Monday, 26 August 2013

Project Week 30 Revisited: The Heart, the Crisis

The last project week I stayed with an artist who I'd only met briefly a couple of times before. As I was supposed to live her life I spent some time with her in the studio and made my own painting. Then I had no idea that my work would be exhibited a few months later! 
This weekend I went to look at Laila Norss's (with Joakim Norss) exhibition The Big 5 and other fun things in Torkladan at Eksjö Museum. It was a good feeling to see my painting, The Heart, the Crisis (the one by the chair) on the wall and already the first day a woman wanted to buy it. I was so taken aback that I said it was not for sale. The painting is like a symbol for the whole Swenglish project and means a lot to me.
I also contributed to the chair that Laila has painted and decorated with a pistol and a toy car (there are some puns in Swedish that are impossible to translate, but think "car seat"). What I did to the chair was simply writing "Move your arse" on the seat. On top of that I've written a poem on the chest of drawers below.
This piece of furniture (in a different colour and without the writing and the Barbie doll) once stood in my gran's house (where the artist's son now lives) and now it has found a new home. And the chair. It will end up with me.
You can look at more of Laila's work here. The titles of her work are all in English, something I find interesting. Perhaps she wants to reach outside Sweden. She has already exhibited in France. Hopefully it will be England next time!

Monday, 19 August 2013

Question 11a: What would you like to study if you had the chance?

Back to school. A banner that is to be seen in every shop at the moment. However there are still a couple of weeks until the university courses start. There were only 4 of the 30 people I stayed with who had NOT studied at university. (2 in England and 2 in Sweden). A majority had done a degree, a few had studied short courses. Even though most participants had studied before, I asked what they would like to study now if they had the chance.
What people in England would like to study:
MA in art
Critical theories
PhD about the truth in poetry or comedy or both, comparing it
Creative writing
Learn to fly a plane or mathematics or "gaming physics"
MA in art history
Ethnology, oral history, looking at history within different cultures and communities
PhD in creative writing, learn Russian
Music and language, pick three instruments and learn to play them properly
Therapeutic writing

What people in Sweden would like to study:
National economics
History and religion
Something to do with music
"The Author school"
Study a specific author
Queer theories
Something within visual arts or photography or gold- or silversmith or something with textiles 
A design degree
Something within the worker's union and the political
"The Author school", publishing, literature history
Latin, political science, quantum physics, astronomy, more art
Money matters
Most of the people who had studied, no matter the country, were happy or very happy with their university education. I followed people to uni in both England and Sweden and can't say that I experienced any massive differences in the lecture halls. But if you look deeper there are a lot of differences. in Sweden all education at university is free. In England it could cost as much as £9000 per year. And that's one reason I'm in Sweden right now.
"Become something"
Inspired by the people I stayed with, I've decided to give the foundation course in ethnology a go, a course that a couple of the participants in Sweden had studied and found rewarding. And what do you become then? I hate that question. (And in my experience, talking to friends and people in pubs, Swedish people seem more obsessed about "becoming something" and sticking to it than English people do.)  
There were a lot of the people who had studied who did NOT work within the field they had studied, but yet they had learnt something and developed as human beings, gained knowledge that had shaped them to the people they are today. If it costs £9000 there might be more pressure to "become something", but whatever you study I think it makes you stronger as a person and if you become stronger it's more likely that you'll find something to work with. At least ethnology will inspire my writing in all genres. But if I had the chance I'd also like to learn how to sing!
Before I was quite anti studying and have had a romantic view of being self-taught, but thanks to the Swenglish project, I realised that the academic world wasn't as difficult and intimidating as I thought it would be. But I'm not saying that everyone has to study. There are alternatives. In Sweden there's something called folkhögskola ("folk high school") where you can learn things in a more organic way without getting any grades or tests, more evening class style. I was very fed up with school when I was 19, but I did two "folk high school" courses (one term English in Portslade, Brighton and three terms writing workshop in Stockholm). It didn't feel like studying at all, I just had fun. In general I think there should be more work experience as part of any education and more collaborations with "the real world".
The picture is from Halmstad when I followed a person who studied bio medicine with focus on physical exercise.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What do you think of the education system?


