The blog of photographer Kim Ayres

A Call To Action...

To the artists, the writers and the creatives: we need new stories to help us shape this new world of ours.

Since the dawn of humanity it has been the tales we tell and the art we create that has helped us make sense of who we are, how we feel, how we behave, and who we could become.

The phrase of the moment is "unprecedented times", which means we don't have the frameworks to make real sense of what is happening and how to react.

Post-apocalyptic movies are all we are familiar with, and they are really not helpful just now.

We need new narratives and it is, and has always been, the storytellers who have shaped our understandings.

So to all the artists, writers and creatives: now is the time to help build our new reality.

Please share the message.

(an easily sharable version for social media use)

A combination of different strands came together, leading me to create the above statement and put it up on different social media platforms.

The hope was it might get shared and inspire some of the creatives who are now in self-isolation with their greater-than-average imaginations.

By their nature, most artists are able to conjour up unimagined worlds. This allows for amazing creativity, but can also lead to incredible levels of fear and anxiety.

A few days ago I was thinking about these "unprecedented times", and the fact we don't have any real narratives to deal with it. I explored this a bit in my last post where I mentioned Zombie Apolocalypse movies being the nearest thing we have, and that's extremely unhelpful right now.

Then yesterday I was introduced to a quote by Pablo Picasso, "Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth." This lead to a discussion about how art doesn't just reflect reality, it helps us to make sense of it.

From nursery rhymes and children's stories, to the TV programmes and films we watch, to the books and magazines we read, to the music we listen to, to the paintings, photos, scultptures and other art forms we look at - these things shape how we view the world.

This is the power of art, the power of storytelling in whatever medium.

So I was mulling this over - how we are lacking the narratives, and that artists create narratives - when this morning my wife put up a post:

This is the time to be slow,
Lie low to the wall
Until the bitter weather passes.
Try, as best you can, not to let
The wire brush of doubt
Scrape from your heart
All sense of yourself
And your hesitant light.
If you remain generous,
Time will come good;
And you will find your feet
Again on fresh pastures of promise,
Where the air will be kind
And blushed with beginning.
― John O'Donohue, To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings

This triggered the thought of putting up a call to action to artists and creatives - to give us something else to focus on - to harness that creativity to help make sense of what is happening, rather than our imaginations running wild in fear and loss.

At a point where photographers, musicians, performers and many different kinds of artists and craftspeople suddenly have no work, no audience, and no income, then it's easy to feel completely overwhelmed.

In addition to feeling extremely vulnerable, we feel useless. What good is an ability to take photos, or paint a picture or write a poem when people are ill or dying?

But here is a different narrative. What if our skills do have a use? What if we can find ways for people to make sense of this new, unprecedented world?

However, while I have had a little bit of positive response to it, I've also been hit with some negativity too - from people implying I'm concentrating on the wrong things, to having my head stuck up my own arty arse, to even my turn of phrase.

Aye, well, I'm a photographer, not a poet.

I thought what I'd written was clear, but apparently not, which has lead to me feeling the need to expand on it all in this post.

Meanwhile I'm swithering again from feeling I was doing something positive to feeling foolish for having stuck my head above the parapet.

It looks like this blog is going to be used much more again for writing, now that I'm not going to have any more Photography clients for quite some time...


Eryl said...

There are shed loads of people who will argue vehemently that art is of absolutely no use, but they listen to music, they watch films and tv; they play computer games' some of them may even go to galleries and read books. We have a problem because the value of art can't be measured with money, and its effects aren't visible, unless you know what to look for.

I think there are narratives out there that could help us, but maybe they're not direct enough. I heard that books on the plague are selling fast, as people search for meaning and a way to understand what's happening and how to live in such times (have you read Narcissus and Goldmund (Herman Hesse), it's tremendous?). But I agree, some new work would be great, if only to keep the creatives active, and I expect a lot of people have already begun writing poems, making paintings, all sorts. I have some idea of making collage stories, or poems, out of existing epochal narratives, but I am a very slow worker so it could be years before I have anything worth sharing. That said, Scarlet has started a new blog whereby we are all meant to add a chapter to a story and I have promised to join in. Why not pop over to her place and take a look?

savannah said...

SWEET MARY SUNSHINE, isn't art what keeps us from turning into feral creatures? I can't fathom how anyone could find fault with what you posted! We're all (the fortunate ones, at least) at home doing what Eryl said from the comfort of our sofas. I swear I could spit bricks at idiots who diminish the arts and the creative souls that fashion it! ARRGGGHH! Maybe I'll just continue to yell at Trumpito whenever he's on the TV (which I must when he speaks) because his trashy ass has given cover to all the jackasses out there! *whew* That was a rant even the MITM had to remind me to calm down about (yes, I was also speaking out loud as I typed!)

Anyway, thank you! xoxo

Kim Ayres said...

Eryl - everytime you write a blog post, it's something worth sharing - you have a wonderful eye and way of describing the world. :)

There seem to be 2 competing narratives at the moment.

The first is the apocalyptic, "OMG, we're all under immediate threat - very soon there will be no food, and no toilet roll, and there will be looting and I have to protect myself and my family at all costs!"
So books and movies on plagues, zombies and other post-apocalyptic tales feed into this and ramp up the fight-or-flight response.

The other narrative is one of compassion and community spirit - we're all in this together, and together we will pull through.

Both narratives are very human, but I know which one I'd like to see more of.

Savannah - it's said that when Churchill was asked to cut funding to the arts in order to support the war effort in World War II, he responded "Then what would we be fighting for?"
There are questions as to whether it's a genuine quote or not, but I like the sentiment :)

neena maiya (guyana gyal) said...

Art is the language for those who can't find the words, for all who need release. It helps us to dig our way out of the dark self, the frightened self, to seek a way out of it, to find that light we all so need in good times and bad.

I'm busy reaching out to people in Guyana, they are so scared...what with the virus and the threat of dictatorship looming.

I'm so busy trying to calm others, I almost forgot to calm myself.

Art helps me. I must sit still and think.

Kim Ayres said...

Neena - oftentimes it's much easier to focus on helping other people rather than ourselves. But also remember you are only human and not responsible for everyone else's wellbeing.
Of course we can add our voices, but we are not solely responsible.
Take care

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