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Jamila Johnson-Small (Visual Arts, 2019)'i ride in colour and soft focus, no longer anywhere'Still from video 2017. Sound by Nkisi.

Jamila Johnson-Small's Testimonial

Having this money I have felt an enormous privilege, I knew I wouldn’t have to panic about my rent, I was able cover the cost of London studio rent even though my collaborator with whom I previously shared this with was injured and unable to use the space, it’s helped me to cover the costs of two storage units where I keep sculptures for performances.

Receiving this award brought home many realisations – that I have been working for a solid amount of time, that I have lived hand to mouth with no savings and no security and that this is exhausting, and it has been affirmation that I haven’t been working in a void, and that the work that I do is seen and valued. All these things have been very meaningful for me to acknowledge. 

This money offered a pause, a buffer, and I realised I maybe didn’t have to push so hard at working so many gigs, making many shows at the same time, self-producing. I wrote in my application that I wanted to use the money to learn to drive and to train in Shiatsu. I have managed to do neither. My year was pretty booked up by the time January came around. In 2019 I travelled to work in 19 cities, presented 15 shows, did 40 performances, including a new commission for the Barbican which was my largest scale work to date.

I was excited to receive an invitation to present work in the context of Art Now at Tate Britain – this would have been my first work for a museum and is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. (The show was due to open in April 2020 but has been postponed indefinitely). I spent most of 2019 preparing for Heavy handed, we crush the moment which had a 4 night run in The Pit at the Barbican. There were about 20 collaborators on this project and I was glad to be invited to work in my favorite building in London.

Throughout the year I was Torchlight artist at Siobhan Davies Dance, this was a supported year of research and I was trying to think about hosting, communication and the politics of boundaries – basically thinking about how to hold space for people to gather, to talk and to share that facilitate learning.

One of the highlights of the year was going for a short residency period to Bjällansås Studio in Sweden and cooking and eating and talking and thinking and lying on sun-warmed rocks by the sea for 7 days. Performing in Berlin for Transmediale was also an incredible experience of presenting a small scale work on a much larger scale for hundreds of audience. 

I decided I would try to save the money and work until July 2020 so that I would have enough to live on between then and the end of the year, during this time I planned not to work, to give myself time to rest, to reflect, to process, to dream, to plan.

These awards are amazing and receiving the award was a reminder about how emotional it can be to think about financial position and how affecting the systems of capital are on all of our actions and access. Having this money I have felt an enormous privilege, I knew I wouldn’t have to panic about my rent, I was able cover the cost of London studio rent even though my collaborator with whom I previously shared this with was injured and unable to use the space, it’s helped me to cover the costs of two storage units where I keep sculptures for performances. the small cushion it has provided me with is an enormous support, and brings into even sharper relief the scrambling I have been doing (and that many of us do) to survive and to try to live well. 

In many ways it was a year full of risks and a lot of energy went into negotiating conditions for the work..as much as I presented many things publically, the focus for me was on what was happening behind the scenes, and I have learned a lot from this.