When the flood calls,
You have no home, you have no walls.
In the thunder crash,
You’re a thousand minds, within a flash
(Peter Gabriel, ‘Here Comes the Flood’ (1977)).
WFH: DAY 8. 8.15 am: A communion. 8.45 am: A review of the inbox before testing my audio-video equipment in readiness for the beginning of third-year painting tutorials. While remote and digitally enabled, I had close at hand my ubiquitous Black Notebook, which accompanies me on my studio visits:
Some students prefer video and others, messaging. I’m fine with both. Young people tend to be a little phone averse, in my experience. (So am I.) Texting is their usual mode of communicating. I experience an awkward self-consciousness when making video calls, which has never entirely dissipated after years of conducting them. There’s a fundamental disconnect, even though both parties are visible and audible one to another. Perhaps it’s because only a digital rendering of our image and voice actually meet. When students don’t manage to take up their appointment, I get concerned. More than likely, some of them will catch the virus and be incapacitated for several weeks. (One has to be realistic.) To date, I know of only one who has fallen foul of it, and, mercifully, begun to pull through.
Things were proceeding well; I was keeping up the pace. 11.20 am: More tea:
A number of students have chosen to remain in Aberystwyth, in half-empty accommodation, rather than go home. All confess to being preoccupied with their studies. This can only be a good thing. I was impressed by all the students’ maturity, composure, and acceptance of their situation.
2.00 pm: Back on the virtual-studio floor. I’m privileged to have an occupation that permits me to engage in meaningful and enriching conversations in process of delivering my responsibilities. I’ve never before taught from within my studio. And none of my students have had the opportunity to visit it, previously. Thus, distance and separation can give rise to greater intimacy and mutual knowledge.
5.00 pm: Job done! A day’s teaching completed without ever having to leave my seat.
Some pertinent exchanges, today:
- T: The conditions are not ideal, but not impossible.
- T: You may make a type of artwork that would’ve been inconceivable under normal circumstances.
- T: Are you managing to discipline your days?
- T: I’m busy. Actually, I’m just as busy now as I was in normal times. I long for the days that others talk about when I’ll need to read books and learn Japanese in order to fill-up my time.
- T: All of us have two options: to either act (with passionate determination) or sit on our hands and bemoan our lot.
- We will emerge from the fiery furnace, tried and refined.
- Perhaps, for the first time, the students are engaged in making art for it’s own sake, rather than for the purposes of exhibition and assessment, principally.
A concluding overview for the students:
It was heartening to see the vast majority of you either face-to-face or via messages, and in fine fettle. Clearly, we can do business remotely. Some lessons derived from this initial experience: 1. It’s helpful to post me photographs of the work that you’d like to discuss ahead of the tutorial; 2. Write a short list of things that you want to talk about in the tutorial; 3. Write up the main points of the discussion immediately after the tutorial. In these stressful times, it’s too easy to forget; and 4. Send up a flare on MS Teams when you need emergency advice. I’ll endeavour to get back to you as soon as I can.
7.00 pm: Admin, across the board of activities. A making of lists. An execution of lists. (A beginning.) 8.00 pm: