Friday, 31 July 2015

a real deal artist in the core

Artists have never fitted in, that's their job - to be different. Interviewed for The Homeless Library, artist/musician Andris discusses the fear and delight of this difference. He also talks about other kinds of difference, being homeless in a foreign country. From Latvia, through Europe, to Ireland and then mainland Britain, it's been a long journey. Here is Part 1:


I am an artist by ideas, I'm a real deal artist in the core. In the centre, that's my entity. I was fifth in class, disabled. One talent was drawing, my real talent. My brain started to unlock, I started to learn like a genius.

Many people can't remember themselves when they are two years old. Those memories are weird, not normal, you see the same world but you see more, real vivid. Only people like William Blake and me, us have seen things. We are sort of connected to the source. It happens on paper, in songs. If you are asleep and you open your eyes and see what's there and more. It's a gift, a big big gift. Many see it as a threat.

People think anything alien is a threat. We both know that. They get afraid, but there's nothing to be scared of. Even me, I am knowing there's nothing there nothing evil on the face of the world. It can frustrate, make you feel different.

I read about the esoteric thought. Everyone has a guardian angel, opposite sex. Once I was in that state and I seen it. 14 centimetres from my eyes. Seen the face that's watching me - beautiful, intense. I would say she was more surprised than me. Normally they watch us and we don't open the eyes of the soul.

When you see something like that, it's not easy to convince others who are living a common sense life. You can see in their eyes "You retard", stuff like that. People don't want to accept - people don't understand how to put a thought in it.

Everyone has potential but we decide what we want to be, how we open. I still see stuff in good mood, or very bad, I see the things. You must be pushed in someway.

When I meet people which call themselves normal, they took about things which don't hook me at all. I have noticed when people have talked with me about common sense stuff, I'm getting bored. I know water is water. When it gets to zero degrees it freezes, why talk about it. Or you went in a pub and got drunk. So why talk about it? It's low level. With normal people, I'm getting bored. Sometimes I'm even freaking out people.

Initial stage when I interfere with people, they appreciate. But when we talk about common sense stuff I don't know what to talk. That's why I don't nicely interfere with people. Maybe someone has a similar life, but normally our experiences don't apply to each other. When they find out I've got no family, they think I've got issue. But when you want to understand advanced stuff you have to put energy in, thinking and consideration.

All artists are like this, something specific. See things, dreams, vivid I would say so. They are not normal people, not ordinary. If you want to do good stuff you've got be in-ordinary. You shouldn't be usual. Impress people with something new, something creative, somehow original. I can draw, carve sculpture. I think maybe I should make a miniature queen next and put it beside a big one. It would be wicked, you can write that idea down. I could sell myself in such a way. People would ask who made it, wouldn't believe I made it. I have very vivid imagination, imagining a big and a small queen it is wicked.

People shouldn't think about value. As soon as they are born they're starting to walk the road of life. They think this walk isn't happiness, but it's aim is happiness. That isn't true! People walking this road named as life, they think they have to reach happiness. You don't. What sort of life would it be if there was no happiness, only happiness at the end?

I got to be honest. But will it be typeable down? All these observations, it's to help. But it's a job for you, for James, for Heidi (staff at The Booth Centre). If there wasn't homeless people there wouldn't be the need for help. This place is like that. It used to be beneficial for me but now it pulls me down. The environment, drug addicts. I can't get normal common sense people. And everyone knows if I am with them, I'm one of them. Not staff, but clients. Eastern Europeans. I was homeless doing alcohol. Now I see those people which were two years ago me. Now I'm dressing better, looking a bit better. Exercising, quit smoking. All East Europeans see I'm getting out of minus, and they're getting jealous, gossiping me. If I'm capable to help. I say you don't interfere with me when I'm outside. I'm not arrogant, I like to approach people. But when they're abusing, I don't be around them.

I'll tell you one thing, you need a safe place. The safe place must be safe. Every artist is doing drugs whatever. But they need a place to slow down, remember what they've done, meditate basically.

Speaking to normal people, I start to realise they're not normal. I haven't spoke with humans on street, doing something meaningful. I think I will go alternative pub, where there's people like me. With every student I'm speaking I feel very good, levelled evenised and accepted. I can't find point to speak with people that are young. When I was 20 it was same I was talking with people who were older, 30, 35.

