More on reading … It seems to be all I do these days, which I can’t complain about. My husband just bought be a reading chair for Christmas and we are getting rid of our television so I can indulge in the pleasure of crime novels, the not-always pleasurable student essays, the editing of the book – which will require a serious amount of reading attentively once I am done with the writing – and the dialectical materialism texts.
I— and I created the dialectical materialism book club in anticipation of Slavoj Zizek’s publication of ‘Less than Nothing’, as an excuse to get together and discuss ideas. N– was jealous, so we invited him, and S– was curious so we added him to the group. So DiaMat is composed of 4 friends, each hosting a monthly evening where we discuss one or various texts. It has been lovely so far. If anything, because I get to see good friends, catch up and we have the excuse of discussing ideas.
I have also discovered that my friends are good cooks. The events have the potential of degenerating into a Marxist ‘Come Dine with Me‘ but so far, we are keeping that aspect under control (just about, we all like nice things for dinner).
We met for the first time on the 10th July 2012 and yesterday was our latest gathering. Here’s a summary of the soirées so far:
10th July 2012. Reading: Introduction to Slavoj Zizek’s ‘Less than Nothing’
A great discussion, given the text was short, intense and provocative. We talked politics and philosophy together and the combination of the two was very stimulating. I particularly was taken by Zizek’s discussion of what life is, on p.25: <<(Say, when Aristotle, in his Physics, struggles to define life and proposes a series of definitions – a living being is a thing which is moved by itself, which has in itself the cause of its movement – he is not really exploring the reality of living beings; he is rather describing the set of pre-existing notions which determine what we always-already understand by "living-being" when we designate an object is "alive").
Life=movement (both physical and emotional). Great for a dancer ...
17 August 2012. Reading: well, this is a little complicated. The suggestion was China Mieville’s ‘The City and the City’ but half of DiaMat rebelled, so we had to also add David Harvey’s ‘The Enigma of Capital’. The discussion, again, was very animated, especially in relation to the Julian Assange rape story – and rape as a difficult to prove crime – and class – there are only two classes: Property owwning and those working for the property owning class.
20 September 2012. Reading: Karl Marx’s ‘The Communist Manifesto’ and ‘The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’. One of the DiaMatters dropped so we had a three-way discussion. It was good, but I feel we had too much to read (I did not finish any of the books) and we could not focus on the interesting issues raised ether by historical materialism or by the idea of communism. When we turned to discuss the 10 measures needed for communism according to Marx and Engels, however, I feel we were productive and focused again. We agreed with 8/10 suggestions, finding 6 and 10 problematic in their wording.
25 October 2012. Reading: We turned post-Marxist and each of us suggested a 300-word article to read. N–’s was ‘Occupying a non-place’ by Ewan Morrison and follow-up post from Mark Fisher, ‘One year after Occupy’. S– settled for a classic: Fredric Jameson’s ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Culture’ with section 4 of ‘Postmodernism or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism’ as an addendum. I–’s choice was a podcast: ‘Alternative Economic Cultures, a conversation between Paul Mason and Professor Manuel Castells’, and mine was ‘The Power of Madness: A Marxist Critique of Social Constructionism’ by Bruce Cohen, one of the authors of the forthcoming book I am editing. The discussion was excellent, especially around the Occupy movement, Wikileaks, and notions of space. My and S– text suffered a little, I think, as they were so different, but we had a good go at picking apart Jimmy Saville’s abuse allegations. The discussions work best, I think, when we can link the philosophical to the actual, hence the next choice of text.
November 2012. Reading: Arthur Schopenhauer’s ‘The Wisdom of Life’, proposed by N– for being a philosophical, eudaemonology text, as far as away from what we have been reading as possible.
I will keep updating the page, as we meet and discuss (if anything, for my future self) but, in the meantime, here’s our tumblr page for silliness and caption competitions.
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Poster in Clyde Street, by me
I danced with the Michael Clark Company for three performances on the 8th and 9th of September this year and it was one of the most intense and rewarding experiences I have ever had. Also one of the most overwhelming, which is why it has taken me a month to write about it here.
Rehearsal image, 16 August 2012, by Tim Nunn
I will be brief, for you can read all about the project in the blog created for the 45 participants and 8 dance leaders. I just wanted to record here a memory of the event, from the first rehearsal on the 19th July to the Michael Clark Company New Work premiere, inspired by the work at the Barrowlands, last thursday 4 October.
Dress rehearsal image, by Hugo Glendinning
We danced at Speirs Locks, Kelvin Hall, the Barrowlands and in any nook and cranny of this marvellous city, which came to the performances to cheer us on. We danced Michael’s choreography, which he changed and adjusted and swapped and tweaked until the very last moment. We moved with the eight professional dancers and learned from them, the stage manager (I couldn’t do her job, quite frankly, she was amazing), the wardrobe people and costume designers. We learned from each other, about dance and other things. We shared food, ointments, beauty products, laughs, anecdotes, fears. Yes, fears, for it is quite nerve-wracking to get on stage, with the responsibility of having to make Michael proud. I hope we did.
