statement of process

research: article(s) on menstrual blood in performance, on queerness in blood letting The politics of shit (perhaps the most important), trans* anthems, Although it's only been technically a week of not posting, in terms of actual dedicated work time, it feels like loads has developed in the last 3 weeks.

I feel I'm honing in much further on what I want to say, and also going in to totally new terrain and coming up against really interesting obstacles. I think appropriately enough, I began to feel like a kid at christmas in the last week of term. I'd just opened my eyes fully to live art (if that's the best thing to call it...) and found resonance with it in a way that I never have before. Suddenly all these amazing artists' work take on new meaning - Franko B, Ron Athey, Kira O'Reiley, Marin O'Brian (I could go on)... I found all these articles on why working with the body and bodily fluids can be situated within a queer discourse.

I got so excited by the concept of changing outfits/images AND doing an action that involved bodily fluids in each of those that I figured it was best to take all of it to the tech meeting.... I'm very glad there is a team there to remind me of technicalities. The meeting made me realise that not only is this area still very new for me, but also that the themes i'm dealing with are already big and complex. The more is thrown in, the less clarity there is. Needless to say, working with menstrual blood, blood letting, wee and poo was not going to be a thing. Blood letting already seemed to be different to the others anyway (the others flow out, whereas blood letting is an active choice). I had to focus. I had to rein in the feeling of being a little live art puppy a little bit...

I went away and thought about each fluid in isolation, and what they can mean performatively. The most commonly used seemed to menstrual blood, and had lots of association with feminist/womanhood - no surprise there. Urine was not something I found much about at all. Poo - although I didn't find artists who worked with their own, I did find an amazing article on the politics of poo and shame. This is fascinating to me that I couldnt find anyone, at least not right away, who had worked with their own poo. The article i read spoke about it beyond the obvious, it being a waste product and often carrier/cause of disease, and in relation to Freud - to being able to control our fluids as a sign of independence from our parents. As regression, as the ultimate shame, shame being something that is public. One cannot feel shame without being shamed by another. "It's everywhere, it's in each of us and it literally cannot be ignored". It viewed shit as the literal and metaphorical passing through a border/barrier, as "a threat to our very identity,and explosive protest against rationalism".

I agreed. Shit is the body existing

it's something all bodies do, in their own way

it's a private act

sometimes it's fetishised

"we are what we repeatedly do"

the body as a transient object

when constructs fall away

a literal coming out

everyone's body is a constant process, that we think of as fixed (daily, over a life time)

what self are we when our body is making itself known? In these basic acts

The word I had been looking for the whole time, was shame - the arch enemy of self love.

But like I said, the idea of taking a shit in front of anyone was pretty new to me - let alone on stage. Let alone as part of my degree show, supported by RCS.

And alas, a live poo was not to be. This idea had come pretty late in the day, and anyway after having a talk with Stephen, this was probably not the right context to do it in. Beyond the fact the tech team are not trained/supposed to have to deal with bio-hazard stuff, and that making things safe would cost more money than we have, The Arches itself has licensing to worry about. Because I wasnt totally sure how this live poo act would manifest, people weren't sure if I was going to cross lines - lines that mean you can't be pornographic essentially - it made total sense. Plus the fact that I am someone venturing in to vulnerable territory, I would need to be a lot more sure of what I was doing to get past the big dogs (glasgow city council) and after reading up this week (and actually, due to my dissertation, already having known about the "scandal" at Glasgay when their exhibition at GOMA was taken down because the daily mail got all right wing about videos of naked gay men talking about being HIV positive) I know that media can twist things to make them out to be something they're not. Being that I'm little old me, I don't think I'm quite ready to handle that if it happened. But, given that I do feel very passionate about this and can articulate in many ways why i feel the idea has integrity, I would have to work out what the first steps were. Shitting in a public performance, maybe in ten years. Potential career path mapped out, check. In to the new piece finished, erm, not quite.

So I'd got a no. I completely understand why. I'm actually glad, I don't think some of the ideas i have now are ones to just simply do in this context. Jess gets that. Jak on the other hand? Jak was in shock, Jak felt emotional, Jak cried a bit. Jak was like, wait, you mean most likely some white cis hetero guys are yet again controlling what I can do? Wait, orange marches can happen, but someone simply doing the most basic human thing in front of another group of humans is not allowed?

And then two other things went live -  new laws on porn happened, and Black Lives Matter protests occurred

and I thought, this whole time, the history has been important - the abuse, hatred, violation against queer people for centuries and then the erasure of that history - because those things are not in the past. My desires are still being controlled and shamed. Police brutality is very much a thing. And it's especially a thing against people of colour, and within that trans* people of colour. It's the whole being destined to repeat history if we don't know it thing. Representation in the media is a huge part of othering people.

