Prompt 2 – Material + Origins

Introduction

For Prompt 2, we were asked to consider a creative task or medium that we were not familiar with and would want to engage with daily for a 2 week period. I have taken place in a daily creative practice before, and I found it exciting to be able to push myself out of my comfort zone again in this way. Although this was my initial reaction, my previous daily practice was just for my eyes, and this new practice had the added element of having to share my reflections at the end of the two weeks made me slightly nervous. This was mostly due to the practice of learning and engaging with something new, which automatically meant facing my fear of uncertainty and imperfection.

Daily Making Practice

Attempting to to lean into the discomfort, this thought process brought me to clay, a material that I have tried to interact with many times, but failed to connect with. As a material I find it to be the exact opposite of metal. Metal requires heat to anneal and become soft, whereas clay becomes hard with heat. Metal is precise and predictable, whereas clay seems to have a mind of its own and imperfection is a part of its history and its nature. As I wanted to make animations as my second option, my professor Cameron mentioned that I could try making quick clay animations, or “Claymations”. My gut reaction was “please no, no!” as I made a Claymation during my undergraduate degree almost 10 years ago. My second thought was “Jade, lean into the discomfort, that is where growth happens” and as Cameron mentioned to the cohort, we could always pivot in any direction during the process, as a part of the process.

On the Theme of Origin

(From Left to Right) Soren, Jadey, Micky, Sami, Dalya

The second piece of this Prompt was to link the daily making practice back to the theme of Origin, which was given to the entire class. I knew that I wanted to explore what I had been working on over the previous summer prior to my wedding. I had been examining and finding new alternatives to patterns of being that were directly effecting my relationships with others and myself. I had been guided by professionals in the field of psychotherapy to a theory that we are all an accumulation of our parent’s patterns, whether we mirror or reject them in our own lives now as adults. My physical origin is that I was conceived by both of my parents. From the perspective of who I am as a person, I am an accumulation of my parent’s patterns, who learnt their patterns from their parents, and so on and so forth. It is important to acknowledge that these patterns are deeply connected to the generational trauma that has been passed down in my family. It is my job alone to rid myself of the negative patterns that I have borrowed to protect me so that I do not pass them on to the next generation in my family.

I looked back through my lists of patterns from my introspective summer and I noticed that the most consistently pervasive ones were the patterns that could and would negatively affect my success during my time at ECUAD.

Top Patterns that could get in the way of Grad School

  • Fear/intolerance of uncertainty
  • perfectionism/fear of failure
  • worry/catastrophizing
  • withdrawing/avoidance/observer
  • enmeshment/codependency
  • personal abandonment
  • victimizing (myself)
  • social anxiety
  • criticism/judgment

During this summer, I learnt that although acknowledging these patterns is the first step, it is important to intentionally express my emotions towards them to authentically open space for a healthier alternative. I deiced that this daily practice would be my expression of these patterns.

Day 1

Day 2

I Began with a trip to the local Squamish Walmart where I purchased various types of clay. I played for a bit, and eventually settled on simple shapes and colours as I felt analysis paralysis settling in, which I wanted to immediately avoid.

Day 3

I set up my Jewellery light box, a tripod, and I downloaded a stop-motion-animation app recommended by another student in my cohort. I hoped that setting up a stable and visible workstation would increase the likelihood of my consistent engagement with the material of clay.

Sprouting from a song by the musician and poet Bjork, called “Virus”, the creation of this clay animation was an intuitive process where I did not plan how the two relational characters would engage with one another. Instead, I allowed myself to trust in the repetition of the song, which is about Enmeshment and Codependency, and I allowed my space of creative flow to dictate the progression of the animation.

Virus by Björk – Lyrics

Like a virus needs a body
As soft tissue feeds on blood
Some day I’ll find you, the urge is here

Like a mushroom on a tree trunk
As the protein transmutates
I knock on your skin, and I am in

The perfect match, you and me
I adapt, contagious
You open up, say welcome

Like a flame that seeks explosives
As gunpowder needs a war
I feast inside you, my host is you

The perfect match, you and I
You fail to resist
My crystalline charm

Like a virus, patient hunter
I’m waiting for you, I’m starving for you

My sweet adversary
My sweet adversary
My sweet adversary

Day 4 – a shift

This day was filled with frustration, which led to a pause in the daily practice, opening up space for a shift.

I sat in front of my clay animation station for a while, staring at it, picking up the clay, then putting it down, picking it up, putting it down, over and over again…

After moving away from the material, I journaled for 5 or 6 pages on what was coming up for me. Why was I feeling this way?

For the first two days, every time I touched and manipulated the clay, I physically felt shivers through my body. The material of clay was too overly stimulating for me, which is a cause of my sensitivity to stimulation due to my ADHD. If I am under-stimulated, I fall asleep or don’t engage, if I am overstimulated, I want to run away or throw something at the wall.

