Today’s journey kicked off with a ferry between Salcombe and South Sands - because the boat can’t get to the shore you have to disembark via a sea tractor! I had no idea such things existed. It was a fun and splashy start to the day.
On the jetty I met a guy called Jack who is 2 weeks into his 630 mile walk of the whole South West Coast Path - he started in Poole and will end in Minehead in about 6 weeks time. I’m jealous - not only of his youth and long stride - but of the fact he can just keep going. I feel like I could walk forever. Yes my feet are a bit mullered but I just forget about that once I’m out on that beautiful coastline.
He’s a philosophy graduate - so I got to philosophise to my heart’s content - waxing lyrical until the sea tractor delivered us to the path. Two ideas underpin a lot of my work and the Restless project in particular.
First is the idea of Injustice. Our conventional understanding of justice is something that is sorely lacking for child sex abuse survivors - most of us never see anyone prosecuted or convicted for the crimes they committed against us. But survivors face injustice at every turn - we struggle to access appropriate support and are more likely to experience homelessness, addiction, emotional distress, long term health conditions, suicide and so on. And it runs even deeper than this. Philosopher Miranda Fricker formulated the idea of Hermeneutical Injustice - this is when we lack the language or framework to fully understand or communicate our own experiences because those experiences have not been conceptualised adequately in our culture. This is what it is like being a survivor. As a society we’ve spent so long burying our heads in the sand we just don’t know how to talk about this stuff. That’s why writing poetry and songs feels so important - to find non-medical, nuanced and imaginative language to gradually illuminate the complexity of our experiences.
Second is the idea of Phenomenology. This is a branch of philosophy that is about describing how we experience the world. It moves away from stuffy ideas about academics being objective or scientific and acknowledges that we can only ever see the world through our own unique lived experience. It concentrates on the detail of what it’s like being human. This is how I write. I observe what it is like for me to walk uphill for example - the thoughts, feelings and sensations I have while I’m doing it and I write them down. Or I watch the waves crashing against a rock and think about what that evokes for me personally - it's not the truth - someone else watching the same waves will experience that in a completely different and personal way. What for me is exhilarating may be frightening for someone else or cathartic for another. Of course how we see things is shaped at least in part by previous experience and what “roles” we play - a doctor and patient will experience the same medical appointment completely differently right. So my experience of walking the coast path will be shaped by the fact that I am here very deliberately as a survivor writing about surviving - very different to Jack’s who has his own story and reasons for being here.
I’m probably not explaining this very well. Jack would probably roll his eyes (he wouldn’t he was too nice for that). But I hope it gives you a bit more insight into what I’m doing and why.
You can find out more about Restless here: https://www.vivgordon.com/restless
And you can financially support the project and the work we do here: https://www.buymeacoffee.com/vivgordonco
welcome to my blog
I'll be posting my personal reflections on creating work as an artist and survivor of childhood sexual abuse, my work with the wider sector and interesting developments in arts and mental health.