A starting point for the work on show in the Knitting Time exhibition is a collection of poems which explore personal narratives from infancy to the present time. The stories stem from my induction as an infant into the delusionary belief system of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. My mum became lost to strange beliefs after the JWs kicked us all out as representatives of Satan come to disturb the flock. One of her beliefs involved the ascribing of animal spirits to individuals and groups of people. As a child I was ‘Mole’ and I still sign much of my artwork accordingly in her affectionate memory.
There are many State-sanctified psychotic belief systems. It just depends how many agree to subscribe to any particular ‘belief’ as to whether it gets labeled ‘psychotic’. If you’re in a club with only one member, the chances are you’ll be in trouble, unless you learn to shut up.
All religious or spiritual belief has an element of ‘psychosis’ about it – not that ‘psychosis’ is necessarily a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. In its original meaning the term is derived from the Greek psyche, meaning ‘soul,’ ‘mind,’ or ‘breath.’ It was regarded as the animating principle in life. From that Greek ideology came the modern hierarchy which places the spirit and the mind above matter. The poor old material world is not giving much credo, which is possibly why we care so little collectively about plundering and destroying the earth and for that matter for torturing the ‘mad’ who as a general rule tend to not like what the human race is doing to itself.
Knitting Time illustrates ‘loss’ as a guiding principle for existence and for creativity. I’ve never fitted into the world, which is no bad thing. I was taught from an early age by JWs that the world would end when I was 17 in 1975. And so I’ve spent 38 years living with a sense of mourning the ‘end’ that never came and in grief for the injustices perpetrated against my mum in the name of psychiatry. Psychiatry – like much of humanity and especially organised religion – continues to be as deluded as ever in the way it treats people.
The audio-descriptive sound installation in the exhibition describe a selection of ten of the works including work made during our workshop programme expounding on personal stories that underpin the making of those pieces. I’ve a history since infancy of getting lost in dreams and hallucinations; of entering a world which is outside of time. Much of the art and poetry here is based on those experiences, which have often been very profound and beautiful.
At the same time as expressing a ‘spiritual’ world, seeing angels and so forth… I’m no believer in the hierarchy we’ve adopted from the early Greeks. As Antonin Artaud put it so eloquently in his essay Shit to the Spirit: “The spirit was never anything but the parasite of man, the ringworm of his worthy body when the body was no more than an animalcule swimming around and having no desire to be worthy of existing.”
And therein lies the dilemma of who we are and why we’re here? Knitting Time is a piece of my dealing with that conundrum.
I hope you find the exhibition thought-provoking and would love to hear your thoughts on these concerns.