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Flowers hidden

Flowers, frivolous and opaque,
Hide themselves like a bicycle bell.
They, like many,
Cannot control other’s admiration,
Their assumption,
How they dilute the image of you in their minds,
And try to print you like a pattern,
Like wallpaper.
But flowers are not wallpaper,
They are seeds,
That crushed can nourish,
That wild can overtake,
That allowed to can be the whole damn system,
Every cog,
And every beauty in between.


Amy originally studied Archaeology and has a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she comes from, and currently works as a Digital Content Assistant for the charity BookTrust. She loves to travel and to write, and has recently started a blog to share her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also currently trying to learn Italian.
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Anita's Digest Blog Projects

A Flower Manifesto

The reputation of the ‘flower’ precedes the thing itself, yet it has few synonyms in the English language. Perhaps the flower’s popularity doesn’t necessarily denote a multifaceted understanding of it. Flowers are ubiquitous, mythologised on the one end as symbols of misbehaving women during the witchcraft trials and imagery for love and hate in fairy tales, and on the other end classified by the Victorian practice of Floriography and through the science of botany.

Yet, from the flower children of 1960’s America to women holding peonies as feminist protest in present-day Mexico, flowers have shown their potential as more than apolitical figurines. Beyond the pen, the courtroom or the computer, the flower retains a ‘usefulness’ as a social symbol, as a form of non-verbal communication, or as a way of questioning what being ‘useful’ is through its connection to rest, thoughtfulness, and playful environments. By launching a ‘flower festival’ through Assemblage, we can think playfully about the flower as a visual medium for reimagining social change.

To think of a flower manifesto might be to explore aims and objectives in a different way, to approach a manifesto as a constellation of poetry, collage, creative writing, and as a digital space assembled from a central floral focal point.

To prepare for the Flower Festival launch, Assemblage headed down to member Elena’s Whitechapel art studio to discuss flower manifestos as a way of collecting ideas about what we might want the festival to look and feel like.

We first went around the group and collected a floral stream of consciousness, asking ‘what comes to mind when you think of a flower?’. The theme precipitated answers of such a range that it felt like we were developing a collective flora. Members had strong personal associations to plant life, discussing buttercups and childhood, the gentle disappointment of receiving flowers, and decorating their kitchens with blooming vases. Ideas dropped petal-like onto the page, with conversations about preserving flowers, resin, and plastics departments, to debates about the temporariness of flowers, flowers in protest, and flowers as resource or medicine.

Notes & doodles from the meeting by member Hannah Ladmore

We collected these flower themes and came up with our own flower manifestos, thinking about what we might want represented through the festival. Our manifestos materialised into a collaborative zine, each page filled with collage, ink, and mark-making, creating a mood-board garden. Contained within the pages were libraries in bloom, evergreen vines growing out of technicolour dots, DIY lyrics overlapping hydrangea.

We hope to reimagine the flower as it stands today, helping us to consider the multiple branches of what a floral future might mean. Our flower manifesto is moving and growing and will be shaped by the events and artworks that develop in the next two months.

Keep up to date through Assemblage’s Instagram for info on upcoming activities, including a ‘flowers and feminism’ poetry workshop, a ‘this will get you lost’ flower tour, creative writing and design, and lots more. And of course, daisy stickers!


Anita is a freelance journalist and writer with a background in Sociology and Gender Studies. She loves scribbling poems, writing articles about society and culture and drinking endless amounts of coffee!

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Anita's Digest Blog Projects

Everyday superpowers

Members Luisa & Hannah come to (fake!) blows.

A superhero- singular, ‘a fictional hero having extraordinary or superhuman powers’. We tend to imagine superheroes as typically lonesome, cape billowing in the wind, eyebrows arched in a pensive state. We don’t see the power of invisibility that is held by the endless groups of people caring for the ‘hero’, such as the foster family, the friends that embrace their ‘outsider’ position, the community making it possible for them to act ‘heroically’. 

A similar notion characterises the ever-elusive ‘artist’, either completely out of view or totally centre stage, the concept of the extraordinary artist and their muse denies the existence of a creative community making ‘art’ possible. It denies the caring, learning, and teaching that happens collectively, giving way to a cycle of ideas. 

