For an interview for LUX Magazine with the photograher Maryam Eisler, on making art in lockdown during COVID -19, Read more here
'What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: "This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees and even this moment and I myself” ’ (1).
Nietzsche is asking us not to take the idea as true but to ask ourselves what we would do if the idea might be true. Our first reaction would be utter despair: this which we call the human condition is too painful and the thought that one must relive, all our errors, an infinite number of times, is unbearable.
But he suggests, that suppose we embrace it as something that we desire? That, would be the ultimate expression of a life-affirming attitude: to want this life, with all its pain and boredom and frustration, again and again.
I’m interested in the concept of this container called home. The place to which we return to, leaving the trace of our existence pressed into the surfaces. We use it, take it for granted, consider it a place to leave behind or ignore, but ultimately, it’s the only something when there is nothing. It’s the button on a device to ‘reset’. (When disgraced politicians screw up and are spat out of a glamourous and fast-paced public life, they talk of going ‘home, -“to spend more time with their families” ). We create ourselves constantly through action, from the moment of first consciousness to the moment death wipes us out. The traces of ourselves and our existence are held in the intimate fabric of our daily lives, in the bed to which we nightly return, that holds us in our most vulnerable and fragile unconscious.
I read once a Michel de Montaigne essay I wanted to quote here (to write this I’ve skim re-read Montaigne, never a waste as he is so entertaining, and can’t find the text) , but here it is as I remember it: we are born in a bed, move into a room, a home, a village, a city, out into the world, busy and full of our affairs, then at the end of life, our existence condenses again - the town, the home, the room, the bed. The flesh of the fabric that accompanies our unconscious existence at home, where we are now sequestered, is what is currently interesting me. The weight of the bed that holds us, to which we nightly return and occupy at our most vulnerable. The weight, the pleasure the pain carried immanently within the flesh of the fabrics that describe and contain this eternal return.
Since Covid ,I’m working in a back bedroom. I’m working on what I see, fabrics in their wear from touch, painted on cotton rag paper, which is all I have to hand. These are painted sketches, bobbly, stained with pigment and the oil it leaks, with marks of making and the wear of paper, and the paper becomes worn and bobbly, all speaking to the materiality of the subject, of fabrics shapes throughout the shifting day . The oil from the paints leaches out in a stain. They are on coarse paper made in India, made by women, from rags, in a co-operative set up by Ghandi, called Khadi, to raise money for women and their families.
Fabric has a distinct relationship with women; on the body, in the body, concealing and revealing and the stuff of Feminist art making since the very beginning. In the sale of these works ten percent of profits will go to Action Aid to support their campaign to fight period poverty, which affects women and girls all over the world. Access to sanitary products, safe, hygienic spaces in which to use them, and the right to manage menstruation without shame or stigma, is not a reality for many. Women and girls' education, well-being, and sometimes entire lives are affected, now worse than ever.
Nietzsche, F, concept of the Eternal Return in Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (1882) and also in Thus Spoke Zarathustra and Beyond Good and Evil (1887)
Bakewell, S, (2011) , How to Live: A Life of Montaigne in one question and twenty attempts at an answer (2011)