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Further Afield Logo featuring a green table microphone outlined in black and black text which reads Further Afield. exploring art and disability in rural spaces.

Interview with Sadé Mica

Writing by Jamila Prowse

 

“I’m trying to like, find this stillness in this connection and this like, rawness, this animalistic thing I want to feel. We are the trees… we are the grass, we are the sky, we are the water – we are all of it and one day, you know, we’ll all be within it somehow, physically at the end of it all.”

About the conversation

In the fourth episode of the series, Bella speaks to artist Sadé Mica. They discuss Sadé’s substantial catalogue of making work in the countryside of North West Yorkshire, as well as the hidden personal costs of making work that interrogates the self in such a vulnerable way. They also talk about the significant shift Sadé has recently made in their career which has led to them taking an indefinite leave from a professional arts practice. They talk about what this moment means to them in their work, and how they are reconfiguring their making as an artist outside of professional contexts.

Accompanying this recording is a beautiful text written in response to the conversation by Jamila Prowse. You can read it below.

Further Afield Logo featuring a green table microphone outlined in black.

Further Afield interview with Sadé Mica

Listen to the audio version here

“I think it was just the fear of what my practice could be and could have been. But I have to accept what is and not lament that. I can’t sit and be sad about that because I’m not doing that. I’ve chosen not to do that to protect myself to honour myself and honour the other things that I’m dealing with.”

Accompanying writing by Jamila Prowse

Accompanying Sadé Mica on Journeys through the Outside World

On the day when I’m writing this, I’m sitting in bed – despite instructions from my osteopath to avoid doing just that – looking out of the same window that has been with me since childhood, on to an expanse of large pine trees, shifting and moving in the breeze. I’m once again debilitated, met by a series of new health issues, on top of my preexisting lifelong ones, and feeling increasingly isolated and lonely. The trees here, looming and familiar, obscure my view of the row of gardens that back on to my flats, and are the closest I presently get to being in nature. For years, I’ve been dreaming of being elsewhere. Away from the city, somewhere manageable for my crip body and mind, with access to the healing qualities of the blossoming outside world as it readies itself for Spring. My reality marks this as an unrealisable dream; namely that I’m unable to live away from my mum who is my full time carer, or work enough to afford to live independently.

As my life has got increasingly small and restricted, I’ve often sought out an antidote in creation and fantasy: finding respite in the offerings of artists and writers. Sadé Mica’s early explorations of their body in natural landscapes, were sparked by a desire to “find a connection between myself and the outdoors”; a connection that wasn’t necessarily a given “being someone who’s from the city slash suburbs slash urban areas.” Traversing the countryside in the North West of Britain, Sadé documented their self on film. Sadé’s archive of their body moving against the backdrop of expansive green spaces found me via the portal of my small iPhone screen, around 2019, when I was in the early stages of living a life dominated by sickness and disability.

The silence in my bedroom is overcome by the whooshing noise of a persistent stream. Soothing sounds of water purposefully negotiating trees, moss, stones, and the certain figure of Sadé, thigh deep in the rushes, firmly moored in spite of the gathering speed of the current. Changing scenes, I am in front of a waterfall, looking on as Sadé continues to stand tall, back to us, looking off camera to suggestions of vaster landscapes out of sight. Then calmness overtakes, and the room is instead filled with the absence of sound, only the slight echo of wind and distant noise indicating life somewhere beyond the screen. Sadé takes me with them as they explore rural, natural worlds, embodying what becomes a familiar and signature stretch: arm raised, back bent, face curving up to the sky.

When we think of rurality from a city perspective, it is often through an acknowledgement of being distant from a metropolis. Calls to destabilise the centring of densely populated areas within the arts. Though my flat sits on the outskirts of the city, from within my bed I, too, am estranged. But there is also the rural as Sadé offers it: a space of connectivity, of peaceful reflection. Speaking to Bella, Sadé describes the experience of making these videos:

“When I’m doing the movements I can hear the sounds, I can smell everything, my eyes are closed or focused, I’m slow, I’m taking it in, and at the end of the day I feel really enriched for having been there. I feel the senses. I feel cold. My feet won’t warm up because I’ve been barefoot in a river again. I’ve got dirt all over me, I’ve taken things from the land accidentally.”

And though from bed I’m usually confronted by my confinement, in sharing their videos Sadé opens up new possibilities. They bring the affirming expansiveness of nature directly into my bedroom, until the sounds overtake my senses too. I have written in the past about Access Intimacy, and it is a concept I continue to return to as I attempt to find connection from my sick bed. Coined by disability justice writer, educator and community organiser Mia Mingus in a 2011 post on her blog Leaving Evidence, Access Intimacy is an experience with multiple meanings and uses, which can loosely be translated as the “elusive, hard to describe feeling when someone else “gets” your access needs.” Mingus describes Access Intimacy as an opening up, as your body relaxing when it realises all your access needs are being met. Though Mingus uses Access Intimacy to primarily think about relationships and social interactions, as someone who routinely lives through social isolation, I have often found Access Intimacy through artworks. Without knowing Sadé, without ever having met or spoken, their films could find me exactly where I’m at: to deliver the experience of wandering the outside, natural world directly to my bed, when such a space is currently inaccessible to me. With a swift click of my finger I can be elsewhere, enamoured by new sights and senses, free to roam even while my body refuses.

