A Lifeline: Art therapy

As an artist, arts educator, but most of all, as a survivor, I feel passionate about the ways that art can offer healing and relief in times of difficulty and stress. My own experience with activating this power leads me to a desire and need to show how other people might find it also, particularly those who struggle with illness and disability. I am dedicated and committed to this vocation. It culminates my lifelong experience of making art and helping people make art, with continuous emphasis on the therapeutic benefits of the creative process.

I have a PhD in Art Theory from Cambridge University, where I examined the psychoanalysis of the art object, and an MA in Fine Art (Distinction). These achievements demonstrate my strength and resilience under pressure. All my writing, teaching and art practice has utilised art as a restorative method of thinking, feeling and healing. I want to study for an MA in Arts Psychotherapy because this will enable me to practice as a clinician, and as an artist, to help people. This is a very simple but crucial ambition and need: having spent so much time in my own recovery, I want to make a difference in other peoples’ recoveries. I want to spread empathy and make connections, so that people who are suffering or experiencing problems might feel connected with someone who can understand and help them to relieve their own pain.

I want to use art to facilitate change in the world, which means to show people how they can initiate their very own changes (in themselves). The tool and agency is always art. I need to qualify as an art therapist so that I can make this happen.

So I have a 4/5-year plan: right now I am applying to all the universities which offer the MA in Art Therapy. I am currently finding work and placements to practice this in the community, and gain further clinical experience (in mental health and schools). I hope to start the MA in September 2018, and then qualify as a practitioner 2 years later. So I’d hope to start working in this new career in 4 years time. I may need to do a diploma before the MA. Whatever it takes.

This is a calling. My gut-feeling guides me. I just hope I can convince a university to accept me, so I can at last kick on, learn, grow and qualify, then practice.

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Organic psychotic disorder (undefined)

Mixed media on torn watercolour paper, 14 x 21cm, 2000-2017:Lorna Collins Organic psychotic disorder (undefined) 2

 This wonky, textured painting expresses my very own sense of being diagnosed (or not) a ‘psycho’. Following a brain injury in 2000, I developed a series of psychiatric illnesses, which led to long periods of incarceration in several different mental asylums. My so-called ‘illness’, which destroyed me, prompted chaotic moments of sheer, violent darkness. But these moments also burst into periods of dazzling light, when I found insight, growth and acceptance. My small painting shows a thick, black whole that has subsumed my edges, and its eruption into vision and colour. Such a transition from dark to light is made possible, I realise, through the healing powers that making art has, to help us make sense of ourselves, and the world. Making this work provides me with redemption and recognition from the darkness in the shooting rays of light, which open my psycho being into a universe of new possibilities.

Lorna Collins Organic psychotic disorder (undefined)1

 

Turning a full circle

I decided to leave an implosive, becoming-dismal career in academia and return to my former passion with the horses. This decision was not taken lightly, since I had spent over 10 years away from the horses due to extraordinary, unrepeatable circumstances.

But here I am. Happy, at home, at last. In love with galloping across the countryside, with my horse Patch’s white whiskers and his soft, delightfully hairy ears:

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I train (always), compete (increasingly often) and win (sometimes). This fulfils an old destiny, which I thought had been lost and destroyed (utterly) forever. How lucky I am. How happy I am. Here, right here, with the horses in the country.

I’m setting up a new career on this situation: I teach riders and horses of all abilities and ages. I also tutor students for exam tips, essays-techniques and interview practice. Please contact me if you need my help. My email is: lornacollins1@googlemail.com.

 

Poetry

Writing in verse is another outlet for my main project of Making Sense: Art Practice and Transformative Therapeutics. Words rush and gush out, from somewhere indeterminate inside me. I allow these words to lilt in their intimate rhythm with the page. The resultant patch of poetry (if I can call it that) then expresses something true about the moment in time I currently (try to) inhabit. My aim is to develop my writing skills and expand my publications in this form of writing. There are several possibilities for seeing my poems in print in the pipeline; I hope to establish a readership and expand my writing style. In the meantime, I continue to open out the sometimes dazzling, other times murky and threatening sense of truth that reveals itself when I write poems. Here are a couple, written a few years ago. My most recent poems are being considered for publication so I can’t put them on this webpage at present. Watch this space!

Altamira

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And I quote

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Poetry

Writing in verse is another outlet for my main project of Making Sense: Art Practice and Transformative Therapeutics. Words rush and gush out, from somewhere indeterminate inside me. I allow these words to lilt in their intimate rhythm with the page. The resultant patch of poetry (if I can call it that) then expresses something true about the moment in time I currently (try to) inhabit. My aim is to develop my writing skills and expand my publications in this form of writing. There are several possibilities for seeing my poems in print in the pipeline; I hope to establish a readership and expand my writing style. In the meantime, I continue to open out the sometimes dazzling, other times murky and threatening sense of truth that reveals itself when I write poems. Here are a couple, written a few years ago. My most recent poems are being considered for publication so I can’t put them on this webpage at present. Watch this space!

Altamira

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And I quote

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What We Are Looking For… (a brainwave)

I want to teach secondary art and design. I am dedicated to this new career path. It culminates my considerable experiences as an artist and arts educator. Academia is a fruitful place to work, but it has failed to satisfy my career, nor my vocation, which lies in secondary education.

I am certain of this because I want to share the knowledge and skills in art and design, art theory, and media studies, which I have accumulated over the past few years, to young people. My aim as a teacher is to inspire my students and meet the needs for all learners, despite any disadvantages or barriers posed to them by society. I want to show students how they can reach their full potential, and understand what they never thought they could.

The highlights of my teaching experiences have been guiding 16-18 year olds at Cambridge Regional College towards their Art Foundation degree. Packed classes with a broad range of students with very diverse needs meant some crucially experimental ideas about art making commenced in this space. My teaching at Anglia Ruskin University was catered for first year undergraduates (mostly aged 18), as well as older students. I taught media studies and art theory. This experience confirmed my aptitude as a teacher: earning respect and building collaborative opportunities for my students, and founding novel techniques for learning and assessment.

I have a PG Cert. in Learning and Teaching, which contributes towards my understanding in the nature of teaching and educational issues. I have made a detailed study of different methods of learning and assessment, whilst developing inclusive and effective learning resources. These are applicable to KS3 and 4 Art and Design, the underlying aim being for students to produce skilled and creative artworks, and be able to evaluate art’s history, culture and criticism. These requisites become openings for intensely imaginative and stimulating classes, when I am teaching.

My subject knowledge in art and design is based from my experiences as an artist (in painting, film, installation and performance, with multiple international exhibitions), writer (with a monograph published in 2014 by Bloomsbury, entitled: ‘Making Sense: Art Practice and Transformative Therapeutics’), art critic and lecturer in this subject.

