I have done many residencies in the past. However this is the first one that has required being ‘in residence’ in the city not just driving to and from, sleeping in your own bed at the end of the day.
I am a very sociable person, i like talking to people. i like observing from a distance as a scientist in the field - but i also like my space. Now i am going to go on a rambling curvy trajectory here so bare with me. In a professional capacity i am relatively confident, on a personal level i am relatively shy - preferring to talk on an individual basis or very small groups at a push - i don’t function well in big groups. I say this because it’s not always clear in my own mind what i am at any particular moment when in residence and say in the cafe - is that me time or am i still on the clock as it were?
Also, how do you get that meaningful human contact, that warmth of conversation from a familiar face - i can’t just ring a friend and say meet you in 20 at de Vie ( a great cafe in newcastle). But of course you can get the warmth of conversation from strangers - tho sometimes i think because people know you are only here for a few weeks there is a lack of incentive for investment as you’ll soon be gone - plus they already have their own lives going on. I know i am ar risk of over analysis here and it’s nothing personal - people have been friendly enough and sometimes it only takes one conversation to get you through to the next day with a glow from the kindness of a stranger. And i know i chose to be here, i applied to do it, it’s what i do, it’s what makes me me - but that doesn’t mean to say i find it easy.
Similarly the whole personal space thing, the familiar, I have certain things that keep me grounded when i am at home. I hate to admit it but even i have routines. Having a dedicated space to work and live in. Somewhere to go and collapse and recharge. How do you get that living in a strange town in a B and B or flat? It’s making me think about connections, mechanisms and processess when you don’t have all those things, the stuff, around you. It’s making me think a lot.
The above is a very personal thing but it is not restricted to me. Whilst some issues facing people are issues of physical mobility or disability mine is a more psychological one. Regardless, or because, of my diagnosis i negotiate spaces and sutuations on a much more psychological level. And just because you can’t see my struggle doesn’t mean i’m not. For instance in the cafe at DCA i have ranked all the tables as ones i can sit at and ones i couldn’t even think about sitting at. Of the ones i can sit at i have ranked them in order. Depending on how well i am affects how far down that order i can go before i would be unable to stay and have to go somewhere else. I do that ranking instantly, almost unconciously. It is about safety, not necessary physical (although that may be part of it) it’s a psychological safety. When i approached DCA for the first time i had the same issues going on. How do i approach the door, the front desk, get down those huge stairs into that daunting space at the bottom. And so on.
I think people are atuned to being aware of physical disability - afterall you can see it - but what about other invisible disabilties. Just because i am ‘well’ or ‘well enough’ doesn’t mean to say i am well and without my disabilty. I have learnt coping strategies to mask it. We all do. But for me there isn’t a day goes by without me self monitoring my moods and how i am on all different sorts of levels. Self monitoring, working and exhaustion don’t go hand in hand. Something has to give. So on my last visit for instance, tiredness reduced my ability to self monitor, i failed to be adaptive to my situation and therefore had a small public bipolar ambush - which thankfully didn’t cause to much of an after shock.
So there is loads to learn for me here. Loads to do. Not just about how to do the residency, how to be resident which is perhaps work stuff there’s all the personal stuff. I wonder how much this was considered in the wider remit of the residency as it must have connotations for other disabled artists doing distant resident residencies - not all access issues are physical - i can’t be alone in this - this must be a common experience - i’d like to have a wider dialogue about this at some point.