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Form — 'We Are The Thing Itself'

Suzanne Bellamy

(First published in All Her Labours. Vol 2. Papers of the Third Women and Labour Conference, Adelaide, Australia. Hale and Iremonger 1984)

I was standing, trying to describe what happens to me when I'm working — the way I seem to be somewhere else, journeying; the discovery that there is a shape to this process, a time sequence, a beginning and ending, a synthesis of pressing and practical urgencies with deep elusive imaginings. My friend said, 'It sounds like a long meditation.'

How do you write about a long meditation?

Suddenly this paper has taken on all the problems of form and structure I face in my sculpture. I see no difference now between words and clay. The problem is that we live in a time, a culture which insists on the profound difference between words and the non-verbal, a time when the language of form is dead.

I want to write a narrative, a story rising from my work and my life, the separated states of patriarchy we are never supposed to blend; a narrative about the way I work and what I have begun to discover through that work process. I don't want this slotted away under Art, Visual Arts, Aesthetics. This is my Work-Experience, presented to a conference about all aspects of women and labour.

Only a few women artists have written about their work processes, the ways in which ideas, traumas, failures and personal changes blend into what is eventually seen as their work: Virginia Woolf, Georgia O'Keefe, Judy Chicago, Tillie Olsen. From just this reading I know it's common to feel futile, invisible, mute and angry, ineffective and alone. Of course women feel these things wherever they work and however they live, but somehow when you stop doing other people's work and have to invent your own there is a change in the sharpness of these feelings.

Nothing is worse than the work women do, paid and unpaid, in the labour force of patriarchy. And yet here is often pain and despair too in the work done by women who make the choice to write, paint, sculpt, compose, weave… against the grain, outside the approval and encouragement of their time. It carries the added disadvantage of not being seen as real work, even by other feminists. It follows on quickly from this that what is produced is not understood but con­sumed and enjoyed as though it were peripheral. It is part of the pain of making something that often no-one ever sees what it's really about. I think this happens because we have lost the habit of talking about work processes, where ideas come from, the deep connections between our senses and our ideas, the power of non-verbal form

My own work involves a journey which begins and ends in the same way as if I were writing a novel, and I cannot stop until it is finished. I've learned that I can keep going through times of deep unhappiness, and that there is a clear shape to the cycle. The clay forms I make and fire in my kiln are only a part of the story. I fill my journal with all the intersecting threads; the insecurities and self-doubts, the endless practical and structural difficulties, all the ways a woman's life proceeds. I have used my journals to write this narrative since they are part of the form of my own life.

My life has been deeply altered and shaped by the women's movement, its ideas and demands on time and energy. I cannot imagine what my life may have been without its gathering-up of me at the age of 21. But it's greedy, and in the twelve subsequent years I have spoken, taught, written, organised and agonised over many projects and plans which did not use my best abilities and energies, which often deeply frustrated me and made me resentful that I was still not doing what I really wanted to do. Had there been no movement I may never have known there was a choice, a question. Still the problem existed, letting go of the imperatives of the con­stantly interrupted life of an urban radical feminist. It is impossible for me to develop my current work without ruthlessly clearing a space in my world, respecting it above everything and risking the loss of friends, connections and political identity. After three years of this, with some relapses to the old ways, I feel more confident, closer to my core, more sharply in conflict with patriarchy, more furious, more passionate and, in equal measure, more fearful, alone and invisible.

I have discovered that the work ideas and methods I have chosen place me in a kind of limbo in the women's movement. Part of the urge to write this paper came from knowing that it was one way to make women talk about non-verbal exploration. I have in the past taken sculptural work to a women's conference, had it put in a separate exhibition space, and not discussed at all. This time I am bringing sculpture, showing slides and presenting words; this time maybe women will seriously acknowledge that we could be looking for new language to discuss the work of women in non-verbal creative areas — not only sculpture but all the non-verbal forms, all form (and of course by extension a new way of using words themselves). This is all the more necessary because now that we are into our second decade of exploration, there is a deepening intent, a greater skill and need for feedback among women who have made life choices about the nature of their work. That first ten years could become a historical curiosity without sustained mature extension as well as constant regeneration.