Monday, 12 August 2013

Question 10: What's Your Dream Job?

IMG_7607One insight I gained through the Swenglish-project was that not everyone wants to become a bestselling author or a rock star. There are people who dream about becoming archeologists, lawyers and land-surveyors. And there are people who don't even have a dream job in mind.
Jobs that People in England Dreamed About

Author is very popular after all. 9 of 15 participants in England wanted to work with writing, but only 2 of 9 answered novelist - the remaining 7 also wanted to work as journalists, poets or combine their writing with running creative/spiritual workshops. The ones who didn't dream about writing wanted to do comedy, make clothes, work with film animation and being part of a team that developed new apps.
Most people were pursuing their dream to some extent (even though they didn't make much money from it), but only one person answered that she already had her dream job: being able to make art, creating in different ways - just wishing for her own studio. And one person didn't have an answer; once upon a time she wanted to become a West End stage girl, but realised that she needed to use her brain a bit more and started to study biology.
Jobs that People in Sweden Dreamed About

Among people in Sweden only 3 of 15 people picked writing (in different genres/combinations) as a dream job. Someone wanted to make music and affect people politically, another wanted to "do something creative that is positive for society" and a third wanted to make art in a massive studio - "the world's biggest toy house". Apart from that the dream jobs were more tangible: librarian, lawyer, archeologist, interior design communicator, land-surveyor and union rep. They already worked or studied within these fields, but had different dreams relating to their job/career: they wanted to move forward and develop themselves.
The remaining three people didn't have any specific dream jobs. One of them (an admin worker) described herself as a restless person who slipped back and forth and had to find new things and constantly challenge herself, but the other two (a carer and shop worker) expressed that they had never had any big ambitions or occupations they were attracted to. Something I  - who live in the world of dreams - find hard to grasp.
Artistic versus Traditional Dream Jobs

Looking at my little study it turns out that people in England had more creative/artistic dream jobs in mind than people in Sweden; the Swedes were more focused on traditional/tangible jobs, but I don't want to state that as a truth in any way. I think that's more to do with the fact that my network in England - and above all in Brighton - is different to my network in Sweden.

My own Dream Job
My own dream job is and has always been to become an author, but the dream has taken different shapes over time. When I was around 20, I wanted to write novels 24 hours a day and isolate myself from the world. I don't want that anymore. Now my dream is more abstract: I want to write in different genres. Everything from creative non-fiction to writing for stage. And like most other creators I'd like to make my whole living from my writing. But I'm not prepared to stick to one genre and "produce" one book a year.

Author AND ?
I've also realised that there are people who are authors AND teachers or authors AND psychologists or authors AND cultural workers. That they are happy with that and want it that way. For me that's a new new thought. (I mean it's unusual that someone has two demanding "brain jobs" at the same time for example doctor AND computer programmer). I've always believed that if you're an author you can only be an author and if you don't make enough money from it you can only do "unqualified" jobs like shop assistant, cleaner or waiter - jobs that don't demand too much brain power and gives you time to think about the writing while you're "day working". But it's also possible that a more "qualified" job can give you inspiration and feed the writing, that you become more specialised within one subject and gain "free research". At the same time "an ordinary day job" can be inspiring and make you write out of frustration.

Work Less
It's hard to know what works best, but slipping back and forth, finding new things and challenging yourself, as one of the project participants said, seems to be a good strategy. And I've always been a fan of working LESS. If everyone worked part time and consumed less and lowered their standard I think we would have a happier society. (There's a movement that has raised the question about unconditional basic income.)
The picture of me is taken by the 3-year old in the family I stayed with during project week 12.
This study is by no means scientific, the answers are based on interviewing 15 people in England and 15 people in Sweden, aged 22-59. Look out for the next question: What would you like to study if you had the chance?