What I do is often confusing, applies to different sets of people, takes place in different settings and contiguous times. I teach in the mornings, then I go to work — usually making art — then practice (or teach at lunchtime), then work some more, then teach in the evenings. I go to workshops or more classes in the weekends. How do I do it? When do I eat? Do I sleep? Do I have any friends? Often, I don’t even know myself. It has caused some trouble to people who asked to be put on my mailing list and started receiving information about my yoga classes when they wanted to know about my art work. I only have one mailing list, a yoga one, as this is my freelance business. As you can see, this is multiple hat disorder for most people.
The feeling for me, though, is not one of disjointedness or fragmentation. To me, it is a lot, but it is integrated. The problem is how to do it … Adrian Piper in her wikipedia facsimile, has the answer:
As Hildegard knew from her own experience as a stigmatic fraud, blood, once let loose, gets all over the place. It sticks, it flows, it garishly advertises itself or accumulates in dark thick puddles. Once it gets going, there is o stopping blood.
Dr Hildegard Wolf, a psychotherapist in Paris finds herself with two patients confessing to being Lord Lucan, the English Earl who murdered his nanny, mistaking her for his wife. They blackmail her, as they both discover that, in her past Hildegard was Beate Pappenheim, a fake stigmatic. Anyone who knows me would know that this plot line is 100% written for me and the book did not disappoint. Granted, it does not, perhaps, have the vigour of ‘The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie’ or some of her earlier novels, but ‘Aiding and Abetting’ is still written with all the Sparkian charms I adore. It is very short and to the point, with no plot padding and some resolution (although this is extremely banal, which kind of goes with the premise of the book), the characters are as interesting as human nature is when observed closely and with flair and curiosity. She is my favourite writer, what can I say, and 2018 is her centenary. I have read about 10 of her 22 novels (below, noted with *) and this year seems to be the perfect time to complete the set.
*1. The Comforters
*3. Memento Mori
*4. The Ballad of Peckham Rye
5. The Bachelors
*6. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
*7. The Girls of Slender Means
8. The Mandelbaum Gate
9. The Public Image
*10. The Driver’s Seat
11. Not to Disturb
12. The Hothouse by the East River
13. The Abbess of Crewe
14. The Takeover
15. Territorial Rights
*16. Loitering with Intent
17. The Only Problem
*18. A Far Cry from Kensington
20. Reality and Dreams
*21. Aiding and Abetting
*22. The Finishing School
I have been going through a crisis. These things are sometimes necessary and I am not complaining. I am just taking the time to get better. As part of the therapy, I have been trying to simplify. This does not mean to reduce, or to get rid of stuff, or to do less. Instead, it has meant finding out what is important. Facebook is not important. It demands a coherent image of myself I cannot quite give. When I cannot give it, it results on a barrage of comments asking (dare I say demanding) answers. I feel better having shut those voices, at least for the time being.
Being a performer, I question whether the issue is that I try to present myself as myself when, in reality, it is but a performance, a role if you want. For weeks, since starting reading Kate Zambreno’s Heroines, I have toyed with the idea of autobiographical non-fiction novels, fictionalised autobiographical blogs and any combination of the above jumble of words. Difficult to explain, I know. I am trying to find the fiction in non-fiction, the performance in the everyday. In her website, Zambreno has a blog called Frances Farmer is My Sister, which part of her book is based on. I think it is easier to assimilate something when it has a name, when it has a title. This blog’s title is Laura Gonzalez–Blog. How lame is that? Thinking my burlesque name was part of the process of coming to terms with something and I think it made me a better dancer. When I am La Canelle, I am La Canelle. Un point c’est tout.
Years and years ago, I started a blog on Livejournal, under the name of Femme Letale. I still use that name on twitter, ebay, and other platforms where the rather boring lauragonzalez has already been taken. I am thinking about being Letale a little more of my time, perhaps even here.