The ideas we have formed are capable of astonishing application and extension. Radical feminism for me is no less than the making over of reality, the understanding and undermining of all patriarchal form, inventing the future, reconnecting with life, myth and the cosmos, discovering and creating our selves, making new life. These are the themes which inform my work.

I always thought of myself as a sculptor; as a child, and growing up. But it was my private self and she was always starving. I have always made things, but it's a story of interruption. It's as though I could tell two separate stories, two different women, in mortal conflict for many years until I found a point of fusion. Even within the last twelve years, as a feminist activist, we did battle, myself and I.

find it ironic now to read my journal entries covering the time of organising the First Women and Labour Conference, in 1978. The conflict and tension within me are evident then and my vision of the project was probably never shared by others. It took eighteen months of energy and yet left me frustrated.

I'm starting to work something out in my head about the way I feel about structures — events, shapes, people as material. It's like organic sculpture, ephemeral temporary structures which change women's sense of themselves. They enter the structure and change, but they are the structure, once they accept the conception. So this applies to a room full of women, a conference, a march. Women transformed into new shapes, for short experimental periods, proving that change can happen. Only the structure is introduced, not the content .. . I want to build these shapes, called 'people sculptures', then record what results... rearranging energy patterns. ( Yellow Journal, 22-2-1978, p.37.)

. . . We have to give more thought to creating new social structures. Our experiments too often try to predetermine content and neglect at­mosphere and form. But it is out of form that content comes not the other way round, because open-ended form somehow touches off new energy which only survives in certain kinds of structures . .

The key is the difference between theatricality and organic events. Theatre and ritual have been divorced from our interactions and will come back only when we think of where they are within us and the forms which will draw them out, through our variety and diversity. (Letter to J.R., 23-2-1978.)

I knew of course what a gap existed between the possibilities and actualities of that first conference, and always feared the worst. In hindsight I feel I was right to.

Sometimes I feel split about organizing this conference, worrying politically about whether in the end it will only unleash rampant academic feminism on the movement, rather than bringing all the split parts together so that the 'theorists' and the `streetfighters' 'meet. It's my own split since I feel both in me and know they need to come together for any breakthrough. ( Yellow Journal, 18-2-1978, p.28.)

I cannot really explain why one day it was all too much. I was tired, tired of prodding other people's creativity, tired of teaching, tired of organising, tired of feeling fragmented, deeply frustrated, distorted. I went away on a long journey, physical and psychic, and I began to do my work.

I found that ideas, experiences, associations and passions I had stored up for years were still there but now they made new patterns and pushed me in new directions. I was terrified. I especially felt technically inadequate, fearful that I would lack the practical structural means to make what I wanted. I always feel this, I still do, but I've learned never to let it stop me. I have an old woman inside me who is very helpful on these occasions. She reminds me about the

old days before there were art schools, training and men, when we mixed our own clay and colours, and painted on the cave walls, and made clay images of ourselves which are now called fertility figures (this always cracks her up!). She insists that technique is secondary to form, that to be original is to invent your own method, that form is

content, and technique will of necessity follow your ideas, whatever materials you use.

I took heart from knowing that ancient women had invented work with clay, that despite constant undermining and trivialising, this was a continuous living tradition right up till today (in Nigeria, In­donesia, parts of South America, New Guinea, among North American Indians), and that the evidence still survived of great periods of women's work in ceramic and stone sculpture in the Aegean (Crete, the Cyclades, Thera, Mycenae), in Northern Europe, Asia.

It became vital for me to discover all this — to find my own tradition, not only in clay but wherever I felt touched and connected. I began exploring old firing methods, old women's technology. I knew there had been a time before the severing of sculptural and domestic form, a time when even a simple bowl, a hemisphere, had infinity, spirit, a breath of life, a symbol of openness. I did not want my work to lose connection with that old ceramic tradition, nor to be held in by its current patriarchal low status. The work of ancient women shows how powerful were their references, images, myths, stories now absent. I wanted to know how these related to their lives, beyond ideas about ritual and worship.

Finding your own tradition — this is fundamental.

