Artists' Studio

Alex Billingham

As I’m writing this, we’re about a third of the way through the residency and winter is settling in here in the UK. This means I get to wear big bulky coats and hide away; I don’t have to deal with the abuse on the bus as much and can just huddle my way through areas that are less safe.

I realise this is true for so many women in the UK and that I’m carrying a lot of privilege with me. Being visibly disabled and ‘othered’, it’s odd because it makes this fear both oddly familiar and new.

For my residency, I have been exploring the idea of Trans Joy but it’s always going to be tempered with the painful reality of being Trans right now. I can’t help feeling that we are being targeted as the current scapegoats for the cruelty and failures of those who govern our societies.

I’ve spent my time in the Studio as much making it a sanctuary and safe haven as making work within it. For me the environment strongly affects how I work and think about things. At the beginning, I cheekily asked for a bright orange wall as I hate the dull limits of the white cube which seems so divorced from the worlds we live in.

But also, I’ve been thinking about liminal spaces and how they can act as void spaces for Trans identities to exist in (albeit temporarily), separate from how we are identified within the wider world; Trans bubbles where we don’t have to meet your expectations of us. So, we can just get on with being ourselves, filled with life and complexities just like everyone else.

So far, my response to the residency has been to research and make without putting pressure on the things I’ve been making to be anything. They exist as ways of physically thinking about ideas. Or to put it another way, they are the sketches you do whilst on the phone to friends.

These sketches have allowed me to think about where the project is going and what flavour it might become. How can this help other people become more themselves? I think what I’ve kept coming back to is the importance of survival; not in the limited way of bug out vehicles or stockpiling items but the survival of people helping and being there for one another. My Survival draws heavily on the support of other Trans people; of knowing I’m not alone and neither are you.

As the residency progresses I’m intending it to move more into film work based on the research done in this first phase; creating a liminal space where we can all take a moment to be ourselves and breathe a little easier. Maybe even loosen that winter coat?

Artist Alex Billingham talks about their Belonging/Disbelonging residency at The New Art Gallery Walsall until 8 January 2023.