Monday, June 22, 2020

A time of creative change

From printed to animated poem...

Shadow puppetry of woman (Corina) sitting under a tree With a bird on her knee, an octopus lurking on the far right, representing illness M.E.
Exploring shadow puppetry

At the start of March I was awarded a bursary from Artlinks to cover the ‘artist fee’ (for 25 hours research and creative time). On completion of the project, which was to edit the Invisible Octopus’ poem with guidance from poet Dolores Ronayne, create illustrations from shadow puppetry, and work with graphic designer David Murphy to publish a very limited edition hard cover poetry book, of which two copies were requested by the arts funding body.

However. Life has changed dramatically since the awarding of the artist fee from Artlinks. Covid-19 disrupted all of our lives. Nothing is as it was. Many people suddenly found themselves housebound. For me this is not a new phenomenon as I have experienced years of being housebound at various degrees during the past two decades of illness. During the past two years this is becoming more prevalent again. One of the changes I see as a result of the pandemic is how the arts is now made more accessible in the virtual world. This is welcome news for people like myself. A very interesting development, of which I like to be a part of.


My 'Invisible Octopus’ project came about from a mentoring opportunity with Dr. Emma Fisher, funded by Arts and Disability Ireland Connect Scheme. Throughout a six month period I explored how to convey the reality of life with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) through puppetry. The aim was to develop a film script for my existing puppets. We also explored more accessible forms of puppetry as I experienced an ever increasing inability to create or hold my marionette puppets. Talking about shadow puppetry brought about the memory of a story I wrote about an invisible octopus. The Octopus became the story for my film. With the help of a PA I created a glove puppet octopus. 
Fabric octopus puppet lying on the chest of a girl puppet in a puppet hospital bed
‘Invisible Octopus’ (M.E.) taking my voice away

The 'Invisible Octopus’ became a poignant way to portray the invisibility to society and medics of the ME community, which is a way is a worldwide community of hermits. We are too often hidden from the world for people to truly understand what our lives are like.

I sadly had to concede towards the end of the mentoring time that making the short film was outside of my present physical ability. What I could develop was the poem I had written instead of dialogue in the film. As shadow puppetry proved to be a very accessible art form for me, I endeavoured to explore this further.

Changing spaces

During the past few months I’ve made the big steps to change my creative spaces. All with the amazing support of my PA and carer, and a bit on the side from friends (within the covid-19 social distancing rules). My garden studio is now a place of rest. And perhaps most significantly, I now have full and easy access to my overhead projector to create the shadow imagery to tell of my challenges, hopes and desires.  
My physical boundaries have closed in even more as I have had some further challenges to my health. Yet at the same time my world has expanded way beyond the boundaries of my home on a different dimension - through the arts! 

During the past month Arts and Disability Ireland published a 'Meet the Artist’ profile on their website. This will be followed by a three day 'Instagram Takeover’ where my work will be highlighted on their page over 12 posts. This will start on Wednesday 24th June. A huge honour. 
Also a podcast (with images) from an interview I had with Emma Windsor from Puppet Place (Bristol-UK) about 'Invisible Octopus’ was released on various social media platforms as well as through their newsletter.
RTE’s Nationwide re-broadcasted the segment (2018) featuring my puppetry work 

Embracing the creative flow

All this exposure and beautiful comments from friends and strangers, as well as having my space adapted for this new phase brought me back to creating, albeit in a yet again altered way. But there is always a way!

My aim for the Artlinks Bursary was to develop the poem and create illustrations from shadow puppetry images. I had requested funding to work with a graphic designer to create the book. The awarded bursary did not cover this cost, nor the printing of the book. Unfortunately, over the past two years working for long periods on computer is no longer an option for me. For the past few months I am using an iPad to do my writing. I am also exploring the use of photography and film editing on this new much more accessible digital aid. It is easier for me to handle, although I realise now, is that it is not quite suitable to design a book. The bursary does cover my artist fee - time to explore my work further. And for this I am hugely grateful.

I started cutting out tiny paper images of myself. I placed them with my earlier cut out paper birds, the tree in my garden, houses, and of course the Octopus. I make ‘collages’ with them on the overhead projector. I added natural materials like leaves and flowers. Some of my images are now cut out of wood by my nephew Adrian via laser cutter. I started to share these explorations on my Facebook page and later on instagram. The responses were phenomenal, even from the serious shadow puppetry practitioners. I was made aware that the intricacies of my designs spoke to so many. One comment: “Shadow puppetry creates and almost simplistic viewing therefor more focus goes into seeing and feeling it. It creates a wealth of atmosphere which is helped by the simple black and white projection. It is a very powerful art form (Fiona Leishman).

For me it has several layers of power. 
I am able to access this art without needing a PA to help me, like I now require with almost every other task. I am able to cut the paper images while lying in my recliner. The projector is set up in such a way that I can access it independently, the images reflected on the opposite wall. Even a few minutes of ‘play’ brings about stunning results. It is a hugely accessible art form.
Also I find that my shadow images are very close to the power of poetry. The less is shown, the stronger the story. It leaves the viewer/reader make up their own interpretation.

An animated poem - a ‘virtual’ book

What I have come to accept in the past few weeks is that this Artist’s time brought about a change in my personal perception of my work and life. I was given the opportunity to explore. And with this came a shift in my work. Coupled with the huge responses to my images (the first post with shadow images was seem by over 6000 people on my facebook page), accepting the decline in me health, as well as observing the shift to a more virtual (art) world, I have decided to publish my poem as a short animation - a virtual book.
This shift means I can do all the work myself. Although I very much love a physical book... a book needs to be designed, printed, launched and sold. With the further health challenges, none of these are options right now. I am rarely able to leave my home. The exhibition in September, which was the date for a launch (as per application) has due to Covid-19 been postponed.
I believe that creating a ‘virtual book’ in the form of shadow animation is following on the strong interest in my recent work, and the way the post-covid world is heading. There is an immediacy in this way of presenting my work and is accessible to many more people than just a few who would have a copy of an actual book.

For me also, having spend a few weeks more or less in bed where my creative brain does not stop, it is wonderful to have a way forward with my art again. It is immensely helpful to have a focus. A focus away from the reality of increasing disability, a focus on fun, on exploring, even if the actual creative time is less than an hour spread out over a whole day. Some part of my day is also used to do further research into all things puppet - disabilty and shadows...
“This work is accessible all round. For me as the creator and for my audience.”
As part of this new departure I have started experimenting with portraying part of the words of the poem onto the projector, and did the first few second of animation. (Lots to learn!) 

I look forward to completing this project over the coming months. Poet Dolores Ronayne will help me with editing the poem over the coming weeks.
Unless the project undergoes an other metamorphosis (always possible... ) I intend to forward two CD’s with the finished animated 'virtual’ poem as well as a printed version of the poem to the funding body. With huge thanks to Artlinks, and ALL of YOU whom have welcomed my new work with such enthusiasm. 
My deepest gratitude for that. To get me back to creating again, embracing change, in life and art.


Supported by Artlinks and Waterford County Council


Anne Devine said...

Your sharing of your work, your art amidst the physical challenges you face is truly inspirational, Corina. I love the fact that you found Your own creative way forward. The shadow puppetry work is stunning, evocative and liberating. It really holds my attention. Thank you for sharing your journey, Corina.... Wishing you every success with the next phase. Anne Devine.

Corina Duyn said...

Many many thanks for your support of my work and journey,
It means a great deal to have others join me on this journey. It means more than I can ever express with words.