Since the Covid-19 pandemic, I’ve reconnected to my art-making side again. Like many people who have experienced the death of their loved ones and gone through lockdown, things in life feel very different than before the pandemic. This post aims to declare and share a small part of my life that academia and everyday work-life cannot typically compensate for. It’s about self-care and my renewed passion for making art.
I started making these collages on A4 sized paper rather than using digital tools. I have made digital art and net art in the past but my emotional state at this moment is asking me to be physical and visceral, hands on. Also, it’s good to have space away from the computer as well as dealing with social injustices. Abstract is fine for now.
Yet, there are elements in these collages that create tension. For example, the jagged lines weave through the picture plane. There are what seem to be floating objects that struggle to break free but are entwined and trapped in webs. Some of the cut out images are from nature, war and model making magazines. I approach them with a punk spirit, unfussy. I use biros and coloured ink pens and sometimes tweak the images on the computer if needed, using Gimp, Free and Open Source software, because I believe in using non proprietary software and hardware whenever possible.
I haven’t made much art since the early to mid-90s. This is because during the past 25 years I have been co-running Furtherfield, London’s longest-running (de)centre for art, technology, and social change. We built it from scratch in 1996 and have developed an international reputation for initiating experiments in artistic co-creation across digital and physical networks, whilst remaining grounded in a physical locality, by presenting work through our Gallery and Commons located in the middle of London’s 150-year-old Finsbury Park.
It has been difficult to survive in London since moving there from Bristol in 1993. Most of the time I have either worked on two or three jobs, which have included working in homeless centres for 12 years and teaching at Universities. More recently we’ve been working in Finsbury Park at our gallery, living in Southend-On-Sea, in Essex to support my Mum, Maria. Even though I never did a degree or an MA, I have recently completed a PhD, I was the first to go to college in our family. The University could have awarded me my PhD in September 2020 last year but due to Covid-19 they only managed to let me know in March 2021. Maria would have loved to know that I became a Doctor but that wasn’t to happen.
Maria died just before Christmas and then Terry who was her boyfriend for over thirty years, he also died. I was asked to write and read a eulogy for my mother 15 October 2020 and then at Terry’s on 26 February 2021.
Maria had a brilliant sense of humour and always found the funny side of things, and was full of passion and joy. Her energy to dance was a magical quality of hers; she was always so full of life. One example I can give was when she was at mine and Ruth’s wedding party in 1996. Our bother Nigel (sadly he died nine years ago) was the DJ that evening and mum danced all night, to rave music and drum and bass. We pulled her off the dance floor at four in the morning after everyone else had left.
Mine, my brother’s, and my mother’s history was traumatic due to us both struggling against her two violent husbands (my fathers) while living on a violent council estate in the late 60s and late 70s. I possess deep anger towards the patriarch and elitist society because of male violence towards my mother, brother, and me. My sister was taken away from our family when I was eight from social services, my brother was put in borstal when he was thirteen. I was one of those rare kids that got O levels at school, then A levels.
When punk, post-punk came along it was a lifeline seeing people like me in bands such as, The Slits and Gang of Four, The Clash, and many others connecting to the working-classes. These new radical creative minds showed me that channeling this intense anger can turn into something positive and emancipatory.
Remember, these images are not all I’m creating, I may be writing a paper about how dodgy Saatchi and Saatchi are, and working on curating shows and interviewing activists, techies and artists for Furtherfield podcasts. In May 2021 we publish a book called Frankenstein Reanimated, and I am also working on a book for release the beginning of next year 2022, called 25 years of Furtherfield. The title may change.
I’m not sure what these collages communicate or say, but they have been a life saver (mentally) for me. Soon I will create larger versions of them as screen prints and paintings. I have not been thinking of selling any of them but people have been asking, it’s worth considering I suppose. If you wish to see more, visit my Instagram account, I post a fresh collage every week – https://www.instagram.com/marcgarrett8945/