Article originally published in Fightback magazine’s special issue dedicated to paid radical writing by women and gender minorities.
By Sian Torrington, a queer / hard / super femme / brute who makes art, writing and performance.
We talk a lot about the struggle. Getting it down, keeping it alive. Of making space, and letting it through. Like it is a hole that we need to make. Like what we are dealing with is an animal which keeps changing shape. Sometimes it’s a big soft, needing gentle, shifting hands. Sometimes it’s a noisy yell which needs a funnel. Sometimes you just have to know how far away from the microphone to stand.
Other times it’s a silence and your job is to fill it.
Other times, it’s a dead weight and no strength will lift it.
When it is hard, treat it like it doesn’t matter. Make a bad drawing. Treat it like you have all the time in the world for it to get born. Like there’s no deadlines, no pressure. It comes from underneath and eats time like air. Just when you’re ready, just whenever you’re ready.
Just, try to relax.
I lost a tooth because the specialist cost too much. I couldn’t afford to hang on. It took two weeks to recover. Two weeks of unpaid leave. The body decides, there is no form.
Artists’ bodies are sensitive. Artists’ bodies rot like all the rest. I lost a tooth, and gained a gap that a pencil fits in.
The system you have invented for managing your life and sustaining it is as delicate and intricate as an eco system. It’s like one of your drawings where tiny things balance and reflect off some unlikely other thing. But there’s no kudos or status in this. Just anxiety that one piece will fall.
To get here, it takes all of me. No nets, no halfway and when you get cold I live in you like an animal saying
Living without protection. Every decision you make is vital to the survival of every other branch. Just, keep growing, forming shelves where the most difficult piece holds in space. I have four accounts where I put; money for now, money for later, money for housing, money for eating. I move them around and try not to feel bad when I forget or mistake one for the other.
How do you get to be loose under pressure? There’s always so much losing in it. You lose time, holidays, babies, a house, a proper job, success. You try to draw from the shoulder, to drop your arm.
The shoulders, the dog, the sand, the bust we are broke we are rumbles he says wow, then how do you climb and we reply yes, a club, yes, a blanket and still there is no protection but we talk, we tell, if it was yours I would keep it, keep it , keep it safe.
Making plans and ways to put bits with pieces, sell things, create contracts, grow silverbeet which survives every winter, squirrel away money. Say, I can make you a cup of tea at home.
A rehearsal and repeat, repeat repent, do something keep moving
I take notes on sifted piles, the body which can’t keep up.
Let us be clear. When you feel defeated by being unable to change an employment system, make bread. Clear leaves. Make small incursions into the actual world which thanks you, which responds.
Your effort is valued by units of hours and minutes and ticking. Time operates differently here. All day can produce nothing, and the last half hour is the full slide. All day can produce nothing which tomorrow is the way through. Your four part time jobs allow you to do this. You chose this. You wanted this. You are stubborn. You haven’t lived in one house more than two years your entire adult life, because of this. This is your child, this is what you chose to birth, to bring to life. Just keep it alive.
Just try to relax. Don’t be afraid of failure. Try to forget the height of the stakes.
You are so, lucky. You are falling behind.
(your body cannot contain a rest.)
Everything stopped working, and so did the obvious. I waited, looking physically and really for you.
You have created a soft and delicate, strong and permeable space in which all of this makes sense. It is temporary and movable. In here you are able to work.
There’s no formula available, only guides we try to write ourselves. We pass them in code, in text, in glances. They are unclear. We find our allies and cling to each other in cold halls. If we can work it out, we can reproduce this, prove it, the good bits, we get to survive. Efficiency is working out the fastest way there. What is it that you want to do? How will be involved? How much will it cost? Riding is free; bend your body against the wind; make it airborne, make it sleek, keep it strong.
Sometimes I can only draw it and when I can’t I get full and it eats me, my relationship, my sex, my balance. There is no option I must keep this space though real estate goes up and up.
It is anti-capitalist to sit. To sit with it, whatever it is. Because it takes time, and does not consume.
And do they sell?
Even the tiniest are not sorry. I take them, they say how do we ever, they contain a kind of lowering I can’t stop.
You gotta be willing to get to dying before something you want cracks out. It will not be what you want. It will be just what you need, as you peer at it with all your languages asking what are you, ugly unwanted thing?
There is no compromise, find the breath, breathe in on it, submit, relent, pay attention, yield, hold on, never give up. Touched body grieved never breaking and remaking, it is beautiful, it is full of living.
Try to relax.
Things present, how you came through trying,
marks of love,
We are allowed to be here, because we paid money
We are allowed to be here, because we are part of the earth.