Joanne Pugh in dialogue with Clara Bradley, curator of Tenderness Journal.
Q. What piqued your interest in the themes portrayed and explored in Tenderness Journal?
Anecdotal evidence and autobiographical concerns, I've been writing and producing work relating to intimacy for over ten years. In 2011 I dedicated much energy to writing for a no longer live blog entitled 'Polyamorous Nothings' which consisted of a relay of my experience with intimacy and the digital realm. This project birthed the root of Tenderness in it's physicality although I have been primarily concerned with how one negotiates a sense of selves within relationships and human interaction rather than actual moments of romance or sexuality specifically.
Q. How did the idea of Tenderness Journal translate into reality?
With much hard work and a lot of trust from my contributors and collaborators – I asked those I knew initially to produce work and it was propelled via social media beyond that – I was drawn to the idea of hand bound print as something tangible and touched deployed in order to represent such an abstracted experience.
Q. The idea that contemporary intimacy has taken so many huge and winding steps from the way our parents and older role models did it in their time, means that we are encountering it through our experience only, and no one has the knowledge to explain who/how/what. How is this featured in your work?
The notion of passing on knowledge in regards to intimacy seems unlikely to me, it has always been a private domain. The younger generation will have already superseded any information that we may hold in regards to technology and it's place within quotidian life before we’ve even conjured the time to consider it. Further, this wasn't a concern for the project, the idea of the project was to preserve the wishes, anxieties, desires and memory of intimacy from the cohort at this particular time, a linear moment which exists on the pointed edge of losing our previous independence from data and devices for the facilitation of human connection.
Q. What is the significance of nudity and sexual openness featured in Tenderness Journal?
Sexual openness is an interesting idea – the cohort is 75% LGBT and around 30% male – I wished there was a higher male representation or at least equal but I am happy to be supporting and illuminating works by individuals who do not adhere to ideals regarding binary gender and sexuality (a reflection of my personal beliefs).
Nudity must've been an innate reaction to the idea, often when we talk about intimacy we immediately consider sex or romantic love, although to me personally intimacy between friends or collaborators is more precious, supportive and sustainable. This idea is reflected in the project through works like Edmund Larnach-Jones' Twinning, a reflection on our friendship, which begun as a fleeting romance via an app.
Also within romantic love, fragility, vulnerability and exposure are key elements – the most literal and easily conveyed experience of this is to become physically exposed – with the removal of our cultural cloaks, our clothing.
There are five ‘selfies’ in Tenderness Journal, which I feel is a more important and less obvious fragment than the depiction of skin.
Q. Who are the contributors and how did you curate the work in the first issue of Tenderness Journal?
The contributors range from friends, previous collaborators, external producers who I have met solely through the project, they are local and interstate performers, art makers, writers, poets, painters, designers and photographers.
A strong percentage of the cohort and external collaborators are people I have met via online dating – some of which I had never met in person until the project come into fruition – this is also a very significant, not at all coincidental and definitely not obvious facet to the work.
The curation began at the call out with a list of themes offered for the contributors to orbit, via this the works produced offer a certain homogeneity, the act of curation then became about how best to facilitate a dialogue between the works. Also taking control of presentation in a way that the generosity of artists, along with their trust for me produced great experiences. For example, Sharon Russels Bitten came from a 35mm C-Type print, to a digital print on chiffon, to a fibre work that was presented draped from the wall with found objects that highlighted the materiality of the piece and actuated a sense of movement, performance and interactivity not previously contemplated by the artist. There was a lot of sourcing and styling, multiple nights spent walking in the rain beckoning the perfect piece of rubble, Saturdays spent scouring for the right fabric, there was a lot of experimentation.
Q. Relating to the disposability of our internet-hidden and/or our internet-public selves; why was this something you wanted to explore through art in Tenderness Journal?
Art is the most obvious form of communication, especially public. To me the contributors were for the most part not only very aware but also very concerned about this aspect of social media.
Q. How is your personal experience of internet vs. IRL contact a driving factor for the publication and direction of the Tenderness Journal?
I created Tenderness because I had found myself, via OkCupid in a hugely abusive, both physically and psychologically, coupling, I was in a state of complete incomprehension as to how someone like myself had ended up in the situation and be incapable of getting out of it at my age.
Deeply in love, deeply tortured, hideously alone.
I asked the artists around me to produce something that would help me personally come to terms with my circumstance. The majority of collaborators do not know this, it was at it’s core an entirely selfish act that allowed a platform for promoting others.
Q. There are strong female themes and references in the work of artists in the first issue of Tenderness Journal. Was this intentional and how does fit in with our idea of the journal and it’s messages?
This question confuses me – it is female because it's pink? Tactile? Or because there are breasts and a female-heavy list of artists?
Everything I do is through and concerned with the prism of gender, I like things to be pink and pale and tactile, naturally I love the idea of producing work that is almost garish in it's conveyance of what would be culturally perceived as feminine. It acts as a filter and viewers are asked to make assumptions about their personal experience of gender within the art space, just as you have.
Q. Where and how do you see Tenderness Journal growing?
Tenderness will have a 2016 incarnation, it will not be in print (for environmental reasons) it will involve an exhibition and most likely an online resource for the literature aspect – it will not be under the same title and it will be examining the mediation of identity – please stay tuned and feel free to get in touch if you’d like to be involved!