In my head this interrupted time sequence gathered up the laughing-throated nipple pots of Thera, the stone female Cycladic figures, the dancing Minoans, the polished black forms of Maria Martinez from New Mexico, the great flower and mountain cunts of Georgia O'Keefe, the sculptured words of Virginia Woolf, the pit-fired forms of Nigerian women potters, the great Standing Stones placed across the whole earth from Scotland to Ethiopia. As Michelle Cliff has said, our cultural patterns have been interrupted, they leap about . . . but they are still there.

It wasn't until after my first year of this new work that I began to see the powerful effect it was having upon my own life, the meshing of ideas between work and life, and the deep implications this work could have in exploring the story of women.

I had been keeping a Journal for some years but now I found I wrote more and more, full of wild and weird associations coming from both the work and the time spent in that kind of state. Working with clay is very trance-like, sensuous and passionate. It has the power to breathe life and kindle the deepest imaginings. Knowing the power of Form, I let myself be stretched by its possibilities.

My overall work project is called Memory, and within that I found I wanted to explore the nature of the Erotic for me, for women, in independent, autonomous, Lesbian.

All my work on the bones and cunts has been about the attempted discovery of erotic shape/feeling. And so of course that journey has stirred this in me. I discovered yesterday working that my own real erotic/passion has itself been very controlled in my own life — let out only in limited and hopeless situations, ones where the imaginative (`cerebral') could run beyond the real (too risky).

My work on the Erotic/Memory/in Shapes has then run to the first Block, in my own past. (I feel blocked) . . . This non-verbal journey is a powerful touchstone for the release of energy about my Self. (Red Journal II, 16-9-1980, p.20)

I/We seem to need some kind of focal inspiration/Muse/Lover, someone real or superreal who we do our work to show.

I've always found someone to direct this to — not to Control me — but to kindle, give particular audience, hearing, seeing to. It somehow over­comes the sense of purposelessness in doing/being. There's a real charge which comes from a kindled passion, something which pushes you into your new territories. (Red Journal II, 10-9-1980.)

After my first exhibition, in October 1980, the Memory Project felt clearer to me although I was having to learn to live with that awful emptiness after a cycle of work is finished. No matter how good the response from other women, it seems what's done is done and there's no certainty you can go on with anything new. I had made a series of women figures and I hoped they would continue. I was also trying to find words to express what I thought was happening.

The responses were really positive but varied. Recognising that we don't really have a women's language for shape was important. Some women talked about feeling pushed/puzzled/disturbed by the (I think) more erotic pieces . . . the cunt eggs, interior space, orgasm series piece . . . I feel really involved with reptiles, eggs as ideas, hatching ourselves. Some women said they felt the shapes and the feeling around them was gynocentric. Some went silent or freaked, some laughed a lot,one woman said she felt all kinds of peculiar pelvic contractions (!), another said it was like 'our pornography'. Well, that threw me a bit since it's a matter of context and connection, and discovering erotic imagery is a perilous path.

I wandered about feeling troubled mostly, going through my own barriers. (RedJournal II, 21-11-1980)

About the series of women-shapes who had come: (there were 15 of them in 1981)

I didn't ever intend to make them. They came . . . They belong to a Tribe of women, really different from one another. I know there will be more coming when I start working again.

With them came a new context and a new idea. I have wanted to find a way to Tell Our Story in epic form, heroic and archetypal, but about us, here and now . . . making in form the landscape of an heroic time, and connecting us with women before and coming.

A friend, buying one of these hags, said 'It's my first heirloom!', and I'd been telling someone that I never wanted my pieces to fall into the hands of men. They must pass generationally, woman to woman.

I heard her say Heirloom and it transformed itself in my head into Airloom, Weaving Space Together over Time, carrying non-verbal coded meaning, and surviving along a Network . . . And so now I talk about Message Pots, Air Looms, linking Memory with Prophecy through Heresy along a chain of Complicity. We then all become accomplices linking meaning into future space. An Epic. (Red Journal II, 4-11-1980, p.39; Letter, 21-1 I -1980)

As I opened more to ideas of new form, I craved more and more time in wild untouched landscape (virtually impossible), needed to see and think about animals, bones, skeletons, rocks.

I want to live somewhere like a Desert — in arid nothingness but in profusion of energy, colour and magic. (RedJournal II, 15-9-1980, p.18)

I need to have wild native bones — ancient animal bones.