Who is Femme Letale? Her beginnings go back to 1990, when Pedro Almodovar was filming ‘Tacones Lejanos‘. Diva Becky del Paramo has twisted problems. Judge Dominguín is investigating the death of her son-in-law, also her former lover. But Dominguín is not what he appears to be. By night, he mutates into a drag queen, singing Becky’s songs on playback and falling in love with her daughter. This drag queen’s artistic name is Femme Letale.
She is not a fatale or a fatality. She is lethal, a police officer, and enforcer. You do know that one of my favourite films ever is Die Hard, right? Letale ventriloquises Becky, she borrows her voice like I borrow many. Her choice is to perform. She is a gay icon, yet, not homosexual herself, complicated, incoherent in melodrama, which makes it all coherent. She overacts, but she also investigates. She can be hysterical when she wants, dress up, wear wigs. She is an introvert extrovert. Both. Yes, both. You can see how she can be therapeutic.
At the Do-it 2013 exhibition in Manchester, artists propose a score, a set of rules or instructions that other artists, or the audience, follow. My current favourite artist, Tino Sehgal, took on my other favourite artist, Felix González-Torres. Tino’s pieces are moving 9quite literally), simple, immaterial, anti-fragile. He studied dance and economics and has effectively used this background in all the pieces of his I have experienced. Seamlessly. Experienced is the right word too, as you will see …
Tino’s take on González-Torres score might seem simple but of all the pieces in the show – and there were many memorable ones – this is the one that stayed with me. Tino did not interpret González-Torres’ score; he executed it and, given this, he came up with something that, of course, looks very much like a González-Torres piece. Or does it?
Do-it has been going on for a while and this piece has been represented a few times. Watch carefully. It is never the same, I know, but it was only when Neil pointed it out that I realised what had moved me so much about Tino’s execution. His piece is at the entrance of the show, in an out-facing corner, open, vulnerable, but THERE. There is something about the intimacy of the piece hat begs a far away inward corner, a silent reflection on love. Tino, however, has brought out something different.
It is an odd piece to do for Tino, mainly because of its materiality, but the execution is perfect because it is so like Felix’s. I mean, how would you change this piece? It is a piece that is and that is why the instructions are so lovely.
Tino’s work is experiential, immaterial, focusing on a phenomenological encounter with site (not always sight) and performer. Someone told me once he does not even sign contracts, he is so immaterial. It is all done on verbal agreements. Might be an artistic myth but I quite like the idea of it. there are two other myths that also tie in with this integrity: until recently he did not let himself be photographed and papers had to send in a drawing artist, and he has the web looked at for guerrilla footage or images of his work, which are shortly after taken down. His work is not documented in the conventional way, don’t look for it. There will be no postcards in he museum shop, even though he has showed at the Guggenheim New York and Tate Modern. Your best bet are clumsy (some less clumsy too) reviews that try to articulate and make sense of what one experienced.
First, you have to find the place, not easy when you are catching a train in 50 minutes. I was there for the opening weekend, a sunny one, so there were inevitable queues of fans and curious. But we got in. I freaked out. It was dark, very dark, and we were all going into a dark, unknown space. There were many of us, 40, 50, none looking particularly coordinated in these circumstances. I am small and, even with vision, I tend to get hurt in these situations. Well, lets not be dramatic … I get walked on and pushed. So I hung on to Neil’s hand for dear life and shuffled slowly, feeling I was in a ramp, and far too close to other blind bodies. Someone takes a mobile phone out. Wimp (but at least I know there is that resort if I panic. No one has given us a health and safety briefing and there are no rules here, like there were in the other show). I was so concerned with my own space that I forgot to listen. And I should have, for there was an amazing group of dancers and singers going all out, putting a show for me. I felt them moving. Hair on my arm. Not once did they bump into me in to 30 minutes I stayed there. The songs were lovely (Good Vibrations!) and varied in tempo, showing the full range of those very hard working performers. I cried. of course I did. This is art at its best and it is something you do not see every day. My eyes got used to it and I did not feel a crippling sense of inadequacy, although I still could not see. Every so often, bright light would come on and we were blind again. I even liked it by the end of it, as we got to see more. Or perhaps, to pay more attention.
