This morning, it being Sunday, I lounged about in bed browsing the news. And stumbled on an article from last Tuesday’s New York Times about the recent raft of MacArthur Foundation Awardees. I always find these stories incredibly uplifting, and this one feels like the best: 24 creative people are given a huge amount of money ($625,000) with no strings attached. No strings attached. That is giving the gift of creative freedom to 24 people every year! As one of this year’s awardees, novelist and academic Viet Thanh Nguyen said, it frees you up to ‘continue risking humiliation.’ That’s wildest dreams stuff, so let’s dream.
The first thing I’d do if that much money landed in my bank account is buy a big format camera. I’m really interested in place, and a big format camera would allow me to really examine that concept.
The second thing I’d do is move. I need to be virtually on the sea for the sense of space and freedom that brings, and as close as possible to a major city for the company of other creatives. Here I’m too far away from both so I very rarely get to either, and I feel constantly on the verge of suffocation. I’d buy a small house with a garden, and rent studio space in the city.* And then I’d get to work without worrying what anyone thinks of it.
It’s difficult to say what that work would be, I have so many ideas. But one thing I’ve been wanting to do for some time is travel the country interviewing people about their kitchen vessels. I’m particularly interested in inherited vessels, anything from old tobacco tins that have been repurposed, to fish kettles, but wouldn’t rule out new purchases. It’s the stories I’m after.
I’d also just spend time outside, with my new big format camera, exploring. I’d make photographs and poems, I’d take classes, I’d set up a darkroom, I’d go out and talk to people, I’d splash paint around. I’d keep on risking humiliation. I’d also buy new knickers and socks, and a jumper without holes.
What would you do if you were awarded such a huge sum?
*No idea if that would be possible – how much do houses cost, how much studio space – but this is a dream.