We are delighted to announce the ten awards to develop new ambitious works and support artists whose work and lives have been impacted by this time of isolation and extra domestic/care responsibilities.

Procreate Project supports the development of contemporary artists who are also mothers, working across disciplines. Thanks to the support of the Emergency Response funds from Arts Council England, we are able to award a £1000 each to ten artists selected between 172 submissions received via an open call.

The awarded artists’ projects are:

– Cash Aspeek

Insideout ( working title) – Photography and public art project

Personal Protective Equipment has become a new normal during this pandemic. They are designed to reduce, often unseen, risks, toxins, fumes, or viruses.

Through images and self-made PPE garments, the artist aims to reduce the perceived risk and enable her daughter, who has recently been diagnosed with autism and has been willingly self isolating for the past four years, to access the outside world.

“This prolonged self-isolation has impacted on motherhood……….. As my daughter’s friendships have fallen away, I also find my own support networks slip.”

The artist will create the protective garment from Flexible Silver and Mylar Film, both highly reflective materials similar in quality to space blankets used to protect after sports events and emergency situations. The material will reflect the surroundings, which becomes an alternative view on its surface, highlighting her daughter’s perception of the outside world.

– Dagmara Bilon

Hungry for human contact – webspace & social art experiment

‘Now, it has been made illegal to have sex with someone outside your household, with the rules being put into place from June 1. Anyone caught breaking the law could face having a criminal record.“ A booty call with that guy you dated for three months last year” is very much not on the list. Nor is “a nightly visit to the nearby flat of the girl/boyfriend you’re not ready to cohabitate with yet”. And don’t even think about going on a date, unless it’s virtual. ‘(Eleanor Steafal, The Telegraph, June 2020)‘Hungry for human contact’ aims to shed a light and push through spheres of loneliness. The project opens up possibilities for human contact outside the ‘ordinary’ encounters and investigates sexuality and intimacy during Covid-19, when dating, sex (unless its virtual) is illegal in the UK. But why do people join Tinder during a pandemic in the first place? What are people looking for?The final artwork will manifest in a webspace storing documentation of Tinder chats between artist Dagmara Bilon (Corona) and her Tinder matches, which include people of all genders and sexual identities. The diverse conversations with various individuals seek to investigate and give insight into people’s current circumstance during the time of the pandemic, the human condition of loneliness, desire, fantasies and invitation for creative interventions, to ‘make art instead of sex’.

– Henny Burnett

Touch-me-not – Photography, Mixed Media

“The Touch-me-not plant is associated with the treatment of vaginal and uterine complaints, inflammations and skin disorders”‘Touch-me-not’ is about skin and ageing process, touch and body politics. Drawn from a personal experience, the artist will use it to investigate the relationship and representation of the female body during and after the postnatal period. For her, this ‘skin growth’ had been caused by the stress her skin had undergone during pregnancy resulting in premature ageing. Suddenly, once touchable skin had become untouchable, rough and unsightly. The Photographic portraits of her torso affected by seborrheic keratosis will be projected onto a tablecloth and re-photographed. The introduction of the tablecloth into the work’s imagery relates to family history, as the Irish linen came from her grandmother. (There are suggestions that seborrheic keratosis could be hereditary). The lace of the tablecloth becomes embedded into the skin adding a further textured layer. The final diptych of images will be screen-printed using thermo-chromic inks. The ink responds to heat: when touched an imprint of the hand may be left fleetingly on the print. Stitching and piercing into the print surface would emphasise the raised quality of seborrheic keratosis. Latex examination gloves should be used to touch the ink surface reinforcing suggestions of clinical examination, and an untouchable status.

– Beatriz Cabur

‘Childbirth-19’ – Digital theatre

Childbirth-19 is a new digital theatre play specifically written to be performed online. The play depicts childbirth in times of Covid-19 and tackles how the experience of pregnancy and labour is shaped by systemic trauma, as due to coronavirus, childbirth interventions and mistreatments have increased, disregarding women’s needs and rights. Major traumas and long lasting damages have been inflicted in the name of minor risk prevention, leaving women without birth partners, not allowing home births, having midwifery led units, ultimately not giving choices to women on where and how to give birth and separating babies from their parents right after birth. “We continue to be contacted by women being told they cannot have a maternal request caesarean and we are concerned that in some places coronavirus is being used as an excuse to dictate to women how they should give birth, which contravenes Nice [the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence] guidance” – Maria Booker, from Birthrights for The Independent.Changing these circumstances is a pharaonic task to face. By collecting the stories of many women who have given birth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and translate them into a monologue for digital theatre, Childbirth-19 will try to make a difference.

“I alone can’t change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples, let Childbirth-19 be that stone.”