I have never seen more unconscious in my life. I mean, I have read about it, in many books, but this is like the Dodo bird, or the sound of the tree in the forrest. I lay on the couch for many months and my unconscious was there, I suppose, making mischievous gestures like Dora today, behind the person lifting their arms and taking the chorus’ yesses and noes. It all sounds weird, I know, but it is isn’t. Not for me. This, however, was not a breakthrough in the way you are thinking …
The unconscious and the id are not big, or angry, or sexy, or boring or any word you could think of other than unconscious. I saw it for the first time when Dora was in the middle of the circle carefully kept by the rest of us (7). She was doing something I could describe as wavering or bouncing or jittering. Dora gave her a choice: to leave or to stay. Simple. But Dora whined that she did not want a choice. Of course! Her ego dropped and she wanted her cake and eat it. So true, so true. It was a beautiful moment. A real cry of humanity, of everything we are. We always wanted our cake and eat it. We can’t, but that doesn’t make the wanting less powerful.
Every day has been full of beautiful moments; today more than ever because of echoes. Dora tested the boundaries of the group by running, like a child, faster than anyone, to the limits of the strange dance floor. Will you catch me? Will you be able to follow your own rules – to keep me in the centre of the circle while looking at me? Dora tried. And so did Dora, Dora, Dora, Dora, Dora, Dora, and Dora. Amazing consistency. We, the group, did keep to those rules, and once that the support was established (still so simple), it all happened.
The thing is that I can’t remember. Well, I couldn’t, and while I am writing, something has come to me. I kicked a leg, close to someone, and I liked it. It is like that scene in ‘Hot Fuzz’ when the old lady gets kicked in the face and it is so funny. Like ‘You’ve been framed’. Why did I stop? Did I stop? I think I did … Maybe I would have really kicked someone … But then again, they are responsible for not getting too close. Why did I stop the kicking?
Here’s me in a hat, from yesterday:
Oh, and yellow … Ahhhh yellow. I used to hate yellow, mainly due to this incident (long story, for another time, as this is NOT therapy):
And Begoña hated it too, to the point of making her sick, but now she is dead, one she won’t be sick, so I can have yellow if I want to. Isn’t it marvellous? I am crying a bit. I have been wanting to do that every time I said the word yellow. I am not sure what makes me sad, that she died or that she did not allow herself the colour yellow … I can’t imagine denying myself any colours, even beige, or brown. WHHHOOOOOOAAAAA, brown leather … Isn’t it just yummy?
Not remembering disturbs me a bit. Thankfully, I do remember something now, I have caught that little bit of the thread. I wish I could remember everything that had been said, commented, mentioned. Maybe I do, though, although not in words and images. The body is a marvellous thing. Did I tell you that all this came out of the body?
And then when you don’t expect anything at all, you get what you perceive to be all the best opportunities. I have nothing to work on at the moment other than what is happening here and now and, all of a sudden, I got a lovely invitation today to speak of the unconscious.
I said yes, even though I know I can say no. I want to talk of the unconscious. I prefer to dance it, though, or to voice it. But I am tender today so I am going to have to be content with dreaming it for the time being, before we continue tomorrow. If only I could remember!
I am cooking roast chicken and can REALLY smell it. I may need to postpone the dreaming. There is always danger but it can, most times, be dealt with.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I am an artist and writer. My recent practice performance, film, dance, photography and text, and my work has been performed, exhibited and published in many venues in Europe and the US. I have spoken at numerous conferences and events, including the Museum for the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, the Medical Museum in Copenhagen, College Arts Association and the Association for the Psychoanalysis of Culture and Society. When I am not following Freud, Lacan and Marx’s footsteps with my camera or creating performance works as part of my Athenaeum Research Fellowship at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, I teach postgraduate students at Transart Institute.