Hide and seek

A woman in a long white dress and long dark hair is lifted into the air by a tall man with wearing a white t-shirt and beige chinos. An empty wheelchair is next to them, ignored.

somehow

the chair was never an obstacle

instead

it was a way of breaking the ice

many friendships that grew

in that little cul-de-sac

from movie nights

to girls playing with their skipping ropes

always complaining about who should do the skipping

without me minding

that I couldn’t do the jumping

these conversations

and games happened so organically

with ease, no one ever made a fuss

about the chair

(other than the times they fought to play in it)

we would play, just get on with things

with and without the chair One of the all-time faves was Hide and Seek.

Community

I grew up in a community where everyone

knew each other.  For the first 6 years of my life

I was an only child, living with both parents

and the only friends I had and knew

were the ones from school

and cousins.

At the age of 7

we moved to a new home

still in the same area

everyone who moved into the new community

around the same time

none of the homes had fencing

yet most days, I’d spend in the house

and occasionally on the outside kitchen porch

with the kitchen door wide open and mum always busy cooking up something nice

My ability

A woman sits in her chair suspended in the air held by a man who lies on his back.

I’ve never known what it means to be bound

bound to this chair, if anything

 it’s given me the most incredible ability

the ability to move, the ability to live life,

the ability to experience the world.

When I think of my chair I think

of all the incredible things

I’ve been able to do with it, as a result of it.  

when going places, or viewing apartments

over the years, I have never mentioned before the time

that I use a wheelchair:

I somehow always forget

to mention it feeling it to be unimportant.

The scared and shocked faces!

Most close friends now joke about, and say

‘dude did you tell them you’re coming with an extra?’

At times when going out, everyone would

get into the car and ask

‘What are we waiting for?’ and I’d say

‘For one of you to put the chair in the boot!’

Environment

Upside down image of a woman being held in the air in her wheelchair by a man lying on his back.

In my childhood,

I felt safe, with my chair

and my environment

and people in my life

my family never allowing any self-pity

but that was in South Africa with its

imbalances, across race, culture, language,

disability is perhaps the most overlooked.

I only experienced discrimination

later in life, feeling the weight and smack

of discrimination hitting me

but I could withstand the blows

Screw loose

A muffled image in blue and black, a woman in a wheelchair falling backwards down an escalator

I remember the day –

16th of August –

one of my wheels came off.

Some screws came lose,

got lost and it fell off

as I was wheeling myself.

in that very moment

I burst out with laughter thinking

screw loose laughter, hilarious. Oh shit!

Yet somehow feeling safe and held,

having learned long ago how to handle

my chair, suddenly in that moment

conforming to society’s idea that I am stuck

and bound and cannot move around

which isn’t the case, when

I have my screws in place,

Which isn’t how I feel about my chair at all.   

One, not other

The white ghost like figure is clearer, almost dancing holding out to embrace. We see Nadine more clearly in her wheelchair, her long hair dishevelled.

My brakes who at times fail me

yet have always been in reach

when I need to stop

and be still. 

The handles, that have made it okay

for others to reach out and come up close

I have learnt that your presence

will always fill the rooms we enter

and that that is not

a bad thing.  I have learnt

that we are one and you are not the other. 

Confidence

a mottled image of Nadine in a wheelchair sat upright, seen sideways her left arm on the wheel her right arm extended and indecipherable images of people around her in circles and shades of salmon and aquamarine

my back rest has taught me

not to slouch, to sit up straight

upright n’ ready to face the world

with confidence; the hard and strong frame

that has carried me through time

on the lightest and heaviest of days.

Sometimes unaware of its strength,

I know it’s always there to rely on.

I’m ready

A blurred unclear picture in soft aquamarine blue and light browny pink of a hand reaching. A wheelchair wheel is visible.

My seat that I gently slide over

and into each day

Sometimes unaware

of the support you give

As I slide over my body sinks into it,

the feeling of being held and ready –

I am ready to go do life. 

Connection

Black and white image of a woman with long dark hair sits horizontally held in her wheelchair in a dance pose. A man lying on the ground holds the woman and her wheelchair above him.
Nadine Mackenzie dances with partner in her wheelchair

Through this residency I am exploring the connection to, and relationship with, my wheelchair and me moving in different spaces and what this has meant for me over the 29 years of using one.

I am interested in the different emotional phases I’ve gone through in using a wheelchair. How this has had an impact internally but also externally.

Dance has played a huge role in my independence, confidence and acceptance of self and others.  I want to explore motion in the studio, where I am more fluid and confident compared to outside spaces, revisiting my childhood games of hide and seek and when one of the kids would give me a piggy back so I could be part of the game with another pushing the chair, erasing the wheel tracks in the sand so no one could find us. 

