Saturday, 25 April 2015

Letter for you from the future

In my new life I am learning to surf, and I am learning to love the sea

In my new life I am performing with a dance troupe in Taiwan

In my new life I am a popstar

In my new life I am making direct actions to help illegal immigrants

In my new life I am training to be a therapist in a prison setting

In my new life I care about my body and the land equally as I care about other people

In my new life I am always far away and not far away depending on how you choose to position yourself

In my new life I am spending a lot of time with inspiring older women

In my new life I am queer and glamorous and quiet and awkward and brimful of ease

In my new life I am writing

In my new life I am gathering impetus and throwing it off again in a repeated circular action

In my new life I meditate with people who care about being in action

Yes, it is possible to start over from this moment.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland

Some notes on The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland by Ridiculusmus. Which I've seen twice, and continue to find difficult to describe - and that's a great thing. These notes were written freeform and fast, about a year after I first saw the show. They haven't been edited.They're a bit clumsy.

20/02/15 2.30-2.50pm

This is a show that changes every time it is performed, and for which the playscript is not clarifying as the order of things is sometimes simultaneous, sometimes chronological. This is a show in which the audience is seated in two groups facing each other, except that they can’t see each other because there is a theatrical set between them. This is a show that uses repetition in an unusual way, by performing two different interlocking scenes involving the same actors on either side of the theatrical set, playing to half of the audience on one side and half on the other side and making ‘entrances’ and ‘exits’ via a door in the set that leads to the other half of the audience, and then reversing which act is performed on each side. This is a play that is influenced by a method of therapy called ‘Open Dialogue’ which is being used very successfully to treat schizophrenia and psychosis in Western Lapland. This is a play that challenges what we might understand as ‘narrative’. Underneath all of that, this is a play about holding space and time together, and recognising that we are all responsible for the relationships we have with each other, and sometimes those relationships fail, but that does not mean that we are failures. This is a show that is funny, and trying to be funny. This is a show that is funny, as in ‘weird’. Because it is funny, as in weird, this show does not allow language to become hierarchical, just weird. Language travels across the space between us, all of us, and we catch what we can. Sometimes several people are talking or making noise at once. They are having conversations that might just be related but that will only become related if we do the work of relating them in our heads. This is a show about the attempt of language, and the violence of uttering one word. This is a show where the actors listen very carefully to each other, and we listen very carefully to them, and we also sometimes give up, let go, of making sense of the narratives that they are speaking. This is a show where everyone in the room is trying to make sense of something. And that is all that is happening. But we are doing it in the same room.

Nothing gets resolved, nothing gets actioned, no-one gets saved. We can’t take it away with us, and neither can we pack it away after the applause. It continues as we leave the theatre, which is not to say that it intends to continue after we leave the theatre, but because nothing has been resolved, our lives as we leave that space are already related to the violent attempts at language we have witnessed. ‘The story’ doesn’t follow us home. ‘The characters’ don’t live on inside our heads. But just as we were in that room trying to make sense of language with a bunch of other people, so we continue to be in another room or on the street in the same event. It is all the same event, but within that one frame we gathered and we paid attention to it.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

How We Are Seen or The Bananas Incident

The thing about the bananas incident is that I could still feel it in my body for weeks after it happened. And it really wasn’t a huge deal. And it probably lasted less than half an hour in all. But it revealed so much to me about how we are seen and how this determines who we “are”. So:

The Bananas Incident

The bananas incident happened seven weeks ago. Since then, small moments have re-created the story for me. It's not an unusual story, but it's unusual that it would be mine. And in owning that story, in holding it as part of my past, it has changed me. But in telling it, in sharing it, in gathering ammunition against it and sympathy for my own view of it, I've left it behind. It has changed my views, but it hasn't changed me. And that's because I'm privileged. I have the privilege of leaving it behind.

The story goes like this.

I was in Mons, Belgium, preparing for a concert with two local musicians and my friend and collaborator Suzie Shrubb. We were there for a week to improvise together, with a concert on the Saturday evening. On Friday night, Suzie had become quite ill, and by Saturday afternoon she hadn’t emerged from her hotel room or texted me, so I headed back from the venue to the hotel, a little worried. Before I left, I grabbed a small packet of bananas that one of the tech team had bought for us – in case Suzie was feeling better enough to eat something.

On the way back to the hotel, I passed through the town centre, and popped into the mini Carrefour to buy a few more things: some crackers, and some chocolate, if I remember correctly. I probably looked a bit tired and worried, and it was really cold so I had my scarf wrapped around my (shaved, brown) head. When I got to the checkout and was putting things away in my backpack, the cashier asked to see what was in my bag. I showed him. He asked me if I had bought the small packet of bananas from the Carrefour and I said ‘no’; then he picked up the packet of bananas and asked another cashier if these bananas were from the Carrefour, and she said yes. At which point I tried to explain (in French) that I hadn’t bought them, and they might be from that shop, but I hadn’t stolen them. But it was too late.

What followed was, you might say, hilarious. At the time it almost destroyed me.
The cashier called another cashier over and told her I had stolen the bananas.
I said that I hadn’t stolen them, and tried to explain what had happened.
She said they would have to check the CCTV footage.
Someone behind me in the checkout line offered to pay for the bananas.
I thanked him but explained again that I hadn’t stolen them.
I offered to leave the incriminating bananas behind.
I offered to pay for the bananas.
I told them I was in a hurry and had to get back to the hotel to see someone who was quite ill, and asked what I could do to make them believe me.
I tried to leave the bananas behind and walk out of the shop.
The cashier came after me and hauled me back into the supermarket.
Finally, the other cashier said she had looked at the CCTV footage and realised I hadn’t stolen the bananas.
I was free to go – no apologies.

The thing is that none of this happened calmly. I felt so trapped in the conviction they all had that I was a thief, and that I had stolen a packet containing two bananas, that I got very worked up – by the end, I’m pretty sure I was swearing, and shouting. I was so hurt by the whole incident, and the reality that was playing out in front of me: that once people see you as a criminal everything you say sounds like a crime. And even more distressing: that if someone was so desperate that they had stolen two bananas from the supermarket, this was how they would be treated.

Most of all, I understood how it felt to be seen as a criminal. I’ve never really understood this before, but I know that it’s an everyday reality for many people. I could feel it in my body for weeks afterwards. And I understood that this kind of situation would only need to repeat itself a few times to completely change not only how I felt in public space, but how I acted. If the space you’re given in the world is to be seen as a criminal, then that’s the space you have to fill.

Me – I went back to my hotel, organised a taxi to take Suzie to the hospital, and then went back to the venue to make some music. I told the story to my friends, and they were shocked at what had happened. Eventually, this was enough to put it behind me.