it is the end of October on the last day of summertime. The clocks fall back tonight and Halloween is in the air as we set up the pop up portrait studio in The Palace Hub. It is my favourite time of year and I am energised by all of the conversations already had with Beth, James and the team here. Tees Valley Arts embody something of the zeitgeist that SGAT is exploring; the space where art and culture can have a meaningful connection to community, to a wider sense of living authentically with the Earth. There is a commitment to the local, to history and how local culture and stories can be made relevant and weave into a present conversation.
This resonates with me personally as I have made big changes in my work and personal life with an underlying commitment to working in an interconnected way. I want my work to be in conversation with, to be a part of a rhizome of ideas and actions that empower and support the Earth and all beings.
The Big Drink of The North Sea is ever present, totally wild, untamed, unknowable. Is this the secret of a seaside town? There is no getting away from nature’s rhythms, from the waning and waxing of the Moon which drags the waters in and out, the storms happening on the other side of the world that pull and push the waters here on the edges of this town.
There is a community of young visionaries here who have gravitated to the projects and spaces of the galleries. Their visibility speaks of the potential of freedom with non binary identities. Their fashion and bodily self expression is wildly creative, creatively wild, with animal bones, occult and witch symbols, DIY crystal jewellery and play mix and matching from charity shops.
This is not shy. There might be a verbal quietness, but the language of their visibility is strong and articulate.
I am seeing this everywhere. Something is brewing!
This bodily wearing of values and tribe identities is what Saturday Girl is about. I am using photography to explore this throughout the North. Saturday Girl About Town is about the places outside of the big cities. It is about the town streets themselves. And it is about the generation that sat in their lockdown bedrooms and what happens now that they are out on the streets again, what happens to culture now that so much has collapsed, is collapsing. The structures of society are an illusion, the boundaries and rules and securities promised to Westerners are an illusion. There is no promised future and the folks in charge don’t have any control.
There are holistic, earth- based, non-patriarchal ways of living that are sustainable and joyful. This is what I see in these young people; an exploration of these things.
I have so much hope for what they offer. The binaries of gender identity started to fall away a few years ago which left many older modes of identity in the dust. Older folks were scrambling around trying to get with the program of right pronouns. That parental sense of “wait I’m not ready!’ But the flow of the world doesn't wait; unhelpful and hurtful ideologies of difference fall away with their brave being.
October 30th 2021 and there are so many gifts of this day. The generousness of portraiture, the trust that is implicit in the act of photographing and being photographed. It is humbling. We take many pictures, drink coffee, talk plants, school, trainers, hairdye. We drag the backdrops into the streets, onto the windy front.
There is cake. It is my birthday and I am doing the thing I am here to do. I am reborn this year, into myself. We are all on this journey, this self discovery, this evolution.