– Jane Cheadle

‘The quality of her silence: make your failures visible’ – experimental animation

An experimental animation project based on two analogue film reels inherited from the artist’s grandfather, an amateur film maker and inter-war economic migrant from Europe to Africa. Over half a century old and originally titled ’Tribal Africa’, the film’s ethnographic documentation of women in villages is testimony to a both colonial and patriarchal gaze. Conscious that these legacies reverberate into our present, we ask if these ideas are held together through image and filmic representation then in what ways can they be pulled apart? What forms or narrative might result from an irreversible and aggressive yet poetic manipulation of the physical film medium itself? The project aims to form part of a collaborative response and will be supported along the way by critical friend and collaborating artist Mary Martins and the South African poet Busiswe Mahlangu.

– Laura Eldret

‘Whispers’ – new textile and moving-image

Laura Eldret will produce a new textile and moving-image work. Whispers (2020) will be the result of a series of conversations with mothers, which also relates more broadly to human relationships and attachment at a time of social distancing.

The title draws on the idea of a whisper as a means of soothing speech, touching on issues of intimacy and care, and of speech as something embodied and physical. Both the textile work and the moving image work will explore the patterns and rhythms of interactions of mothers with their children, looking at the viscerality of their exchange and lived bodies and how this unique coexistence is emphasized during the first year after birth and during times of lockdown and isolation. To create the work, Eldret will use ethnographic processes and also draw on her own experience as a mother. Eldret’s work explores the social agency of art and aesthetic elements that bind people. Her practice uses processes of social engagement, anthropology and documentary. Fabric is a reoccurring form in her practice, she is interested in its social characteristics, its ability to wrap, comfort, soften, shield, conceal and display. She also frequently works with video to create works that engage in ethnographic processes such as interviews, observation, participation and reimagining.

– Wanja Kimani

‘Private Protest’ – mixed media, video performance

Artist Wanja Kimani will operate between the personal and the political, exploring the idea of a protest within the domestic space. Using video as a form of documentation of performative works utilizing barkcloth and found materials, Wanja will create images that reflect her body and the women around her. Through a collective intergenerational work, she will draw on the body as a site of transmission.

Monthly cycles of hormones, shedding potential life.
Soaked and drained way.
Death confronts black bodies from so many fronts.

How do we (ad)dress the internal civil war?

– Melanie Jackson

‘Spekyng Rybawdy’ Art Publication

Melanie Jackson will be creating an art publication composed of drawings inspired by a particular set of medieval obscenities known as the ‘bawdy badges’. They challenge us, and demand our attention in the present because they continue to arrest us with their shocking modernity and radical otherness.

Pilgrim Badges were small, mass-produced pewter or lead-alloy brooches and trinkets, cheap to buy, of which hundreds survive from the late Middle Ages and many are based on religious motifs and saints. A sub group are a series of secular badges known as the erotic/sexual or bawdy badges which employ a diverse, entertaining array of images including visual references to linguistic puns, visual allusions to aspects of religious and social life, and persistent images of mobility. Above all, the sexual badges delight in hybrid creations. They represent subverted gendered modes of asserting power and control over the inscrutable, vital, yet precarious forces of sex, fertility, and reproduction – satirical of the castration anxieties expressed in both anti catholic propaganda and the post-plague witch trials and pamphlets of the day. The violence of sexual control is made explicit, simultaneously iterated, subverted, made absurd.

Instead of using obscenity to subordinate and demean, can we utilize its transgressive power to give voice to those who are marginalized, to engender empathy for those who are wounded, and consider new paradigms for negotiating desire?

– Anna Perach

Bluebeard [working title] – Textile, Sculptural performance

Looking back at Freud’s identified new emotional state exclusive to women, hysteria, the artist wants to explore and question how female emotions and intuition is depicted as a physical defect or internal illness that needs to be cured and controlled. Through her work Anna wants to reclaim the women’s needs and right for space and expression against a history of women’s emotional and sexual repression. The artist will give life to hand-tufted head masks through a performance inspired by an illustration by Wisnlow Homer made for Charles Perrault’s Tale of Bluebeard (1697). In the tale, a young woman married to an elderly disfigured man, opens a door of which she was given the key to but forbidden the access. In the room she discovers the remains of her husband’s 6 previous dead wives who had previously dared to open the forbidden door, a fate now awaiting her. Homer’s image depicts the heads of seven women hanging by their long hair on a rope. The artist interprets this image as a forced disconnection of women from their ‘wild, hysterical nature’ by means of violent separation from their bodies. Metaphorically these women no longer have their bodies to perform their anguish and thus they are cured from feeling.

– Holly Stevenson

‘What Does It Mean To Mother?’ – Ceramic Sculptures

Through the process of art making, and informed by the collective responses gathered from a group of mothers and artists with materially driven practices, Holly will investigate ‘what does it mean to mother?’ With a profound interest in psychoanalysis, the artist aims to offer interpretations and a view on the different experiences of mothering considering and questioning the idea of the ‘good enough mother’, first coined in 1953 by paediatrician and psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott. Resulting in a series of ceramic sculptures, Holly will glean language and forms that relate art making to mothering and mothering to art making, choosing the material of ‘clay’ as meaning for nurturing, labour intensive and unpredictable practices.