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


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/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


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.”

Day One of the Exhibition: If Not Here Where



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)”

The beginning, contd.

This is how it started.


I was invited to participate in a group exhibition curated by the artists John Lynch and Natasha Lolljee at the Old Parsonage and Parsonage Gardens, Didsbury, Manchester, UK.  The exhibition took place over two weeks in July, 2013.

Taking the exhibition’s theme – ‘If Not Here Where’ – literally, I thought: where would I rather be (if anywhere)?

– An image of a leopard lounging in a tree against a backdrop of endless savannah came to my mind.  At sundown, of course.

I long, sometimes, to be in Africa.

I long to be at home.