And then Jak became glad that a live act of poo wouldn't be allowed. And Jak thought, then a mediated one will have to occur - and actually that's highly appropriate given these new porn laws. And Jak didn't know exactly what the piece would look like still, or what they'd be doing or the audience role- but Jak knew what the next step was. I can't do it on the day? I'll just have to record me doing it, everyday, until the show. No shame. Big screen.

We are what we repeatedly do...

Statement of process: Dynamic contradictions

Dickie Beau workshop Conversation with Fi - look at artists Jenny Saville and Dawn Kasper

Halberstam's article "Shame: A gay male thing?"

Actions in a room

 

I had a conversation with Fi, as I wanted to know more about her working methods and how she arrived at clarity of action. She gave me lots of brilliant things to think on, and reassurance:

The stage is the ultimate space where you're asking people to judge you, and you're not afraid

Bring the struggle on stage - we all attempt to find identities, and in the end this is an impossible task

There is no real you - whatever you put on is not right

Interrogate fluidity

conflict of identity

the failure to reach self-actualisation

But if you play something out, it happens, you become it (links to "we are what we repeatedly do"/Butler's notion of performativity

An audience feels when a performer is in their element

This is an attempt, an experiement

Secret fantasies on stage

Less is more

When did i feel most powerful on stage?

What is my fantasy stage self? What's the coolest thing I want to do?

What does binding make me want to do?

What act do I need to do?

Does the space change as i change?

 

When is one authentic?

How do others effect you?

How does one have an identified self?

How does one present a unified self?

How does on embody multiple selves?

What's the drive to find the "true" self?

 

This conversation combined with the Gomez-Pena reading brought some images to mind. Juxtaposing both constructs of identity in themselves, and this with the realness of the body. (i will describe these later)

 

The Dickie Beau workshop really solidified some ideas for me, and brought up interesting new ones:

the fact there is no real me

the dynamic contradiction that 

trying on (playing with the fiction of) other identities (or heightened versions of my own) can make me more real

and

i have non-essentialist view of the self, but only I can do this performance

 

What i feel i am, and what i present as effect each other

every performance is about the making of itself - undergoing its own deconstruction

performance as a site of knowledge making

"i think the liminal is fantastic"

 

"images so intense, they take on a life of their own"

becoming the thing to transcend it

"the dead again available for conversation"

performance is the attempt to not be alone in something

 

I'm particularly interested in the dynamic contradictions -

the body is real, but identity is a construct

(but identity becomes real once enacted - therefore seeming fixed, and the body is actually a constant process/in transition physiologically - therefore extremely queer)

 

- Halberstam's article on shame, spoke on the idea that we don't just need to reclaim it but ask why it's projected on us in the first place. And dismantle systems of shame. This kind of widens out my thinking of the job of this work.

 

So yesterday, I tried out some of the images buzzing around me head, Jak does things Jess never would -

Even though i'm not sure if I'm portraying my fantasy/most powerful self, making the body abject/making my existence known, or slamming juxtaposing identities together... there is probably a bit of all three in each image...

I made an image, and tried to do an action in each one. (bearing in mind the advice of Pena, avoid stereotyping or cliche, find with the heart and body not the mind)

 

1- Bound, In a suit top half, bottom half naked (in my head this image included menstrual blood flowing down me) beard made with vaseline and own hair

2- Bound, boxers stuffed with packing, little black dress, black heels, feather bower - action: masturbation

-3 Velvet bra, suspenders, white heels, red lipstick, "sick" written on my mid-drift in lipstick

action: urinating

4- leather kink dress, lipstick, smudged eye shadow

action: celotape around face

I also had an idea about writing "my existence will not be stamped out" in my own blood (which could come after the celotape as i have to cut it off), and bringing in passing stool as it were... but these are yet to be risk assessed...

I think in the room and watching the videos back this all feels quite weighty, and I think I do want to feel empowered by these actions and have fun... so perhaps there are more actions to be found there.

No sound also feels a little bare. I'm thinking maybe more structure is needed in general - as all these things are quite loaded.

- should the identity acts be live, and the bodily mediated (live stream) or vice versa? would this add anything?