Through an Easter Sunday spent at the Foundling Museum’s ‘Superheroes, Orphans & Origins: 125 years in comics’ exhibition, followed by a themed workshop, Assemblage Youth Collective spent the day distilling the assumptions around what the term ‘superhero’ means. The Foundling Museum’s history as a hospital for the care of abandoned children, founded by Thomas Coram in 1739, set the perfect stage for an exhibition around care identity and comic book hero histories, the exhibition focusing on how orphans, adoptees and foster children are depicted within comics and graphic art. 

The exhibition room itself felt like stepping into the pages of a comic book: plush with baby pink polka dots, strawberry red and electric blue walls. The display held vintage comics, contemporary pieces specifically commissioned, and graphic art from all over the world. Personally, I was struck by the originality of contemporary artist Bex Glendining’s piece, Begin Again, a digital illustration designed specifically for the exhibition, exploring themes of growth and emotion in new environments. The mesmerizingly vivid blocks within the piece could be read in any order, playing with the idea of sequential art and questioning how we order time and space. This mirrored the Foundling Museum’s approach to the conversation around care, where they replace the term ‘care-leaver’ in the descriptions with ‘care-experienced’ and ‘care identity’, expanding ‘care’ out to include different spaces beyond the foster home.

Justin’s superhero symbol

Reactions to the exhibition informed the creative work that followed. Assemblage founder Tasch led a workshop centred on designing and crafting our own superhero symbols, playing with the concept of superpowers. A member of the collective, Justin, considered how powers could move beyond the visual: ‘one of the things I took away from the pieces on display was that power can be much more internal and metaphorical as well – it’s resilience, it’s accepting change, it’s staying focused, and all of that. I took the basic motif of a wing/wave shape to symbolise that ability to ride out changes’. 

Hannah’s superhero symbol

Other members thought about how the illustrations on display distilled classic depictions of a hero, and of a foster child. Hannah took inspiration from Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom’s drawings, that ‘focused on ‘the harsh othering that can and often does occur as a result of being an adopted child’ and ‘her use of muted, selective colours, and the textural quality of her pieces that looked almost tea-stained’. Hannah’s symbol played with conventional notions of femininity, merging bright pinks with geometric shapes to capture ‘the endless realm and range of what a woman looks like and can achieve’. 

Tasch’s symbol

Tasch drew ideas from Lars Horneman’s illustrations of warrior queen Zenobia, impressed by how the comic ‘combined traditional feminine and masculine emblems to constitute a sense of power, breaking with more classic representations of superheroes and superpowers’. 

During the workshop, I led a brief talk about how poetry writing could help inform our symbol-making. Poetry is how I care for myself and expressing feelings and observations through creative writing helped us to expand out our symbols beyond the visual, thinking about how we might symbolise our identity through sound and smell, noticing how it has changed and been informed by others. 

As I made my own notes for my symbol, I wrote, ‘writing is drawing’, as I felt the bends of the letters grate against cardboard, my illegible handwriting resembling squiggles more than words, prompting my own technicolour symbol to express how what may seem directionless can fulfil an emotional or creative purpose. The exhibition itself is based on an original work commissioned by the museum in 2014, where care-experienced poet Lemn Sissay made a poem that is sprawled over the museum’s walls entitled ‘Superman was a Foundling’. 

The idea of being found, instead of being made or being new, sits at the heart of the Museum’s themes and Assemblage’s workshop. Member Josh captured this through his fascination with the characters in Taiyō Matsumoto’s illustrations in the Manga series Tekkonkinkreet, who wear clothes made from found materials, emphasising how we can re-use objects and surroundings to create new identities. Similarly, member Amy’s symbol played with the recycling logo, expressing how creativity and identity exist as ongoing processes.

We continued re-imagining superhero and superpower tropes in the reflection portion of the session. Usually, evaluations after workshops can feel quite clinical, but by discussing the session in real-time, the participants created a comfortable space to share thoughts and feelings. Luisa explained how her drawing of tear drops symbolised her connection to her own vulnerability and how she cares for her friends, and Tasch drew inspiration from the raindrops in her emblem to consider how judgements and moods, like the weather, can change and flow. 

As the sunshine warmed our journey home, we were left thinking about the ‘everyday superpowers’ that mark our identities, and how care becomes an ongoing and collective experience. 


