I do not remember when the times we live in were discussed as often as they currently are. Given the lockdowns, isolations, and occasional threats of annihilation that root us so firmly in an uncertain present, the constant analysis is unsurprising and seems to come in three distinct genres.
There’s straight forward yearning for life as it was. We would not be human if we did not long for all those freedoms that we innocently took for granted. There’s desperate denial from conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxers and other extremists. Then there’s the stuff that informed and inspired my latest project: MANIFESTO FOR A NEW NORMAL; the voices raised to protest ‘norms and injustices once accepted as ‘just how things are.’ From Black Lives Matter, #Metoo, Extinction Rebellion, Times Up and others, we are examining the pieces of who we used to be and deciding that we can do better.
MANIFESTO FOR A NEW NORMAL is a 10-piece embroidered series made during 2021. It echoes traditional practices of stitching for New Life, such as the Layette, sewed by expectant mothers for their babies and the carefully initialled household linens and bridal finery layed in ‘bottom drawers’ and trousseaux. The working title was, at one point, A REBEL TROUSSEAU. The language of this project explores social demands I no-longer wish to conform with and the precious hopefulness that thoughts of shedding them inspires.
HAD ENOUGH? UNLEARN IT. Is one of three embroidered mazes representing the mires of convention that I am interested in challenging. Are you, it asks, good enough? Kind enough? Masked enough? Hollowed enough? Filled enough? Fearless enough? Skilled enough? Wise enough? Wise enough? Seen enough? Hidden enough? Tame enough? Quick enough? Sorry enough? Strong enough? Measured enough? Thin enough? Empathic enough? Shown enough? Obedient enough? Wary enough? Non-Threatening enough? True enough? Feminine enough? Hard enough? Perfect enough? And concludes HAD ENOUGH? UNLEARN IT. This call to unlearn old rules first appeared in the concluding work of my 54-piece series KisforKevin. It seems to be my go-to clarion call for breaking the rules and making real, positive change! I love the joy of the christening gowns and bonnets: BEGINNING AGAIN? BE TRUE THIS TIME, THE WORLD IS IN NEWNESS. THIS IS A TIPPING POINT, JUST BE TRUE.
This is my manifesto. We should let these enforced retirements from normal life be a listening to what needs to change. Why not permit yourself to explore what should change? Let us clear the dead wood, ditch redundant structures, counter our frustration and depression. Let us, as Rilke says, not: “let your solitude obscure the presence of something within it that wants to emerge.”
MEDUSA & her SISTERS
Limited ed artist book & poetry anthology
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'Entering into Natalie Sirett's world is like meeting oneself in a universe subject to completely different rules of recollection. The work is delicate and brutal, sensitive with a bite. Subsequently, one's memory of her storytelling is always full of colour.'
Libby Anson Editor, Arts Writer, Author The A to Z of Art