Costume fitting, by ???
He is quite a guy. I first noticed him at the first rehearsal, led by Kate, one of the professional dancers. He started speaking from the side of the class, where he was making the same moves as us. He remained there pretty much each week, not leading, but directing. When something was not right, he would let you know. When he was unsure about something, it trickled to the core of us 53 bodies.
Barrowlands fun, by ???
I am thankful for his, and everyone else’s patience. It was not an easy journey, of course not. How could it be when dancing his moves? We had to get down to the floor in one count. We managed it, eventually, as we managed many other things we thought we could not do.
Dressing Room streaming, by Martyn Clark
The project kept giving and I had my portrait taken by Tim Nunn, who was the Godfather of the project, making things happen (in particular parties and free drinks), we had a show of artworks at Tramway, we have an after-show disco and opening party. We had Dance House love, BBC live streaming, discounted tickets, comps, a calendar, possibly T-shirts, programmes, creative dinners, extra rehearsals, streaming in the dressing room, a Stevie Stewart design to take home and fun, fun, fun.
Me, by Tim Nunn
The more I write, though, the worse it gets. I suppose that is the case with many intense lived experiences: they cannot be contained into words. Like my PhD, the come down was hard, too hard, but I bore it and went to the studio the day after, for a wonderful Martha Graham class. All my dancer friends made it better, as they knew well what I was experiencing: Ruth put some David Bowie music for me, Julie gave me a book of pictures and text of a dance we did together, all the Barrowlanders shared the sadness in a private forum, sharing pictures and tearful thoughts. I feel better about it now. The adrenaline is back to its normal levels, I am dancing with the company again, and I am thankful more than sad for the experience. I know it was unique, and I was very, very lucky to have been part of it.
Dress rehearsal image, by Hugo Glendinning
Here are some words I recorded after our first rehearsal at the Barrowlands (and posted on the project blog):
And here are some reflections on how I got into dance:
Me with Rose and Hairspray, by Sorcha Monk
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So, writing with E worked, and performing with her at the Madness conference did so even better. You cannot see or hear us from where you are, but you can access our text. Soon, it will appear in the conference ebook publication. Also soon, we will be expanding on this work for a hard copy book on madness, women and the power of art.
Now you see why I have not been here as often as I wanted to. There are other reasons too, all marvellous and which will become clear in the next few weeks. But this entry is about the magical time we had in Oxford.
View from my Mansfield College room
Merton College Library
￼I do love Glasgow, more than I have loved any other city I have lived in, in the UK. But Oxford comes second (yes, before London, Sheffield, and Manchester). It’s the bikes, the quadrangles, the satchels and the elbow patches. All perfectly preserved. E took me on a night tour of Merton College, where we blagged out way with the security people to have a wander around what looked like Brideshead Revisited’s set. Before that, we had checked in our Mansfield College rooms – basic but on campus – attended the first sessions of the conference – brains already working, making connections – and met some lovely people at the wine reception. I found a likeminded Canadian lady who, like me, brought and shared nuts everywhere; I met a friend from the Sensuous Object workshop. If that was not enough for a wonderful weekend, the day after the conference got even better: depression, self harm, autism, multiple personality … Madness is my thing, that’s clear. We also discovered that, round the corner at the Oxford Playhouse, there was a play called ‘Hysteria’ being shown. We passed word around a few of the delegates decided to do homework prior to our paper and see the show. Beforehand, we went for dinner at Byron and ate the best burger I have ever had. Afterwards, I went for a drink to a quaint little pub and had wonderful conversations about Papa Freud. What are the odds of everything being so perfect? Even the play – featuring Freud and Dalí – was good.
Our paper was well received and we were placed in very appropriate panels (that doesn’t always happen, I have to say) where the connections were easy to make and the discussions fruitful. I chaired a session in the afternoon. The sun came out. It had been freezing till then so, for a change, the conference leader suggested we go outside to the lawn.
E and I have a common student living in Oxford. We arranged to see her at the end of the conference. Sadly, we had to turn down invitations for dinner with delegates – shame as everyone was so interesting – but it was worth it, for H and her husband W were the perfect hosts: kind, proud of where they live and very generous. We met at the Randolph Hotel, significant in relation to Inspector Morse, went to have a drink somewhere where Tolkien and C S Lewis occasionally met (I think it was called the King’s Arms) and had dinner at Browns. I recommend every one of these places.
Not all conferences are like this one, not all weekends are so wonderful. Yet, the best part of it was to be able to spend time with my dear friend E, listen to her, work with her, and plan more time for each other. Watch this space: we have ideas to show hysterics are certainly not mad.
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