Fine – I got the money. Now, then… first thing I did was panic: ONE, I’m referencing ‘Colston’, that’s sure to get me into trouble with all sides of the ongoing debate. The man, the statue, the men, the statues are all triggers in plain view for, well, everything and everybody, and I don’t want to be in the firing line, thank you. TWO: how to, I mean, how dare I even consider making a work of soundart about the Transatlantic Slave Trade? What could do this justice (hah – ‘justice’!)? I’m making a work about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, yes, but I have to preserve, for my sanity, ‘artistic distance’. Yes, but how do you artify this? Is even artifying it an insult to our combined diasporic unconscious? THREE: what effect was all the research I was now embarked on going to do to me? I’m well used to grinding endless material and producing art out of it – but THIS? FOUR: my research removed a few blinkers from my eyes about what actually went on. It seems what went on does not fit the simplified narratives any of the various sides are propounding.
SOLUTIONS: to ONE: (a) I am very clear that ‘Colston’s Last Journey’ is not ‘about’ Colston, or even particularly references him. The soundart trail is called ‘Colston’s Last Journey’ because it overlayers Colston’s last journey from his plinth to where he was flung into the water and because his is an instantly recognizable name to hang the work on. My soundart is about Bristol and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. (b) just talk to everyone and tell them what you’re doing: this is an individual artist work supported by the Arts Council and I’m making a work of located soundart accessed through the participant’s personal smartphone whose topic is ‘Bristol and the Transatlantic Slave Trade’.
to TWO: making a work of art uses all the artist’s capacities as an artist is always creating de novo; always birthing what is to be in the world, what wants, requires, needs to be, is asking to be in the world. So it’s always a process of sheer panic, feeling inadequate, fear, loathing, joy and you have to trust that, at some point in the process, the work itself will open itself to you (like, when writing a novel, that wonderful point when the characters themselves start to dictate what they’re going to do and say to the ostensible ‘author’). So – trust the Ancestors, they will speak to me.
to THREE: I read something in a Guardian book review where the reviewer said something about ‘that ice-cold splinter in the heart of the writer’. Yes.
to FOUR: hang in there