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Take Five: Jojo Taylor

Still from Open Day -The House of Peculiar Strange photo credu Craig Maret
Still from Open Day -The House of Peculiar Strange photo credu Craig Maret

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Published date
23 May 2017

On the eve of Show One: Art, we talk to exhibiting art students about their work and the inspirations behind it.

Jojo Taylor, MA Fine Art, works with performance, voice, sound, singing and film. Inspired by the notion of altered states of consciousness including hallucinations, seizures and out-of-body experiences, she gathers other people’s stories to shape her work. Reflecting intense moments of fear and emotion, the recollections, in her hands, take on unreal and unnerving qualities magnifying the sometimes bizarre nature of these events in a fragmented narrative, often possessing a dreamscape quality.

Below, Taylor shares fives such stories she has collected a then rewritten from first person perspective. Each story is followed by its connected artwork.


The Half State: I feel wonderful waves of euphoria. My bedroom window is open and the curtains blow gently in the wind.

Suddenly to my horror a shadowy figure appears outside at the window as if it is on a ladder. As it climbs in through my window, it jumps onto my bed and starts to strangle me violently. I writhe around. I cannot get anyone’s attention even as my powerful screams puncture the air. For God’s sake someone…

The Wife: I wake up to hear the faint whimpering sounds coming from my husband who is sat bolt upright in bed rocking back and forth. I know this; he has a sleep disorder and is currently asleep, despite his sitting position. I will let this carry on for a little while longer; he was a pain in the ass this week.

The State: Some part of me must realise this is a dream and I force myself to wake up. My pulse is racing, I am out of breath, panicky and disorientated. It was so real it is incredible. I could feel the sensation of being strangled. I felt like I was suffocating and going to die. I turn to my wife who is awake and has been watching the ‘show’. Why didn’t you hear my screams? Why didn’t you wake me up?

Mute Mother Tongue

The Mother’s Mother: I sit in black. The dull whining of my hearing aid gains momentum and is so loud now they all look up trying to work out what it is making this unbearable sound.
“Bloody hell.  You’ll be interfering with the planes at Gatwick if you keep this up.”
We all laugh as I adjust my hearing aid, deep in our own thoughts of what has happened and how it comes to be that we are here in this procession.

The Mother: Ill, bed ridden and sleeping downstairs in the family home, only I know I am dying-well, me and the nurse. It’s just the cards I’ve been dealt.

The Nurse: I wake the daughter up as agreed (but sadly not for the next shift).

The Daughter: The knock at my bedroom door came and broke my sleep. Surely it cannot be time for my shift already. I feel like I haven’t slept.
‘Your mum is saying goodbye.’
Confused, I get myself quickly to the stairs.
I step off the top step on the stairs, floating slowly despite my haste.
The sensation is bizarre as I fly down the stairs. I know my feet are not touching any of the many steps but I don’t know how this is possible.
Only mum is on my mind.
From the top stair to the very bottom step I go, and I swear I do not touch a step in between.
The nurse said she would wake me up when her shift was over… But it turns out that my feeling of not having slept is right all along… For it is my mum’s shift that is ending – not the nurse’s.
Standing there looking down at my mum, my lovely, loving mum, I watch her raise her arm. Is this her waving goodbye? One last breath leaves her mouth and I scream ‘is this it then is this it?’
The noise is enough to wake my brother, who in turn wakes my father and oldest brother and here we are stood. I have never seen a dead person; it isn’t something I have even thought about. I didn’t even know she was dying.
I have the most knotted and twisted aches coming from within me.
She is taken off, into the night. And I, I cannot bear to watch. I crawl back up the very same stair case wondering where she has gone. She has vanished off the face of this earth.

The Black Jigsaw

Julie Julie Julie: Oh my god I feel weird.

A frightening déjà vu-like feeling has descended upon me and I just know something horrible is about to happen.
As I walk along I have to hold the wall because everything feels slanted. I start to pull at my clothes almost involuntarily and I feel so hot. I see black snowflakes falling, cascading at angles to the floor and then, and then NOTHING.
Thirty seconds of nothing. No one else can go there with you. And you don’t even know where you are.
I have no idea what has happened. I have no control. No memory.
I open my eyes and see humongous black shadows looming large above me. There must be about ten. They are very crisp shadows and yet I cannot make out who they are.
As the shadows are pointing at me I try to push them away. It is terrifying. I feel utterly exhausted.
So vulnerable now I lie here crying and childlike, my state of mind is absolutely blown to pieces.
I hear people talking at a distance. Echoey sounds, and I can only make out the words ‘Julie, Juuuuulie, Julie’. I do not realise that they are talking to me.
“Are you alright? You have just had a seizure.”
Despite having had epileptic seizures for over 20 years I wouldn’t realise I had just had one. I knew something had happened but I had no idea what.
It takes a long time for these shadows to form into the people that they are. He is telling me he is my son but I do not recognise him. I do not recognise anyone. I have no memory of who they are or where I am. I don’t even know my own name.
My brain is like a black jigsaw puzzle and it takes all day for the pieces to fit in the exact places they should be
A lot of my life was put on hold; it is a very lonely non-existence. It wasn’t me.

Follow my leader: Sky Walker

It is a day like all others, nothing untoward, nothing strange, just me and the dog in the park, stomping around as per usual. Well that’s what I thought, but it wasn’t a day like all others after all, it was a day very different to all others and one I will never forget.

I realise something isn’t quite right when I step over this invisible edge and can no longer feel my feet.

To my horror – and I mean horror – I am now in the air looking at the me on the ground. The me on the ground does not know where she is going, and the me in the air has no control of the me on the ground. I just watch myself walking up and down the road not knowing how to get home. I have an overwhelming feeling of being lost. Luckily the dog knows where to go and I can see the me on the ground following him to my house. As we go back indoors, things revert to normal and I am back.

Strange Beautiful Things: The Expeller

It was the last thing I expected to happen. I was too worried about the birth to even think about losing her. I was terrified.
To be frightened of the very thing that most people see as a purpose and natural will always set you outside of the acceptable norms. You rarely express yourself or your very real fears because people do not understand. On the outside nothing appears different.
Guilt like I have never felt before in my life for being frightened, and wondering did this stress of mine end up killing her before she had truly even  lived?
I will never know. Life is never the same and you are in a new you. But I did love this Strange Beautiful thing.

Degree Show One: Art is on show to the public at Central Saint Martins, 24-28 May with Degree Show Two: Design following 20-24 June.

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