Leading up to the solo exhibition of artist Molly Grad curated by the founding director Huma Kabakci in September 2023, as a part of Writing Space, Open Space has published Grad’s poem “Night Flowers” which will be presented at 10 Greatorex Street, Whitechapel.
When I was younger, I lived next to the sea. My father used to be a surfer, and the sea was everything to him. He was then wounded at the heart of sea, and I remember the day when he came home with a gushing wound. 4 years later, I stopped going to the sea. I was 14, and I no longer wanted to expose my body. I wanted to keep it in shrouds. I would go to the sea after sunset, I’d sit on the sand, fully clothed, even when it was hot outside. My skin never touched the sand.
When I was older, I became the Creative Director of a swimwear brand. Something called me from the deep. I never took my clothes off on the beach ever since the age of 14, and yet I went out to war for other women – to release them of body shame. I first made this extremely obvious connection with my father when I watched your film. It hit me like a rogue wave, forming into a hand wearing a glove. One must dress it up. Dress up that uncontrollable rogue wave of yours boy – one cannot be seen to appear like, God forbid, a girl. That glove elegantly wiped away my tears. As if one must cry, do it like a lady, not like a girl.
Crying like a girl.
“Telling little boys they cry like a girl can cause mental health problems in later life”, says Lena Aburdene Derhully, a psychotherapist and author I deeply dislike. Well but you see, Lena, I do believe Psychotherapy is the root of some fundamental issues. Begin quote: “The entire Freudian Edifice is conceived from the position of Patriarchal masculinity, from the heterosexual male body seen as a body with an erect penis, penetrating and ejaculating; this is why women in psychoanalysis, those strange creatures sometimes equipped with a reproductive uterus and clitoris, remain and will remain a problem”. End quote, thank you Paul Preciado.
10 years ago, I felt Everything had burnt down for me. I felt charred, like the world had exploded and was left alone in an apocalyptic wasteland. A phoenix slowly rising out of the ashes, shaking its feathers, smoke burning my/his/her/their eyes. I didn’t want to self-medicate. A friend recommended that I see his therapist. “She fixed me” he said ” I am now, as good as new.” I went to see her and spoke candidly about my then-current situation. She listened for nearly two sessions and then opened up a line of conversation that sounded like conversion therapy. You are a woman, she said. Yet you speak masculine, hard words. You express yourself like a man. You need to make yourself change your thoughts and emotions through words. Why do you speak of bombs and guns and use hard, cutting adjectives? When you should speak of soft, curved, manually tender things. She passionately gave me examples. Speak of thread, fabric, blankets, needles, flowers.
I hated her way. It rang untrue. Every time I left her flat, I felt cheated out of my skin, but kept on going cause, after a few years, everything will have been fixed. At some point, she notified me that I was being abandoned. “You refuse to self-medicate. You refuse to change your vocabulary. I’m afraid this is not going to work. It’s not me, it’s you”. A hurtful breakup. Dumped by a shrink. Was I really that unfit for purpose? Makes one feel like a beast of no nation.
I suppose weeping is the sea elephant’s way to keep its eyes moistened when dehydrated, but it is my way to know when the coin finally drops. I hear its metallic ping on the stone ground. And that’s when I well up with tears, uncontrollably running from my eyes. That very same coin can be used to light up the darkest catacomb in the Vatican. Inspiration comes at a price, you know. One I am willing to pay to connect with an angel, nevertheless knowing I shall be owned as a result.
About the Artist
Molly Grad is an interdisciplinary artist and writer, working across the mediums of sculpture, textiles, painting and performance. Grad is investigating personal, ancestral, and collective trauma through enacting radical empathy towards its least visible – inanimate objects or live occupants alike. Utilising multiple platforms, she performs an excavation process into urban cities’ industrial pasts, thus interfering with the vertical axis and inverting social orders as a solution to our current state. Grad started performing “Fleeting Street sculpture” 3 years ago, in which she explores the potential of everyday urban landscapes to create site-specific, short-lived experiences utilising existing materials/structures narrated to create an emergence – a radical change actant.
Currently, Grad is completing her degree in the Royal College of Art. A past alumna of Central Saint Martins, London, Grad completed both her MA and BA degrees in fashion design. Her past in the luxury fashion industry is present as a silent witness/performer in her recent artworks, as she weaves in and out of issues exploring systemic abuse, the quest for equality and power symbols within contemporary consumer culture.