Tag Archives: Syria

Why have I got vodka in my studio?

No its not for drinking

No its not for drinking

To make the plaques I put some damp sand in a bucket and placed my own bare foot on the sand to get a print, then mixed up some plaster of Paris and poured it in. It took a while to set because of the dampness of the sand. Then I had to get the cast out by upending the bucket and scattering sand everywhere. Then I had to order a whizzer online, (Chris having broken the previous one with hot soup.) Meanwhile I greased the cast with vaseline and carefully laid out the top layer of the final piece using tissue paper for the foot and newspaper strips for the surround glued together with acrylic medium. Finally got around to whizzing up some paper scraps into papier mache and adding it to the piece to make a thicker base. I wondered what would take the Vaseline off the top surface. Google told me to use rubbing alcohol from a chemist, but if none stocked it, I could use vodka instead. Well, guess what, I ended up with vodka in my studio.

I have learnt from the experience that I need to use a shallower but wider receptacle for the sand, so I can mould bigger feet or shoes, and get the cast out without so much mess.

I had a lovely time with a 7 year-old neighbour, showing him how to make a plaster cast of his feet. He was very impressed that he had to wear a mask while we mixed the plaster. It is getting interesting making the plaques, as I have to decide what news stories to paste around the edge, as well as what personal story to tell in the footprint. I found a good piece about the need for education in the refugee camps which felt just right.

the need for education

the need for education

Returning to paper clothes (as it takes so long for papier mache to dry), I took the story of the child drowned on a Turkish beach and conflated it with the current destruction of Syrian civilisation. So to tell both those stories at once, I made paper clothes for a toddler out of maps of Syria. When they were complete I crumpled them thoroughly, unlike the fashion clothes which I am trying not to crumple. I have stopped short of tearing or burning holes with joss sticks – but I still might.

Dying Syria

Dying Syria

Where are we going?

footprint 1

‘Where are we going?’ is now the official title of my exhibition next March.

I have been thinking about how as an artist to reflect on the current crisis in Syria. There is so much in the news that it is overwhelming. Some articles that have affected me discuss what language to use to describe people, and the probable cause of the crisis.
Do you use politically charged words like ‘genuine refugees’, ‘economic migrants’, ‘illegal asylum seekers’? asked David Marsh, Guardian Weekly 11.09.15 or do you call them ‘people’? Are they just numbers – ‘marauding hordes’ – or are they people each with their own history?
An editorial 13.03.15 described the impact of drought 2007-2010 in the Fertile Crescent leading to collapse of agricultural communities, migration into cities, increased unemployment and poverty, which led to destabilisation of Assad’s regime. Are many of these people therefore climate refugees?

And over the last 2 months there have been so many descriptions of people’s attempts to reach safety in Europe in the face of blockades, fences, military and civilian police, the extortions and cynicism of people smugglers, the cost of bribes, the inadequacy of the transport systems, the horrendous conditions in the camps. My next door neighbour was himself caught up in the trek along the railway line from Budapest into Austria, although he had a ticket and was a tourist. In the end he shared a taxi with some of the refugees.

When I was making a series of map-clothes about the experiences of Jews in the last century, I was conscious of trying to name individuals when possible, to counteract the dehumanising attempts by the Nazis to reduce them to numbers, and the dehumanising impact on us all of the horrifyingly huge numbers of people killed. I feel that a similar approach is required for this project. As so much of the story is about the journey, I have started to make plaques of footsteps, and to find some of the real names and stories.