Thinking Time is a special initiative to support artists to research, reflect, and to develop their ideas.
The initiative took place May–November 2020 in response to the state of suspension where production had stalled and arts institutions around the world were forced to close their doors. This brought into focus something that never shuts down: the power and importance of the imagination.
Some of the artists have shared works or responses to this time spent focused on process and development.
#Delete the Beans (2020)
Warning - This work contains internalised ableism/ableist thoughts
Video is best experienced with headphones.
FLESH is an exploration of my weak, failing body, and its relationship with the rest of the planet, at a time when it felt like the world was ending. It’s very much a first draft, formed from the scraps of a 20 minute voice note left for my friend Kate in the middle of the night. At the time, I had developed a persistent cough - not the dreaded virus, but an allergic reaction to my new kittens, which I had purchased from Gumtree in my hunger to feel touch; my need to bring something in from the outside world.
Half of the voice note (not included) is about this battle: my fight with my doctor, who believed I should cure my ailment by simply exchanging my cats for a different pet. I had been begging her to at least let me try a prescription to antihistamines first. Between my coughs, I describe to Kate the idea of ‘dignity of choice’ - that, despite my plethora of serious medical conditions, I still want the right to make decisions that could be perceived as ‘bad for me’.
The part of the voice note included in FLESH is an almost completely contradictory notion: confronting my own internalised ableism, the idea that I don’t deserve to live all. I explore my sensory deprivation and need for touch in a different way, connecting to the viscous and fungal textures that have often left me feeling disgusted.
So much of this pandemic and Thinking Time for me has been about exploring these contradictions - the ideas around who gets to live and die; our sense of value; how to reach out and touch each other at a time where it’s physically impossible; the overarching sense of apocalypse.
I’ve been leaning into the sensations that give me the most visceral reactions: fungus and slime and decomposing bodies. I wanted to explore the disgust of recognition - like hearing your voice on a recording, or seeing your body on a security camera, half-recognised, but not quite right. I would like to make a horror film that’s entirely mycological, like The Blair Witch project, but the corpses are all mushrooms.
This film is a feverish first draft of something I’d like to spend the next few years unpacking. I’m starting to feel so connected to the mycological kingdom that I can’t entirely tell where it ends and my body begins...
Random Entries (2020)
Gap Particles consists of silk prints I have unravelled by hand until they barely hold themselves together as single pieces of fabric. Printed on the silk are images of fragments; fragments from the collections of the Met Museum and the V&A Museum, from the streets in my neighbourhood, and from latent memories of my hard drive.
This ritualistic unravelling of woven, hardy cloth into fragile, temporal structures requires care and close attention. It’s not only the strength of the cloth that is diminished but also the images they contain. They become transparent, a whisper of air sends ripples through them and a careless gesture could break them. Fragments further disintegrate and particles from the past blend into our present, demanding more from us as onlookers.
The threadbare sculptures ask us to move aside, stretch our bodies. Precariously, they exist on the brink and remind us that we are “delicate creatures, composed of the most fragile material”, “enmeshed (…) with other beings by invisible threads of dependence and influence”.
Images: Fabienne Hess’s studio in 2020 and 2021. Photographs: Fabienne Hess.
The last sentence borrows from Olga Tokarczuk’s essay A New World Through My Window, trans. Jennifer Croft.
PARYS MOUNTAIN FULL OF PISS (2020)
CGI concept video for a line of heels that cater for folks with big feet and other special requirements. Filmed in Abney Park Cemetery in June 2020, created by Jos, model Daniel, camera assistant Yokai, soundtrack remix of ‘Freaky’ by Dappy, Pounds and Swarms.
Film still from a work in progress.
This film still comes from footage I found myself returning to over the past few months. It was shot at the horse stable ‘Ecurie Allah Barka’ in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, where we witnessed the birth of the foal Sougnoma (‘Forgiveness is good’) on 7 June 2018. The stable is situated close to ‘La Barrage’, the artificial dam that supplies water to most of the city. The dam had recently flooded leaving a residue of plastic waste where the horses graze.
With thanks to Sogo (Sogomandé Sangaré) and the warriors, Camilla Audia, Frances Crowley and everyone at Cheval Mandingue and Ecurie Allah Barka.