I have worked with children and young people throughout my academic career. One trip to Cambodia, where I taught orphans in a Buddhist temple in the remote countryside, confirmed my desire to show youths how to do things, and how to think about things, which they never thought they could. In this case, I was teaching the Cambodian children art. They had never seen paint before. But soon, with my guidance, they were drawing and painting their beautiful landscape, and their feelings. They could then sell their works to passing tourists. The point of this exercise was to teach the students new skills, new ways to express themselves, and build up a source of income (crucial, in their destitute lives). I could not solve the horrific political, social and economic problems in Cambodia. But I could show the children new ways of looking at their country; opening new avenues.

This is an example of my motivation and commitment to teaching, and the reason why I teach. My intellectual qualities have led me towards a PhD in Art Theory from Cambridge University, an MA in Fine Art, doing my BA in a year. But these achievements aren’t enough, and yet they are too much. I always want to return to the classroom, which first inspired me, when I was at school.

 

There’s the thing. The stuff at the end, about being inspired when I was at school, is bollocks. School was awful and I can’t remember it anyway. But the rest is true. Suddenly, it dawned upon me that I could achieve my life aims somewhere else, not just in a university. I want to help people understand things that they never thought they could. This is my life’s purpose. So far I have been committed to failure, in academia. Rejection after rejection. Each one damages a little bit of my soul. The damage adds up; I feel broken.

But perhaps life does not have to be so hard. Perhaps I can’t achieve a professorship at Oxbridge, or a hip art school, or somewhere dynamic and exciting. Perhaps I am not able to do this. What I have come to realise is that, in any case, perhaps I do not need to do this. Perhaps I can be far more fulfilled with less kudos.

In fact, what I want to do in life is far smaller than my utopian aims. So much for ‘I must change the world’, or ‘I must ultimately become a Professor’, or even, trying to widen my ambitions to make them easier to achieve, ‘I must be a lecturer in art theory, art history, art practice, media studies, or anything near, on any course at any university in the world’. None of these are in fact achievable, so it seems.

Maybe for a reason. I’m not going to get all trick-cyclist about this. There’s no such thing as fate. Nothing except very very hard work makes things happen. But suddenly, with a new idea (once again, as it often happens, brought forward by my mother, who is Always Right), I am discovering something that I can achieve, which would also meet my aims in life.

I can help people understand things they never thought they could by teaching at a school. This will require yet another qualification, but it would guarantee a career and, following the PGCE, an immediate job. I could teach art and design. I could enthuse my students with inventive and imaginative methods of making and thinking about art.

My research? My film? My books? I could feasibly still do all of this. It wouldn’t be easy, but it’s never been easy. I’ve always felt like a lonely wanderer in academia. It’s so hard to get a job, any job, and even harder to get the right job. Research is supposedly, but hardly, supported. Publishing books are supposed to increase your reputation; but they haven’t done, in my case. It’s extremely hard work, with lots of stress, with no cream cakes. And I don’t like cream cakes anyway.

The rewards I seek are the following: I wish to make a connection with my students, build trust, respect and empathy. I would do this by collaborating with them as people, as individuals, with different – but equal – needs, hopes and interests. I want to inspire and encourage students to dream, and work towards achieving the dreams (in small, incremental stages). I want students to look forward to my classes. I need to do all this through making and thinking about art.

In fact, I have come to realise (just now), that these rewards probably can’t be obtained at a university. Work needs to be done earlier. Maybe becoming a secondary school teacher is a good idea, then. If I can make it happen.

Hence my meeting with the An Important Person at the Faculty of Education, Cambridge University. He was realistic about my chances, and suggested I get a minimum wage job, whilst I look for a teaching position anywhere in the world that might take me. ‘I wouldn’t teach’, he said, informing me about the abstruse levels of stress the job entails.

Yet I am determined to give this a go. I have found 3 opportunities for school-direct training or PGCE (‘Not worth it,’ he said, ‘don’t quote me.’) at various locations in Cambridge, London and (near the horses) in Amersham. Is this the start of a new adventure? I hope so. Hope is the most powerful, inexhaustible fuel there is. Still perilous, but infallible.

No Name. A nightmare.

11695962_10153028075294646_6883815808619485365_nShe was wearing the new burgundy t-shirt, which said ‘Spiritual Gangster’, scrawled over a fickle heart-shaped emblem, on the front. The back was empty. Her hair was greasy, scrawny straggles, flopping in thin wisps onto her shoulders, bent over a book. Cowering underneath the (fake) strains of taking examinations. Fake? Since these weren’t the real tests brought by Life. And yet they symbolised the hardest question of all: would she be good enough?

That was the stupid yet recurrent question lurking and regurgitating in her throat. She looked up. The old, crumpled, bitter woman walked over, with a piece of paper in her hand. She stopped a few feet away from No Name (sic. This girl had still not made a name for herself.), peering down at her.

The girl could not, would not wait. Her small, green-cum-yellow eyes prised themselves upon the teacher’s piece of paper, seeking her results. The woman breathed in harshly, about to utter. The girl saw the flash of her marks, breathed in terror, and bolted.

E, E, E, E, E, E, NA (worse than E. Eliminated, Dissolved, Failed, Not Even Worth Considering.).

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She ran. From the cell, from the school, from the institution, from the arena, from the prison, from the tower, from the hospital, from the family, from her stupid, worthless self. Be clear: not just to get away from those lines on a piece of paper, from exam results. She was running away from all the nuts and bolts that prevented those impatient neurones from manufacturing A Method of mutating time: barring freedom.

Not known for athleticism, the girl embodied that emblematic t-shirt, vaulted over the fence (somewhat ungracefully), and lurched across the street. She knew where she was going.

Immediately, the old trout shouted at her and demanded that she stop, stay, and receive appropriate punishment. Suppression. No Name ran faster. Old Trout set off the alarm, and alerted the Authorities. By this time, No Name was out of sight. She had to escape before the police tracked her down and restrained her. Detained her. Sedated her. Murdered her.

No Name ran towards the hedgerow. She tried to puff and wheeze (since she was not used to running) quietly, unobtrusively. She ran through the fields. It was dark by now. On the right was a bridleway. A Polish horse and rider roamed past. The horse was mincing on long, black legs that jiggled around the stones on the ground. His rider held the reins high in the air and resembled an Oriental artist. He was dressed in auburn breeches, a pink flappy smock, and white leather gloves. The horse snorted, he could smell No Name. She was going in the right direction.

It was past midnight by now. No Name knew she was a runaway in danger: the police would not be far behind. It would not be hard for them to have found inside information on where she would go. Where she always went. But that did not stop her. No one had ever quite found her Hell, except she. Hell was some atrocious hidey-hole; yet inescapable. Inevitable.

An interlude: At the crossroads in the woodland, No Name discovered a fountain spurting spouts of pure unbroken ambrosia. It was the bottom of a rainbow. The liquid glowed like magma, flirtatiously. Green shoots popped out, blooming into pretty fuchsia petals. Around the ornament a number of dappled ponies danced. Riders were small and lithe; on perfect, lilting strides of bounding connemaras. But they disappeared. In the space, No Name stepped into the ambrosia, bent her knees and drank.