This Vital Capacities commission is about exploring these different pathways, tapping into these trails and travails and experiences through film.

I think self-awareness and awareness of the chair and difference came at quite a later stage, and a lot of this had to do with society, and how disability is perceived in the world we live in and how people with disabilities get treated. So with the work I am thinking of putting together a 5 minute video of me moving in studio, exploring different connections, emotions and states of being I have experienced.

Word drawings

It’s very interesting, going back and visiting old work. I tend to be consumed by new work, absorbed in my making and thinking. When my practice focused on drawing, drawing was all I wanted to do. For a while, a walk without a walking drawing was a wasted walk. My excitement and enthusiasm for the drawings gripped my mind totally.


So re-visiting the process of making walking drawings for this residency I expected to have that same consuming interest, and at first I definitely was excited and enjoyed seeing the work that was produced. Then as the days went on the work became frustrating. I felt stuck and I felt like I had gone backwards in some way. My focus has changed, my work is currently engaged with word crafting, I felt in some strange way that I was letting my practice down by attending to drawing, despite how much I love drawing as an art form. It was a very uncomfortable moment in this residency.

After wrestling with this problem and talking to artist friends I realised that I have definitely moved on from making drawings in the old style, with the drawing devices. But I haven’t finished making drawings per se, I realised that I have just changed the medium with which I make drawings.

I’ve written quite a lot during this residency and I was idly thinking about drawing, writing and the possibility of drawing with words. I wondered what the writing I have done for this residency would look like in a word cloud? I was thinking that perhaps I have used particular words very often and maybe looking at those words would inspire me to create something interesting for my final exhibition piece.

So I pasted my posts into some word cloud software. There were some interesting results, so I decided to copy and paste the words into Google docs and play around with them, trying to find some way of drawing with words. Surprisingly, when I pasted the word cloud words into the document I discovered that many of the words had somehow been stuck together, forming new and rather wonderful words. For instance, fungi and old became fungiold, way and road became wayroad, breath and raven, breathraven.

Reader, my brain exploded. Okay, not literally, but I was so excited to see these wonderful, randomly created new words. The process felt simillar to how I used to make drawings, in that I would set up an experiment which had an element of the unexpected and/or random process and then metaphorically step back and allow the outcome to generate itself. In drawing, that is effected when I design a device for making a drawing based on some input not deliberately controlled by my hand, as when the pen in the device moves because I am walking.

Using the word cloud felt similar. I wrote the initial words and input them into the word cloud, therefore setting up the conditions for something to happen, yet it was the way the word cloud software handled the text and the Google software handled the copy and paste process that determined the outcome of the combined words.

These combined words placed together in an arbitrary collection are word drawings, maybe even a poem. But I am the mother of a poet and I have enormous respect and awe for a poet’s effort and creativity in combining words and meaning and I feel that to call what I have created poetry is incorrect, even audacious. They are word drawings; odd, sometimes beautiful, nonsense in which we may nonetheless see meaning.

Just as I make the decision what type of pen or what colour ink to use in a walking drawing, therefore having some aesthetic control over the final drawings, so I took some control over the placement of words in my word drawings. Mostly, I left them as they were arranged by the word cloud software, but in some cases I moved them around and I sometimes inserted words, such as go, and or where to break up the list and improve the rhythm or flow of the piece.

Finally, I used some Open Source software called Twine to gather all the words into an interactive word drawing. Readers determine what text will be displayed on screen by clicking on the highlighted words, therefore having a different experience with each reading, depending on which words are selected.

I’m very happy with this result! I never could have imagined getting to here from where I began on this residency, back at the beginning of August. What is really exciting for me is that this feels like the start of a new way of working, a new stream to my practice, which is always evolving anyway. It was so good to pass through that uncomfortable place, revisiting the walking drawings, to come to this. Sometimes, being an artist is like walking along a path, one with switchbacks and branchlines and where the path ahead is often completely obscured by the trees.

Ten failed drawings

Okay, they are not exactly failures, in fact they are very lovely drawings I think. These are some of the walking drawings I have made over the last couple of weeks. Most are black ink on paper but three are on clear acetate and one is on a dried green leaf.

Black and white abstract drawing, ink on acetate. A tangle of short, straight and curved lines drawn with a brush pen.

These drawings have all been created using a very simple drawing device I made using wire, cardboard and a copper spring. I suspend a ink pen from the copper spring and take the whole contraption for a walk, the pen drawing as I move.

Black and white abstract drawing, ink on paper. A dense tangle of very short lines going in all directions but forming almost a circle. Small dots of ink decorate the edges of the drawing.

I’ve been attempting to film the process, with varying results. I bought myself an iPad, hoping for better film results, but it’s new technology for me and is currently proving quite frustrating, not least in the weird placement of the iPad camera to the far right of the device, which is really awkward in the drawing device. I might go back to my simple, but trusty mobile phone!

