> > > > Change: Caterina Loriggio and Jon Adams in conversation
One of Jon's badge designs: Where do you dare me to draw the line?

Jon Adams and Caterina Loriggio

A conversation about change between Caterina Loriggio, Creative Programmer for London 2012, South East and Jon Adams, Artist in Residence at the University of Portsmouth and commissioned by London 2012 to deliver his public art Dysarticulate flag project on a national level. Both have been described as change agents in one guise or another, particularly as part of their work on 2012

CATERINA LORIGGIO: So how do I know Jon? How did we meet? Well, I've commissioned Jon as part of my role as Creative Programmer and as part of working on 2012 together. Jon has pretty much been with me every step of the way, since the first Open Weekend. So where did art start for you Jon?

JON ADAMS: I announced at the age of 6 that I would be an artist but it never quite happened. I always ended up being someone else's artist. I became a book illustrator hiding my supposed disability along with my talent and the ideas that I had. It was all very firmly 2D on the page. During the week of the announcement of the Olympics coming to London in 2005 I was in quite a difficult place and I just decided that I would change my life and soon did a Grants for the Arts application through Sarah who was at the Arts Council and achieved an Arts Plus Award. I was introduced to Cat at a BBC event.

CATERINA LORIGGIO: We had no choice but to meet, the room was quite small, it was a forced meeting.

JON ADAMS: It was tiny. She kind of picked up on what I did. I saw what she did as a real opportunity for just growing and learning and making the changes I had set out to make. The first thing we did together was for the Olympic Handover from Beijing and in fact that was also one of the first times I have ever said ‘no’ to someone. They wanted to make thousands of origami cranes and then fire them out of a canon. I thought it was disrespectful. I found if you present someone with an alternative to no, they go with it. So instead, we flew all these dream birds off the top of the building, where people had written their dreams in and sent them in. The most extraordinary one was ‘I want to kill my sister’ - that didn't make it on to the big screen’

CATERINA LORIGGIO: My favourite dream, a civil servant who shall remain anonymous said ‘Am I allowed to put Brad Pitt down?’

an elephant itching its feet

Self and self sacrifice

JON ADAMS: It was the Open Weekend in September that set my imagination going. I saw it not as an excuse to do something, but as an opportunity to do something completely different I wouldn't do otherwise. Three Open Weekends later, instead of me being everyone else's artist, I have everyone being my artist, through my project Dysarticulate, one of 5 projects commissioned by London 2012 for Open Weekend 2011. It's a nice subversive twist on that. I am also currently working on a project called Look About - the mapping of the Cultural Olympiad in a geological metaphor.

CATERINA LORIGGIO: It's a great project. Jon will show you it after the session. He's still doing art. Stop doing art Jon. We're here to talk. How has Sync underpinned this change and development.

JON ADAMS: On the day I decided I was going to do something, I realised it was my responsibility to change, not anybody else’s. It cemented my ambition. I'm a very curious person and I always want to learn and find out more. I think finding out about me and where I sit and how I react was really important. Through Sync coaching and probably the biggest thing I've learned through the whole Sync process is that it's kind of okay to leave some people behind. That might sound a bit selfish but you can't be responsible for everyone and moving everyone forward, it's almost like the Captain Oates moment where you sacrifice yourself for everyone else, but if they won't come with you that's their choice.

Catalysing

CATERINA LORIGGIO: That rings many bells indeed. My job really is to be a catalyst for change, a very strange thing to have on your job description. Obviously you can't catalyse anything if people don't want to be catalysed. I am hugely dependent on people like Jon throughout the whole process leading up to 2012. Working with Jon and other artists has been really mutually supportive, you know. I just represent the framework. I think it's really important for bureaucrats such as myself to remember that actually the framework doesn't have anything if people are not prepared to deliver within it. We have been very lucky as a region, we’re super enthusiastic around 2012. We have a great programme but without Jon and your enthusiasm we wouldn't. That mutually supportive thing is also really interesting.

a pen in a glass jar with nails embedded around it.

Similarities and differences

CATERINA LORIGGIO: One of the things that has become a real focus in the region, as you probably have guessed, is our work with deaf and disabled people. When I started, this was a very new world for me. My learning has actually been that it’s not just the differences between us which lead to interesting things but also the similarities we share. Jon and I have these great meetings where we just don't understand each other, often for quite a long part of the meeting. He draws me something. I can't do drawings and I don’t understand flow-charts and diagrams. So then I try and articulate it all and Jon is just sitting there as I'm getting more and more wordy. What we share pulls us through this. We both adore detail and have very high expectations and we’re both quite provocative and subversive in our approach. Subverting the mainstream. It's our likeness that has actually made a lot of this work happen, but our differences ensure that it's very interesting and very exciting work.

JON ADAMS: Having firmly been outside all my life, I like touching both mainstream and non-mainstream worlds. The joy is often subverting the mainstream part of it, by not being the disability part of it.

CATERINA LORIGGIO: By that logic would you say that in subverting the mainstream, are we mainstreaming the subversives?

JON ADAMS: Hopefully not. As a person with Aspergers, I find working with people quite traumatic and quite risky, but taking that risk is worth it. I certainly trust and respect what Cat has done in the South East.

a picture of a humming bird

Change as inevitable

CATERINA LORIGGIO: So finally then, we talked about change quite a lot and moving beyond the change and I know that 2012 has been a long journey for you. It's kind of the start of the journey. Do you think that change would have happened with or without 2012. Is change inevitable?

JON ADAMS: Life ebbs and flows. You only have to look at the fossil records to see all the kinds of dark angels that have come and gone, but change is inevitable. Like Caroline (Cardus) said this morning, it's how you look at things, how you work with things - life will always find a way. There have been countless extinction events, we wouldn't be here if that hadn't happened. You adapt and evolve.

CATERINA LORIGGIO: How about your own change?

JON ADAMS: I wouldn't have done it without Sync or 2012, I wouldn't have that impetus to sort of stand up and say 'I'm not going to hide any more, I'm going to get on and do it'. What was fundamentally important was finding out about me, without me being ready, and the coaching, the space and the context to say this is me, I wouldn't have been able to do it. There have been times in my life where I have tried to change things but I have not known who I was and that's held me back, that's been my barrier.

CATERINA LORIGGIO: Can I ask you one more thing about how you bring your geology background into ‘Look About’.

JON ADAMS: I have crossed two passions and two loves. I didn't do art or go to art college because of the abuse that I got at school, so I lost myself in the geology. It's kind of special those two things are intersecting now.

CATERINA LORIGGIO: That doesn't mean it's an easy process for you?

JON ADAMS: No, it's been very difficult, but you never gain anything without putting yourself through things. I could have had two pasts, I could have done one or the other, instead I feel now that I am sneaking up in the middle, but this feels very real.

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