Immediately the magnanimous liquid warmed her spleen. The air erupted into shingles of the rainbow’s spectrum. A pinto Marwari horse with pointy ears that touched themselves trotted past her. Revived now, sheimages-1 followed. She must flee.

The Indian horse galloped away. No Name found her own narrow path by the hedgerow and proceeded with determination. In the distance she could hear the blaring noise of a police car. It seemed to get ever louder, ever closer, ever more threatening. She was near to her place, and yet so far.

No Name tripped in the mud and fell over. She slipped into a thick, rambling wad of rough crop, grown to rear pheasants. Tumbling down the field, the earth dissolved and enveloped her. Swallowed whole, she scraped her way through the mulch and dug herself ever deeper.

Eventually No Name had buried herself entirely, until her short, scrubby fingernails broke through a hole in the soil. She had reached the tunnel. Flopping onto the floor (again, ungracefully), she heaved a breath, which was hard, since there was little air down here. Crawling on her knees, she edged forward. Her body was hot, wet with sweat, and whet with the threat of those advancing imminently behind her.

Soon she reached the end of the tunnel. It opened out into a large spray of lavender. The smell was pacifying,images but intoxifying. She was close. Pushing through the pale blue flowers, No Name stood up. By now it was nearly morning. At the end of the garden was a plain house. She was in France, in Provence, near the village called Cotignac. This was her parents’ house. They came here once a month. But now it was empty.

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No Name found the dungeon near the moat, and she jumped into it. With the last remaining surge. Around the corner was her place. The walls were red; a dark, dark red. Almost black. She had painted these old walls herself, with her blood. The space was a testimony to the foundation that beguiled all but No Name. Each time she escaped, blood burst here. It could end here.

No more exams. No more cells. No more school. No more institutions, or arenas. No prison, no tower. No hospital. No family. No more stupid, worthless self. With No Name. Here was The Method of mutating time: opening freedom.

There was a moment here, which was indescribable. Before the future took over the present (with time mutated); it was over. The blaring nee-naa of the police siren reached a harsh crescendo. A man burst in, with his truncheon (a shot of lorazopam) at the ready. No Name tried to resist; but cowered. There was nothing more she could do.

Old Trout appeared, grimacing with eerie disgust at the smell. We’ll take you away to the place where you always get better. Her words were reasonable, but No Name did not want to go back to that place, where she had No Name. Yet here was blood, just blood. Nowhere was free. Perhaps she would have to call herself: No Name Nowhere.

I took a breath, and opened my eyes. I was at the farm, with my dog still sleeping, curled up in the crook of my arm. Quite safe. With a name: Lorna Collins.
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Perspectives built in India

There are 3 parts to this reflection on my squeezed escapade in India. Firstly I include a poem I wrote when I was sitting in the departure gate of the airport, waiting to fly back to England. I get a bit lost in words and sounds at times, so I’m not sure it’s easy to understand, unless you know the context of my inspiration. I dilate/dilute my poem by copying down here sections from my diary, which I wrote during the 2 days of the symposium. These 2 sections contain a simplistic narrative of an adventure I had, and then a more philosophical deliberation on my part in the symposium at the Goethe Institute. This symposium and the concurrent exhibition were called “Crisis and the Making and Unmaking of Sense: Art as Schizoanalysis”, organised by Khoj International Artists’ Association.

  1. Pure perceptions

The smog tugs

my throat in

smoky dregs

that won’t

relent and

parch my

retching

breath

amidst the

dirty, musty

rubble.

I stumble,

tremble,

grumble.

The sounds

abound

unfounded

ground.

In dirt

a yurt (of sorts)

surrounds

the furtive

thoughts.

I’m caught

amidst

a sort of

noise

that toys with

grids that lead

instead to boys who

glue their eyes

to gushing buys

and see my white naivety

a state to shove believing with

above their toil.

A royal boil

begins to itch my throat

again.

They sell me rotten apples

coupled

and drive me through the rubble.

In-credible, a fib,

unstable, a rib

bounces and renounces

my body’s defences

as I lurch across the track.

A fact backed when

shambles wend

around the bend

floundering my senses

(jabbering,

shuddering).

But then I arrive.

Dust clears.

Rust bears

my weight.

I stare

into the

air and through

the golden

groats’

emboldened

stoats

and feel

iotas grinning

and calmly

holding my inebriety.

Instead of lurching,

retching,

deflecting,

I nurture

nature

softly dazzling,

embezzling

and tickling

my senses.

Here the sun

maintains grains.

Those groans

from tomes of blown up dens

cannot subsume the oms

from green and grown refrains.

Liquid lubrication

amidst the new creation

defies the chronic,

bubonic,

catastrophic,

hegemonic

grasp.

This is our task.

We slip through,

ripping their cloak,

nipping through the boundaries,

staking out founded steeds

for a brand new reality.

Grand, astute, a fluke?

Not quite, more like

a great hike that breaks

the strokes of broken lives

and strives to set us free.

2. My adventure

Last night Lleah (who has dyed her hair pink) took me to somewhere in central Delhi. It was very intense and a crisis evolved. Before it did we had a highly stimulating set of sensoriums/sensoriae, which erupted from the trip to this crammed, chaotic market. We went on the subway first of all, which was a pretty intense experience in itself. Talk about crammed. So many dark, smelly men, wet and whet with sweat and pounding the inadequate space too close to me. One man placed his left ear on my lips. As my breath banged his warm skin, and our bodies touched, clammy and condensed, I immediately gasped, aghast at this ghastly unwanted intimacy, and retreated (as much as was (im)possible, given the restraints (im)posed by the lack of space). Soon it was our stop. The station was similarly crammed full of people. We went up the stairs. So was the street.

Undeterred, excited, I followed Lleah and we began to explore. Neither of us knew where we were going. We followed out noses. The odd pong barred the route – urine, mould, dirt. In fact, each olfactory stimulus enhanced the overall sensorium, since it made the journey more authentic.

We wandered randomly through the streets, undeterred by the aggressive rickshaws (‘autos’) and motorcycles beeping and cavorting their horns and accelerators, bombarding through the space.

The streets were lined with market stalls. Most were selling colourful material and fabric, bangles or fruit. I took lots of photos and videos, really enjoying this adventure.

After a while we decided to return home. We found a rickshaw (after one we’d rejected due to excessive charge) and climbed aboard. By now it was rush hour and the streets were crammed with beeping automobiles aggressively meandering around each other, noisily trying to overtake and ignoring any semblance of order posed by lines, lights, regulations, or policemen blowing vociferously into plastic whistles.

Then, before we knew it, a motorcycle cruised past at huge speed, and snatched Lleah’s purse, which she was holding on her lap. It flashed past and away, irretrievable. We urged the rickshaw driver to follow, and he went down the other side, the wrong side of the road, dodging rickshaws etc., trying to catch the villant. Violence. Shock. Fear. Lost. The motorbike went away and we could not follow. The purse was gone and we were unable to retain it. so we ordered the rickshaw driver to take us to the police.

