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:
Even her works make yogic sense to me …
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I curated Alternative Maternals, an international show dismantling the collective characteristics by which the maternal is recognisable or known. Through a variety of expressions the show combines diverse lenses of absence, rejection, memory, legacy, scandal, autonomy, physical body and social media. It opens at Lindner Project Space in Berlin on the 3 August 2014 and runs until 9 August.
The artists in the show are wonderful, moving, critical, supportive and very engaged. What can I say, it has been a pleasure to work with them; I have laughed and learned, and I could not have asked for a more interesting project to be involved in. They are: Deborah Dudley (USA), Linda Duvall (Canada), Jeca Rodriguez Colón (Puerto Rico), Miriam Schaer (USA), and Valerie Walkerdine (UK). You can see the charming catalogue we produced here (PDF, 1MB).
I want to thank Cella and Klaus Knoll at Transart Institute, Eto Otitigbe and Kate Hers Rhee for their support with organising a show in a venue I have not been in yet. It is amazing how easy and rewarding it has been considering the crazy nature of the circumstances.
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Last night was the last performance of Glory. Last night was the beginning of something. It has been a tremendous journey of enjoyment and of learning. I am grateful for many things: for meeting 50 (50!!!) amazing people with whom I could keep spending my evenings until further notice. I enjoyed everyone’s company so much. The pants chat, the stories, the backgrounds, the skills, the voices, the moves, the touch. Jeanne hugs like no other person. When I am in a low mood, I have her hugs to remember. I am grateful to all my partners, for I danced with you all in these last two months. I will also remember Robert, always there watching, witnessing, and smiling. My favourite audience member (although I think he was one of the dancers, just being outside of the stage), the one I saw every night. Barry, the calmest person I know; Pete’s cheering and whooping; Fi, who is boss and made everything work so elegantly; stylish Viviane, who looked amazing every night and let her grace seep even into her emails. I am grateful to you. Nadia gave me a foundation, made me regain my core (no one saw me wobble because I did not) and arrive in one piece. Nadia took care of us very well. Martin, Neil and I made wonderful trios while filming. It is possible to dance and film, and smile and be mischievous. Wendy, Jo and Margaret Anne were so encouraging with their words, their presence and their gestures. The review clipping in the dressing room door was better than a gold star. It was 4 gold stars! MJ supported us on stage, when we were there, in the thick of it. His music danced with us, enveloped us, was like the floor I rolled on, inviting, softer and warmer than you think, moving. I am grateful to you. Richard’s set was our home and him being so moved when we moved showed me the connection between the two meanings of the word. I am grateful to you. And Janice … for Janice words cannot express my gratitude. I will one day, when we are hopefully working together again. I will retroactively return to Glory and show her what it meant to me in movement.
Today, walking to work in the Glasgow sun, I looked at people in the eye as I passed them. I was aware of my walk, proud, confident, holding on to my core, feeling the ground under my feet. Two people smiled a me. We connected. It was glorious.
Image credits: Kelly Chung and Janice Parker Projects.
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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.
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I am in Brooklyn for a week, as part of my work with the Transart Institute. I arrived on Sunday and will stay for a week. So far, I have conducted 12 student critiques (we have 6 per day), but being in this city makes me want to fill in every little gap in time I have. On Monday, I took an open class with the Martha Graham company in their new studios on 55 Bethune Street. The stress of getting there from Brooklyn – as I am too used to the Glasgow subway system with its 15 circular stops – was soon evaporated by the welcoming atmosphere and the class itself. It was classic Graham technique sped up, with exercises I am used to doing separately meshed together in one. We start with bounces and straight into contractions and spirals, twisted pliés and high tilts. Even turns around the back go that bit further, but that might be my jet lag. We finish with jumped contractions, something I was not sure was possible. The whole class, I am distracted by the beautiful movement of the dancer-teacher and the pianist. Although the view competes too.
The studio is beautiful and I feel just so fantastic after it, I leap back to Brooklyn to have my Wonton soup.
On Tuesday, I am considering going again but it would mean missing the last critique and, although I am told that is ok, I don’t want to let the student down. At lunch, I receive a Lacan.com reminder for one of their seminars. I always read them with attention but it never occurred to me I could go. Now I could. So after 6 crits and a two hour meeting I cross town to NYU to talk about the 6th chapter of Seminar XX, Encore. Or, more like it, to hear the marvellously compelling Josefina Ayerza, editor of my favourite journal Lacanian Ink, talk about it.
It is a shame I am too shy to take a picture of the seminar and of Josefina. She is quite a lady. I loved her styling, her accessorising (she had a amazing yellow futuristic bag and the latest gadgets she did not know how to operate). Nancy Barton, host for the event, wore the most glittery over-the-top glasses in sympathy, so you get the picture. A Lacanian Rocky Horror Picture Show? Maybe, shame the rest were tame in their suits. I think that is what put me off taking a picture. Josefina might have liked it.
The seminar was good, if hard work, given that we discussed Woman’s jouissance and the four discourses. The morning after, I feel something of a text I never really got has sunk in. Yet, I could not help to feel frustrated by the questions on a discourse of the artwork and the evasion of answers. If only I had been less tired. I left 15 minutes early, drained rather than elated, but the reason for that was not the seminar, rather Lacan and his enjoyment-suffering.
I leave here, instead of the image I wanted to take, a substitute for the missing signifier.
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Looking online for updates on my PhD examiner (I’d like to hear her speak again), I came across the Rigorous Holes website. I was not aware that this lovely conference I participated in back in 2007 had put all the videos online. Timely finding too, for I am to travel to New York on Sunday and this will be on my list to watch.
Don’t worry, My PhD examiner and I did not meet then (not allowed in the UK), as our contributions were on different days. Still, it is great to see this record. You can even watch me speak here.
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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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I have begun a collaborative writing practice with an artist whom I consider a dear friend. I am engaged in long term letter writing with two people who were unknown to me when we began the process but now are as much part of me as childhood friends. But writing with E— is different. It is different because we are going to make it public in September, as part of the Making sense of madness conference. Yet, writing with E— is also similar to writing with (and I mean with, not to) L— and P—. Perhaps it is the intimacy we have created and the sense that what we are doing is not work, but fun. I have dropped everything – things I should probably not have dropped – to write my 300 word responses to her part of the cadavre exquis we are creating. P— and L— and I (not the three together, but in individual duets) have discussed the timing of our responses. I also wanted to drop everything to respond to them, but somehow I felt that would be disrespectful of their letter, as if I had not read it with enough care. But E– and I have the excuse of a deadline.
I worked in this way in the past, with S—. What we did was misunderstood but, I am pleased to say, remembered. I met someone recently, who should have known me from a particular place and a few friends in common but who instead remembered me in the context of reading the work with S. He was very taken by it and I could feel the experience had made a mark on him. Of course, seeing two people engage in dialogue, rather than academic discourse for the sake of it, is a lot more compelling.
With E, I have no idea where the paper is going – as I am ignorant of where L— and I, and P— and I are headed with our words, in the same way as my sessions with Dr Sh– were clouded in terms of a clear plan for my talking. What S— and I produced was open, in the way a performative event is open, stimulating thought more than position, unfinished, or, simply, stopped. We let time, and its constraints and contingencies be part of the paper. We offered ourselves implicitly to the writing and the speaking, asking our words (our works) what they wanted from us. And precisely this is what E– and I are writing about.
I want to thank S–, L–, P–, Dr Sh– and E–, for without them, without the reflective surface of their thoughts, my fun, engagement and, ultimately, love would not have been possible.
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