In this post, I share an overview of my art practice in 2022 – what I got done, where you can find it, and some of the stuff that happens that doesn’t lead to public outputs. Additionally, I share some thoughts on adapting my practice to new disabilities — in my case this is due to MS, but I feel far from alone in navigating this, as a lot of other people have had to do the same as the COVID-19 pandemic reveals itself to be a mass-disabling event.
Websites / web apps
Audience interaction app developed with Squinky for play “Maybe I Will” with Sheffield Theatres Young Company, allowing the audience to cast votes and shape the story
New Neocities site for the Desperate Living archive of materials by and for trans people with Raju Rage (http://desperatelivin.com)
Minisite to display results of early R&D on mapping and microscopy of river and canal life in Parkgate, Rotherham (https://zoyander.cc/p/symbiosis/)
New Zonelets blog for rough ideas, interesting links, and late-night thoughts (https://zoyander.cc/zonelets/)
Also, I created a CSS theme that allows me to write slide presentations in html and host them on my Neocities site. I figured that this would reduce the faff associated with giving presentations, but tbh I’m not sure that this was borne out in practice, as I inevitably ended up doing something to break the damn thing right before I had to give a presentation. That said, I did fix it in time, and I like the fact that people can review the slides easily without needing to download anything.
Co-edited Sickness, Systems, & Solidarity book with Joey Eschrich at Arizona State University with Critical Distance (https://csi.asu.edu/books/sss/)
Carnage (2017) review in Imaginary Papers Issue 12, November 2022 (https://mailchi.mp/asu.edu/imaginary-papers-issue-12-nov-2022)
‘Essay Jams and Collaborative Writing as a Community Event’, Commonplace November 2022 (https://commonplace.knowledgefutures.org/pub/ww9grt9c/release/1?readingCollection=6d0221f4)
Digital Art and Activism Network zine (forthcoming)
Also, I edited part of my PhD thesis for an academic publication that has now been cancelled.
Displays of my work
My mini-site of microscopy and maps (http://zoyander.cc/p/symbiosis) was part of the SYMBIOSIS exhibition at ArtBomb Doncaster and ROAR
Cis Penance (http://zoy.itch.io/cispenance) was shown at Games in Action, University of British Columbia, Canada
Interactive Portrait Cushions (http://zoy.itch.io/iportraits) was shown at Bitbash / Chicago Humanities Festival
Comparing the display of Pacman at different museums, for DiGRA 2022 Japan Game Centres workshop (https://zoyander.cc/p/pac-man/)
“Videogames as Social Art: or, why I hate explaining what I do” talk for Social Art Network Sheffield (https://zoyander.cc/p/why/)
Panellist at Multiplatform symposium at Manchester Metropolitan University
Game design and agency presentation at Brightblack workshop (https://zoyander.cc/p/games-limited-agency.pdf)
Panellist at Transforming and Activating Places workshop on identities, Sheffield University
Also, I attended Cultural Democracy Creative Conversation workshop at Wentworth Woodhouse as part of Rotherham’s Flux programme.
Access support for Arts Council England applications
I helped two people to apply for funding with Arts Council England, submitting a total of three applications in my capacity as an access support worker.
FWIW, I would love to do this for more people, so if you are someone who would like to apply for funding from Arts Council England but faces barriers in doing so, please get in touch!
- Barnsley College work experience venue
- Sheffield University Transforming and Activating Places venue: students organised three arts workshops and volunteered in the bookshop for 3 months
- Several Rotherham Council RELOAD programme community events, including indie tabletop games, creative writing, and performance art
- Hosted creative writing workshop with Workers’ Educational Association
- WoW festival Rotherham stall holder
- Secured funding for computers and podcasting equipment
- Bookshop has been in hibernation since October, will return for at least a temporary pop-up this year
- Book launch of Systems, Sickness & Solidarity with Joey Eschrich, Arizona State University
- Successful emergency fundraiser – I can’t take much credit for this, but I helped!
- Interviewed Gregory Whistance-Smith for Keywords in Play podcast (https://www.critical-distance.com/2022/06/17/gregory-whistance-smith-keywords-in-play-episode-21/)
Consulting and research services
As well as working as a games consultant for Sheffield Theatres Young Company, I did some research and consulting work for a VR theatre company and a AAA client.
Applications for funding and support
This year I applied for 8 things in relation to my own art practice (this doesn’t include funding applications for Typeset). I normally submit far more applications than this in a year – for example, I applied for at least 18 things in 2021, and received at least 13 rejections.