 

I guess until i perform them, it's hard to tell if the idea of making my existence known (via the body) and attempting to bring the struggle of identity with me is translating. I am also obviously thinking a lot about my audience intention, but maybe they can feel disgusted, implicated and empowered all at once.....

also wondering if i have gone performance art mad, or am on to something.... time will tell!!!!

at least it feels like i am genuinely working something out in the room. I just want to make sure it's the thing i'm actually wanting to work out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding The Thing

after looking at the brochure yesterday, it made me re-think/re-remember the power of image, especially combined with a simple action. About when people are expecting to view one thing, and you subvert their expectations. I flicked through Gomez-Pena's Exercises for Rebel Artists again, and this time found some things that really jumped out at me - they kind of clarified some of my past actions/sharings. Even though they are related to leading workshops, the activities can certainly be translated.

The Spectrum exercise:

Getting participants to stand in the physical space, between 1 and 10 - depending on where they self-identify between binaries. This highlights multiple communities we exist in, and fluid identities. Some of the categories were:

-mono-cultural/multi-cultural

- individualistic/community-minded

- pure aesthetics/socially engaged arts practice

- sexist/non-sexist

-racist/non-racist

- you feel at home in your body/alienated from your body

we recommend trying it out at the beginning and then repeating it on the penultimate day to see how and if participants have shifted their personalities during the workshop process.

 

Impersonating your favourite subculture

'As one young artist wrote in her diary "one of the lessons learned was that we are not straight-jacketed by our identities". Identities are both cultural and artificial constructs; they can be altered and reshaped at will through the conscious and strategic use of costume, make-up, props. Performance artists practice this regularly. Students and artists realising this for the first time can become tremendously empowering.

Choose a subculture you find particularly fascinating and "sexy:. Costume yourself according to your own projections. Spend an entire day "in costume", keep actions simple and routine.

Examples of results:

- A white upper-class student in UCLA decided to go to Beverly Center dressed up like a Chican gang-banger. Within minutes he's accosted by security and forced to leave the premises. It was his first experience with racism ever.

- A self-defined "super-heterosexual man" decided to wear women's clothes and was systemically harassed by other men like him. He became self-reflective about his own homophobia.

 

- Creating tableaux from these personas that come out of these explorations for participants, and then making them interactive.

Examples : ' images - super-feminized body builder, black woman in KKK outfit, super macho stereotype performing homoerotic actions

- interactive images - ethnic or gender-bending personas inviting audiences members to lead them around on a dog chain. Nude body lying on a surgical table as an open book for audience members write or draw on it.'

 

These relate to my reasons for wanting to try both the one-on-one in the dressing room (ask people to change their appearances) and taking Jak in to the street yesterday. These exercises and descriptions about what they bring up make lots of sense to me and are really helping me think about what my intentions are!

It makes me want to be more extreme in my work.

How can I push my "persona" or costume further?

How can existence be an assault?

How can I really implicate an audience?

I haven't "always known"

I haven’t “always known” anything Same way you don’t always know you’ll be

A teacher, doctor, mother, policeman, cleaner, husband, murder

 

Or always know where you’ll live

You can choose to let life guide you

You can choose which self you listen to

Just like you choose which people

 

To pretend to know

To think that you know

You’ve got it

 

It’s pretence

It’s an illusion

 

To pretend

Or buy in to straight as the default

And anything else as the alternative

Is to buy in to the safety and security of your money in the bank

Of the party you want being voted in to government

On that government implementing equliaty through law

On house prices to stay stable

On there being an end to war

On your local schools not to close

On your neighbour not to move

On your dog not to die

On your lover not to leave you

 

You are your default

Your neutral

 

But you don’t have to go to autopilot

 

If you want to be more

If you want ot be human

Whole

Feeling

Pulsing

Ask yourself

Is this my choice, or is this me following autopilot?

 

For those who were “born this way”

Who knew they were queer

I commend you

For knowing you were human

And switching off autopilot

Quicker than me

Faster than the rest of us

 

When I Was Normal

When I Was Normal  

When I was cisgender

Before I thought of gender categories as an invasion of my body

Rather than an inherent part of it

I went on diets and missed meals

And this was normal

I shaved all the hair on my body but my head

And this was normal

I fried every long hair on my head with tongs to make it straight

And this was normal

I was very careful how the clothes I wore would make me look

I bought only from a certain section from certain shops

And this was normal

I would wear three bras to enlarge my breasts

And this was normal

I took the contraception pill everyday

Extra estrogen pumping in the my veins

And this was normal

I painted and sawed at my nails

And this was normal

I plastered my face with harsh chemicals

And this was normal

 

Now this is a queer, trans* body

I grow all my hair but the hair on my head

And this is not normal

I bind my breast to reduce them

And this is not normal

I do not miss any meals

I do not mind where I get my clothes

I do not take any hormones

I often choose to wear no make up

I do not style my nails

 

And suddenly,

My gender alterations

My gender practices

Are under a microscope

 

They’re extreme

A danger to myself

A danger to society

 

 

 

This body holds shame.

