a living reflection

Preface //
I wrote this reflection at the end of of my postgraduate year at VCA in 2010. It was a play on the vocabulary that I’ve picked up then – namely “I don’t know (pronounced “noy”)” and “I reckon.” I chanced upon this today, and find it most relevant still, and thought to kickstart my writing again by reposting this. I am sorry for my silence, and my lack of writing. Sorry, mostly, for myself.

I remember it was at Federation Hall on Orientation Day. After the initial briefing and whatnots we were asked to gather in our specializations. I spotted a boy with big black-framed plastic spectacles, dressed in a checkered shirt, folded jeans and sneakers. I looked around and then at myself, dressed in an oversized striped shirt, folded jeans and sneakers. He was an animateur. I clocked it. I knew. And that was all I knew when I signed myself up for a year of performance making at the VCA.

So maybe I knew a little more than that. I knew I was interested in performances that investigated the boundaries of what it is, of where it starts and where it ends. I knew that I was interested in the role of performers, of who really is performing, of what really is to perform. I knew that I had a very strong apprehension towards performing. I knew that I wanted to make brilliant performances. I knew that the performances I would like to make would probably mean that I needed to perform in them. But I knew I had a very, extremely strong apprehension towards performing.

I knew that I worked conceptually, that I love research and theory and concepts. No, love may be an understatement. I get off it may be a better visual explanation. I knew that I enjoyed the process of generating work, but that my attention span shortens in rehearsals. I knew I was looking for the new again, each time and every time. I knew I was looking for a sense of live-ness, of the truth happening as it happens. I didn’t know it then, but this I knew, was my philosophy of performing.

But I did not know many things. I did not know how to translate all of these into real tangible work. I did not know if concept could be considered form, or real work. I did not know where to start. I did not know where to go. I did not know who would share the philosophy and take their chances with me. And so with a genuine desire to know all things, an insatiable hunger for knowledge and discovery, thirsty for inspiration and a ready heart for all things exciting and challenging, Melbourne 2010 happened.

And so as we come to the end of the year at VCA, I know now that form can and is always shifting, but a philosophy of practice; that is precious. Not that it will not change, grow or evolve. In fact, it must. In the inspiration of Boal, Art is a pursuit.[1]

And a pursuit it is. I know now that I am responsive. Space, parameters, scale of economy, a particular preoccupation during that time, a random chance encounter (like a photo-booth)…etc. are provocations I thrive on. I know that the work I want to make is always in response to an Other, but the source (for now), always being Me, the material, autobiographical. (And perhaps as it should be, since our voice will inevitably be present in our creations.) I know now, that at this point, this is my form of sorts: one that is ready to shift and respond honestly to each provocation.

I also know now that I do want to make the work and perform in them. I have begun, not entirely but enough, to grasp and to acknowledge that desire to. And I am still constantly questioning that desire to, if only to understand it better, if only to always remain truthful. Because I know now, that something happens within me when I perform. As it is still to be discovered more fully, I do know that something is turning inside, I am transforming with each performance; giving and receiving; exchanging, and I know that this exchange pleases me. I know as of now, this is what I understand by the “live-ness” I am looking for.

In this live-ness, I know what I really value more is the liminal space between the audience member and I. In the same way that “something is turning inside” me, I know now that something is also turning inside him/her/them and I want more than their physical presence. I want more than their gaze. I want them invested in the process, in the here and now, to be with me. I want them to participate. I want them to perform. And transform. And I know now, it is beginning to make sense, why I “shy” away from performing. I am more interested in enabling the Other to perform[2], actively. I want us all to discover, awaken almost, the Artist in all of us. I want us to Live.

I know now how obvious and apparent my influences are in my work. Practitioners such Adrian Howells, Augusto Boal, Allan Kaprow – to make the audience member the subject of focus, to shift the spectator to a spect-actor, or to remove the audience all together.

And in the nature of these influences and the work I am interested to keep making, I know there is this balance of craft and chance that I am almost enthralled by, obsessed even. There is magic in crafting a work to its most essential, controlling just enough variables to leave just enough elements to chance. And in that fluidity, the work will never be the same with every audience member.

And since I know now that being conceptual can be and is form, I know that I am interested in the daily, the domestic and the real, outside world. To perform (do) the daily tasks, to perform (act-upon) as you would in the world, at home, at work or in the streets, to perform (present) the normal, to perform (complete) the actions of our everyday – so as to investigate the truthfulness of our beings, of how we do what we do, of being a-live.

And with that, I know now I am fascinated by the real places. The city, or specific sites – places that carry history and memory – places with its own context for which determines our behaviour in there.

The world is my performance space and I am an Artist. There, I reckon I can finally say it. And know it in my heart, acknowledge it and call myself an Artist. I do not know what the apprehension had been all these time, but I know now I have a real community of fellow artists in Kieran, Rockie, Kali Rose and Leisa. I know that together, we share a process and vocabulary of making work together, exploring different degrees of collaboration and different ways of working. I know that we value each other’s works and we value the dialogue around making the work that so supports and nurtures our individual processes. I know that together, we will have much more to discover, individually and collectively.

I did not know what a year would amount to when I first arrived. I did not know what would be deemed a considerable return on the huge (financial, emotional, psychological…) investment my family and I had made for Melbourne 2010. (Especially since it cannot be quantified with a “proper job” after graduation or a decent salary or a “successful” gig…) But I know that the year has definitely spilled into the next, and quite honestly the rest of my career, which in truth, is my life. The vague sense of my future as an artist now transpires into a deep, convicted knowing that I am a young artist, only truly beginning to own/hone a practice. And so I know to always remain curious, to venture into all of the things I know I am interested in and fascinated by and want to investigate. And to let the results and discoveries grow and evolve and change the next course of exploration. I do not know how long more before these stop being interesting for me to investigate or how much more around these things will I be inquisitive about. I do not know when something new might come along but for now at least, I know where I want to live[3].

Excerpt from LOVE AND ART, The Aesthetics of the Oppressed by Augusto Boal

“Loving is Art, and Art is Love. These two processes – loving, and perceiving aesthetically the unicity of the Other, whether living Being or Thing – are absolutely identical. More, even, they are the same thing.

In Love as in Art, the two being identical, our perception of the Other or the Thing, does not become set or immobilised. Love is the flow of alternating current – as electricity can be and as the seas are but without any guarantee of constant or predictable rhythms, never the same, always at the whim of constant variation.

Eternal loves do exist – especially the kind which end in bloody tragedy – and so do perennial works of art, but neither the person loved, nor the work admired, are loved or admired with a constant intensity, or for the same reasons at any given moment in time.

In love and in art, the only constant is inconstancy.

Contrary to what they say, Love is not a meeting: it is a pursuit!

One person who is always changing pursues another person who is never the same as him- or herself.

Love offers no guarantee of stability. Just as we must cultivate Art with love, the cultivation of Love is an art. “

[1] Boal, Augusto. “Love and Art,” The Aesthetics of the Oppressed. NY: Routledge, 2006.

[2] “To perform” defined as simply as “to do,” “to act upon,” “to present” or “to complete.”

[3] Earlier this year I asked Leisa “is concept form?” She answered, “Do not give it any more weight than it should carry. It’s as simple as asking yourself ‘where do you want to live?’ or ‘what kind of relationship’ do you want to have.”

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