I twice dreamed resurrection. I know it happened. Two years ago I was complete punk and I decided I want to live, to be joyful. Life is not bad. It's not life, it's you, as soon as you change yourself life will change. And as I changed myself I noticed things getting better. When you rely on someone else, it's the most strongest way to live. You can take notice but don't follow life. I have now made so many enemies because of this, they used to be friends. I used to say I'm not going to take your opinions. Mostly I will suggest myself.

I decided "Andris make every situation beneficial to you, make something good". Then I'm sure I'm not bad, I'm at least helping someone. I'm one of those grateful ones - I try to convince people life is fine and if you believe that it's going well. How to keep yourself positive? You have got to shout at yourself to get rid of other people's problems. You got to develop yourself.

Andris Lauva was interviewed for The Homeless Library by Phil Davenport at The Booth Centre, July 2015. All videos by Andris Lauva, all rights reserved. To see more YouTube work by Andris go to his YouTube channel. (NB These video works were made independently by Andris Lauva, not in arthur+martha workshops.)

The Homeless Library is a project devised by arthur+martha to document the heritage of homelessness using interviews, artworks, poetry. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Rose petal perfume

The arthur+martha project The Homeless Library is the first ever attempt to write a history of homelessness in Britain. It includes not only individual testimonies, but also poetry and art, giving it a shape like no other. Look for more related blogs on this site, or befriend us on FaceBook.

Lois writes:

A discussion about gardening at The Booth Centre, Manchester took us to a Eastern European cherry tree, to making rose petal perfume as a child, to funeral flowers. A number of poems were written (one group piece shared below) and many badges. 

'Solve the mystery of life', handmade badge. Steve and AndrĂ©'s. 

The badges used recycled vintage books, print outs used as discussion starters for previous Homeless Library Sessions and a pile of faded flower pressings from my childhood. Some deeply-felt, some touching, some funny - many aspects of life reflected in a very compact 2 hours.

'Bloom up Love' handmade badge for the Homeless Library

'A rose for mum in spring.' Danny

Flowers from a funeral
Remind of a butterfly
Preserved, pressed, impressed,
Watch them blossom
As you get older, appreciate
Easter daffs
When you're older
You stop
Look: geraniums, roses
I seem to be looking at flowers a lot
My friends are passing away

Different flowers for different
Damsons and cooks define
Strawberries and cherries
My grandfather taught me how to get
Many berries from one plant
One cherry in production
As the summer is coming
It turns
Apple tree red

I know how to grow
This is my great grandfather's school
To remind me
To eat
To take to a harvest
To take cuttings.
Have you seen a many-coloured cherry tree?
A weeping willow?
Question: have you made
Rose petal perfume?

The universe all together is
Complete and perfectly unique.

Group poem, The Wellspring, 21st July 2015

'In the garden Bruce Lee kicking'  Emma.

Phil and I have loved our time at The Wellspring, thanks to everyone for making us so welcome, your patience, having a go at our creative ideas and your openness. See you in December.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Been through it

JT's story in The Homeless Library asks many questions and gives no easy answers. How do you repair the inner damage that homelessness is an outer sign of? How do you make a new start when the past still weighs heavily? What exactly is it that we get in exchange for experience?


I started writing it, I put: "It started when I had a partner, good job, house; in the space of three months I lost all three." Partner first then job and house, not good. It was basically three things at once then I went homeless. I was homeless in Manchester first. A friend said I could stay with him in Bury two weeks. Then it all started again, homeless again on the streets. Because I didn't have a connection in Bury it took ages to get a place, two and a half years homeless in Bury in hostels. Then I got offered four places in the space of a week.

'Not a penny to my name' detail of artist book for The Homeless Library

I had me first breakdown. Had a few, had one where I just gave up. When I was homeless I was constantly fighting trying to get help. Others were getting help and I subconsciously thought I was being picked on because I wasn't from Bury. It made me mentally fight. I've never been given anything, never, always had to fight. Others got grants, I got tough. 

As a kid I used to fight to get listened to, fight mentally and physically.

Breakdown, I didn't speak literally didn't speak. In my eyes being homeless has destroyed my life. Now I'm going for jobs I'm always second because I've got no experience. Even when I was in hostels I always did stuff. But always got second. For two and a half years I felt I was being ignored, for help, for an opportunity. Now what I want to do is help people I've been through it myself and I can explain to people it'll get better. But right now it's getting worse because I'm not getting a job. I'm nothing but nice to everyone.

Someone I knew was homeless two days and was crying like a baby. I had it two and a half years - slight difference. While being homeless I learned the only one who's going to do it is me. People say they want to help but don't if I don't get off my arse and do it is not going to get done. Self-reliant.