At the police station Lleah formed a complaint. We had to go to another police station to do this, in the same—evidently dangerous—rickshaw that we’d lost the purse on before. I was scared and clasped my own bag so closely to my chest. The next police station seemed “helpful” in inverted commas, but Lleah’s purse (passport, all her money, credit cards and iPhone) was irretrievable and she had nothing. The police did nothing and were quite intimidating. They gave us each a glass of water and tried to insist that we drank it. Now pure water here is poisonous so that was a pretty shifty gesture.

I was melting into patheticism, if I’m honest, by this moment. I gave Lleah some money and asked the police to get me a taxi to return to KHOJ, where I was staying. At first they did not want to get me a taxi and said I should use a rickshaw, this same rickshaw which had brought on the situation. I refused, and eventually a taxi was called. I got in and we drove off.

Before long it was evident that this bedraggled taxi driver did not know where we were going. Soon we were lost, in the middle of nowhere (after travelling at speed up the motorway). The taxi driver jabbered away in one of the multitude of languages apparent in India. He did not speak English. He stopped the car, left me alone in it, and wandered off to speak to a fat, bearded man who was sitting in an armchair outside his house. The driver eventually came back and we were off again. He turned around. Kept stopping and turning around. I became increasingly scared, and did not know what to do. I had no one’s telephone number and my phone wouldn’t seem to work anyway.

I shouted pigeon English at the driver and he shouted his Indian nonsense back at me. No sense. The Crisis and Unmaking of Sense. Then, suddenly, I recognised the street and so it was fine. I stopped the taxi. Refused to pay the extortionate fee he proposed, I paid a lesser fare, and walked to KHOJ. I found, then, that the door was locked and I couldn’t get in. I had no key. Shit. It was late by this point and of course I was on my own. All I could do was bang on the door and shout loudly, hoping someone was there who could let me in.

Someone did. And then I ate cereal and milk. I forget about water being poisonous and drank it neat from the tap. Fuck. Oh well, I was fine. Phew. What an adventure!

3. A more philosophical debrief of the symposium, and my own intervention

. . . So it’s bumpy now, because I’m on my way back home in a taxi to Delhi airport. I wend my way. Yesterday (the second day of the symposium, the day after the above adventure) was terrific. I showed my film and made my intervention. I was so brutally honest about my experiences because they could be applied critically to the overall trajectory of the symposium, which was: schizoanalysis and the making/unmaking of sense. 

In basic terms the symposium and exhibition presented artists and thinkers who demonstrated different ways of perceiving and reacting to the world, in response to a crisis that is both social and psychological. This concerns psychosocial trauma, the effects of genocide, the disappearance of lives from history, and the false rewriting or superimposition of a history that is fundamentally hegemonic, selective, exclusive and hierarchical.

The point we made at KHOJ was to show how stating a different truth to the one superimposed and falsely fixed by history can de-legitimise the structures of power who control it. This is agency. We cannot reverse genocide. We cannot prevent trauma. But we can build a rhizome of utterings, rememberings, representations, which secure our different identities and, collected, can provide healing and retaliation.

The symposium tried to install this agency through a schizoanalytic framework, one which dismantles the fixed, teleological, catastrophic logic of systems of power. We founded a way to state and respond to the pits of hell and torturous atrocities installed and advocated by these mutually destructive—whether totalitarian or capitalist—forms of power. Making art, thinking through making, and sharing what is made, resists and decentres. It provides healing. A rhyzome of possibilities.

My own part to play in the symposium was highly insignificant. I felt like an ignorant, spoilt child – from the West, where, although we are hyper-consumed and dictatorially controlled by capitalism, we know nothing of the atrocities suffered in other parts of the world (represented at the symposium). However, I have experienced my own atrocities. My own genocide, which fortunately I was able to free myself from. I make art. This provides a process of retaliation from my demons, a process of sense-making, and a process of healing. What I do with art can be applied to other situations, since it is not just individual, or confined to me. It is social.

I showed my ”Touché” film (viewable on my website, under ‘Painting Film’. Then I explained how I’d made it, and discussed how it showed a different perspective of the world, which consists of my hallucinatory visions. I developed this subjective narrative through a schizoanalytic appraisal and applied my thoughts to a critical as well as clinical register. Leon Tan, whose film (made with Virlani Rupini) was shown in the exhibition, asked me questions, and talked about his own work also. Together we discussed how art can promote healing in situations of psychosocial trauma, particularly using Deleuze and Guattari’s ideas about and their methodology of schizoanalysis.

Pooja Sood, who runs KHOJ, said she would have liked to have put my film in the main exhibition, and I had some great responses to it, both during the symposium and afterwards. I connected with several artists, who said that they also have visions. We began to discuss what larger intervention we could manifest together, as a result of the insight and openings uncreased and set free here, floating and yet grounded, beneath the soil and grains of dirt, spit and detritus, and growing reams of shoots and bulbs from the multiplicity of roots that spread across the many corners of the world. I mean, the symposium had a global audience. Participants came from all around the world. The world – its corners don’t trap or confine, we are set free by the agency of the frisky roots which take us to and from them, skipping through time zones, nations and boundaries, spreading hope and clasping hands with friends along the way.

By the end of the symposium I felt surrounded by these friends and so stimulated that the pores in my skin began to ooze with synaesthetic shivers. Hair-raising, but with the comfort and security of company by now, unlike the adventure of the previous night, I settled into this expanded sensorium.

After a rousing, celebratory booze up (or diet coke spritz, in my case)m we confirmed our vows of fraternity and agency. Pooja drove Navjot, Ana and I back and I went to bed. Tumbling thoughts and sensations pervaded the ends of my consciousness as I lay down to settle, safe and secure on the wooden bed. Hypnogogic visions mutated these cerebral happenings and soon my mind was wound with skipping images of hope, release and joy.

This is what I found in Delhi.

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Kinhin in Wollongong

This is a video I took using my iPhone whilst meandering along the beach in Wollongong, Australia, yesterday morning. There are no thoughts. Just a soft, rhythmic pull of the tide’s intrinsic motion. The sand sank and crumbled ‘neath my feet. The sea soaked them, pulling back the crunchy pink and beige crystals, leaving my toes wet, cool and salty. The salt in the sea tinged two of my toes (which had been rubbed raw with blisters from walking around all day in heels). This pungent pique–not quite pain, but sharp, stinging perception–disinfected them. There was a purity of touch in the euphonious fluctuation between the sea, the sand, and my feet. I tried (but failed) to walk in time to this.

I was here to do a performance at a conference called ‘Provocations’ in Wollongong. The subject matter pontificated here was provocative in a theoretical sense: sex, pornography, the volatility of normality, doing and undoing our bodies, vibrant and vibrating materialities, all sorts of genders, technologies and politics, class, narcissism and fat (my own as well as activists’), migration, nomadic rhizomes of thought (and action), pathological wound cultures, social and structural injustice, and the rest (which circulated like a drone around the delegates, arousing and questioning).