Black and white abstract drawing, ink on paper. Delicate, short, feathery lines made with a brush pen at the center and center top of the page, forming a roughly circular shape.

So back to the drawing board (or drawing device I should say)…

Black and white abstract drawing, ink on paper. Delicate, lines and dots form an almost triangular shape. The lines crisscross over each other.
Black and white abstract drawing, ink on paper. Close up image of a very dense roughly circular drawing made with thick, short, feathery lines going in all directions
Photograph of a dried green hazel leaf decorated with dense black ink lines in the centre of the leaf. The ink marks mostly go in the same vertical direction and cross over each other in the centre.
Black and white abstract drawing, ink on acetate. The lines go in all directions forming a roughly circular, spidery shape. The ink remains wet and forms little blobs of thicker pigment along each line.
Black and white abstract drawing, ink on tracing paper. A small roughly square tangle of thick ink lines decorates the centre of the page. One single fine line is drawn from the right edge of the page, not quite meeting the tangle of lines.
Black and white abstract drawing, ink on acetate. two ink blobs sit side by side roughly in the centre of the page. The blobs swirl in roughly circular form where they have been wiped with a cloth or rag.
The Black and white abstract drawing, ink on acetate. The image is full of movement, lines made in many different directions. The ink has not dried and has pooled in blobs along the drawn lines and in the centre of the drawing.

Spinning the lines

Last year I began toying with writing a novel. It’s not gone anywhere yet and on re-reading it’s fairly dire, as all first novel attempts are allowed to be.

One of the central characters in this story is a wild, grey haired woman who may or may not be centuries old and profoundly occult. She came to me as a vivid image, a woman in a long yellow coat walking the lanes and roads of Britain constantly twisting her fingers, which others think is a mere tic. What her twitching fingers are really doing is spinning unseen lines of magical force across the land.

“We were important people us spinsters. An’ I was one of the best. So they made me what I am today. Did the ritual, gave me to Britain. Spinster. Spinner. Walking the lines, spinning the magic.”

So. I am at that lovely (sarcasm that) stage in making when I have many ideas and no resolution. Yet. I’ve been dissatisfied with the drawing device work, feeling like it hit a dead end, uninspired with my results but feeling somehow nagged by the work, like it still had a way to go, even if I couldn’t see how to resolve it.

At the same time I’ve been thinking a lot about paths and walking and at the same time continuing to work on a long term project I am developing, called AuTCRONE Chronicles, which attempts to voice my grief about the current global ecological stupidity humans are embroiled in.

Anyway, one of the characters in the project (it’s a speculative fiction project) walks. She is a near immortal nomad bearing witness to climate disaster.

I want to write about her walking and have been thinking about how to tell the story of her walking even as I have been walking paths for this residency. And at the same time I’ve been making and filming walking drawings. I’m thinking stories and making drawings and have been unable to resolve either work and it’s been driving me mad!

Then I read the words I wrote for that occult character in the abandoned terrible novel and I think I’ve had a lightbulb moment.

What you don’t know about me is that I started my art career working exclusively with textile. I’m still a regular knitter (because I make all my clothes. And that’s another story) and I can spin on a drop spindle. I can spin on a drop spindle and walk at the same time. And so maybe I can gather up the threads of my making and storytelling and work them into something that might possibly involve spinning, drawing and storytelling.

It’s getting late and I’m tired after a long day walking but I think this idea might have legs. I’m going to run with it, metaphorically speaking. Goodnight.

The path is

Multi-layered digital image of paths the artist …kruse has walked along, with text from the poem, The Path Is, written by …kruse.
Audio reading of the poem The Path Is.

This had been a week of deep thinking and much doing. Most of the doing has not been about this residency though, which has been frustrating. This has been a very ovewhelming month. I’m not a summer person and August is often a rather fraught month, maybe for others too?


Anyway, there’s been a lot going on and I have found myself on a couple of occasions this week walking on the few paths I can find near my home with a feeling that is like a little half dried out sea creature crawling down the sand to the blessed water.

I think about the people in Afghanistan and their desperate scrambling for sanctuary. I think about all the people who take to the road to flee terror and danger.

Going to the path, even in my privileged life, can be necessary medicine, sanctuary, peace. I wrote this poem while walking along a path, feeling a deep need for green spaces and the peace of trees. I wanted it to feel a little bit like a prayer, particularly the ‘celtic’ lorica or caim, which is a prayer for protection, asked either for the self, or as a blessing for others. These incantations contain a lot of repetitive elements. I think many of them were written or created (most come from a time when there was very low literacy, and the loricas may have been passed on by word of mouth). They feel to me like walking poems, that is, they fit the pace and rhythm of walking.

