Notes from a Tree/05

On July 17th I was struck by how like a baby I felt, sprawled in the arms of my tree-parent, strong, solid, eternal.  As good as eternal gets.

So for that afternoon, I was a tree baby in a romper suit.  High on my tree-father’s shoulders, away from the crowd.

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Why is She Up There, Mummy? (part one)

I thought it might be useful to add this, for the record.  Here is the blurb I wrote for the exhibition:-

Artist’s Name: Lorna Ruskin
Title of work: “Self Portrait: Leopard (Dreams are Made of This)” 2013

Type of artwork: Performance

For the exhibition “If Not Here, Where?” I present a performance-based self-portrait. Dressed in a leopard onesie, I lounge in a tree, pondering my current life situation and waiting for the impulse to move. Surveying my life so far – the choices I have made – I wonder what happened to my dreams, to the life I thought I would have, and the person I thought I would be… Am I happy with who I am? Can I change..?

I am not from around here.

How is it – when I used to imagine myself living a life in Africa – that I am still here, living my life in Manchester, of all places? Do I belong here? Do I fit in? Is this my native land, my natural environment? Is this where I want to be?

And if I dream of being elsewhere, is that a dream I really want to make real, or do I just like dreaming…?

If not here, where would you be?

Notes from a Tree/04

From my notebook, dated 14th July 2013

The hot weather endures.

I endure

Saddle-sore discomfort,

grazed feet and ankles –

the results of my clumsiness when climbing.

Being overlooked (underlooked –  Look Up!  Look Up!) and then:

“Why is she up there, Mummy?”

Little girl bright in a yellow cardigan

with dark brown eyes.

“Why is she up there, Mummy?”

Mummy takes little girl by the hand, bends over her, low

Her voice is hushed –

Mummy probably doesn’t know, either.

A Weimaraner, my best visitor yet,

Jumping up to try and reach my toes and

Falling, rolling over on its back as it lands on the grass

Blue eyes turned up to me, perched on my bough

Its ears falling back

WHAT’S THAT???!!!

Unlike a squirrel, and unlike a cat.

I decide I really ought to have my camera at the ready, at all times.

Notes from a Tree/03

Lying, crouching, lounging in a tree

Watching what passes below

…Is this how it feels to be a predator?

A leopard in the wild?

The safety of being up high

The anonymity of being unnoticed

The advantage of seeing, without being seen.

Watching. Waiting.

Invisibility gives one a certain sort of

Power (whether one wants it or not)

Yet I’m not trying to hide

I’m here, right above you, right behind you.

From notes made on 12/07/13

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Notes from a Tree/02

11/7/13

Later – afternoon.

“There has been quite a steady flow of human traffic.  People blooming, people fading…

Hardly anyone saw me.

So is a piece of work ‘art’ if nobody notices it?”

… A load of typing, and subsequent deleting, later, I think: Ha!  Why even ask that?!  I hate existential questions, because (a) I don’t think there are right and wrong answers and (b) who cares, anyway?

Okay, so I’m currently involved in making some art that a lot of people walk past (or under) and don’t even notice.

I googled ‘unnoticed art’ and came across Isaac Cordal, whose work I saw at Urbis in Manchester some years ago.  The work I saw was a wall of photographs, not his figures themselves.  The photographs were like the ones on his website, pictures of his little concrete men.  Whichever comprise the artwork – his worried little people, or his brilliant photographs of them -doesn’t matter, as far as I’m concerned.

Here’s a Guardian article about Cordal and another artist, Slinkachu, from 2011, if you’re interested:-

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/feb/27/mini-street-sculpture-cordal-slinkachu

And as for me, I am, for the most part, enjoying being a leopard in a magnolia tree.

Notes from a Tree/01

Well, I didn’t just lie there doing nothing the whole time.

Notebook entry: 11/07/13: “Leopard in a Tree”

“Sometimes, if I keep still, people just don’t see me.

Not even if I’ve got a leg or two hanging down.”

Photo by Jeanette Howlett

Photo by Jeanette Howlett

“It’s like being a child again

Forbidden places

Forgotten spaces.

My world is a treetop

The sky full of leaves…”

The sky full of leaves...

The sky full of leaves…

“People sit on park benches beneath me, having

Private conversations

Not knowing there is a spy in a onesie

Listening

to the sounds of their voices

Words muffled in green.”

Private conversations

Private conversations

“..Here comes a business-man to eat his lunch

The crackling of plastic bags and aluminium foil

(A leopard leans forward to get a better look)

A paperback novel

Black socks and city shoes on a hot summer’s day

A ball of food moves in his cheek

His jaw goes up and down.

My left foot falls asleep.

Two wholewheat baps, filled

Followed by two satsumas

A glance at his watch

The book doesn’t hold him

He stares into space for a while

Picks his teeth.

Oh go on, then.  Just another couple of pages.

If I were to cough, would he turn around, look up, and notice me?

Leopards surely cough, after all?

…That plane is too loud.

We have created a world full of noise.

Leopards are quite quiet

By comparison.

He goes.

He doesn’t notice me.

He stands up, adjusts his waistband, looks around him (eye-level only)

And walks back to work,

Not knowing

He just shared his lunch-hour with a leopard.”

The exhibition continues

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Over the next two weeks I settled in, experimenting with different positions and different branches.  It was quite comfortable, so long as I didn’t stay in the same position for too long – despite taking place during the hottest July we have experienced for seven years (apparently).  The canopy of magnolia leaves above and around me kept me cool in my fleece onesie. The spots of sunlight filtering through the leaves merged with the leopard print design, the better to disguise me.

Day One of the Exhibition: If Not Here Where

picnic_01

picnic_02

The exhibition opening on July 7th coincided with a Garden Party in Parsonage Gardens, which was already in full swing when I arrived, and there was a group of adults and children picnicking under my chosen Magnolia tree.  (Photography courtesy of Roger Bygott)

The title of my performance is “Self-Portrait: Leopard (Dreams Are Made Of This)”