Distanced Intimacy and the Virtual Couch by Lauren Craig

Image: Distanced Intimacy by Rita Keegan

I never thought for a second that it would be delayed again, after Rita’s exhibition was postponed in 2020. Forever the optimist, I figured things would blow over, clear up in no time. I mean, we survive influenza every year. The gallery would open soon. I can imagine that you are all sick and tired of lockdown lamenting, so I will spare you this, warts and all (which will be vaccinated). Yet, I would like to report on some of the things we have learned. ‘We’, meaning our team and the interconnections we make in our communities.

It is always difficult to envisage how others view your practice; most people would likely say that mine is slow or patient. I thought I was patient or at least consciously practicing compassion whilst I waited and supported people to our meeting point. I travelled most of the continents to find myself. Each journey added new spiritual facilitation modality strings to my bow. My travels included encounters with those possessing more wisdom than me; encounters that were sometimes planned, and others that interrupted my plans. We all have many quests to journey, but there is a recurring one that all the others are connected to; this is what we unravel during our lives. Yet, every time I would reason with these wise ones, elders, healers, chiefs, mothers, activists, wanders, and others, they would say,

‘You need to be more patient.’

 Every time I would think, ‘What are you talking about? I am patient.’ I found it difficult to accept I could be any more patient.

 I mean, what the hell am I waiting for anyway?

On this journey through knowing, I thought I had arrived. That I knew I was something. I was patient. The truth is, I cannot wait for change. I am impatient for the positive changes I need to see happening, for those I live closely with and for others whom I have never met. I am frustrated that in my lifetime we are still here socially, environmentally, spiritually, culturally and economically. I attempted repairing, healing, patching and fixing because I wanted things to be better. But none of this will fulfil you. I was impatient to achieve so much that I didn’t know what was really meant by the things I had done; there was no time to reflect and access how I felt then or even now. When you go too fast, with no time to wait, you miss opportunities to witness what is happening in the race to arrive, the destination is set by a projected trajectory you think you should have. An archival sensibility guided me to keep my past in order, informing me that my destination is uncharted in the traditional sense and following creative drive was stronger, but I could not tell you how.

If you stop, breathe, take a minute and rest, you will see that you are achieving it. We are doing it.

If there is one thing we at RKAP have learnt over this time, it is patience. I don’t mean the type of patience where you are constantly dissected by activities masked as self-care and slowness. Rather, it is patience with ourselves, with each other, the gallery, funding institutions, contributors to publications, friends and family of the RKAP and the ones at home and in our hearts, our social media followers and our wider communities. We have been patient with Rita, and she has been patient with all of us. It’s a patience that you have to put your hands up and surrender to. In this deep time where there are plenty of desires cast wide, we take our time to allow things to connect with where we see ourselves going.

What a mess we are in… it’s entropy. This is not ‘keep calm and carry on’ – surely not this time? During the last couple of years my rainbow of optimism became greyscale and I became tired of waiting. Borders closed, flights cancelled, trains too dangerous, parks packed like Glastonbury, no Glastonbury, no trips to the Blackdown Hills, no transatlantic shipment of paintings, no team meetings at Rita’s, no chats with her homemade pies. Nothing. Just still and silent panic. No predictability. A creeping claustrophobic fear of not finishing the exhibition. Not moving it forward inch by inch, not sharing Rita’s works or our hard work. Nothing. Being forced to wait, abide by restrictions and safety requirements do not make you a patient person. I am not an advocate for patience if it means stretching yourself so thin. But I am learning that there are some things that are urgent and the art can mean both everything and nothing in times of global emergency.

I did say I would spare you.

So we bubbled, three single households and a baby. Reaching out across the world online. Rita’s couch continued to be the meeting place. Although somewhat virtual, it was still the place for candid conversations, critical care, sometimes calm and sometimes chaos. Plastic folders, boxes and sheeting covered Rita’s display cabinets, constantly faced with the archive. We made our way. It didn’t stop. Instead, we kept on reaching, sometimes stranded, separated by seas and oceans. I look back on things, maybe even this piece, with Covidian cringe. But whatever core we were threaded to, it kept us and our practices alive and well. When I look back on those and at these times, even when forced at a distance, I see an intimacy that I will never forget, which gifted me with knowledge of myself and all RKAP’s collaborators.

Our condensed curation stretched concepts and compacted our practices, locking down its focus. When work is made under this pressure of condensed deep time, even if we cannot see if now there is an emotional brilliance that is made from the power of social connections equal to the strength of diamonds. Some elements of the exhibition elongated, and archival displays were dressed with humour and timelines. I always return to things I wish to find a way back to by treading new pathways. I pursued an ethical provenance alongside wondering why I had not stopped, stayed at home.

There is something to be said about working with living artists and their life’s collections. When it is not your name above the door, you have something to look up to. I enjoy being that person – having a purpose that is at service to furthering Rita’s and RKAP’s vision. It helps keep me in my place, firmly grounded. Open to critical care and able to check in when the aspirations and privilege plague your judgement.

If everything was due over two years ago, it is now. Maybe we can relax a bit or even change – maybe even for the better. Maybe, in releasing the rush during states of emergency, we allow for what is priority to become that and for the rest to emerge in the form made within the space we make available through patience.


Condensed Curation

Ethical Provenance

Distanced Intimacy

Virtual Couch