When I was a kid I did get blamed for things that were nothing to do with me most of the stuff I was accused of I didn't know anything about. This is the thing that annoys me because I'm clever. Being homeless ripped me apart, being homeless I was ignored. I don't get paid jobs because I haven't been in one for a long time. What's the point of getting up, cleaning your teeth, etc., etc.?

30 June 2015

I'm clever yet ignored. During the last 10 years I've always done volunteering and I've always been given promises. But when it comes to the crunch the promise is non-existing. I get told no. I work for B&Q for a month as a volunteer with a limp because I'd had knife damage to my toe. At the end they told me "No jobs are going". The jobs seem to go to young people who don't know what they're doing, or people from overseas. You should get the job because of how you do the job not because you're gay straight male female black white. I'm a white straight male and I get ignored.

When a job is available you've got to have experience. I'm 37 now I'm going to be 50 years old cleverest person in the room yet never been given a chance. All I need is someone to give me a chance. 

I get paranoid. When I first got homeless I didn't get help. Homeless 2 1/2 years. I knew a guy who was homeless one night and he got help and got offered a job. Because of the situation I've not got confidence to start a new relationship. Feel I've got nothing to offer, feel I'm in the same nothing.

They say everyone deserves happiness but not for me, nothing goes right. With jobs. My private life is non-existent. If a girl tries to chat me up I have to question - why? All I've heard so far today, all I've heard, is people wanting my help. I do try to help but what do I get? I get depressed.
Monoprint, detail of artist book for The Homeless Library

I think I might be bipolar. I feel, today, great but an hour later might feel like shit. I've always had it but always known how to control it. Hard to see the good in something when nothing good happens. 

I get acknowledgement here (The Booth Centre) but I work hard and get no reward. I feel I'm being punished. Thinking of leaving. I've been told so many times keep smiling, but nothing good is going to come out of it. Why should I smile? 

Got used to it so much I can't do nothing about it.

The thing is, homelessness affects different people different ways. Alcohol affects different people different ways. It's called individualism. Everyone reacts differently. A generalisation is, everyone assumes it's easy to get out of that position. Think about benefits, for example. Ian Duncan Smith has just said he could live off £55 for a week. Sure he can do it for a week, but try it for six months. He thinks he can do it cos he assumes something. People assume about the homeless. Assume it's easy, it isn't.

Interviewed by Phil at The Booth Centre, June 2015. The Homeless Library is a project devised by arthur+martha to document the heritage of homelessness using interviews, artworks, poetry. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Friday, 10 July 2015

An item of luxury

What item would you consider a luxury today? what item would your parents consider a luxury, how about your grandparents?  your children? This is the question we took to the Social Group at the Farming Life Centre in Derbyshire for the project Stitching the Wars.

The discussion was lively, informative, at times poignant, often very funny conversations reflecting 4 generations hardship and luxury. Phil has edited a long poem made by simply note taking the conversation- It starts in 1897:

The Farming Life Centre, Blackwell.


Went to Scarborough, coach trip
One day of a trip in
100 years of charabancs
Granddaddy dug the first grave on Buxton Road
A pound a week
Made his wage up by tending graves
Youngest in a big family
My grandmother walking a basket round Buxton
Jam in, eggs in, cheese, butter and walked it
A luxury would be a new hat
(Hide it from the husband)

Farmed Moorside
It's now a school for naughty boys
The old ones took pride in hats
To church on Sunday
No hay on Sunday
Everyone in black
To funerals, new clothes for anniversaries
Easter bonnets

My mother's desire was a dining suite that matched
That was the desire: what the rich had
Cut glass and china
Every time she raised nearly enough money
They needed a new cow
And she kept being put off.

My grandad worked on the railways
Their holiday was a day on the trains
Walking to church on Sunday, the preacher said:
"I'm just drowning the dog
and then I'll be there."
A tin of pears on Sunday afternoon
Or shirt buttons that matched.
Grandfather died when I was 3
I had a habit of biting and he cured me
By offering me the poker.

Staffordshire pot dogs
A big table, Grandfather at the head in his
White scarf. Had pudding first to fill you
Then you didn't want as much meat.
Bread and butter trifle make it
Go further
A quiet life at Hollingsclough
Idyllic, three sisters rain or shine
Milking the cows in the field.

Detail of the quilt 'A Bombers Moon'. For the project Stitching the Wars

Thanks to all at the Farming Life Centre for supporting this project and sharing your thoughts.