My own part of this Happening was to provoke in a literal sense, by performing in a TRANCE in front of these pontificating intellectuals. They raved about their Queer and queerer theories. Then I did my pseudo-dance. Not really dancing at all, but responding to my own heartbeat, enveloped by the rhythmic sound, I splodged around the foyer, quasi-elastically. Listening to my core, which was retching emotions of anger, fear, impatience, but also joy, shame, elation, I wrenched the corpuscular molecules of muscle and (mostly) fat that comprised my massive corpus, and moved across the floor and up and down the walls. Not particularly delicately. No where near grace.

And yet. Yes. There were moments of connection between myself and my body which fulfilled the said intentions I had proceeded with. Some of the voyeurs found it hard to articulate what they had seen. Others found it titillating. More still (at least) provocative.

Performance complete (see https://lornacollins.com/trance-⬇%EF%B8%8F-under/ for documentation), I relaxed and enjoyed the rest of my flying visit to Australia. At the conference, I was particularly impressed and stimulated by Erin Manning and Brian Massumi’s interventions with the Sense Lab. Erin and Brian are superstars in the world of creative theory and cultural studies. At the conference they elevated thought into play, by encouraging delegates to use their imagination and creativity to contribute their own interpretations of texts, problems or suggestions. I got going on this, particularly on the last day of the conference, and started delicately ripping up bits of cardboard (my intention being to make a fractal snowflake) and declaring suggestions and questions (written in fragments, printed on pieces of paper, flung around the room) to other participants. Hampered by an immediate and hypocritical restraint by a member of the Sense Lab, I retreated. A few minutes later, I played cat’s cradle with Erin, and elastics with someone else. At a serious conference this was novel. I wondered what kind of knowledge these activities were disseminating, what was the point (or telos), and without it, what was going on? We use these sorts of activities to teach Foundation art students at Cambridge Regional College. With much fun and games. Pure, unrestrained creativity. Except at Wollongong I was restrained, which spiked my sensitivity.

I had to leave to return to Sydney before this session was finished, so I did not see what happened. I wish I had done. I am a major fan of Erin and Brian’s work with the Sense Lab, and I wish I had the chance to really engage with their work, make things, critique them, and construct decisions that pertain to understand the world from a Sensual point of view.

On the way back to Blighty I had the fortune to stay with my brother Edward’s oldest friend, Sam, in Sydney. He took my to Bondi Beach for dinner, where I ate the most exquisite piece of salmon I have ever eaten. This morning we went to Manley to say hi to his parents and I fell in love with their gorgeous sausage dog Daphne. Now I’m at the airport waiting for my plane. I miss the horses and can’t wait to get back home.

My experience of studying Fine Art.

10402600_10152523585369646_9125558799362981656_nSo I came out of it, eventually, with a distinction and a job. These were my intentions, which I would never have been able to achieve had I not gone through the angst and judgement of the MA degree. This course was in some ways more difficult even than it had been to do a PhD at Cambridge University. Going to ‘the other side’ of town, no gown, at the polytechnic, you’d think it might be a doddle.
However, I had never studied art before. Roused only by passion and belief, it was quite a different thing to enter an education, at Masters level, with inadequate talent and experience (I came to see).

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the constant challenges that studying for a completely different kind of degree offered me. I grew in new, unforeseen dimensions. It was exciting to give birth to art that was my very own – new, nude, bizarre, deeply personal and totally experimental. I learned how to use new mediums, such as analogue film, installation and performance.

10563046_10152523587839646_4401918327498265016_nI went a long way away from the equine archetype of Stubbs, once a muse a lifetime ago. I also did things that were completely unexpected. What my parents would call ‘avant g’arde’. They would then say that they didn’t understand what it meant. Missing the point, but still having a point.

Since I did not actually do very well. And I come out of the degree feeling far less of an artist than I did going into it. This is because, I feel, once an artwork is assessed, criticised and judged, then graded, marked and given a percentage, this process of metric evaluation and the eternal damnation it puts down in black and white, then destroys the artwork (and the artist). It is no longer art once it has been judged and marked.

Gaining low marks on my initial works, which were voluptuous and massive paintings (throwing plaster on the walls) made me decide to give up painting. I still paint, as you can see, but only privately from now on. Ever since the lecturers demolished my paintings by marking them downwards.

Gaining low marks on my final work, which was the most personal and deeply meaningful piece I have ever made (and quite a triumphal achievement to be able to make it at all, I thought), made me angry. These marks, and the comments I received, also removed my right to call myself an artist. As one of the lecturers said to me (informally, and I paraphrase), ‘You’re an academic, not an artist.’ I left a wire showing in my installation. There were ‘tensions’ and ‘internal struggles’ evident. I did not do a good job.

10615507_10152523585564646_6371601993027902860_nBut I did do a good job. This work epitomised the triumphs I have achieved in my basic life. I am sorry that it is wrong to express these triumphs, and to find the meaning in my own story so important to tell. But it is still important, even if you don’t think it makes good art. What right do you have to say that anyway? Why does your subjective taste matter?

As you can see, I’m still a bit angry. But I still got a distinction anyway so I really should let that go now…… What have I learned from doing this degree? I have learned that I do not want to mark or judge art. I do not want to break students’ hearts by criticising what they produce. I do not think this is kind.

I went into the degree thinking that I wanted to teach in an art school. I come out, with a job in the school across the campus, Media and Film, realising that I am better equipped to teach people about art, rather than judging art itself. I am now teaching critical theory, film, philosophy, deep ideas and such. More like what I was studying for my MPhil and PhD. I’m really enjoying this. I also feel welcomed and valued, which is strange, but comforting.

10441037_10152523588189646_4801558377761047511_nI’m not saying that the MA Fine Art was bad, or that I wouldn’t advise people to do it themselves, it’s just that the greatest thing I learned during this course was its apparent demise: once an artwork is judged or marked or graded, it is no longer art. It becomes that mark or grade, and nothing else. This can destroy the artist, who then (in my case) destroys that art, which never made the grade.

In the end I did make the grade, and I got the job. But the process still destroyed my burning need to call myself an artist. I will always be an artist, privately. And not so privately, since I am doing a performance in Australia next week. But according to comments I received on my performance in the MA Fine Art degree, I’m not really an artist. I’m an academic.

It could be worse and it doesn’t really matter. I mean, it does matter of course, I’m always trying to work out who I am. I can never work it out. I guess, still, I’m schizoaffective. Rhyzomatic. Oh look! I’ve gone into concepts! How academic!!

The art is there too. And always will be. With the horses! So things are good.

Flashback

2014, 4.24mins 8mm film and VHS video transferred to DVD, and mixed media installation.

(PLATFORM, Cambridge School of Art MA Degree Show 2014. Ruskin Gallery, Anglia Ruskin University.)

