Q and A with Journalist/writer Ruthie Collins to coincide with the exibition Beating the Bounds at the Cambridge Arts Salon 2016.
What was the starting point to Beating The Bounds?
Allot of time after I had my daughter was spent walking around our village, these walks were repetitive and circular but they have kept me sane over the years. I started to think of them as a marking of territory and about the Beating of the Bounds ceremony in its cultural sense, as a formal communal perambulation of the Parish boundaries led by the Priest, pausing at certain old trees, hedges and walls that would mark the edge of a territory. The knowledge of these boundaries would have been passed on by word of mouth before the use modern day surveying techniques and maps. The visual maps that children create for them selves to denote their territory are very interesting too, my daughter calls our village 'her land' and landmarks are very important, I started to document these.
How long has walking informed your practice?
I started quite a lot of walking projects in my early twenties with my friend Corrie Ross. We used to plan routes to walk around London and were quite interested in Psychgeography and alternative forms of mapping. We planned a project where we would walk every inch of the British Coastal path and run events on the way! This never happened as I moved to Berlin and life events took over! I also used the idea of transience and Fugue as part of my MA and (as yet unfinished!) PHD research.
What have been the practical barriers and strategies you've encountered as a mother making art while raising young children?
I often think other people see the the fact you have children as a barrier but in lots of ways I have found it to be very productive time as it forces you to be very focused about the small amount of time you do have. It is hard to get involved in things that necessitate being away from the children though, residencys etc, or using my studio. Most of my work is created the domestic space with children around. I find housework to be a barrier in my life though!
How would you describe the needs of mothers in the arts as an 'equality issue'? Do you think it's taken seriously as an issue?
Yes it certainly is an equality issue in a feminist sense. You are given two choices; Go back to work after six months or so and be a 'career mother' or be a 'stay at home mother'. Often Women who go 'back to work' are made to feel guilty. Women 'who stay at home' work really hard without getting paid and 'stay at home mum' is often used as a derogatory term. What if you want to do both?What if you don’t want to see your children as a barrier to your career? I feel that often I am doing everything at the same time, childcare, earning money as a self employed person, my creative work and the domestic work that running a home entails. But the most interesting women I know also have similar patterns to their lives, working hard, juggling everything.
Women can't win here though, they are made to feel guilty whichever path they choose! I think the childrearing years are a bit of a lacunic space in the arts, Women seem to disappear for ten years and re-appear later to try to pick up where they left off- It shouldn’t be that way- the taboo of having your kids with you when you go to meetings with galleries/conferences etc needs to be broken down. Its not 'unprofessional' to have children- its just life and we need to stop apologising for it!!
How has the residency with Lenka Clayton helped you?
It has been a great way of getting some structure in my life and also giving validity to the idea of the children informing my practice in some way. I have sometimes felt that art work about domestic or female identity could be a bit flakey...but Lenka makes it very clear that her Residency is about making work OUT of motherhood and not about it which really appealed to me. I would really recommend the residency to anyone in need of some structure and accountability in their practice after having children.
How has working with the Art Salon helped?
It has been Great! The Arts Salon is such a wonderful and accessible organisation which I have really enjoyed working with. The conversations we have had about my work and wider issues surrounding equality in the Arts have been fascinating! I have felt really supported and the work you do raising issues with parents in the arts really resonates with me.
Describe your influences.
I have a lot of varied Influences. I like the Norwich school painters, Tarkowski films, John Cage's drawings, Tacita Dean, Alex Finlay, Marcus Coates, Agnes Varda, Guy Moreton. I like books about wandering and tramping around- I have made lots of works about the pathogenic need to walk 'fugue' and I am interested in the representation of industrial sites... and i'm sure there's lots more that I cant think of right now!
One piece of advice to parents making art.
Aah I don’t really have any advice! just get on with it! One day your children will be appreciative of you as a creative parent and they probably wont remember all the washing up you left in the sink!