Vulnerability is a personal hot potato for me at the moment. It is also the topic of one of my prompts being used by the international journaling community in the 30 day digital journaling challenge.
So I was fascinated by the new series on Channel 4 featuring Grayson Perry’s quest to find the real identities of people, famous and not so, vulnerable and not so, and to represent these artistically.
In the first programme Perry was spending time with people who are grappling with their identities in transition. He spoke to a young British single Mum who has recently converted to Islam; to Rylan, the winner of celebrity Big Brother, who is embarking on fame as a career; and to Jaz, a black, British 24 year old who is navigating the waters of gender change and is trying to establish his identity as a man. These are all places where we can feel at our most vulnerable, stepping into experiences previously unknown to us, but which compel us anyway.
However it was Perry’s interview with disgraced politician Chris Huhne which was the most uncomfortable, and revealing.
The question was Who are you? And despite the fact that Huhne comes across as thick-skinned and resilient as a rubber doll, Perry was determined to find the chinks in his armour. Perhaps this is a flaw in the artist, preferring to project onto his subject what he hopes to find, rather than representing him as he is. Or perhaps it is artistic genius to show our truth despite ourselves.
Nonetheless, instead of a rubberised doll with Chris Huhne’s face, Perry created a pot – an appropriate ’empty vessel’ as James Delingpole would have it – decorated with Warhol-esque repetitions of Huhne’s face and car registration plate, along with repeating images of penises. Perry then took a hammer to the pot, smashing it into numerous pieces, before gluing it back together and highlighting the cracks with gold leaf. The symbolism being that it is our human flaws, our vulnerabilities, which make us most precious and interesting.
It can be tempting to present a rubberised version of ourselves to the world. But this wouldn’t be human. Nor would it be true.
Our vulnerabilities are worth exploring. They are where our treasure lies. Journaling is a safe way to explore them, and as Grayson Perry identified, they are worth their weight in gold.