As part of the culmination of Stories of Rain, a day of dialogue was held at Hotel Verde to share our experiences and to hear new perspectives to guide or inspire us on our work in future. As one of the local artists and co-coordinators I had an opportunity to share my work created during Stories of Rain as well as my experiences in creating land art and being part of the project. Here I share my ‘speech’, typed from the cue cards I created for my presentation.
THE EVENT PROGRAMME:
Hi, my name is Janet Botes.
I tend to call myself an artist and I love to work in the land. My dad thinks it’s very unfair that I call what I do ‘work’. But… as all of you know – there’s so much more involved in creating an artwork than the moment of creation itself.
There’s everything that led you to that specific point in time. And your motivation for being there.
Do you speak to yourself when you work? I sometimes do.
Other times I savour the silence.
Very often it’s the silence that becomes my greatest reason for working in the land. The silence, but at the same time how pregnant that silence can be – you know that the wind can pick up at any moment.
And you just work with trust.
Trust that you’ll be able to plan and create something before the wind picks up, the tide comes in, you get heat stroke, or night falls.
The things you are actually working with are the heat, the sun, the wind, the tide, the rain. And most importantly for me, the absolute present moment, and time itself.
When we look to the land, the seasons and inhabitants of the places we usually just drive through, we see different rhythms. Phases led by the moon and seasons. We see that there’s a time to gather for winter, to work our bloody butts off, and also a time to rest, a time to reflect.
This has made me realize that my ways of working are okay. It’s okay not to be inspired and productive all the time. It’s okay to take time to think, to allow experiences to become more part of you.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
I make mistakes. And failed works. Often.
Sometimes I document them, sometimes I bless them, sometimes I curse them.
Any creative process or artwork has a lesson in it. It has problems and solutions. But mostly it has a core that you want to express as clearly or purely as possible.
And I find that when I spend enough time outside of my studio, I can get closer to that core, that goal. My goal is usually to understand a little bit more about my own relationship to the world around me, specifically the environment and our ecosystems, and to express that in my work.
Edgar Degas said that art is not what you see, but what you make others see. In our rushed lives we don’t make the time to look at the blossoms on the trees, nevermind see the beauty in dandelions. They’re seen as a weed, but actually highly edible and nutritious!
We have a responsibility to help each other see things differently. And to learn from each other. During this project I learnt different things from my fellow artists, and I’ll highlight only some of them. Ulrika showed me different ways of seeing, documenting and sharing the unseen. Mr. Ko and István taught me about the power in silence. Far beyond the language barrier, they have a silent confidence and contemplation that not only speaks to me in the way they present themselves, but it also shows in their art.
I also learnt about the extent of the historic massacres in our country. I’ve been able to protect myself through keeping the ideas quite abstract – and not having to deal with the emotions that comes with knowing and imagining the realities of unthinkable horror, pain and fear that my ancestors have caused for the San people. This makes me understand better how people can distance themselves from our future realities resulting from climate change.
Ghandi said that a small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history. What if our mission is to make people pause, think and reassess about everything we’re currently doing? About the food we eat, about how we spend our time and our money? Maybe our mission is to allow ourselves to pause, to help make rain, and come closer to experiencing the seasons, cycles of growth and decay. And to share those experiences with our over-achieving, suffering or over-consuming communities.