I have the strongest sense of existing in multiple dimensions, spiral layers of Being. I have a Being which exists here now, also over the time scale of `history' (past lives) — and a stretching over Cosmic Past, space, planets, stars — into Cosmic Future.

I worked more on the bone . . . left it . . . Really unhappy with it. Very irritable, so it must be important. (Day Book I, 1-2-1981)

I worked again on the difficult pelvic bone — problems about an integral base — things aren't meant to 'sit on tables'. The bones I've collected are life shapes now, finite though full of movement/growth. Maybe I can let them change shape/create new life shapes . . . connected with past and future . . . Extinct and Potential. (Day Book I, 8-2-1981)

The intensity of my experiences in some landscapes really

astonished me, and I began to feel less alienated from what I saw.

This process had quickened while travelling in Great Britain and Europe in 1980, and intensified further during 1981 on trips across the Nullarbor, to Central Australia and bush landscapes in NSW. It raised all sorts of questions about where I belonged, did I belong anywhere? I feel as though I wander and can't find the place I'm meant to live. During 1981 I felt my work becoming more clearly
Australian, but I don't know how to describe that. What does it mean for me, patriarchally-constructed of mixed French and Irish blood lines, a Celt?

Women are so truly dispossessed. We have no sacred sites left, no landrights, no connection with place — and yet I feel a passionate connection with the Earth, seem to be remembering . . . There are places I have discovered in Australia and other countries which feel like my Sacred Sites, places where I feel timeless, overwhelmed by deep erotic connection, places which have flowed through my fingers into my work. I have stood with other women in some of these places and known of our connections with another time, another way of being, a deep nurturance, a massive symphonic Silence.

`As a woman my country is the whole world' said Virginia Woolf. I feel that but without joy because there seems to be nowhere where women are safe, where natural forms have permanency, where animals are free. I became very angry about the way men and male artists in particular have fetishised the Australian landscape, com­pleting the job of the wreckers on what was left of the bush. I felt the need to reclaim for myself the myths of the landscape, the animals, trees, wildflowers. I started making gumnuts (that most powerful revolutionary symbol), carving wildflowers, making trees and animals. I felt in conspiracy with Margaret Preston — and May Gibbs. I realised that, encoded and surviving in children's literature, was the power of female response.

..I felt in some places such deep memory connection that I began to believe some kind of ancient memory could transcend patriarchal race memory, beyond their blood lines.

Of all natural forms on the earth I relate most deeply to rocks. I always have, carrying home pocketsful and bags full over all my years as a wanderer, collecting visual images when they're too big to bring home (e.g. Easter Island and the Olgas)! I feel especially envious of those ancient women who expressed their sculptural beliefs by the placement of rocks in intricate forms and patterns. During my journey in the UK and Europe, I followed the great Standing Stones (in Scotland, Cornwall, Brittany), walking miles, belonging, being greatly amused by those 'scholars' who rush about with compasses and rulers measuring them. They seem to be missing the point.

At Avebury, in Wiltshire:

The rocks were our kin — and the whole construction a lovely synthesis of sculpture, ceremony, wise technical understanding, earth-loving. They seemed to me totally approachable, not 'awesome' nor religious —made by women artists.

I decided that a Sculptor was as much at work in the Choosing of Form as the making of form. I would have chosen rocks like these, they were my kind of rocks — and that's probably how it happened. A. generative creative process, throwing up the idea of the whole complex, after initially thrilling over the rocks themselves — and 'wanting to bring them home'! like I always do. (Green TravellingJournal II, 16-2-1980)

On Dartmoor, in the mist, trying to make out the patterns among the Standing Stones:

We were there a long time though it seemed no time. A sense of purpose despite it seeming we were outside the secret. We aren't outside it — just not literate in its language yet. . . .