Flashback is an impossible attempt to grasp hold of sudden, involuntary, slippery recollections, in order to secure and place the history and meaning of my life. My intention is for the viewer to experience multiple stimuli for their senses – in particular smell, and also touch – in a way that engenders the physicality of memory. The film shows different fragments of an arrested memory, as flashes of time jump out, dissolve, disintegrate and yet still appear, somewhat randomly. The resulting experience sparked by this installation conjoins elements of a life that has been so abruptly destroyed, and beautifully restored, by my relationship with horses.

This work is my final major project for the MA Fine Art I am studying for at the Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University. The exhibition runs from September 4-11. The private view is on Thursday the 4th, at 7pm.

I want to use Flashback to celebrate the meaning and purpose of my life, which I have re-found as a consequence of my recent reconnection with the horses who so inspire me. Creating this work has involved returning to the farm where I grew up, consistently, and entering into the same way of life I had before my head injury over 14 years ago. For the first time since this terrible (and yet wonderful, eventually) accident I can now call myself healthy and fully alive. With my family, and the horses. Who are my family. This transition occurs because when I ride I feel connected to my whole sense of being. Different, fragmented parts of my life reconnect and realign until there is a pure consistency and equilibrium between them. Between myself and my horse. We dance together. Suddenly the world makes sense — and here is who I am.

I hope to express a piecemeal snippet of my renaissance in this artwork. I invite you to walk into the exhibition space and engage with all your sense organs, to capture the physical imprint (and recapturing) of memory, of truth, that leads from my relationship with horses. I share this with you.

Planning my Major Project (MA Fine Art)

IMG_3595Masters Project: Art & Design. PROPOSAL.

Lorna Collins Comeback’

SYNOPSIS

This work is about the physicality and ungraspability of memory, which has roots in something very physical, material, and tactile. I project a cacophony of sounds and images in the exhibition space, as flashes of data that stimulate and form the content of sudden, involuntary recollections. Comeback is an impossible attempt to grasp hold of these recollections, in order to secure and place the history and meaning of my life.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

I respond to having total amnesia as a result of a chronic head injury 14 years ago, after falling off a horse. I lost all memories of my previous life, and also – to some degree – the capacity to remember (as elements from my personal history, even after the accident, continued to dissolve). But now, 14 years later, I suddenly experience a multitude of vivid memories. I feel whole again. This happened as a result of returning to the horses, after so many broken years apart from them. The physicality of my new, instantaneous, spontaneous, refound bond with the horses triggers memory involuntarily. Suddenly I relive the past. I make a comeback. This exhibition space thence becomes a space for the decollage of flashing memories that reshape and nourish my mind. Analogue filmic images and sounds flicker in random succession. These audio and visual flashbacks are objective, tactile fragments of gorgeous memories about a blissful youth, with the horses on a farm in the countryside.

This installation exposes how my refound relationship with the horses suddenly and surprisingly triggers memory. Sounds and images re-emerge in my mind, of horses’ hooves, the chickens clucking, the opening of rusty gates, the laughter of youth and success. These sounds are rich with associations and develop new meanings and vigour with their new entry into my life. This is what I project, intermittent with flashing images (like broken dreams) to create a spatialising of time lost and regained. This is a Deleuzian time-image, which contains an auric aspect that bears the shock of self-recognition, self-realisation, of returning home, when I suddenly remember who I am.

This trajectory involves Walter Benjamin’s work on aura and the photograph, where he talks about ‘physical memory’, or the shocking moment, a flash, which kickstarts a memory. The shock is about something being made visible again. This is like me – as soon as I get on the horse life slips back into place. I have flashing memories. Benjamin uses Proust – where the taste of Madeleine cake sparks off the memory of things past. This is involuntary memory as well as spontaneous recollection.

Memory spatialises time. My exhibition of flashbacks then curates time. This is space-bound time. The point of my show is to create a lexicon to secure and make sense of what has eluded me for 14 years. In this respect I am influenced by arte povera artist Yannis Kounnellis’s using horses as objects, where history is played out in a performance, like Beuys.

I will use recorded sounds that are evocative of memory, that speak to and from my soul. My installation will comprise of spatial zones that have sound. Influenced by Christina Kubisch, I want my art to speak the sonic landscape that I have been away from for so long. Sound-bites will hover around irregular, rushing visual cues. Together the audio-visual data presents an elastic stimulus for recollection.

Walking into the installation, the viewer perceives how my memories have become spatialised, and held, in time. The impossibility of this procedure (since memories are so elusive and ungraspable, like time itself) is reflected in the cacophonic and random projection of multiple stimuli (just like the involuntary shock and cacaphonic randomness of my sudden memories). What brings the work together, to create a unifying (rather than disperate) aesthetic experience, is the joy of fate (which has returned my life to me) and the materiality, physicality and tactility of memories – from the horses – which make me feel so alive.

I envisage curating a medium-sized section of a studio (3x3x3m) which has 3 or 4 sides. It would be a room with three walls and an open entrance (with a piece of material covering it), or, ideally, it would have four enclosed walls so the flashes of sound and images are contained as a narrative within the space, which the viewer enters and moves around. I would use 2 or 3 projectors and several speakers. I would place objects and touchy-feely materials (a horse shoe, horse hair colleted stamps, jute, soda crystalls, baby oil, abstract tactile images painted) randomly on the walls (arte povera/Beuys). The sounds are the same as those which my mother played to me when I was in a coma – of the farm, waking up. It took a long time for me to wake up. But now I have. I want to treasure this moment forever. The horses pay a large part in my new state of mind. This is why my Major Project has its base and drive from their connection with me. Such a profound connection will be expressed in a public performance.

KEY RESEARCH SOURCES (please give an outline of key bibliographic sources, and references to outside agencies where appropriate)

Proust À la rechèrche du temps perdû

Benjamin on Proust, Baudelaire and aura

Miriam Bratu Hansen (Benjamin’s aura)

Christina Kubisch (sound)

Monty Roberts ‘The Horse Whisperer’

Arte povera

Joseph Beuys

PRACTICAL RESOURCES REQUIRED

To spend time with the horses – to continue to trigger memories, begin and develop our performance.

To delve into the archives of my personal history, as recorded in at least 5-600 journals, diaries, albums, records, letters and sketchbooks, which are in the vaults at the farm where I grew up.

Experimenting with making sound and visual projections, and different objects and materials in the exhibition space.

Horses

IMG_3368Life has strife and grief beneath
its sheath of growth and teeth of both
an oath for truth and trembling youth
that calls my path to alter.

A sleuth would start to falter:
I bolted from the halter
revolting jolts with stilted faults
when wilting vaults cast out The Stranger.
 
Danger changed my manger.
Arranged until deranged,
estranged, exchanged
a different wager.
 
I disappeared. Steering clear
appearing near
a weary jeered asylum,
sheared there and smeared with shame.
 
Weird for years, drowned in tears,
commandeered by fears,
I veered through guards
who charred and scarred my soul.
 
And yet I persevered.
Walking out one day
the rays reclaimed my fate.
A weight of hate was lifted.
 
