exploring art and writing

The Unseen and the Unspoken: Clare Potter and Julia Thomas.

In Fine Arts, Interview, New Media on March 4, 2011 at 7:52 am

“The very nature of something that has been unseen or unspoken means it has been dormant, hidden, pushed down, kept like bees in a jar – for however long – and in our collaboration, we are looking at ways to take the lid off.” (Clare Potter, 2010)

In the collaboration of Julia Thomas and Clare Potter we have the coming together of two very different types of artist: Thomas, a multi-media visual artist and Potter, a poet, storyteller and performer. Together they will utilise Thomas’ technical background within science alongside Potter’s expression of the written word to create an interactive artwork exploring the process of expressing ‘the unseen and the unspoken’.

Clare Potter, originally born in Blackwood, South Wales, has recently returned from New Orleans, where she moved after graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi with an MA in Afro-Caribbean literature. Her poetic approach, as Thomas puts it, is “immediate and spontaneous; her performance poetry is very powerful, the intensity and delivery of the language being just as gripping as the language itself”.

Forgoing her career as a Biostatistician at Cardiff University’s College of Medicine, Julia Thomas is now an artist exploring the social and ethical considerations surrounding genetic technology and the implications that such developments have on our health. Her work “strives to provide an alternative form of expression when words do not capture what needs to be said”; a fitting principle when considering the ‘unseen and the unspoken’, both major themes that shape the current project being undertaken by Thomas and Potter as Masterclass Artists for the Women’s Arts Association.

Donned with the title Show and Tell, the project begins with the premise that every one of us has unexplored anxieties and that these must be expressed in order to prevent further negative manifestation; as Thomas emphasises, “a lack of emotional expression and of any sort of acknowledged reflection, may well lead to some detrimental physical manifestation further down the line”. Their specific interest lies in the more internal outlets allowing individuals to channel their inherent emotions, not through pervasive cyber-networks, but rather through subtler and less exploitative means. As Potter herself states, “the catharsis we are aiming for might not necessarily be the exact facts of what was unseen or unspoken, not the pouring out of the truth, but more the space to air it in whatever way one wants to.”

The methods that Thomas and Potter are exploring in order to allow such emotional expression to be articulated lie in heavily digital territory. Sonic whisperings will hint at various participants emotional revelations and a visual projection will respond to the intensity of the audio; in this respect, sound and sight are wavering and ephemeral, much like the thoughts and murmurings that they reflect and represent. Show and Tell will ultimately become a live, interactive performance, allowing the audience to be immersed “viscerally as well as cerebrally”.

By executing a combination of spoken word, projection and sonic art to a live audience, the two artists are not attempting to mimic the “inner world” that a human being’s emotional foundations are built upon, but instead to echo the way in which we present ourselves outwardly to our external environment; whilst doing so, however, they are encouraging reflection and release whilst adding their own voices to the previously unspoken. This is not the naked bluntness of Facebook or Twitter; it is a series of gentle revelations that simultaneously do not expose the ‘confessor’, thereby provoking honesty and catharsis.

Thomas and Potter’s intention is to emphasise the lack of genuine, meaningful correspondence in a society that is constantly communicating via electronic and digital means. By revealing aspects of hidden emotions without clarifying definitive thoughts they will be allowing the viewer to reach their own conclusion regarding the voices heard and the images seen; through this we can consider the art and catharsis of expression, of telling, even if only internally. We can begin to closely consider not only how we project ourselves to the world, but also how well we genuinely know our internal selves and those around us; as Thomas succinctly puts it: “strength and beauty born from complexity”.

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