Somehow the distinction between 'made' and 'perceived' has disap­peared here — all these rock piles are about living with natural form, being part of ultimate reality and unique shape. (Green Travelling Journal II, 21-2-1980)

At the Merry Maidens, a stone circle in Cornwall:

So — these stones — I felt at home leaning up against them. precious energy around them. I feel angry about the way male 'scientists' have constructed a compulsive method of seeing (not seeing) these sites — so that everything is seen functional to religion/worship/death cults . . . some such morbid con­cept, trying to possess them. Nowhere is there recognition/possibility of something built for its own sake, for beauty, to be in, as a sculpture, to enjoy, meet in, dance in, make love in . . . authentic parts of women's lives. The message of the Stone Circle is itself — the circle of power — the power of the circle — spinning — movement — woman energy. (Green TravellingJournal II, 23-2-1980)

Janne's Farm, The Colo, New South Wales:

I walked again up the gully to the great woman rock. I lay against it as close to the navel as I could get, the rough cold damp gritty feeling of this old woman rock against my skin — returning for New Power. (Day Book II, 3-5-1981)

I followed the rock shelf, climbing to a great cave and finding a way where there was no path through the thick undergrowth. You have no time for thoughts in such a walk, having to give all your attention to seeing the way. It frees deep energy. I found and followed a creek, growing fuller and deeper as I climbed into the gully . . . and then it forked.

Which fork to follow — left or right? Deep within me I heard myself know I would go to the right, but my head somehow concluded from that process of 'thinking', 'wondering', that I should go left. I went right because for the first time in my memory I could Hear the Space, the

Vacuum, the Synapse, perhaps the Air, between the deep knowing and the mental process, which seems to come out as the opposite — Strange new awareness, acting beyond, away from, under 'thought.' (Day Book II, 28-6-1981)

Sacred Canyon, Flinders Ranges, South Australia:

I had an intensely erotic journey through the Canyon, past great trees to the Cunt opening, then beyond into the womb. I ran my hands over the rock folds, soft and powerful — I could easily orgasm here — But there's a horrible sharp violence here too? ... (Day Book II, 3-6-1981, p.253)

Where rock and water mix it seems inevitable that extraordinary female form develops, over time — a form language: Dharug (NSW), Ayers Rock, the Olgas, the Flinders . . . many places. Great sen­suous forms are everywhere, but no-one ever seems to mention them. I think it especially amusing in relation to the Olgas, where the eroticism of the place is so compelling! (not about birth or reproduction, safely heterosexual — but about deep passion.)

I found myself more and more feeling the landscape as female form, all of it. I had made a large sculptural figure called Beast-Woman, my most visionary piece, in 1981. It has a woman's body and a composite strange flying reptilean head. One day a friend asked me if I worried that other people might see the beast's head as `phallic'.

I said I didn't involve myself with worries like that — things that are called phallic in nature have just been possessed, like Snakes. I think we have to reclaim all those possessed images if we want to use them in our work, but I don't do it consciously or deliberately. I simply don't see maleness of any kind in my work, and if anyone else sees it, it's their seeing. (Day Book II, 19-2-1981)

Where I see maleness in the landscape is in the destruction and alteration of form and life; yet paradoxically I also sense the great indifference of the earth, existing in and for itself.

Connection with the earth depends on rediscovery/discovery of our power of seeing. This is no simple process because living within patriarchal form is a very crippling experience. We become visually retarded ourselves, just as we lose the power of language. Where are the images of our real selves living and being, where are the forms to touch our spirits, tell our stories, thrill our imaginations, stir our passions? Certainly not in their galleries, their movies, their books, their music. The worst of the damage is the way we lost the knowledge that such images and forms were important at all . . . that

a great strong revolutionary flowering of women's energy doesn't last without revolutionary form, new ways of seeing.

For about the last eight years I have developed a kind of meditation practice which uses the method of inducing alpha brain waves, i.e. consciousness in the dream state. Over the time, I have moved away from the practice I was originally taught so that now this exercise directly feeds my ideas, and how I see reality itself.

I still do not practice this daily but, when I do, it closely relates to those times when I am feeling most intensely alive. In my Journal I refer to this practice as my Workshop Time even though this is now an outmoded and inadequate description, which I retain from habit.
Originally the 'workshop' involved an imaginary workspace, library, garden, and two women. Later a third woman came, and we began to build a complex story between us, over time. I use the space and time involved to consider my life, current projects, blocks, fears, and curiosity about my three friends. This aspect of my life is another story (to be written about some other time), but it is relevant here because the workshop is a core part of my images, their meanings, and my visions. Over the last year I have often combined the practice with some yoga, very successfully.

