Joanna Gore- A Life Story of Labels
0-19 “Working class, hillbilly, poor, stupid, child, girl, market trader’s daughter, outsider, wrong-speaking, younger sibling, outcast, black sheep, weirdo”
20-35 “Single parent, thick, piss artist, mad, woman, drug and alcohol abuser, diseased, parent of potential criminal”
25-now Still most of above plus “Community/activist artist”, academic, author, manager, BA, Msc, PhD Doctor
The above ‘Life Story of Labels’ are the initial impetus for my pursuit of an art practice that challenges imposed restrictive categories and therefore affects personal perceptions and thus social change
Art can change people’s perceptions of identity. Change in personal perception is infectious and affects the way people see themselves and each other. Personal transformation is a political tool which the ‘marginalised’ or ‘in-valid’ can use as a form of resistance – a sheep in wolf’s clothing.
My art practice transcends the restrictive boundaries of specific media or a mono-discipline, instead integrating many media (often ‘play’) and methodologies, drawing on life experience and a background in the arts, anthropology and cultural studies.
My practice is similar to what has been described as ‘New Genre’ Public Art. I have political and social transformation as my intention and collaborate with people in subordinate positions to playfully challenge hierarchical constructs, oppressive environments and unequal power relations.
My art practice is based upon the findings of my PhD research that seeks to understand the effect that a political artist can have working within institutions. I term the model of practice I use as the ‘Validation Model’ because it attempts to undo the invalidation of people that takes place when they enter institutional settings, specifically when they enter prescribed social relations within institutionally defined categories. `In-valid’ positions that I analysed were ‘mad’ and ‘pupil/child’, however ‘in-valid’ subjects exist within all institutional, social and political systems.
Arts practice can expose, neutralise and undo these categories, thus ‘validating’ the in-valid person by the deconstruction of ‘positive’ categories. Those people within them, the ‘in-valid’, then become valid by default, firstly through being enabled to see themselves as ‘valid’ without any change to their way of being and secondly by exposing this to others via ‘exhibition’ to widen or deconstruct their perceptions of ‘normalcy’.
I find that art can change people’s perceptions of their own and other’s identity, and so re-identify them as valid in their own or others’ eyes. This happens through a process of micro-historical constitution, that is, transformation that happens over time through all aspects of being. Change in personal perception then ripples through the immediate population distributed through a kind of inter-subjective osmosis. The ‘personal being political’ means that ‘exhibition’ (in any sense) of this change has profound social consequences. Social transformation takes place through the transformation of personal perceptions, and so enabling the ‘marginalised’/’invalid’ to be more active agents in taking charge of their circumstances and in wider social and political change.
Examples of collaborative works and model in practice:
Its All Greek to Me – performance collaboration in a museum with a Greek man and an English child turning upside down the notions of education and colonialism.
Mind Conference – During the Mind conference I worked with staff to ‘reframe normalcy’ by taking photographs that broke the rules of conventional framing. Facilitated collaborative painting using each other as a painting canvas’ and reversed the roles of ‘patient’/ ‘staff’ member through role play.
Refugees /Glimpses project – Turn an educational project designed to educate refugees into an educational project for staff to learn from the refugees.
Challenging the mistreatment and inequality of people labelled ‘mentally ill’ due to institutional and societal notions of ‘mental illness’.
Clare (sectioned ‘patient’) uses the ‘art project’ to invade the offices, film and question the staff. She also films the artist’s home exposing the difference in wealth, living conditions and lifestyle.
Brian (sectioned ‘patient’) exhibits photographs and analyses’ himself on clipboards and calls himself Dr Park.
Caron (sectioned ‘patient’) films the distribution of drugs, inside the acute ward and the various escape routes. ‘Look at this evil woman she’s giving me poison’-patient ‘joking’ about receiving his drugs.
Comments box – Patients voice their opinions and objections about mental health/illness and ‘stereotypes’ in a public comments box situated in the foyer of the acute ward.
Karaoke events –
Patients adapt conventional ideas of performance/ karaoke and ‘encourage’ staff to join them.
Mia (sectioned mental patient) sang to an audience in Trafalgar square.
Changing/owning space – Dancing, singing, dressing up, making up lyrics and rapping in the hospital living room –often with staff joining in with help from the clients.
Work with young people:
Challenging the mistreatment of young people based on their young age and their political status as unequal ‘child’.
Kidspace –Large scale project encompassing ‘children’s’ photographs of home and school life and a video of interviews by and of children voicing opinions of their unequal status and/or lack of rights in school and at home. Culminated in a large-scale exhibition showing an overview of childhood by these ‘children’ and adult artists working on the theme of childhood.
Adults and other problems – video by young people comparing adulthood and childhood through play and role play.
School – creating chaos in a school environment, breaking rules and taking charge. Exhibiting opinions via art and text set into resin toilet seats etc.
All images © 2011 Joanna Gore. All rights reserved.