‘How fragile time is…’ Chloe Allen reflects on her Nest Residency

I first learned about Talking Birds when my friend told me about her Nest Residency at Eaton House. I decided to look them up online and was pleased to discover that they aim to make residencies more accessible to people with disabilities and conditions like myself. I graduated from Coventry University in 2018 with an MA in Contemporary Arts Practice and, until my Nest Residency began, hadn’t had access to a space to be able to make work for a whole year – so I knew that this would be a perfect opportunity for me and was so pleased when my application was accepted. My residency began in December 2019 and finished in February 2020, during this time I was able to further explore the effects that Narcolepsy has on my life. In 2012 I was diagnosed with the chronic sleep condition Narcolepsy, this causes me to experience Excessive Daytime Sleepiness and so I can have a sleep attack at any time anywhere. Due to my constant fatigue I often don’t leave the house for weeks at a time and so to have a work space away from home was a great motivation for me to actually get out of bed because I knew I had the chance to actually make work again. During my residency I felt content in the knowledge that I could take naps and not be disturbed, I was safe inside the studio space, I wouldn’t be in anybody’s way, taking naps allowed me to gain just that little bit more energy to then continue to make work once I’d woken up.

This residency has allowed me to further explore my ideas in relation to time being wasted due to Narcolepsy. For the past 5 years or so I had often used raising awareness for Narcolepsy as the main idea for my work but once I had graduated this all came to a sudden halt. Being in a studio space has allowed me to spread my work out across the floor and experiment with different ideas, having this space gave me the motivation to push myself further with my work thus I created 366 clay circle ‘time tokens’, had I not had the studio space I wouldn’t have been able to do this because creating something like that isn’t too easy on a cramped bedroom floor!

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To begin I started creating work in my comfort zone of acrylic on canvas, I’ve often used text art in my previous works and so knew that this would be something that I’d be pleased with aesthetically. I worked on canvas boards and the pieces were relatively small, after reflecting on this I decided that I wanted to make work on a larger scale especially since I’d got the space in the studio and so I got some plastic sheeting and bought some clay. The image of a circle was at the forefront of my mind, based on a clock. I began by creating rings from the clay with circle cutters, then cut segments from these circles based on how much time I’d wasted napping, I then used metal letter stamps to press words in to the segments, the words were the things I’d missed out on by napping e.g. family dinners, however, despite these turning out well I knew that I still wasn’t entirely achieving what I wanted. I researched into artists that created work based around time and came across Alyson Provax, her works in ‘Time Wasting Experiment’ really inspired me, she would state how many minutes were wasted and what the time was being wasted on. I could time every single nap I’d taken but because of my condition I don’t always get to choose when I nap and sometimes I don’t even know that I have napped – it’s sometimes hard for me to tell the difference between my dreams and reality because I nap do frequently. Narcolepsy affects me all day every day so I decided that I would make a circle for every day and instead of cutting out segments I would create segments on the circles with glitter. I created 366 (as 2020 is a leap year) circles, using different coloured glitter for each month. Each circle had ’24 HOURS’ printed on to them, each a token of time that we choose how to spend, the circles weren’t fired and so could very easily break, should they break this will only demonstrate how fragile time is.

The Nest Residency was so valuable to me, I was able to explore ideas, set myself bigger challenges and my importantly create work again. I also found it very useful to be at Eaton House and attend the First Thursday Drop-in, this gave me chance to network with other artists and instead of just explaining about my work as I had previously I also got to show people my studio space to that they could see the processes I was going through to create my work.

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