Anita is a freelance journalist and writer with a background in Sociology and Gender Studies. She loves scribbling poems, writing articles about society and culture and drinking endless amounts of coffee!
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Blog

Begin Again

Begin again,
Go home,
Do not pass Go,
Do not collect £200.
Don’t leave a note,
Await orders,
For the next time,
For the last time?
No, settle in,
Make roots,
Don’t look back,
There is nothing to look for,
You might not like what you find.
Only forward matters,
Look to the horizon,
The city you protect,
Backwards always falls through.
The mask is warm,
It has no past,
No name.
The mask is yours,
The mask doesn’t wonder,
About before,
Or about after.
Be alone in the moment,
Untouched, unmoored.
Then, now, later.
Wonder, wander,
Wonder, wander,
Begin again.


Amy originally studied Archaeology and has a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she comes from, and currently works as a Digital Content Assistant for the charity BookTrust. She loves to travel and to write, and has recently started a blog to share her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also currently trying to learn Italian.
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Blog

Poem for the Foundlings

Received, a blank babe.
Red or white,
Fate sealed in wax,
Trapped in it like an insect,
You decide, you decide, they decide for you.

Where is the art in this?
Where is the boy?
The girl?
The other?
The lost?
They are too found,
Too wanted.

Weeping if found,
Weeping if lost,
All blurred together,
In one indistinguishable sooty fingerprint,
On a brooch,
On a scrap of fabric,
On a child.

Would I come back?
Would I want her to come back?

An army approaches,
Of pattering feet,
An army of caped saviours,
An army of voices,
Singing and living and going on and through and beyond,
Beyond the red cloth and wax seal and beyond the token.


Amy originally studied Archaeology and has a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she comes from, and currently works as a Digital Content Assistant for the charity BookTrust. She loves to travel and to write, and has recently started a blog to share her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also currently trying to learn Italian.
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Blog Projects

A memorable trip to the Foundling Museum

On Sunday 27th of March, I headed down to the Foundling Museum. On this bright, crisp day I was off to do some art with the Assemblage Collective.

I was v excited, it felt like it’d been years since I did something creative – in reality only months, but to me anytime without creating something seems to be longer than its relative time span.

I hadn’t been to the Foundling Museum before. I was surprised to find it tucked to the side of a park I visited lots as a child, always one of my favorite ones – Coram’s Fields. Coram’s Fields – even hearing the name of it brings back the sensations: a rush of cold air against flushed cheeks, legs straining to run up the ramp dragging the swing in arm, and then jumped onto it so it could zip wire me across the field. The soft feel of goats, who would like and nibble my hand and I would shy away only to place my hand back in between the gates again. Splashing and getting soaked through in the fountains, while my family ate strawberries and mini sausages on the grass. How vast it had felt, but looking into it now, it was so much smaller.

Unknowingly, the emotional journey had only just begun.

When I arrived, Tascha (Assemblage Collective’s founder & director) and the assembled Assemblage members greeted me.

Tascha explained what we would be doing and gave us a presentation on the Foundling museums’ history.

The Museum opened in 2004. I had been playing on the fields between 1995-2002.

Before being a museum, it had been the Foundling Hospital and had taken its last child in the 50’s. The hospital had been established by Thomas Coram (1668-1751) in 1739 to care for babies at risk of abandonment. Coram, a philanthropist, campaigned for seventeen years before he received a Royal Charter from King George II to found it. A statue of him stands outside, and the fields are still named for him.

The instructions for attending had been simple – bring a piece that you have an emotional sentimental connection to.

We sat and introduced our pieces and then headed through the galleries. I kept my heart open while we walked through, I knew the emotional response I would have would be the thing to inspire the art I would produce back in the workroom.

When I found out about the tokens, I felt an obsession take hold.

In the first few decades of the hospital, the parents who left children were instructed to bring a token with them to deposit with the child, to act as an identifier. Each child was written into a register, given a number and then a new name – usually after someone famous or inspirational, think Julius Ceaser, Shakespeare, Cicero etc. The token was placed alongside the book or was written in the form. If parents wanted to claim the child back, or more likely needed to prove they hadn’t murdered the child, they could return citing the token as a steadfast identification of the child’s heritage.

The children rarely, if ever, saw these tokens. They remained sealed unless a claim was made.

Weeks later, writing this, I still get an uneasy chasm, the sense of a rupture inside. This was what I used for inspiration.

The sentimental objects I had brought with me – my first filled sketchbook from 2012, a wolf inlaid zippo lighter I had left on a rock in the middle of the sea in St. Ives (and managed to retrieve!), and a necklace inherited from my grandmother – they were all personal to me. Sentimental because of their meaning to me, and if I passed them on, it would still be the connection to me that made them so poignant.

