Cultivating spaces for extraordinary artists

Jazz Moreton talks to Mike Layward

DASH wanted to find out more about Jazz as a person, as an artist and how she found the residency and commission with Talking Birds and Coventry Biennial.

M is Mike Layward

J is Jazz Moreton

M: What is your Background Jazz?

J: When I was 13, I survived a stroke. I was helicoptered to hospital and I was put in an induced coma so I have no recollection of what happened next. The hospital staff hadn’t seen a young person like me with a stroke so they presumed that I had overdosed on drugs. A neurologist came and insisted that they scan my brain and when they saw the results they realised that I had had a stroke.

After that I was transferred from intensive care to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and I was 15 weeks in hospital where I relearnt to walk. I was home educated since 6.

After I came out of hospital I went to a special school where half the time I spoke and half the time I had to use this horrible machine like a type writer. I hated this machine and it had a voice like Stephen Hawking’s machine. I was also sent to a music lesson where they taught me to sing my name. I told the teacher that these lessons were crappy. After the trial I didn’t go back thank god.

I was home educated from the age of 6 so I wasn’t used to the school environment and it didn’t suit me.

M: How did you get into art or have you always been into art?

J: I graduated in Fine Art. I think I have been into art since I was a baby and maybe even when my mum was expecting me. When I was older and I heard the term art school I said I wanted to go there!

I went to Further Education at 15 on a course for people who have acquired brain injury and at 17 I went into mainstream education and did A level art which got me onto a Fine Art degree at the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham.

M: About your art

J: I have only recently termed myself as a sound artist. I graduated as a performance artist and an interdisciplinary artist. All my work has a strong social theme. My commission proposed a piece of work that I had to learn how to create. As an artist I am less concerned with being given a title or seeing my name and thinking I am famous. I am more interested in ways to change society through art.

A performance at the Tin Music and Arts, August 2019

M: Your favourite piece of art?

J: I have so many. My dissertation 3 years ago was on Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s campaign for peace, not war. They did this fantastic performance ‘Bed- In’. I wanted to write my dissertation on art’s potential to create ‘peace’ (I ultimately wasn’t allowed as I had only a maximum of 7000 words). This piece was a platform for discourse. How they used their fame. It is almost an ingenious way to use the circumstance to try and achieve an impossible aim (World peace).

M: The residency and commission: High points.

J: Holding conversations I have said for many years that art exists in the moment it is created and the end result is that the art has happened. Opening conversations regarding disability and regarding people who have disabilities and also chatting with other artists who happen to work in Artspace, Coventry and having Talking Birds supporting me.

I remember I was struggling to achieve what I wanted to originally in my proposal and Derek came in and said there was a piece of software that I should try. This was so helpful.

M: And the low points.

J: These were entirely my own fault. I had to fit my residency around other jobs and, at the time, I was living a mile from the nearest bus stop so I had a crazy commute. At the studio several people routinely asked me if I had finished (is artwork ever finished?) and I always said almost. I trusted myself to complete the work but I felt sometimes that I was being chivvied along. Collating art with an income is problematic because as an artist you always want to do more and it's not a job that you leave in the office (as it were), your work is constantly in your mind.

M: What do you think you have learnt from the residency and the commission?

J: If I had all the knowledge I have gained from my residency I would have had a planned outcome but as I hadn’t worked like this ever before I couldn’t define what the finished piece would be like- even to myself! I definitely would have recorded each question and answer separately in order to make editing easier.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity; it is so hard for people with disabilities to get chances.

I am aiming to expand on this project into ‘Coventry City of Culture’ and beyond. You definitely haven’t seen the end of me!

Jazz Moreton editing her recent piece in Coventry Biennial