10 June 2013
The Heads Up film featuring Mark Robinson is a dense exploration of ideas around the Creative Case. He brings a poets sensibility to an understanding of what the creative case means. His poem Teesdale, Thornaby begins: "To walk this wilderness you must commit/ to the past, to taking of evidence/ from the future. You must stand prepared/ to stare down demons that draw strength from dirt,/ the difficult to leave behind dirt."
His words are a reminder of how dependent the quality of our future is on reflecting on and encompassing lessons from the past. They immediately reminded me of William Blake's famous question about whether or not England's spiritual heart could survive the Industrial Revolution. Blake was trying to make sense of the changes he saw in the English landscape; to find resolve and connection through the turbulent political events at the turn of the 18th century.
As change takes hold there is always a sense of loss - as reflected in Jerusalem - but if you look beyond what has gone, there is undoubtedly always something to be gained. When Robinson talks about adaptive resilience, he is talking about finding that kernel of individual, unequivocal truth, that allows culture to grow as it adapts to an inevitable cycle of change.
He touches on the research he did for the Adaptive Resilience paper
Equally, the positive valuing of as wide a breadth of culture that an ecology, an artist or an arts organisation can encompass, the better chance that culture has of survival. Robinson reminds us that the strength of the creative case is that it is about drawing on the whole of your identity rather than boxing yourself into being a ‘this’ or a ‘that’. He sets a challenge to the approach that was prevalent until ten or so years ago - that strength lies in drawing on more of the same: eg establishing a sense of purpose around a singular identity.
Robinson goes on to talk about the value of thinking outside of a tick-box mentality and asking yourself how your core purpose and identity as an organisation - or indeed as an artist - can evolve from being open to the widest pool of understanding of what that identity is made up of and brings to your practice.
As the film moves on we see Robinson beneath a bridge in Stockton that bears a quote from Ecclesiastes "…all the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full…" The line echoes the implication in Blake's 'Jerusalem' that there is an essential spiritual heart to humanity, but that the more that we try to homogenise and make things the same, the less of a sense of completeness we will find. Everything is in a state of flux and so no matter how much we resist change, it will always come upon us.
Robinson ends on another line from his poem Angel of the North, Gateshead, asking a question that is synonymous with Blake’s. “If we knew how terrible it would feel/ to be reminded that beauty exists/ just a fleet moment from the walker's path,/ in mould on a leaf, or mud on a footprint,/ what would we do, would breath catch or guilt grip?”
For Blake “those feet” almost undoubtedly didn’t walk upon England’s pastures green. But that wasn’t going to stop him from striving for a spiritual truth, even if the odds looked set against him. For Robinson adapting to the world as it is happens is a process of looking for the bigger picture within the detail, ie finding what inner strengths and resources can be nurtured as a result of taking a step back to consider all aspects of the identity you find yourself inhabiting.
Colin Hambrook is Editor of www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk. He is a disabled artist with a substantial background in media and publishing. He has worked in the field of disability arts for approaching 20 years, having previously managed and edited DAIL (Disability Arts In London) Magazine from 1994 - 2000.
Mark Robinson launches his poetry anthology How I Learned to Sing tonight (10th June) at the Green Room Green Dragon Studios, Stockton 7pm. Free. (NCL launch Wed.)
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