Others had made art around the tokens too, such as David Shrigley. See below.

untitled image

Back in the room, I found the things I needed to bring the visualisation of the feeling I was having to life. Some paper, glue, pens etc. which had been provided for us.

We scanned our objects – I used the gold teddy necklace from my nan – and printed them out. I worked onto the paper creating this:

A freeform automatic writing on the front, and a flowing design on the back with added phrases and words. I then created an overlay, so the sentimental reminiscent memories and exploration in the automatic writing were only caught in glimpses. I wasn’t sure if I was the object talking, or the memories. I quiet like the ambiguity of it. The line between objects we bring life to with our memories, and our memories giving us life.

The layer on top hides some of the words, so only some phrases can be seen.

To me, that represented the chasm between the parent and the child, between the reality of each of their lives. How the child must have wondered about the life they would have had if they were in the flow of time still, not ruptured, renamed and rehomed. How the tokens would have meant a different sentimentality. About how the object and the child must have felt out of time and place. There was a lot of complexity in my feeling, and I hope I expressed some of it, but it was/is difficult to get into words.

untitled image

The piece reads

‘A chasm. Washed gold. Dark, deepness, subdued, abated. Memory, history, what if it had been another life, another time? What if I’d never known it come to me? What if she had given it but it had not been received? Sentimentality in the chasm, liminal and stranded, straddled and inaccessible. What if I had not been me? A shell – captured and refilled, excavated of who I should have been. A chasm. Rippled. Ripped. Disrupted. Disrupted. A rippled timeline. Julius Ceaser in the 20th Century. Shakespeare in the 17th. Who are you? Are you – Am I – in the gold chains, those tokens of love, in the moment coveted treasures and chained to me? Are you in my objects – real and psyche? Am I disrupted? I am taking you with me. And we are going nowhere. Looking up to you. looking down at me. Golden sunbeams and an unconscious stream of warmth and love passed down through time. love through a chasm – untouched. It does not touch me I am nameless and overnamed, over imbued with promise because I am you. These are memories. I am my nan. I am my mum, my great grandmother, my friends my enemy my father other father, I’m family.’

I want to turn this into a poem and lift some of the main lines I like out. I may return to it later!

I loved making it. I took it with me to the pub after, and when Chelsea scored someone knocked a pint over it (luckily I wrote in archival ink!), and it makes me like the piece more. Its imbued with its own life and memories now, a living thing out in the world. I hope to go and make more pieces like it. Assemblage Collective is making more around identity and sentimentality, and I’m eager to see what they do and how I can take part.


Tara is a London-based storyteller and museum professional working regularly in the mediums of poetry, design, photography, and spoken word. She is also an ethnographic anthropologist interested in the emotional and community value of local pubs and holds a Master’s Degree in Museum and Gallery Studies from Kingston University. You can find out more by visiting her website here, where this piece was originally published, or connect with her on Instagram here.
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Blog

‘The Human Touch: Making Art, Leaving Traces’ exhibition review

The Fitzwilliam Museum’s newest exhibition, The Human Touch: Making Art, Leaving Traces, is very timely – opening on the 18th May when it was finally announced that we could hug our loved ones once again. The exhibition looks at ‘touch’ in a broad sense, offering a non-chronological exploration from ancient Egypt to the modern day. It includes a range of works: from artistic depictions of touch, evidence of the artist’s touch and objects that were designed to be touched. The exhibition opened with a fragment of ancient Egyptian painting where fingerprints had been used to create texture on the hide of a deer – a ‘trace’ of human touch from thousands of years ago. 

I thought the curation of the exhibition worked well, offering the viewer a wide range of information over a broad spectrum. From Early Modern sketches of the anatomy of the hand, to contemporary uses of the clenched fist as a symbol of power, the exhibition encouraged you to make connections across periods and geographies. Two of my favourite artworks were William Hogarth’s Before and After (1730-31) – humorous pendant pieces showing the hesitant beginnings and flushed aftermath of a sexual encounter. The bright blush on the cheeks of the young lovers in After really evokes a sense of the excitement of another’s touch and the vitality of the human body.


William Hogarth, Before and After, oil on canvas. Images courtesy of the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Most interesting to me, however, were the objects that were made to be touched. Especially stunning was the display of illuminated manuscripts owned by Cambridge collections. Exquisite in their use of colour and gold leaf, the exhibition reminded us that these devotional items were made to be touched and worshipped from.

