Lisa Selby talks about her exhibition 'Bang Up' at OUTPOST Gallery in Norwich. Central to this exhibition is an intimate film, a love story, focusing on her relationship with Elliot - who is currently serving time in prison and recovering from heroin addiction.
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I'm Lisa Selby. I run an Instagram called @bluebaglife and I speak to people who are suffering from addictions, people who are in prison, people who are supporting those in prison and those with addictions and with mental health issues and currently looking at the penal systems and networks of support are really important to me.
Being within these prison systems you realise how everything's so disconnected and I wanted to make some kind of commentary on that and make people aware of how these systems can function.
When you realise the gaps in the system and the places where people need more support, you try and fill that yourself and then you realise other people are doing it too and you become this community. So there's prison activists, there's people who are talking to families and support networks, there's people in all different areas and you come together and you become stronger.
The exhibition at OUTPOST came about because I think a lot of people were following my Instagram account and wondering how this might manifest as art, which is something I was struggling with at the time. I wanted to talk about my prison experiences and I wanted Elliott to speak out and also I didn't want it to be about me and I wanted to let go of all ego and all of that stuff seemed really impossible.
Some of my students were on the [OUTPOST] committee, some of my past students when I lived in Norwich and they remembered me going through this as I was teaching and trying to hold my life together. And then they asked me, they wanted me to be a part of this and thought that Norwich would be the ideal place to show the film that I was making.
I began filming and taking photographs just to see if what was going on was actually going on to go through it, to analyse it, to zoom in, to make some kind of sense of the things around me. Essentially I was going to play this back to the people who were affected by addiction but they couldn't watch it so it became this archive of stuff that I just would watch to try to figure out what to do.
There's a thing about filming where someone's sick that you can't actually use that film because you're manipulating them in some kind of way so I have to think about my positioning at all time. So when my partner, who was suffering from a horrific heroin addiction at the time, when he became better and was in recovery we talked about how this, there was some really powerful footage in there and we should use it as an example of how someone can recover which isn't always the case because my mum died and she was addicted to heroin.
So the archive was growing and growing and it's a bit out of control, it still is actually so I had to call in my my friend and artist Jasmine Johnson to sit in with me and go through the footage and tell me what was important because the narrative was so jumbled in my head that it needed sorting out and sometimes it's okay to just have it in a timeline of events because people need to understand what was going on.
I'm hoping that people who are viewing the exhibition, being part of this installation will think about their own relationships and themselves and their own freedom and appreciating that they can touch someone's hand and that they may not have addiction in their relationships but if they have how can that be helped.
When Elliott gets released we're going to focus on recovery, probation and how it is to be back in society. I want us to talk on panels, I already do spoken word and podcasts and a bit of radio, but panel talks I think is the way. Get governors on those panels, get people in recovery on those panels, prison wives, prison husbands, prison grans, everyone on these panels and get out there, get it in the open and educate people because essentially people are voting and a lot of these people don't know what they're voting for.
So it's really important that we get the message out there, this is what's going on and even though the prison system tries to hide all of this stuff we're going to speak out.
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