I shifted when the horses
began to breathe a-near me.
Rearing love and light
a state of righteous passage.
 
They heal the damage
salvaging a voyage
where flashbacks are not torturous
but fortunate, nurturing, opening.
 
I grope for this connection
and feel it through the reins.
His scope gives hope, we cope
and reap, leaping to the sunrise.
 
I have the bug.
I will plug on and on.
The drug that tags my soul says time
is mine when e’er I ride.
 
The horses are my company,
accepting my incumbency
professional redundancy
and need to call them home.
 
I’ve grown. They will support me,
thoughtfully they’ve taught me
a sport that ought to hold me.
Boldly we go forward.
 
Sold to them I pledge my core
to wedge the raw and inner score,
with more and more attention.
Back now in contention.

			

Synaesthetic exercise

The high that flies amidst the cries IMG_0219 copy
belies blue dried detention.
I wretch and reach the mention.
The sty my eye has tried to dye
complies with stench of tension.

The nerves before the soaring score
reserved the floor's attention.
I tore apart the heart of gore
with and more prevention.
Pouring prayers to anti-God

the fodder was retention
staring from detention
an even store's ascension.
Soon my time's pretension
could grime the theme's prevention.

At last my wry with tied up prey
could stay and stall contention.
The fray of grey and grovelling hay
(my own and putrid venture)
was quenching thirst

and clenching (worst)
the first and final denture.
I mention this since, trenched with bliss,
it hangs my whole adventure.
The star was spent but won't relent

and calls my better scent to vent,
ferment, augment,
prevent torment,
inventing new retentions, 
with multiple dimensions.

Viva the yoga pulse!

The pulse of prāṇāyāma was a magical experience. Lots of people came and participated in both studios – the hot space for the yoga practice, and also the meditative space. The soundtrack of my heartbeat was momentous. I shall describe the whole day.

Firstly I went to Sainsburies to buy about 20 bags of fruit and 4 huge cartons of juice for participants to eat and drink. It was extremely heavy to carry 6 full shopping bags to the yoga centre. A workout! I put it in the kitchen and then took class. My organisation and setting up for the event did not begin until 3.30 so there was time for me to print out the press release and try to make myself look more presentable.

At 3.30pm precisely Theo and I began to set up the yoga studio. My big posters were placed on the doors of the building, outside the studio. I washed and prepared the fruit and juice. Theo fixed the technology for playing the sound in both studios so that they could both run at exactly the same time. I would press play when the people practicing had finished pranayama breathing, and the sound would be heard simultaneously in all areas of the yoga centre. I cleaned windows, we set up the space, and did odd jobs (not so odd, but normal setting up activities).

Then at 5.30pm people started to arrive. My friend Julia Johnson, our professional photographer for today, was one of the first, and she got out her camera and did some test shots. Soon the yoga practitioners turned up and prepared to start the class. Several people had never done Bikram yoga before. They wanted to come and practice because they were interested in my artwork. It was great that my art was attracting new people to the yoga centre, and I felt thrilled that they wanted to experience The pulse of prāṇāyāma. There were lots of familiar faces, also. Lots of friends rallying around to support my work. I was very grateful.

Then, at 6pm, we started. I went into the hot room and gave a short, spur-of-the-moment talk to introduce my project. Then Theo began to lead the practice. Meanwhile several people had entered the other studio and lied down on the mats and bolsters. They put eye pillows on and sank into the floor. I explained that the sound would not be played immediately because we had to wait until the yogis had finished the preliminary exercise of prāṇāyāma breathing.

Then it was time to start the sound. I pressed play. Boom boom boom! The sound kicked in. It was momentous, vigorous, powerful and compelling. I think I can say that, can’t I? I was ‘in charge’, so to speak, outside of both of the studios. People kept on arriving. Julia’s family came. So did my old doctor, the one who diagnosed me by analyzing my paintings. It was such a pleasure to see him and show him my work. I felt proud. He was thrilled to see me looking so well and it was amazing to be able to talk to him as a healthy woman, as an equal, rather than a sick and disabled patient.

People in the meditative space lay down and most seemed to fall asleep – fully absorbed by the artwork. This was exactly what I had hoped would happen. The hot space was viewable because we had left the glass door open. It was amazing to watch people practicing Bikram yoga – I have done it so many times but never watched it before. They practiced the same routine as normal, but with the soundtrack of my heartbeat. Their practice, and the oscillation of their own heartbeat, echoed the sound they were hearing. Sweat poured down their lithe bodies. It was so dramatic and powerful to see this happen.

Other people arrived. Julia took some amazing photographs. Time dissolved. Soon the end of the recording came upon us. I could not wait to hear the practitioners’ comments on their experience. They walked out of the hot studio with sweat pouring off their bodies, red cheeks, bright eyes and wet hair. Beaming.

I went to the kitchen to get some more juice and water. Then I spoke to people and was overjoyed at their reactions to The pulse of prāṇāyāma. Everyone thanked me. They thanked me for the experience I had set up and initiated. They thanked me for my artwork. They thanked me for my initiative, persistence and for what I had made and produced. Thanking me. That would not happen in a gallery. People don’t really thank artists for the experience that their art gives them, generally. This was a new kind of art. And a new kind of aesthetic experience.

The overall opinion was extremely appreciative and interested. This was a participatory kind of art. People had to contort their bodies and enter my installation. They themselves made it a performance – in both spaces. The resulting performance-installation was a collaboration – between me, Theo and Jennifer (in organizing it and putting it on at the yoga centre), and also between me and all of the people who experienced it and helped to make it happen by participating last night.

Some of the people who came out of the hot room were totally zoned out. They said they were overwhelmed and it had been such a powerful experience. They said they needed time to absorb it. There were things to say, but they couldn’t put them to words yet. Not whilst their hearts were still pounding as a result of the extreme physical workout, and their minds were still pounding as a result of the extreme ontological workout that The pulse of prāṇāyāma had initiated and nourished inside them.

Theo, in particular, said he was overwhelmed by his practice. He had lead the whole class – changing posture at the appropriate time (which I had worked out and written down for him. He also had a stopwatch so he knew when each posture ended and began). People were copying him. He said he needed a few days to decompress and respond to this transformative experience. It had been the most powerful session of Bikram yoga he had ever done, he said. I was extremely touched by this reaction to my art.

My friend Andrew also practiced the yoga. He also said that he had had a transformative experience. Taking the class with my heartbeat had made him think about life and existence. Several other people said that it had been a very moving active performance. They felt enlivened and touched by this participatory, extreme form of art.

My tutor from Anglia Ruskin, Veronique, came. She was a critic, assessing the exhibition for a module I am doing as part of my MA. She also seemed game to experience the art in itself, besides marking it, since she lay down in the meditative space for a long time and really immersed herself into the work. She also stayed to hear people’s reactions from the hot room, and wrote a lovely long comment in my comments book. I was grateful for her effort to come and experience my work, and I hope that she thinks that it was a successful site-specific exhibition. I hope I get a good mark.

