Voodoo

Exhibition open.  Dust settled.

Here’s a sidenote about A Pack of Lies that I’d like to talk about.

CAST, the gallery where the exhibition is being held, is my former workplace, which you may or may not know.  I worked there for a relatively long time.  My first five years there were a total joy and I felt like the luckiest gal in town to have the job that I did.  The last two years however were a different story, primarily due to my own, at that stage undiagnosed, illness.

My anxiety led me to be paranoid and fearful and I was often physically ill at work because of it.  By the end this happened most days at least once, sometimes more.  I would repeatedly run and hide in the toilet and be sick.

After leaving the job I returned a few times to pick up some casual work, extra admin I think and in one instance, truck driving.  But every time I returned to the building I felt ill again.  I found it beyond embarrassing and tended to pretend it hadn’t happened so it took some time to notice the pattern.  I’m quite good at denial.

I remember post-diagnosis, better but still quite socially phobic as I continue to be, being terribly pleased when I worked out that it wasn’t my old colleagues that were making me feel ill, as I had suspected, but I was able to track the nausea specifically to the building.  The architecture itself made me sick.

Because of this, I have largely avoided going there, as you might avoid a particular food that makes you ill.  This means I have missed quite a bit of art that I would have liked to see and I have lost touch with a lot of people.  I have (literally) stomached it briefly for the occasional friend’s exhibition opening but I could never take it for long.

When the curator, lovely Sarah, first approached me by email to become involved in Erotographomania, I was very apprehensive.  I didn’t know how I could do this.  I installed a work for Matt there once in his absence and found it a little hard-going and felt psychological aftershocks for a little while afterwards.

I confessed to her, probably a little obliquely, that I had some difficulty and gave some suggestions as to why I might not be the artist she was looking for.  But when we met up to discuss it, I began to be filled with hope that making and installing a work would be the voodoo that would break the curse that 27 Tasma Street seemed to hold over me.  When I conceived of A Pack of Lies it really felt like it might mean something about the person I was in those last couple of years there.  Someone very confused and who had been subject to many paranoid, false ideas.  I became convinced it could help me heal.

The organisation had changed since I worked there and what was once my poky office space was now a broad, mostly empty foyer containing some seating plus books, catalogues and cultural free papers.  I decided to bypass the actual gallery and to instead install the gallery version of the work around the space where my desk had sat.  The show was already full of some big works and gallery space was at a premium so, curatorially-speaking, this was actually quite helpful.

When the time came to install, the use of this space had changed again so it is not exactly as I imagined, but the intention remains.

So are you wondering if it worked?

Well… I don’t see the experiment as being over just yet.  I tried to build up my exposure by driving past the building every day leading up to the install.  I had a fairly nasty panic attack early in the day beforehand but I just felt a little twitchy when I actually installed.  At the opening I felt quite fearful and as we had taken Arthur along, had the perfect excuse to skip away quickly and put him to bed.

Once home I was really disappointed in myself and the voodoo.  I had wanted too much for the anxiety switch to be immediately flicked to it’s ‘off’ position, and that’s a big ask.  But in the days that have passed I have realised that I need to go back to properly appreciate the show as a whole, and in doing so, can be there without the added stress of a lot of people.

So… watch this space.

I hope if you came along to the opening, you’ll forgive me if I didn’t say hi, or only did so very briefly.  I was struggling.

But one morning early this year I woke up so tired and angry at the things my own brain puts me through that now I’m trying harder to be brave and to do everything I can to fix it and be done with this stuff.

There’s too much other stuff to do.

Wish me luck.

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6 thoughts on “Voodoo

  1. Wonderful Sally! I too have experienced all the things you write so astonishingly lucidly about. I especially understand wanting to have hope that the voodoo will work and learning patience about the “off” button. Time. That is the thing that eventually pushes phobias into a blurry grey zone where the demons lose their edge and are all melty and ineffectual.

    1. That’s exactly what we want. Melty and ineffectual. I’m afraid I became impatient. Nice to hear from you my Buckeroo. I must owe you a big letter by now…

  2. The Voodoo may well be working slowly over the month that the show is up, perhaps when the work is removed, the curse will be lifted. To speak about this though is a sign of increased bravery.

  3. Didn’t the floor collapse in that area just recently? A week or two ago? Mebee it did itself a poltergeist favour and released its demons?
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