Although most of the artwork on display was predominantly of European origin, it was also refreshing to see some inclusion of non-Western objects. In particular, a nkisi from the Congo was displayed as an example of an empowered figure that needed spiritual activation by hammering nails into it’s torso. This alone, however, felt somewhat disappointing. It would be great to have included a bigger range of African spiritual objects that involve this similar activation, such a Vodun bocio – a similarly empowered object which involves wrapping or binding.

Where this exhibition falls short, however, is its intangibility. With most objects kept behind glass, there was a sense of these artworks being very removed from the viewer. Of course, frequent touching of museum objects, which are often very fragile, would cause them great damage. But, there have been attempts in other museums to include a more tactile experience for visitors. York Art Gallery, for example, has several objects of textural interest which can be touched. Although it is important to work on improving the conservation of objects, museums could perhaps look into balancing this with a more sensual experience for visitors that might involve touching.

In current times, of course, this would just not be feasible. Although we are hesitantly stepping out of lockdown, restrictions remain. In museums where you still have to sanitise at the door, follow a one-way system, stay two metres away from everyone and wear a mask – the possibility of shared touching is definitely still off the cards. Perhaps this is why, although interesting and enjoyable, The Human Touch was missing something. The hushed space, dim lighting and predominance of objects in glass cabinets created a rather sterile environment. I overall felt that the exhibition was a rather frustrating experience of being encouraged to imagine the power and potency of touching, whilst being limited to only sight. 

You can read more about the exhibition and find out how to visit here. 


Emma is an MA student studying History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a recent graduate of the University of York. She is interested mainly in eighteenth and nineteenth century art and the construction of culture and identity. She also loves curating, and when she is not writing essays you can usually find her in a gallery!

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Blog

Tate Again

Peeking out over an inescapable mask,
I see once more,
Women draped over ornate couches,
Done with the world and its confinement,
And its clothes.
I see once more,
Disembodied faces meeting unhinged shapes,
Unsure, they attempt to devour one another.
I see once more,
Unlikely creatures emerging,
As if willed by the vacuum of imagination.
I see once more,
Ambiguous structures,
Soaring while more solid words explain little,
Of what, perhaps,
Should not be explained.
I see once more,
The collective embrace merge,
With joint resistance,
Forever twinned in a fleeting, nonchalant glance.
Feeling nill,
I wonder if I am measuring effort wrongly.

Photo by Mr Drone on Unsplash
Amy originally studied Archaeology but has just finished a Masters in Social Anthropology at Edinburgh. She is back in London now, where she’s from, and currently works part-time as an editor for a publisher. She loves to travel and write, and has a blog where she shares her articles and poetry called dlohere. She is also trying to learn Italian!
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new normal

New Normal: An Introduction

As the lockdown eases and shops open again, we enter a somewhat new normal… Take a moment. Did that happen? It’s surreal, a little absurd and even — at times — horrific, so how are we going to wrap our heads around this? How much of that change are you feeling? What will you do, what will you be? Where will you go? This April, we at Assemblage hope you can let yourself look around you. Take a deep breath. Enjoy what you can, in the present. Today and tomorrow will be different.

Photo by Cajeo Zhang on Unsplash
Karen is a journalist and poet who loves music and photography. She is a third year student at King’s College London, and the Editor in Chief of The King’s Poet. In her second year, she also led King’s literary and poetry societies. Among other publications, her writing is published in Apple Daily, Roar News and Have You Eaten Yet?.
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Blog spring

The Social Life of Cells: Lockdown creativity during scientific engagement projects

With a background in biosciences and currently studying an MA in Art and Science at the University of Arts London, Himarni is part of the Assemblage Collective writing group and active in creative projects. Her personal work spans weaving, acrylic painting, photography and collage poetry. 

We worked together on the first issue of the Assemblage Collective zine, where she had the great idea of collaborating by circulating a set of images and text to each project member in turn, to ensure everyone had their input. 

Loosely based around a Q&A, we discussed her projects in representing science, how she’s been keeping busy and what she’s looking forward to in the coming months – both within the Collective and in her free time. 

