4th June 2020
As the virus spread and our quarantines took shape, my partner and I fell into a gentle pattern swapping childcare responsibilities to take turns solo cycling. I remember vividly one March Sunday in the early days of lockdown the heat, that somehow managed to coincide so fortunately with our bewildered new world, radiated onto the deserted suburbs of my home town of Coventry in such an embrace that in a moment, all was unreal. I always cycled very slowly so to absorb as much as possible from the environments I’d never normally have the time to visit and explore. Without work and career playing out in the same ways, with the jolt of stopping everything at once, my partner and I had never carved out so much time for each other to be alone doing nothing, and with a two year old at home in a small terrace, the only way to be alone was to go outside. I would cycle for hours to places I barely knew. I’d never looked harder.
Around this time, a partnership of arts organisations in my city entitled DIALOGUE started to create opportunities to support artists and I was delighted to receive a micro commission from them -The Tin Music & Arts, a music venue and charity where I normally work on the bar, and The Pod, a mental health resource, cafe and arts hub. My proposal was to create Instant Dreamscapes in Isolation, a video collage of instant photography and audio field recordings designed when melded to be dreamlike in tone, reflecting the mood I encountered whilst cycling.
What became interesting upon completion of the piece is how my daughter came to inhabit the work in greater ways than I’d realised. It was never my intention to include her, but on one ride she sat in the infant seat, and started singing about the tulips I stopped to photograph. Her soaring, innocent narration became part of the dream, only heightened by her otherwise lack of presence visually. An unusually delicate voice appearing in these ghostly, vacant scenes, of picturesque places so nearby they should be familiar yet are instead so alien. Her voice so alien, without the whirlwind of body with it. The song she sang about the tulips for me became an illustration of how I, maybe we as society, stopped, slowed down, celebrated what we had close to home: the purity of nature on our door-steps when little else made sense.
Our children slide into our work without us ever meaning or wishing them to, their vitality and presence so colossal and inexorable. It’s exciting what she teaches me, shows me, proves me wrong at, and she has been here for just two years. In the video, her expressions run parallel to a recording of my late paternal grandfather playing Vera Lynn on piano in 1993, a corny reference to the lockdown perhaps, but there’s a freedom and joy in their meeting at a time when no one was supposed to meet