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TIME AND SPACE FOR CREATIVE PRACTICE

Each year arts organisation Metal invites a number of artists into residence. The artists spend time in the city undertaking research to inform new performances and art works. Working in the city, meeting people and exploring places, invariably ends up with the resulting art works being about Peterborough or involving local residents. This month sees Metal introduce artist Jane Hoodless ….

Can you tell us about your work?

I am a visual artist inspired by the criminal, the cultural and the curious. The thread that runs through my practice is the desire to know why people do what they do. Or rather, did what they did.

I am interested in storytelling, surreal marriages of objects and ideas, and am predominantly inspired by uncommon aspects of social history. The materials and techniques I use are largely determined by concept and are frequently turned on their head, such as a wedding cake woven out of hair.

Having combined words and images all my life; the narratives I produce are presented with conviction and consideration, and involve extensive research. In doing so, I aim to lift the thin veil between past and present, traditional and contemporary to exist in an almost timeless space; where centuries of hopes and fears are probed, plundered and repackaged to challenge and comfort, provoke thought and inspire.

What are you developing whilst in residence at Metal Peterborough?

I am undertaking development-based research for my project CHANGING ROOM, a body of work that addresses some of the history and hysteria surrounding human menopause.

Our understanding of menopause depends on who is doing the talking, the language they are using, the audience, the time, place and context. Information regarding how women dealt with menopause historically has proved scant or misogynistic. I’ve had foggy conversations with otherwise clear-headed friends, and read readers’ forthright responses to online articles that have been seemingly rooted in ignorance. It seems crazy for something that happens to over half the population to be so poorly prepared for – and apparently still taboo.

Who have you been working with so far or who are you hoping to work with?

My ultimate goal is for CHANGING ROOM to become a touring exhibition with elements of public engagement (visual art, workshops, talks) that increases the visibility of this ill-informed topic with the intent of quashing these taboos and widening discourse.

Having most recently been planning and making work inspired by historic menopause experiences, I now want to hear directly from women in the present.

Have there been any interesting findings at this stage?

I have had to rethink the work I intended to undertake during my Metal residency, given our collective situation of social isolation – a status that in some ways echoes that of menopause.

However one overriding consistency throughout all my research is that everyone’s experience is different. I even made a wall-hanging (one of a series) to illustrate the point. “Every woman is different, and every woman knows her body better than anyone. What works for one may not work for another.”


What do you hope to achieve with the work?

Encouraged and supported by many of the experts and institutions I’ve approached, I want this body of work to challenge negative associations, shed new light, encourage interaction and debate; and for the related experiences to be inclusive, informal, educational, and infused with humour.

Everyone I speak to reaffirms the need to make menopause more mainstream. I am an artist, not a natural campaigner, so have been surprised at how strongly motivated I’ve become in my quest to widen the reach of menopause as a social issue.

In drawing attention to a topic that continues to generate confusion and social awkwardness, I hope my work will encourage and inform younger women, men and children too – because every person will either experience the menopause, or live with someone who will, or is, or has….

How can people get involved?

Workshops and conversation 1-2-1s and groups are obviously on hold, but peer support is powerful and compelling, so I want to facilitate some conversations about menopause – both virtual and actual.

I am compiling a questionnaire about menopause, and want to hear about your experiences: positive, negative and/or anything in between.

Participants can be of any age, with direct experience of menopause – or not.

Rather than presenting an A-Z of the subject, my work is a personal, yet universal interpretation of menopause, inspired by socio-historic, scientific and cultural references.

DISCLAIMER:
Your replies will be only viewed by me, and I will not share the content with any third parties. The information or quotes that you share in response to the questionnaire may be used to inform the project (directly or indirectly) and, if so, will always be used anonymously.

If you are interested in participating in my research, and completing a questionnaire, please contact: ruth@metalculture.com

For further details visit www.janehoodless.com

Artist In Residence Interview with Jane Hoodless