Part of this difference is simply due to significantly reduced work hours. But there are also more subtle costs imposed by my new disabilities. Applying for funding is very difficult when facing problems with vision, fatigue, and cognitive processing, so the time required per application was far higher when I was most impacted by these issues. Moreover, it was difficult to confidently commit to a specific timeline of work when my health was at its most unpredictable. Since starting a new treatment in September, these issues have been considerably easier to manage. Nevertheless, I’ve also found that when I look at calls for applications nowadays, I tend to scrutinise them for signs of low organisational capacity, because I have become wary of the risk of ending up in a situation where my access needs cannot be accommodated, or where the work required is likely to exceed the scope of the work being commissioned due to an unpredictable and chaotic environment. I can no longer afford to pull all-nighters or suffer a couple of high-stress weeks in order to make up for organisational shortcomings, because this can have lasting effects on my health. For these reasons, I self-select out of more programmes than I used to.
Despite all of this, when looking back over the year I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had a good success rate with the few applications that I was able to complete. In fact, my total number of successful applications in 2022 was roughly the same as 2021. This certainly gives me a glimmer of hope as I move forward on adapting to work with new disabilities.
4/8 of my applications this year were accepted:
- Bank Cohort, Sheffield Theatres
(I think I probably actually applied for this at the end of the previous year, but I want to celebrate it here regardless because this was a really cool opportunity)
- SYMBIOSIS, ArtBomb Doncaster
- Theatre development programme TBA
- Academic conference TBA
4/8 of my applications this year were rejected. I feel a bit weird about naming the specific programmes or organisations, so I’m just going to give them short descriptions here:
- R&D funding grant
- Festival commission with mentoring
- Grant for working-class writers
- Two-year salaried position as a writer-in-residence
Two organisations rejected applications I had submitted in December 2021, and then followed up in early 2022 with a constructive discussion highlighting other possible routes for funding or support. Both of these applications concerned the same possible future project about post-industrial waterways of northern England inspired by Kentucky Route Zero.
Personally, I think this kind of followup should happen more often, and it’s a shame that arts organisations usually don’t have the capacity to do this. I feel like it makes the process far less alienating, and contributes significantly to nourishing creative communities, which is presumably within the remit of most of the organisations that view applications for commissions or artist development programmes.
Developing my skills
Training received and webinars attended
- New developments in trans theory, Gendered Intelligence GIANTS programme
- Anti-racism, Sheffield University Transforming and Activating Places
- Audio description for visual artists, Freelands Foundation
- As part of SYMBIOSIS programme I learned about:
- Material and cultural history of the river Don
- River ecosystems, sewage, mudlarking, etc. when I went wading in the Don with Don Canals and Rivers Trust, learned about
- Public databases of information about ecosystems
- History of field recording as sound art
- 2x Arts Council England training on Project Grants and DYCP applications
Tools that I played / worked with for the first time
- Tiktok (@zoyzone in case you’re interested in following me there)
- Empress ZOIA effects pedal
- Tally.so (survey creation tool)
- Zonelets (small blogging tool)
- React.js (i.e. Squinky built our web app in React.js and I learned a little bit from working with them)
- Ink/Stitch software for creating electronic embroidery files
- Also, I moved onto a different Mastodon instance and became more active there (@firstname.lastname@example.org)
It feels a little gauche to share my year review publicly, but some people like to see the things I’ve made, and this gives a single place to list links to everything I finished this year. I certainly appreciate it when other people share similar lists of what they’ve done in the past year – please send me yours!
More importantly, I find it very very helpful to see this kind of thing on other artists’ blogs, because there is a lot of mystification about the practical reality of being a practising artist, and you don’t normally get much insight into it unless you basically live with someone who does this kind of work. The general silence about this can contribute to classist outcomes in the arts and creative sectors, as the publicly visible part of what an artist (or curator, or critic) does is unlikely to represent where their livelihood comes from – I seem to remember Josie Giles doing a fantastic piece on this a few years ago.
I have been on significantly reduced hours since the end of March 2022 for health reasons, so I was reticent about doing this kind of review of my year. However, it’s been a pleasant surprise to put all of this stuff down in one place and see that although I might sometimes feel pessimistic about what MS means for my career, I’ve actually been able to do a lot of things that I am proud of, even during the period of time when I was still awaiting treatment. A lot of this is due to kind people who have been proactive about finding ways that we can work together and coming up with practical accommodations; I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Joey Eschrich at Arizona State University, Tommi Bryson at Sheffield Theatres, and Jennifer Booth at Typeset.
Finally, a quick note about the financial reality of all this: by 2020 I had just reached the point where my art practice covered more than half of my living costs as a single person with no dependents living in South Yorkshire. Although I would normally supplement this with work as a freelance translator and researcher, I have been largely unable to do that since late March, and I have also had to considerably reduce the work hours that I spend on artistic work. My income protection insurance paid out just enough to save me from total financial catastrophe when I became too ill to work full-time, and I’m also now receiving benefits that help me to keep my head above water while dealing with the extra costs of being disabled. All that is to say that if you are reading this as an example case in the practicalities of art practice, you should bear in mind that the work I have listed here does not represent the full scope of what is required to pay the bills.