Marega’s Creative Roots Experience
This blog is guest written by Marega Palser.
Marega Palser is a multi-dimensional shape shifting performance-based artist.
My first experience of prison was back in the early 90’s. My boyfriend at the time was doing two years so I got to visit various ‘walled establishments’, And, got to see parts of Britain I’d never been to … think of it as an alternative road trip. In Jimmy Boyle’s ‘Sence of Freedom’, on the way to Barlinnie Prison after being sentenced for Life, he makes this observation of having never seen the countryside, which was so close to his native Glasgow. ‘Sence of Freedom’ had a huge impact on me when I first read it many years ago. It showed how beneath the surface of a man who had known violence all his life, there was a creative spirit who could bring a lump of clay to life and transform it into something other. This chance was made possible by an experiment-let’s say-to introduce creativity through art making at the prison.
This story resonated with me strongly.
I have always loved drawing since being a child. Its a world to get lost in, to day dream, to see what happens if…
I always wanted to go to Art College, and very late in the day (15years old) I fell in love with dance and trained as a dancer instead ; I did eventually go to Art college at the age of 38. (Where i met Bill Chambers who opened up the world of Printmaking to me).
The creative path I have been on has been rich and very varied. It’s been something like this…so far…
I felt for many years that I wasn’t good enough and i’m not ‘good’ at any one thing – … Thankfully this mindset never stopped me seeking things out, or trying things when given the opportunity (even when they scare me)
‘Given the opportunity’… there lies the key.
1. What I learned
I’ve learned that the creative workshops I give can be carried out within the prison environment. If anything it re-enforces the idea of offering and translating ideas in short, bitesize sections ( 5-15 minute time scale ). This is partly due to the time people have in some situations and in the prison setting, the many distractions that are around.
2. Working alongside the men
The creative exercises we have shared, whether it be meditation, drawing, writing, printmaking and painting, have the ability to open up both the imagination, and also memories outside of the prison setting. This can include the tactile nature of the materials and sometimes what the scent evokes. The above have had a positive effect and have also tapped into humour and lightness during the making process, as well as opening up deeper more personal conversations.
The importance of creating a ‘holding space’ also seems key. This enables a sense of trust to build and a Safe space to allow the self to try things in a non-judgemental way.
The intelligence and imagination of the men I have worked with is equal, and often surpasses other workshop situations I have been in.
3. What the men have taught me
One of the things I have realised is how Big the small, often overlooked things can be. Things become magnified somehow. For example, if something goes not according to plan in the making of something, how this can have a devastating feeling – that will pass – but needs to be handled with a lightness of touch. There is a concentrated care and nurturing during the making process.
4. How I lead workshops
I chose my words carefully-especially in describing exercises. It is not a dumbing down, more of finding a way to articulate ideas that can sometimes seem abstract. I also think humour is important and is something to encourage, especially with some of the exercises.
5. The effect in that environment and how it affects me..
The prison environment is a hard one-no doubt about it… there are no soft edges. I see how the environment can shape the mind set and behaviour of the men, and notice the mood before a workshop starts, during, and after.
I am also aware of my own emotional state before entering the prison and how it can shift during the day. On the whole, being with the men in a workshop situation can really lift me, and I feel a deep sense of care for the men I have worked alongside. I feel a deep sense of sadness if they are not able to return to sessions- whether that is because they have been moved to another wing or because their emotional state has been affected by incidents within the compound.
It emphasises the transitory state for some lives and re-enforces the idea to try and impart something of potential value in a short space of time.
I feel the physical restrictions of the environment ; the straight lines, the hard edges, the noise, the not being able to move freely through the space and having to rely on a key holder.
The Artwork produced and mounting the exhibition
WOW ! Is all I can say …
The work produced by both participants, and the prison staff…
The work and the working process crosses over to all parties, and it felt very important not to distinguish who’s was who’s.
Come exhibition day – I thought it was wonderful ! A brilliant collective effort in installing it, and then how the work was met by everyone.
As the day went on, the initial ‘shock’…. As in, walking into an exhibition – for the men especially was WonderFuLL ! Everyone relaxed into that space, and once again it felt like the prison walls disappeared.
The conversations about the artwork and the process were rich, and the added interest by other men who had not been part of the making was one of curiosity with a sprinkling of wonder !
For my own creative response to working in Parc – I felt very close to not doing it come the time, or changing it in some way, as my initial thought was… ‘This is never going to work’….
But…. And what a BUT ! – I think it is one of my highlights to date.
To do a performance that is so quiet, intimate and … abstract (?) and to be met with a Total sense of a ‘YeH …. I get it !’
Featured image credit: Marega Palser ‘DUHKAH BABY’