But, besides and way beyond that, it was a successful event because everyone engaged with the installation-performance and came out of it with fascinating comments about their experiences whilst participating with it – in both of the 2 spaces. These experiences ranged from sinking into the vibrating floorboards and falling asleep, to meditating about existence, to feeling their own heartbeats follow, echo or differ from the recording.

Zeynep suggested I play it at other places. I should contact the yoga studios in London – perhaps Michelle at Fierce Grace? There is life for my heartbeat beyond its première at ETHOS. This is exciting. I certainly intend to engage with the same theme and technology for my MA major project at Anglia Ruskin.

I left a comment book on the table. After people had dried off and had a drink, they wrote down their thoughts in this book. We spent a while socializing in the studio. This was a dreamy time. I wasn’t tired, just absorbing the few remaining minutes of this wonderful event. I had an amazing time collaborating with the people who run the yoga studio. It was very different to showing work at a gallery. There were different concerns to deal with about organization – setting up the hot room for the yoga class, setting up the meditative space for the other part of the exhibition, and working out all the technology for playing the recording.

My audience – I mean, the participants – were mostly yogi-fanatics. But there were also some people who practiced in the hot room that have never done yoga before, and others who came to purely engage with the meditation. Participants were open-minded about considering their practice at this event as a work of art in itself. They appreciated my heartbeat as an installation artwork in itself, and they saw themselves as collaborating with this installation whilst they were performing in tandem with it. The consequent performance-installation was powerful and – for some – overwhelming.

There is much more to debrief, decompress, and take from The pulse of prāṇāyāma. It was a dream realized and made true. My truth. My heartbeat. As I said to the participants in my spur-of-the-moment one minute speech before it began, my aim as an artist is to ‘Seize hold of life’. This is a quote from Gilles Deleuze, whose Logic of Sensation guides my academic opus. I want to seize hold of life, but it is ever impossible to capture and will always run away, ahead of me. My art tries to express and sustain some part of this futural duration, so that I do not lose any further part of my existence. This aim comes from the time when I had total amnesia (after a chronic head injury and brain damage, from which I am now fully recovered) and lost everything. I’m trying to grasp hold of life so this never happens again. I realize that it is not possible to capture the essence (or any part) of existence. I can’t tie it down. Hopefully they won’t tie me down again. Let’s not tie anything down! But to express and sustain the glorious qualities the life presents, in its dazzling, synaesthetic beauty, is the point of being alive.

The pulse of prāṇāyāma is a recording of my heartbeat. I have it set. I can play it again. I will show it again. This does not tie down my heartbeat (so it can still keep on beating), but it means that a part of me has been chronicled and will remain beyond the singular event of this recording being played.

It presents, in part, something very personal – the noise of the motor that pumps my blood and feeds my organism. Turning this noise into a performance-installation has enabled me to express the rhythm and drive of my being. It is a tactile sound that beckons participants’ own hearts to correspond, until there is an equilibrium as everyone’s hearts beat together, in time to the exertive heat and exercise of Bikram yoga.

I should now criticize my exhibition. The meditative space was a bit cold. I should have bought more strawberries, and not so many tangerines.

But it is perhaps more useful to think about what I can do next with this artwork, and how will it influence my future works? I plan to record other sounds of the body, at rest, and in other forms of hot yoga (Fierce Grace, perhaps). I will contact other yoga studios in London and discuss the idea of taking The pulse of prāṇāyāma on tour and making other works around the same theme.For my MA Fine Art at Anglia Ruskin, I’m going to focus on the tactile quality of sound and make an installation which provides a tactile rather than purely sonic sensual experience. Sound that touches. This idea stems from the tactile hallucinations that I once experienced as a result of my brain injury. I want to reinterpret these psychotic incidents in a different light: reconstructive as opposed to destructive; nourishing and sublime, rather than punitive and desperate. I want to advocate an opportunity for touch that brings healing, new life and care. I hope to do this by engaging with recordings from the sound of my body functioning, and playing them at a low level bass, until they become tactile rather than purely auditory. These sounds touch the viewer, who enters and feels cocooned, held, softly hugged by this experience.

It would be great to show you the wonderful photographs that Julia Johnson took of the event. But I can’t yet — I’m waiting for permission from ETHOS. Here’s one of me, looking so content to have made art that touches people (one of my life aims):

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The Pulse of Prāṇāyāma

Pulse Poster

 

Those who wish to practice will need to pay a nominal fee of a regular drop-in class at £15 (or free for ETHOS members):
http://goo.gl/Bm1xRT

The exhibition in the other studio is free for all but pre-booking by Thursday 8th May is required to provision for drinks and nibbles:
http://goo.gl/s5e0Gx

 

 

The pulse of prāṇāyāma

LPC posterHere is the plan:

Prāṇāyāma is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the life force”. The pulse of prāṇāyāma is a performance-installation artwork which intends to capture this life force. It takes place in the hot room at the renowned ETHOS Hot Yoga Sports Studios in central Cambridge. The soundtrack of the installation is a recording of artist Lorna Collins’s heartbeat pounding with a constantly changing speed and volume, obtained from her own performance of practicing Bikram yoga. As each posture changes, so does the velocity and pitch of the heartbeat. The narrative of the whole recording follows the 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises of Bikram yoga.

Mats are laid out in the studio. Participants can practice yoga during the installation, knowing when to change pose by following the change in tempo or volume of the heartbeat in the recording. The lights in the studio will change colour as each posture ends and the next one starts. Participants who do not wish to practice can still have an equally powerful experience, amplified in the heat of the room, by sinking into the mats and allowing their own heartbeat to synchronise with the recording. They have a beautiful chance to pause, lie down and absorb the vibrating force of the heartbeat. All participants then together create a very new kind of installation art, as the performance happens.

This performance-installation is a provocative piece of sound art. At times the noises on the recording of the heartbeat jar and are unrecognisable. Sometimes we hear Collins groan, as she pushes her body to the limit. The sound of (‘pranayama’) breathing in the beginning involves a warbling, as Collins sucks the air in and out of her throat. These sounds are strange and compelling. And then the heartbeat kicks in. It bangs on and on as the artist strains towards each posture, becoming so loud that it sounds as though the speakers are being spanked. This continues, and changes as she recovers and the postures advance. By the end the heartbeat has returned to its normal, steady rate. The whole piece is then a symphony, with 26 acts.

Making the link between hot yoga and performance art is an aesthetic innovation, whilst it confirms and advocates the medical benefits of practicing yoga and the meditative benefits of using this practice to make art. The recording could also be utilized to provide evidence of the cardiovascular benefits of Bikram yoga practice. This work also breaks new curatorial ground since it becomes an interactive installation which opens a new space for participants to feel their own bodies, whilst becoming saturated by the sound, rhythm and vibration of this artwork. Participants meet on the pulsating plane of prāṇāyāma that trembles and yet grasps us in this artwork – as the ineffable but here made sensual force of life.