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Artist Book: Hold Hands Spring Tide (Progress I)

Assorted pages in different colours, patterns and textures from a textile artist book created by Megan Kennedy. The edges of the pages are frayed and small portions of text can be seen. These pages are part of a larger arist book titled Hold Hands Spring Tide about reshaping anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses through theraputic practice

On an overcast day, full carpark, sea beaten against the brow of the cove, awnings erected and towels deployed. It was the end of January and close to the end of the school holidays. The spring tide was rushing out as we went in and I wanted to dive, motivated to flatten under and squint at little more than the sandy tidal fabrications lost easily from above. But even in the shallows, I was reluctant - indeed, I had once been swept away. So, in searching for reassurance, I held my partner's offered hand, and keeping hold, held my breath and sunk to my knees, the turbulent water over my head. Having fitted a mask, I looked through cloudy glass; seaweed, split light, coastal particles. Sand established in mounds reconstituted once, twice, thrice by the current, then, a new breath of air.


Over the course of my shallow divings, my digits folded in a tight grip that was decidedly matched by he. I waded and surveyed, glad. And I remember thinking how childlike it was, holding hands in the rough water, and yet so sensible, maintaining simple contact in a precarious environment. I thought about intrepid otters holding hands in frigid Alaskan waters, staying as a group in the dark as they slept.


The holding of hands is a historic gesture. The fede motif found on ancient rings (depicting two clasped hands joined at the bezel) represents the joining of the hands in marriage, a practice known in ancient Rome as 'dextrarum iunctio'.[1] However, the origin of the act of holding hands (and its inception as a subject in art), is largely unknown and likely evolved organically early on as a practical means to convey closeness or enact safety beyond the limits of speech.


To me, the equivalent to the allaying of fear in the rough spring tide is the metaphorical action of reaching and answer. When I started making my book for the Libris Award, my mind returned to the sea and the action of searching and, having reached, finding fortitude.



An artist book by Australian artist Megan Kennedy. The open book depicts embroidered lettering on the front and back of textile pages that are bathed in a dappled light


Hold Hands Spring Tide is an artist book I am developing for the Libris Award that builds on several previous artistic projects. These projects, (Worry Stitch, Sleep, LEVO etc) are all the result of artistic exercises initiated to diffuse personal anxiety and create a soothing state of mind in the face of mental disquiet. Like these previous iterations, it is the process of HHST that is the most fundamental. In responding to and instigating predominantly textile processes, collapsing my own psychology and experiences into physical form, I am reaching out to a familiar tether with the intent to invoke a shield against manifestations of anxiety and depression.



In addition, by giving my poor psychological experiences concrete form, I hope to formulate the potential to make their own narrative and forge connections with prospective readers. By allowing my stream-of-conscious thoughts or observances to spill over into an artist book format, they begin to operate productively outside of the self, questioning or valuing the role of mental illness in the act of artistic creation, healing and connection.



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