I hated the entire process of working with this clay for the past two days, and I could not imagine engaging with it for 2 weeks.

Day 5

The day I moved to my iPad in procreate.

I began by watching a quick tutorial on how to create an animation in the app. I only began working in procreate about 6 months ago for a volunteer project at a school in town, and since then, I have always wanted to try making quick animated GIFs to express concepts I am interested around the theme of mental health.

I continued to play music, beginning again with Björk’s Virus, which rapidly became my new ADHD “hyperfocus”.

A looped animated illustration helps to mimic the looping and reenacting of relational patterns over and over again.

I journaled for a while after making this one.

Which character am I? Which character are you? Does this change day to day, moment to moment? What patterns do you fall into with your loved ones?

I noticed that the interpretation of this animation was different for everyone.

It was interesting to see who identified with which character, to see them instantly identify and empathize with the character who was now stuck for eternity in this animated looped relationship. I wondered if this sparking a more empathetic and compassionate response towards themselves too.

For me, this animation is about Codependency and the harm of not being able to be independent of another, harming everyone involved in the deeply rooted, protective, and learnt pattern. It reminds me of a heartbeat, a consistent and repetitive constricting and release. Codependency can feel like love. If it is what you have known as love, then that is how you show and welcome it. It is the thief of true connection. Is this act of love actually an act of love? Or is it based in possession, control, caretaking, self-abandonment, and fear? Once I step out of this pattern, I can begin to see myself and them more clearly.

Day 6

Again, I listened to my new hyperfocus song on repeat and I journaled through the process.

The lyrics and the video made me think of the pattern and family system of enmeshment. The closer I get, the more the pull is to change and revert back into something someone can relate to.

This loop is something I keep in the back of my mind constantly. Enmeshment is too dangerous. I lose myself entirely in another person or group for love and validation.

Visually, I don’t think I like this one, and I don’t think I got the feeling across in a way that makes sense to other. That said, it was very validating for myself to put the way I experience this pattern into a creative space. Getting it out of my body and mind, I feel like I know it better. If I know it better, I can see it happening sooner and choose another way.

Day 7

I didn’t complete this one as a seamless loop, but it captures how my pattern of avoidance, withdrawing, fear of people, and social-anxiety effect my life. I would sometimes rather fall into a pit of despair leading nowhere instead of speaking to someone new, especially if it is small talk. EEEEEEK

Day 8

Fear of the unknown. This started down a dark path and quickly, I felt the urge to flower pick in the dark.

Even if the path is unknown and scary, I hope I lean into the little joys along the way.

Passing ships in the night. This is how I feel in hyperfocus. Hyperfoucssing on flower picking, the characters don’t even notice they are passing each other.

I often fall into this rhythm when afraid of the unknown. My low tolerance for uncertainty pushes me to hyperfocus on things that feels known and safe. Rather than looking up and engaging in the unknown, I submit to safety patterns. This means I lose out on a lot of important moments, such as meeting a kindred spirit. Instead – as seen in the looped video – we are ships passing in the night, both in our hyperfocussed safety state of picking flowers in the dark.

I like the concept of this loop and I enjoy the playful quality of it. It reminds me of a video game. I do wish that there was more tension and a bit more emphasis on the “fear/intolerance of uncertainty” piece.

It does not have the same simplicity as some of the others, which seem to leave the interpretation more open.

It is harder to engage on an emotional level to the characters in this loop as they have no expressions and they are not diverse enough as characters other than colour.

Day 9

I decided to play around with this one further. It was not currently engaging with the relational aspect of acting out patterns of being, which is how I set out to represent the theme of “origin” in this Prompt.

Day 10

Keeping the flame alive

Just prior to sitting down to work, I was reflecting on my husband and my recent dry wedding, where we were surrounded by so much love and support for the lives we had created together. Although he is now almost 7 years sober and we have done deep work together and individually, I still reflect on all aspects of what drew me to him. The volatility, the tension, the rollercoaster, the fire – it was also so exciting and terrifying at the same time. With my family of origin, I was primed for this relationship. It was all I really knew to be love. Again and again, I was the small flame, inching closer to the addict, enabling their addictions with my codependent behaviors and my eventual criticism and rage. It was crazy making, but I played and equal part.

Although this looped animation feels a bit on the nose as a portrayal of the volatility of addiction as a whole, I feel it is a simple illustration and reminder to myself of the part I play in any relationship. The flame is not a victim, neither is the bottle of booze. We are a series of choices. Choices to either step towards self-preservation and growth or away, into the arms of self-abandonment and sabotage.

This is a screenshot of the onion layers of the looped animation in procreate. Seeing this, knowing the fall is to come, and the inevitable explosion’s – I thought this was a perfect representation of the cycle of a toxic relationship, with both people falling into a negative patterned cycle of codependency and resentment.