After yoga, we discussed the difference between yoga meditation (fixed point concentration, no pursuit of images, ideas) and my workshop inner work (complex imaginative shapes, people, ideas, journeys). I said I thought the yoga had deepened and sharpened my other work, but that these were different practices. She agreed, and saw no need for conflict. I don't think it's a problem anyway, just interesting, and I can see the synthesis, and a place for useful yoga meditation (calming, distancing), so long as it doesn't promote the old quietism about us accepting everything, denying rage and vision, really reactionary. (Blue Venice Journal, 29-10­1981)

The workshop women have developed over the years, and I now sense them as complex autonomous beings with their own histories and projects. They are called Chloe, Regis and Daphne.

I managed to get down to my workshop, after a long gap . . . I came inside the building, they were all there, but I knew I had to work out a long-standing problem with Chloe. She had been elusive since she built the Sanatorium of Learning laboratory onto the side of the studio, and I got angry. . . . She always wore black. I thought of her as Egyptian . . Today, she seemed to change into a long thin broom and fall over .. . and they all said I had been relating to a 'straw figure'(!) . . . and that the real Chloe was yet to be understood and given space. . . . I was straining to understand them . . . Regis seems to be my passion, my Authority .. . Daphne my healer, my body, . . . She is like Nature, Landscape . . . But I find all these differences between them restrictive. I struggled about Chloe, formerly about my mind, my intellect ... They are all whole and all utterly different, stressing different aspects of power and knowing. Chloe showed me that the room she built was still there. It has become a place/Convergence for Imagination. Mythic Imagination. Cosmic Imagination . . . making connections between all things, connected with my new beast-woman sculpture; Chloe indicates the way to True Intellect through Imagination . . . So now there is this new work coming, a convergence of formerly unrelated ideas. (Day Book 1, 16-2­1981)

I continued to use the practice, working on many ideas which fed into the forms I was making, but more substantial changes were coming.

Something is wrong with Regis. She is sad, homesick. We plan to all go travelling back to the real homelands. They are all homesick. Maybe I will find my homelands too. (Day Book II, 31-3-1981)

The journey out of the workshop was the biggest single change so far. It lasted several months with interesting adventures on the road. Then, during a time when I was feeling very low:

I find them on the road and feel very needing. They respond, but want me to look/see where we are . . . Signposts. I can't read them — then I see we have come to a huge cliff edge, mighty cliffs with a rocky road descending . . . Beyond I see a great valley surrounded on both sides by vast mountain ridges, and the ocean or a sea beyond. A great river runs down through the valley and there is thick forest on the edges, and patched throughout.

This valley, they tell me, and I know, is a great City of Women. Strange coloured buildings, a complex of living spaces, a vast women's culture integrated into the valley. This is where we have journeyed to the edge of. I can barely cope with looking, still so overwhelmed by my needful aloneness and despair .. .

We have come . . . to see the great work made here, the research in the great Archives, the way the women live. It feels like a mix of medieval and ancient cultures, but seems to follow no obvious patriarchal cultural time pattern. First I am to be prepared, and hear their stories, Regis, Daphne and Chloe. (Day Book II, 16-6-1981)

It is dark and we are waiting till the dawn to go down to the city. It was Daphne's Story. . . . She is an explorer, a Sailor. Aegean, not from Crete -- she belongs to many places. I could see her in the water, dolphins played with her. She is a friend of all sea life. She has sailed in many kinds of boats, mostly alone but sometimes on great group expeditions —she needs to explore all the world. She has been North to the great Ice and seen Mammoths, she knows Africa — she told me how wonderful it will be when I see the wrinkles of an elephant's skin against that landscape! — . . . She is greater and more original than Odysseus, a wanderer, ad­venturer, explorer. She has many stories to tell. This is only the opening. (Day Book II, 23-6-1981)

The storytelling continued, the themes of which deeply affected what I was making, in particular the stories about Africa and the sea (my dolphins and the Zebra Woman.) Finally we descended to the City — I was taken as an apprentice to a great studio complex where many women were working, but each had individual space and resources.

I met my three friends and they each gave me a gift to celebrate going to the great studio to work.

