Hi, my name is…
Hi, my name is Laura Milnes – I’m a producer. Hi, my name is Laura Dee Milnes – I’m an artist. Hi, my name is Lauralee – I’m a performer. I worked at Artsadmin. I work as a freelance producer. I’m also a curator? I also make my own work? I paint. Sometimes I paint. Sometimes I make videos, perform. Sometimes I produce theatre. More often, I don’t.
I write a bit. . I don’t do websites often. I like art. I like live art. I like all art, most art, lots of art, performing art, dead art, dying art, fine art. What is fine art? I like the arts. I work in the arts. I make arts. I make art. I produce art. I manage art. I work with art. I work with artists.
I’ve been a trainee producer at Artsadmin for twelve months now and I still don’t know what to call myself or what I do. That’s no bad thing. Actually, I know many things to call myself and have many words to describe what I do but I have discovered no definitive adjective to encompass it all. I apologise for making things complicated. When I started in this job I had just finished a degree in Performance Arts. I’d dabbled heavily in performing, directing and writing and while I enjoyed aspects of every one, I found my niche in producing. So I became a producer. What I didn’t realise then was that it’s not as straightforward as that – very rarely, it seems, does one decide to be something and just be it, without being many other things too.
Now that I stand at the beginning of a winding, treacherous path of freelancing, I find myself in many situations where people ask me what I do. I’d rather they ask me what I can do, as it would be far easier to explain. When asked what I do I face an existential crisis in my brain, the defenses pop up like a Temple of Doom booby trap and my stomach clenches as it digests the idea that I’m being asked to define myself. This is something I have always had trouble with. Who am I? How do I tell you in one sentence, one word? I bet you’re sorry that you asked. The truth is, I’m a ‘Jack of All Trades’ and a Master of None. I thrive on variety, diversity, challenges and the as yet unknown. I’m terrified of all these things and yet I can’t deny they spur me on.
Recently I gave a talk to a group of undergraduates, all of whom seemed anxious about how they should define their work, how to describe what they do. I urged them not to worry, not to feel pressured into summing themselves up. I also recently wrote about my aversion to the term “interdisciplinary artist”. Surely it is more rare for a contemporary artist to specify their practice towards a particular medium than to experiment with many? Surely, for example, a painter also draws, also forms sculptural compositions with objects, also takes photographs, whether those outcomes end up in the artist’s exhibitions or not. So, surely every artist is interdisciplinary? And since when was art a discipline, in any form? Since when was expression measured by the strictures of discipline? Despite my slight digressions into bugbear territory (again), my point is that in much the same way that an artist may choose any means to express herself (or himself), so may a producer.
While I understand completely those students’ apprehensions and anxieties, I hope that they too will learn that they needn’t cram themselves into a pigeonhole, that they can occupy several pigeonholes, that they can create a pigeon hotel if they want to and stay in a different pigeon suite every night.
So, hi, I’m Laura – I do lots of things and I wear many guises. If you’re interested, I’d be happy to give you a list.
“I may be called an arts producer, a writer, a performer, a facilitator, an artist or an idiot but I am not limited to any of these.”
Laura Milnes / Lauralee / Laura Dee Milnes
producer / performer / artist / writer / director / workshop facilitator / designer / administrator / curator / dramaturg / collaborator
Laura was employed as a Trainee Producer at Artsadmin from 2010-2011 through the DCMS Jerwood Creative Bursaries Scheme. You can find out a bit about what she does at lauramilnes.com and follow her on Twitter @laura_milnes