The path is a story

A narrow dirt path wends away through dense green trees and undergrowth.

Just some thoughts about the path. I think I’m getting closer to understanding why I love paths so much. I’m beginning to see how the path is both a fantasy place, an imaginative landscape where everything is perfect, and a real space, where I am confronted by my own failings or frailties. This realisation will influence how I write and make work about paths going forward.

I am a pen

Had a very interesting, useful and inspiring (three for three!) meeting today with Jamie Wyld and access specialist Sarah Pickthall. It got me thinking not only about how to make my work more accessible online, but also led me into thinking about the walking drawings in a new way.

I wrote yesterday that I was frustrated with producing works on paper and wanted to explore something else with these drawings. At today’s meeting I suddenly saw that I could try and articulate the drawing, maybe even try to articulate it as it is happening. It’s really hard to describe my thoughts on this, but it’s about making a drawing become more three dimensional (or four dimensional if I include time?).

I’ve always felt that a drawing can be more than a drawing. (Would it then be a drawing though, or a sculpture?) I would love to make drawings that go beyond seeing, being looked at; that you could feel, or hear, if you have hearing.

Anyway, the video below is my attempt to give a drawing a different kind of life…

Drawing the path 01

Prototype drawing device on Oxfordshire path

I took a prototype drawing device to Oxfordshire at the weekend. I wanted to walk down a path I knew well with the device and film it working.

This path starts at the top of the lane where we used to live when I was a small child. It’s a very significant place for me, which I wrote about on my Wayfaring blog a while ago. I wanted to revisit a path that I know well, so that my focus would be on the thing I was making rather than on the path itself.

It was odd making this drawing. I’ve made drawings like this many times before and I’m not sure how to take this work forward. Just making yet another drawing doesn’t seem like a particularly productive thing to do. On the other hand, I do love watching these drawings get made.

It was interesting filming it and I think this might be who I want the drawings to be shown. I’m still exploring that idea, but I have some concerns about making paper based drawings – it’s just more stuff in the world you know?

Defining the path – 02

dew covered brambles growing across a muddy, narrow path on a cold winters day
Winter path – …kruse 2021

When Little Red Riding Hood went into the forest did she follow a path all the way to her Grandmother’s house? Hansel and Gretel hand in hand, woke up in a part of the forest they didn’t know and it was a path, not a road that took them to the witch. Robert Frost followed the, ‘road less taken,’ but I think he was being a little grandiose there, the ‘two roads’ were in a wood and both were grassed over, so were these really roads Robert, or merely paths?
There are a great many stories and poems about roads, Edward Thomas,’ ‘Now all roads lead to France,’ is full of sadness and menace, A.E Houseman, Kipling, Walt Whitman, G.K Chesterton, all write of roads. Roads may be grand, they may be dusty, they may take you on to the hell of a war or be the same road refugees flee along seeking safety.
Roads were built for armies, and after the wars those roads remained for commerce. Trade maintained the old battle-roads, and the grandest routes still exist, cutting across continents and centuries.
Back in the day, in England, travellers were charged to keep on the ‘king’s road,’ stepping off it into the wood was trespass and punishable. But then, back in the day, the dark woods or lonely moors beside the road were the hunting places of bears, wolves and dangerous men, so staying on the road was safer anyway.
Following the road is always easier than stepping off it, especially if the road is tarmacked, a smooth skin over the mess and inconvenience of nature. And everyone knows where the road comes from and where the road goes, even if they never travel along it themselves. On the road you are in community, you follow its laws, you follow its route, on the road you are seen, on the road you are known, you are part of the crowd and that brings with it both safety and danger. Safety in numbers? Maybe (has that ever been true?). Safety from dangers lurking beside the road. Safety in that the road will bring you to food, a bed, shelter. All roads do that eventually. But there is danger on the road too, danger in being so visible, danger in following a well travelled way.

“Stay off the road,” warns Gandalf to Frodo in Lord of the Rings, knowing that it is on the road that Frodo’s enemy will seek him. Frodo takes a path through the woods, a path across open country too, but the fickle paths lead him astray. Through the woods the path changes direction and eventually it fades away altogether. This is the danger of paths. Paths are wild things. You follow a path at your peril.

A path will take you into nature, brambles snatching at your hair, mud in winter, adders in the grass, no surety of direction, no certainty of food or shelter ahead. A path invites you to have faith, someone came this way once, that’s why the path is here. It’s not community on a path, the others are too far ahead or behind for that, but there is a kind of fellowship, others have been here, once, and your solitude is a little less lonely because of them.
A path is a quiet thing. It exists because other beings have trod the way, but only a season or two without passersby and the path returns to the wild, disappears into the grass and wild flowers. A path stays open because it is wanted.