From a series of collaborations exploring ideas of identity; how we are perceived, how we perceive ourselves and how we might confuse or subvert expectations . This image was made with costume designer Pam Tait in response to the idea that with ageing we are expected to become invisible. Earlier posts show further collaborations
I was recently invited to ‘do a creative activity’ with some nursing home residents who were living with dementia
On my way to the resident’s lounge I can see piles of sad-looking floral arrangements in the conservatory. The previous day these had decorated tables for a wake, now they are ready for disposal. Many of the leaves are wilting but the majority of blooms are still good, I ask if we can use them for our activity.
We spread the flowers and foliage on a large table in the centre of the lounge. Jars and vases are discovered, residents who were not going to join us are fascinated by the preparations and help to lay out the ingredients. When we have everything necessary we sit ourselves around the table. We pick up stems that interest us, examine them, try different combinations, some of the arrangements go into vases, others stay on the table for reconfiguration.
We become a performance, there are periods of intense concentration, the quiet atmosphere encourages people to speak when they feel like it – the flowers bring out knowledge and long-forgotten memories. We consider the blooms, feeling their texture, smell their perfumes and we listen to each others offerings of gardening knowledge, poetry and stories of all sorts. A blind resident identifies many more of the specimens than the rest of us and someone recites beautiful snatches of Shakespeare.
As nursing home staff and visitors stop by to watch, listen and join in, the line between audience and performer is blurred.
Continuing the “camouflage” series, these images were created with artist Rosa Eaton
We seek protection: from the elements, from each other, from the world. How we manage this depends on our psychological and material resources – we usually feel they are inadequate. These images are from a series called ‘protective devices’ made with the performer John Callaghan
‘wigs’ and ‘beards’ – an inevitable theme in the ‘disguise’ series. It was only after I published the first images that I realised that this is reprising a project that I was involved with several years ago with artist Joanne Wardrop
false facial hair for women – a video-piece inspired by some wispy straw sideburns exhibited in the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford accompanied by this label
These symbols of manhood were worn by the (Angolan) bride for a short time after the wedding ceremony before moving into her husband’s home
During the project, archive footage came to light, revealing that the hair pieces were used in a performance that could be understood as an extended ‘hen party’.
how we see ourselves, how others see us, how we might change that.
masks help us to blend in with the crowd, sometimes our efforts are laughable, sometimes that’s the point. Workshops with young people explored this idea, exaggerating the common tropes of wigs, beards and glasses to enjoy the possibilities of trying out alternative identities.