In looking forwards I often find myself looking back. In trying to define myself as an artist and explain ‘my practice’ I need to look at my experience. I still don’t know who I am or whether I have a ‘way of working’ yet. I am still putting the pieces together and I’m not even sure I have all the edges yet. Maybe the corners.
But here is another small piece.
“I gratefully accept what the Universe offers…”
As artists we often make work using or around found objects, enjoying those objects that excite and inspire the imagination. But what of those rare occasions when what the Universe offers is exactly what we were looking for?
During Locked-in with Stacy Makishi (at the Greenroom in Manchester, October 2009) we were asked to describe a performance fantasy to another participant. These duets of offer and response were an ongoing theme of the day. Enjoying a moment of free-falling, free association, I let the word ‘fantasy’ dominate roll around my mind and run wild. What I envisioned was a moment where I might be beautiful. Tall and elegent upon a plinth bathed in light, wearing a gown that fell all the way to the ground. A pause, before being flown off and swept away by the original hero superhero, with whom I have had a long-time love affair, Superman.
I had misinterpreted the task… this was not a real performance fantasy to be presented it was the latent fantasy of a child but the desire was real.
Later some of the group were hunting around to see what the Greenroom had that might be useful in the way of set when they stumbled upon some old wooden gym equipment including two tall boxes – the kind you used to suspend benched from – they looked like two high stools. It seemed too good to be true. My plinth had arrived. Standing a little taller than me they were perfect. And the opportunity was too good to miss.
The stage was set.
I was wrapped from head to toe in white toilet paper, which split and tumbled, falling in long ribbons as I walked slowly across the stage and mounted the plinth. These ribbons trailed almost to the ground. Once lit by a spotlight a microphone was lowered to me. I took it, brought it to my lips and from another spotlight a voice sang ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone while lip-synced along.
Another moment of symmetry.
The song was agreed on, somewhat out of necessity, as it was one we had on an iPod so that the singer could listen to it and that we both knew the words to. But it is also a song that resonates for me and I had used before. It was the song my friends and I used for the make-up scene a piece called Im(art)ation in our third year at uni and that I had used for the striptease in Abbi, my dissertation piece based on the character of Abigail from Arthur Millar’s The Crucible.Three moments of defining femininity and strong visual representations of my sexuality on stage, coming together, unified by a single song.
These moments of serendipity, the beauty in the unforseen and unplanned are what matters to me. The echoes that resonate with your own experiences as an artist and as an audience member.
I’m sure there have been more since – the death, displaying of the body and funeral of Jimmy Saville at The Queen’s Hotel where we created and performed The Reservation as mentioned in an earlier post here for example.