Day 11

Take and Take and Take.

I felt stuck today. I drew a yellow circle and turned it into a yolk. I imagined the yolk being my center. My spirit, my core, my inner-child.

This is a quirky and simple representation of a relationship between a codependent without any boundaries and a narcissist.

Give and Take.

I felt saddened by the first loop, so I played around with the procreate animation settings and I selected “ping-pong” rather than “looped”.

I felt a little better about this, but I still feel the egg has no agency and no boundaries. This is what it is like to enable an addict and be in denial about the consequences of their addictions.

Day 12

I felt stuck today.

I took an image from my first attempt at clay animation and I used it as a starting point. This was a great way to pivot and shift from a space of “stuck”.

I feel strangely towards this one, and it feels silly. I am proud of myself for not giving up on this day even though I felt stuck. I realized that I won’t always have good ideas, or even medeocre ones. I won’t always come up with something I like or am proud of. I might even despise what I make, but the most important thing is that I showed up anyways.

I will always try to keep in mind that when I feel stuck, sometimes it is best to just try anything, even if it means re-visiting a previous idea or sketch.

Day 13

Ouch. At first, I identified solely with the character of the red “rollee”. After a while, I began to realize that I can easily fall into both patterns of the green steam roller and the red squashed “rollee”.

I enjoyed creating the sequential flow of movement in this animated loop.

I revisited this loop to add more of a realistic pattern in a relationship of the back and forth of love and abuse in some relationships. The love, or perception of their being love in an abusive relationship allows for the relationship to more easily continue.

It is harder to leave when you feel love and loved.

I enjoyed the addition of the “kiss” as it enhances the tension and surprise of the abusive steam rolling that follows. This reminds me of the feeling of being “gas-lit” by someone you love.

Day 14

The last day. I began to reflect on the daily practice and my connection to the theme of origin.

I created these characters, interacting with one another, each with their own generational traumas and passed down patterns. There is a reason that we gravitate towards some people in our lives. If we are lucky, we will see the patterns in ourselves and each other and through this realization, we can heal ourselves and each other and authentically show up in a relationship.

My husband and I are choosing to challenge this daily, for ourselves, each other, and the future generation. I will not pass this on. Or at least, I try my hardest not to!

Reflections

The second day of the daily practice, I see now that something was coming to light. I wonder now if I should have tried again after that day of rest on the third day. Maybe if I had picked a different clay, with a different texture, maybe I would have been able to move through the sensory issues I was having with the material, and I could have seen more growth. In the end, I cannot dwell on this missed opportunity, but I can try again in another moment, or allow it to be a moment of learning how to shift next time into more of a side-step rather than a run away to something completely different. This is a pattern of mine, and only after seeing everything together on this blog am I able to see the missed opportunity in choosing such a huge shift from clay to my iPad.

Overall, after creating some of the loops I realized that there were certain elements that helped to evoke more emotion. When there was more than one character created, and when they interacted with one another, it allowed for more opportunities of tension and being able to relate to more elements of a pattern. I also felt that it opened up more opportunities and shifts in the illustrations, which could alter the entire relational interaction between them. I also noticed that the characters with more emotion, which were shown through movement of their bodies or facial features allowed for more opportunities for this as well. The shorter loops seemed to work better than the longer more convoluted ones. I think moving forward, quicker studies would be best – this helped to create a more realistic moment of tension with a back and forth cycle or loop of patterns within a relationship.

Music, specifically the repetition of listening to a song about relationships and Codependency helped to set the mood for creating each looped animation and is essential to keep me focused on the emotion behind the quick making practice. It was also important for me to journal after creating each animation as it helped me to reflect on the process and what I believed the looped animation was showing. I think moving forward, I would like to revisit them and reflect on them again in my journal to see if I have any other insights.

I had a lot of fun with this prompt – at least once I ditched the overly stimulation material of clay. This daily making practice pushing me out of my comfort zone and pushed me to actually learn how to create animated loops, which I have been wanting to do for almost 6 months. I was falling into some patterns of fear of failure and this Prompt made it possible for me to lean into that space, as an important and necessary part of learning something new. I think this is how I was to engage with anything new, 2 weeks of engaging with it daily and reflecting on the process, no matter where it heads.

This daily practice of listening to music, creating looped animations of relational patterns passed down through generations, and reflective journaling truly shifted my perspective on these patterns that I fall into daily. It helped me to have more compassion for all characters in this dynamic and to realize that I need to do the same in real life.

Making Connections

As part of this 2nd Prompt, we were meant to reach out and establish contact with a lab at the University. With my social anxiety, this was something that I left until the end of the 2 weeks. Although meeting with the technician of the Material Matters lab didn’t directly influence my daily creative practice during this Prompt, the conversations that took place and the introduction to some of the equipment pointing me towards a new direction for Prompt 3.

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