But this is too passive to make change, who wants to get into a burning house? Who has to build a new one? Instead of #metoo can someone start #ihave.
Where do you come from? someone asked. If your place of home is nullified, discredited, where does that leave you? Then I began the Anthems project. I had a conversation with a curator about this just before I left for Japan. He told me a story of a friend who was shouted at on the bus and told to “Go home”. The punch line was, she was blonde and German, “so you know, it works both ways”.

It’s tiring to always start from the beginning.
So I go to my studio, I listen to a murder podcast, and carve spoons. I lose hours like this, I’m thinking, but only about spoons and wood. It's a relief. It's the perfect escape. I can pretend I don’t know. I take this pretence home, I wash my hair. I blow dry it, brush all the curls out. Its an escape. You can’t assume so you have to ask. I can pass but at what expense- I feel like I ought to feel guilty, and isn’t that the same thing?
Text sent as email

The work with Norden til Bergen.
Isotop Project Room 
Magnusbarfotgate 25, 5010 Bergen.
kl19:00 onwards.

With dancer and choreographer, Ole Martin Meland, visual artist Robert Demeter, sound artist, Jiska Huizing and dancer, Mathias Stoltenberg.

Goodbye to TASC Studio Kitchen.
Hordaland Kunstsenter
Klosteret 17, 5005 Bergen.
kl15:00 onwards

With contributions from TASC Ablett and Brafield, Julie Porter, Siri Frances, Eva Rowson, Athea Beuys, Anne Szefer Karlsen and Berit Kaald. With a first performance of the collaboration, The Eating Ensemble with Rudi Valdernes.

Text work published with IN THE LIBRARY and Pamflett print studios.

In my own life
i wasn't even a reliable witness.
I did things I said
I didn't do.
Since I've met him I think I'm a liar
and I think everyone else is a liar too.

Bergen, Norway// London, UK