Her current work: 

At the moment, Himarni is developing a ‘cellular architectures’ project which arose partly in response to an interdisciplinary science workshop development project she participated in with London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to make research into the Shigella bacteria more accessible. It is a water-borne bacteria responsible for ‘travellers diarrhea’ but can be fatal in children under 5 living in parts of Africa and Asia. Cases have also been detected in Flint, Michigan.

The theory is relatively new and still uncertain around one particular way that the immune system detects and battles this bacteria, but current ideas based on microscopy suggests that a sparse web of nanometre scale septin filaments (part of the cell’s ‘skeleton’ and can be imagined as short protein threads) surrounds the bacteria – caging and sequestering them, preventing them moving around within or between cells to cause further harm.   

 To fulfil this role, these filaments are believed to somehow detect the shapes in their environment such as the characteristic physical features of this dangerous bacteria.

Shigellosis, drug-resistant intestinal illness, spreading ...
Shigella bacteria. Image credit: CNBC.com

When representing its form, she wanted to think outside of the box – while others also represented septin filaments with thread, she wanted to consider the subsequent steps by which these features can sense shape, by thinking of how it intersects the bacterial form and exploring what can be deduced from these tangents. She modelled this using a variety of simple shapes intersecting an observation tool made of a string net representation of a ‘septin cage’.

One of the symbols was of a classical pillar which, due to its symmetry, is a fairly ‘predictable’ shape compared to the helical shapes common to proteins which make up the biological architecture. 

This response was part of a board game making workshop her group designed for children to make a Shigella using materials found in the household, and she used string and a tissue box, which she said pushed her to think more creatively in how to represent science. 

Art as engagement:

During the Zoom workshop with the children those of younger ages were able to understand the basics of an immune response to the bacteria, and children developed maze-like games modelling the gut environment, or catapult games where the immune system takes aim at its adversaries. She said that the game format is a good way of modelling a biological environment, which is ‘like a multiplayer game’ with bacteria and various other types of cell. 

Whereas microscope images and film of cells are more predetermined because they take place over a certain time frame, a game introduces chance and various circumstances, a bit like the Game of Life  which models cell survival in different environments. 

The lab scientists they interviewed discussed Shigella ‘sociology’ and how different strains of the bacteria interact, as they don’t seem to recognise that they are ‘the same’: ‘they’ll avoid each other and try to kill each other if they can’.

The research aims to make understanding of immunology accessible to secondary school aged children through interactivity. 

How do you feel that art intersects with science in research like this?

Commenting on how her degree topic spans both disciplines, Himarni said that the choice of Masters programme was a ‘bridging’ subject, since she wouldn’t have been able to study an MA In Fine Art immediately after a biosciences degree, but ‘why not find your own niche’

She also mentioned that art and science used to be far more closely linked, for instance in the Vedic scriptures, ancient Hindu texts, science (physics, medicine, and architecture among others) and spirituality were intertwined.

Calendar

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Image credit: chakranews.com

The ‘fragmentation’ of the two subjects was due to a ‘Western colonial way of categorising thought’.

How do you find working at home digitally is affecting your creativity and the way you work?

She described the ‘moment of realisation’ that the ‘transition to peach-coloured Golden Hour’ inspired creativity and energy, and the links between getting Vitamin D and motivation, especially as someone of colour. 

For two or three years she had struggled with working digitally and using social media, instead sourcing opportunities and exhibitions through her university, but noted that she felt she was missing out on ‘resources that are networked within communities’.

She mentioned Nearest Neighbour theory, which I hadn’t heard of before, which is the basis of an algorithm such as Spotify making predictions based on proximity of ‘taste’ – i.e. suggesting the music that people with the most similar music preferences to you are listening to even if they are on the other side of the world.

No longer having to commute, she has regained many hours and is channeling them into creative projects. She has also benefited from having more time to absorb the learning from her degree, and created an Instagram account during the first lockdown. She has found that following her community is a more ‘cohesive’ way of understanding information – by interest rather than motivated by the commercial projects at university. 

Do you feel that your work has changed over lockdown?

She noted the importance of the working environment on her creativity and the link to aesthetics. Being from Sri Lanka, time spent there would feel very close to the climate, birds, trees and provided a well of inspiration. However, during lockdown, being away from London and gentrified public space designed from within capitalist and patriarchal hierarchy, and within the ‘feminine’ domestic space where she can select her influences and environment, has allowed her to be much more focussed on her true interests and priorities, away from loud distractions and directives. 

What kind of work do you hope to make over the next few months, and into the summer? Do you have any particular plans or projects?