Daphne gave me a Drop of Water (a tear, a healing drop, the element, the Ocean). It wobbles in my hand but remains whole I keep it for safety in an invisible pocket in the air beside me. Chloe gave me a form I couldn't see at first, a moving pyramid which I hold in my hands — it's made of a strange unknown material (like combined perspex and platinum but not), moving internal triangles showing changing energy alignments within the pyramid form — magic, mystery. It will help to 'penetrate Meaning.'

Regis gave me a Heart, (Life) — At first I thought it was an animal, moving pulsing pink flesh. It's a new living heart. She pulled it over each of my hands, like a glove . .. to give each one the power of life .. . through the hands, the fingers. It also gives me a new heart.The gifts have deeper meanings, to be learned in time. . . . A very in­tense time together. . . . Then I went to the studio. (Blue Venice Journal, 9- 10-1981)

Since this time I have acquired a new sculpture teacher, who also teaches numbers, maths, mosaic science, life form. She is called Hephaista, or sometimes Hypatia. I work there, discuss projects with others and increasingly see the beginnings of new clay forms there first. When I am working at home in my actual workroom (An­nandale, NSW) I now feel I am there. Hephaista believes that through our work women can move eventually from personal image making (which interprets time and experience) to inventing the cosmos, the future, the 4th Cause, the transcendence of matter. Work and Life Synthesize.

My three friends leave on separate journeys, Regis walking across the Earth, Daphne off in her boat exploring Atlantis, and Chloe in her laboratory, flying. They are all feeling pleased with themselves at the moment.

I sat at the Olgas (inside the Valley of the Winds), and read their post­cards. Regis is walking in the Himalayas seeing Rhododendrums, thinking of me. Daphne sailing, tells me I must reconsider living close to the sea since it's like meditating. Chloe is in her lab. full of enticement about the future. They all say Keep Working! (Blue Venice Journal, 17-10­1981)

I do keep working, aware that all these intersecting threads never repeat their pattern, and yet it all makes sense. All the layers of our imagination, our collective memory, seem to beckon. What is real, and does it really matter?

Virginia Woolf describes this other world/other dimension as it flows from her own life and work:

. . . the shock-receiving capacity is what makes me a writer . . . I feel that I have had a blow; . . . it is or will become a revelation of some order; it is a token of some real thing behind appearances; and I make it real by putting it into words. It is only by putting it into words that I make it whole; it gives me . . . a great delight to put the severed parts together. Perhaps this is the strongest pleasure known to me. It is the rapture I get when in writing I seem to be discovering what belongs to what; making a scene come right, making a character come together. From this I reach what I might call a philosophy; at any rate it is a constant idea of mine; that behind the cotton wool is hidden a pattern; that we are connected with this .. .

. . . we are the words, we are the music, we are the thing itself.”(Virginia Woolf, “A Sketch of the Past.”)

This 'real thing behind appearances' is familiar enough to women who have stretched their consciousness around the patriarchal blinkers, made a political movement to sustain that breakthrough, penetrated the surface meanings of our lives and begun to change.We know that it's a shaky business to pin down 'reality', to call a halt

to this process, to feel utterly certain about the limits of 'the material.'

Again, Virginia Woolf said

I was looking at a plant with a spread of leaves, and it seemed suddenly plain that the flower itself was a part of the earth, that a ring enclosed what was the flower, and that was the real flower, part earth, part flower. When I said about the flower 'That is the whole', I felt that I had made a discovery." (“A Sketch of the Past”, from Moments of Being)

Through my own discoveries and experiences, I no longer draw clear lines between the real and the 'other', the material and the `spiritual'. It is entirely possible that we will begin to rememberm ore and more . . . that our memories will sharpen as our real presence and power expand, as our sight lengthens and sharpens, as our creative work penetrates new surfaces and exposes new forms. Our level of knowing (historical, ancestral, geomorphic and cosmic) could be accessible, could be Real, Material. All awakening sharpens our seeing of the mechanics of patriarchy, here and now — and the fury to see it dead.

The currently held belief in the divisions between reality and mysticism could all be a peculiarity of fragmented patriarchal time, the time (this time) when living form was dismembered, cut off from its memory.

We Are The Form. We Are The Thing Itself