Rebuilding roads from ruins: a search for creative freedom in lockdown

Finding the usual forms of escapism within my own four walls — writing, reading, cinema — harder to concentrate on, I found a creative outlet from the anxieties of lockdown and social distancing in the form of collaging

Look out there, actual air
Look out there, actual air (image by the author)

Welcome to Westworld (Greekworld, too)

From being transfixed by Sergio Leone’s spaghetti westerns as a teenager — wishing to be the Man with No Name — to trying to unravel the nests of stories found in Greek myths, the grand narratives, array of characters and iconic locations of both subjects have long held a personal interest.

I have been finding it harder to read and write; my concentration levels nowhere near as strong as they usually are. I didn’t want to push myself to do something, just for the act of doing something.

I didn’t want to go through the motions of trying to be creative because a proportion of social media is saying that is what I should be doing. I wanted to do something I could enjoy.

Look out there, actual air

A simple form of magic

Once I knew I wanted to create a collage, I realised that ruins and temples from Greek mythology and history, with scenes and signifiers from the Old West — the lonely frontier, scrubland and cowboys and cowgirls dotted across the horizon — were going to form the centre of my new world.

Lonely gunslingers alongside Hera, Poseidon, Narcissus, the Minotaur, Orpheus and Eurydice can all be found in the collages I have done during the past week.

I grew-up watching these characters from mythology on TV, from Harry Hamlin’s Perseus battling Medusa and the Kraken in Clash of the Titans (1981), to Jason’s search for the Golden Fleece in stop-motion animation master Ray Harryhausen’s Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Later, finding Ovid’s transformation of characters, such as Europe, Jupiter and Bacchus, in the epic poem Metamorphoses intriguing.

After Eurydice

We have had to try to push forwards as if business is normal, when it’s clearly not. We know that, our children know that. Almost everybody knows that.

Our main aim is to do our best to take each day as it comes. To do what it takes to get us through this period with the least damage to our physical and mental health as possible. That’s all we have to try to do.

After the glow
After the glow
After the glow

Appreciating a timeless universe

Through my collage work I have been able to navigate this timeless quicksand and create new micronarratives from existing stories. I have found great satisfaction in taking disparate materials and making something new.

It’s not very hard for me to fathom why I have been drawn to the mountains and deserts — to landscapes — because I am missing the outdoors. Missing being beneath trees and clouds.

These collages have given me the ability to cling on to a certain form of freedom while trekking through my imagination.

Freedom lies beyond the ruins
Freedom lies beyond the ruins
Freedom lies beyond the ruins
House of leaves
Here upon this somewhere
Here upon this somewhere
Here upon this somewhere

Looking towards the horizon

I’ve long held an interest in the road movie genre — the search for freedom somewhere upon the horizon, wishing to escape normality and the traps of everyday life. This is a feeling I have felt strongly over the past month and I suspect most others have felt exactly the same.

We need to keep on to this hope. Keep on looking towards the horizon, because one day — and although it might still be months away — we will have our freedom again.

Levels of life
Levels of life
Levels of life

Listening to birdsong, taking photos of flowers and trees, drawing the view from your window, re-reading your favourite book or watching comfort TV— whatever helps in the moment, and is safe and in your home, should be encouraged.

Too mentally exhausted by thoughts of undertaking any of my usual creative outlets, I’m glad I was able to take some pleasure in collaging. I hope you are able to find your outlet too.

No one ever steps in the same river twice

Words and noise. Loops and leaves. Jump cuts and scribbledehobble. Inspired by language, sound, and vision. Writer and content designer.

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