Himarni’s interest in architecture extends from cells to the city – and she mentions that she has recently become more interested in the social role of architects. 

When thinking about potentially returning to an office environment, she reflects that many buildings she has worked in have been badly designed – basements with no natural light, and that post-pandemic, workers will have to be ‘seduced’ back into a workplace (quoting Michele Ogundehin, who presents our shared guilty pleasure TV show, Interior Design Masters). 

It may be that we start to see what Himarni calls ‘diverse microenvironments’ – sections within a shared space for example with seating pods, which can assist those who desire more privacy in a communal space. 

Her research proposal for her dissertation will centre around how architecture can draw upon cell biology – from structure and specialised functions of cells to the circulatory systems they provide the structure for. 

How do you feel about spring, does it inspire you?

Living in suburban Epsom, Himarni has been influenced by nature from growing up close to green spaces which is ‘part of [her] style’.

Her local area is closely associated with the Pre-Raphaelites who emphasized the importance of working in nature to capture hyper-detailed  realist imagery. On her way to school she would pass Hogsmill River, where John Everett Millais’ Ophelia (1851-2) was painted – though the exact section which appears in the painting is near Tolworth, so slightly further away.  

A picture containing tree, plant, nature

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Image credit: Theculturetrip.com

We can see from her work that nature during Spring and Summer is an inspiration:

In this collage for an Assemblage collaboration with Anita and Tascha, she was inspired by the contrast between the suburbs and the city – where life is more ‘mediated’, meaning more impacted by the role of the media. 

Having attended a lecture from MST Futurism, an Indigenous group of three tribes (Musqueam, Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish Nation) currently living on land occupied by Vancouver, they have used traditional craft methods for activism to protest the city being settled and the increased pollution. 

They use a ‘blanketing’ approach to set the stage for discussion, by spreading woven blankets across the floor to gather upon as a process of establishing a safe, sacred community space, and highlighting the traditional role of scientific and cultural practices in weaving. 

Image credit: @mstfuturism on Instagram.

Caption text:

Introducing panelist, master weaver and traditionalist Angela George @anggeorge_weaver (qʷənat, sits’sáts’tenat) Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw & səl̓ilwətaɁɬ

[View the full caption with the original post]

The group also ‘wallpapered’ over buildings (in a way that reflects the values of the blanketing tradition) in the city as an intervention to protect sacred and cultural space. 

In Himarni’s work, she also draws upon tradition such as in this appliqué using her grandmother’s fabric, and in loom weaving. 

Some of last year’s work include acrylic painting from her home and garden, when she thought of people alone with houseplants: ‘the only living being you see is a houseplant’.

This collage of photos from Sri Lanka  is inspired by the book Brixton Beach, by Roma Tearne. The author is Singhalese and Tamil and grew up in the UK. Himarni recognised some of the settings from a beach on the West coast of Sri Lanka familiar to both the author and her, and wanted to replicate some of the ideas from Roma’s other work, as a fine artist. 

Centering around semi-autobiographical themes of being from a diaspora community, Himarni described the process of the novel’s character Alice collecting washed up items from a beach and using the driftwood to make a box. Inside the box she housed a shell, but the box could not be opened – as an expression of a part of herself that she cannot access after migrating.

And finally, how has being in a collective impacted on your work? What are you most looking forward to working on next?

Having really enjoyed working on the zines for their collaborative nature, and with Tascha and Anita for the poetry pieces she feels excited to continue working on the upcoming projects. 

She particularly admires Charlotte’s work, which is ‘embedded in nature’, but is grateful to Tascha for founding the collective as a safe space, valuing her inclusive attitude and adding that she’s a ‘good energy person’. 

Further, the opportunity to learn about herself and explore new ideas has been good for her creatively, such as the dreams project for the Reconnection zine where her group explores the politics of dreams and how some dreams can be an intense emotional experience. 

She doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to do group work on her course, because for academic study people have often been working on and researching themes for years, so areas of interest don’t always cross over.  

We look forward to working on the exhibition together, and perhaps incorporating some more nature-based practice and workshops to the Collective’s projects!

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Josie lives near Durham and has a degree in French and Classics. She is currently working in admin but really enjoys contemporary art exhibitions and also ‘Modern’ art more broadly. She particularly enjoys Surrealism and the Avant Garde, but also likes sculpture and performance art in a wider sense.