Malham, a village overtaken with green in North Yorkshire, became a site Sadé often revisited when creating these natural filmic explorations. In It Teks Time (2020), instead of situating their body in the landscape via movement, Sadé set up two chairs opposite one another to mirror the environment of a counselling session. A great, tumbling hill, paired with seemingly endless stone walls, tower of Sadé as they sit alone, in the company of an empty chair. Imagining they are speaking to their counsellor at the time, Heather, Sadé publicly enacts the private intimacy of therapy. Traditionally contained between two people and four walls, Sadé externalises the thoughts and processing personal to them, usually reserved for the ears of Heather.

As the pandemic continued to separate us, I, as with many others, was talking to a therapist via zoom. A further ostracising of the experience away from public life, talking to a professional as a form of processing could now take place directly within our homes. There is something freeing, then, in seeing Sadé bring their innermost thoughts and workings to the forefront; sharing not just with Heather but the land with which Sadé has become so closely acquainted, and countless strangers. Described to Bella as “a new level of sharing myself”, Sadé pushes the bounds of revealing their self through art, as a way to make “something tangible […] from an experience that was so worthwhile to me.” A “homage” to “feeling safe that way around a stranger” – talking freely instead of premeditating their use of language – the film becomes a public letter “an ode to Heather, an ode to the time that we spent, an ode to the time that we put in.”

When I came to art making later in life, in part as a responsiveness to the restrictions I’d felt through my disability, it was with the intent of using it as a site through which to process my experiences and emotions. Witnessing artists such as Sadé, making deeply personal work as an articulation of the negotiations and self learnings they are continually undertaking as a person moving through the world, gave me the permission to find a new language through creation. But making as a place of self expression is distinct from the wider professionalisation of art, which finds us increasingly behind our desktops, navigating the pressures and administration of the job of being an artist. So when on 7 October 2023, Sadé wrote a statement to signify taking a step back, writing of their ‘art n career’ as an ‘oppressive force’ their words struck at something many of us wrestle with.

When making personal work there is a negotiation of how much of yourself to share, what to give away: “There’s a limit to pushing your own boundaries and how much you want to give to people.” Then there’s the pressure to contort yourself into a public person which is increasingly intrinsic to creative jobs, though starkly removed from the experience of making work. “The need to be present and seen because that’s how the art world works now, is being online and letting people know you’re still working – I’m still here, I’m still here, I’m still here.” As Sadé notes, actually give yourself permission to say this isn’t working for me, this isn’t what I signed up for, isn’t an easy one to make, particularly when acknowledging how much of yourself you’ve already given over to carving out a path. Yet, when Sadé made the decision to prioritise their health over presently continuing as a professional artist they vocalised an internal battle I’ve heard many of my favourite artists contend with:

“It was scary, it was like I’m throwing away this potential, I’m throwing away this work that I’ve done. But I don’t see it that way now, or I’m trying not to, it was something where I was like I have to figure out how I actually feel, I need to sit down and set some time aside to realise what I want.”

Refusing the overwhelming cycle of capitalist productivity (which demands that artists have a constant, visible output in order to prove their worth), carved out unquantifiable time through which to reaffirm the reasons Sadé was drawn to making in the first place:

“Right now my practice is completely removed from all that. I’m just making to make. I’m trying to find the joy in creating things again. Learning new techniques, learning to crochet – a lot of half finished projects – vests and scarves, and making things for loved ones. Which has been really nice to relieve the pressure of making something that means something, and just making something that is something nice for somebody else.”

Their art Instagram, where I first came across Sadé, now sits as an archive to revisit those works in which they took us on multiple journeys; leaving the routes open for us to walk down again and again. And though Sadé reflects with Bella about the artworks that might not get made in rejecting a pursuit of the professional art world, there is a resounding acceptance of this, which once again meets me where I’m at. “People die with ideas all the time, people die with unfinished works, I have to be fine with that because it’s gonna be the case, even if I engage with all of this it’s gonna be the case.” Disability, too, is coming face to face with the ideas that will forever live in your head and not make it into the outside world. As Sadé makes peace with “the films that will never be made” – resolving to be satisfied with their sole existence as drawings in a sketchbook, ideas in the ether – they once again lead the way towards reigniting making as a space of joy, exploration and curiosity. “I’m just happy to be crocheting and I was proud of myself when I made my vest.”

A headshot of a person in black and white. They have short hair. They wear a striped top and dark coloured jacket.
Sadé Mica

“My current practice is rooted in exploring the self. The self in relation to gender and performance; how the world around me affects my relationship to my queerness and the body I inhabit. How movement is policed by environment and us and how fraught the control we have over our perception is when thrust outside of solitary environments. I explore how my body is both freed and restricted, liberating myself and my limbs in the British countryside, posturing against vast landscapes foreign to me, capturing the stillness of my form and thoughtful movements as well as those more chaotic and less considered.”

Details of Sadé’s work and practice can be found on their Instagram, where a number of their works and projects are archived.

Further Afield Logo featuring a green table microphone outlined in black and black text which reads Further Afield. exploring art and disability in rural spaces.
Jamila Prowse

Jamila Prowse is an artist and writer, propelled by curiosity and a desire to understand herself through making. Informed by her lived experience of disability, mixed race ancestry and the loss of her father at a young age; her work is research driven and indebted to Black feminist and crip scholars. She is an active participant in a rich and growing contemporary disabled artistic community and has been ongoingly researching, programming and creating around cripping the art world since 2018. Self taught, Jamila is drawn to experimenting with a multitude of mediums in order to process her grief and radical hope

Jamila recently displayed work as part of the group show “Bordered Belongings” at NewBridge Project.

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