This body is shameful.

This body is in transition.

This body is flawed.

This body is fetishised.

This body is different.

This body is unique.

This body is uncategorized.

This body is unclassified.

This body has sinned.

This body is sinful.

This body is indecent.

This body a ono-conforming,

This body is whorish.

This body is unstable.

This body is stigmitised.

This body is illegitimate

This body is fake.

This body has been suppressed.

This body is hidden.

This body is under attack.

This body is punished.

This body is variant.

This body is scrutinized.

This body is invaded.

This body is rejected.

This body is unnatutal.

This body is offensive.

This body has committed offences.

This body is broken.

This body is altered.

This body is abnormal.

This body is dilliusional.

This body is made up.

This body has survived.

This body is trapped.

This body is existing.

This body is sick.

This body is a freak.

This body is ill.

This body is 3 in4

This body in 1 in 14

This body is criminalized

This body is more likely to be victim of crime

This body is more likely to be arrested

This body is imprisoned

This body is surveyed

This body is under surveillance

This body I modified

This body is mine

This body is everyones

This body is no ones

This body belongs to no one

This body belongs to everyone

 

 

I’m not saying some gender practices are wrong,

And others are right.

But some people are.

 

How To Hate text

How To Hate  

We can’t expect everyone to love themselves in the same way.

Not when our bodies and minds have their owns doos and don’ts.

Same as you can’t love different people in the same way.

 

Same as hatred for a group of people –

real deep engaged hate

Well that doesn’t make sense

Because to really hate

You’d have to hate everyone differently

Because to hate, you have had to have loved a person

And to love you need to have known

 

And how can you know a whole group of people you’ve never met in their entirety?

 

I mean hate – not reflect your self-hatred on to

I mean hate because you let them reach inside your chest

Feel the heat

Gently clasp your heart

And they tore it out

and ate it for breakfast

like they were cleaning up the last crumbs of toast from their plate

 

hate because you let them feel the pulse of your veins

your blood run on to their arms

so they could feel the exact temperature

of your specific genetic make up/blood type

and then they drank it as if it was

a random fizzy drink that they picked up for 50p

in the reduced section at tesco

 

love in the way you need

in the native language your body speaks

otherwise you’re just speaking over yourself

Statement of Process (25th nov-3rd dec)

Research: touch as nutrition, oreet arhsery on intimate performance - here and here, the choreographer's handbook, tailor mac on being a reminder  

Actions: sharing 3, questions/dressing room exploration, walk in Edinburgh, laying all the material out, action in the street/performance for 2 girls.

Wanting to explore the audience as individuals and creating an experience for us both, for the third sharing I created a one-on-one performance.

Each audience member read a gender survey that I had filled out, from a university professor in psychology. Audiences members were invited in to a dressing room one at a time.

I framed the experience with the phrase 'we are what we repeatedly do', 'together we will interrogate our habits and make new choices'.

The audience member was in invited to help me bind, and then to choose an action(s) to alter their own appearance, from a range of options (clothing, make-up, razor, nail polish). Or not alter/add, but strip back. This was documented by an image which we decided on together at the end. I asked two questions to provoke the audiences choices: When did you realise you had a gender? When did you realise what gender you have been assigned?

Although I'm glad I tried this out, and got interesting/positive feedback, I'm not sure it was quite what I was aiming - and actually I began to rigorously question what I was even aiming for.

the feedback was:

safe feeling

empowered by choice to be more masculine

the opposite of aversion therapy

more options the better

not intimidating

captivated by entrance

felt like a privilege to bind me

direct, focused, but didn't feel that - feels like having a cup of tea

couldn't engage with questionnaire, wanted to fill in own

felt too quick

celebrity, model

 

It felt like this structure/encounter didn't quite allow for the complexity of the work, and still kept the question of: What do we hold on to that gives us a sense of gender identity? - as a subject matter, rather than an experience. How would i get someone who hadn't seen my whole process to understand/engage with the idea that this isn't just a 'dressing up' exercise. How could it allow for someone to explore their gender at a deeper level than how they express/present it? How would i explain my complicated stance of feeling that appearances aren't everything/something we need to be less precious with, and also something we should make active engaged choices about more frequently to help widen our sense of expression/self? Rejecting gender norms helps me to be who I am - but perhaps in a queer world I would express myself differently.

Appearance/how we present should be the product of how we feel internally, something we constantly explore, rather than the only thing that makes us who we are. (which is how i currently feel we're encouraged to engage with gender, as we are all assigned one of two genders at birth and then spend most of lives trying to reaffirm this through actions - perhaps if we felt less pressure to fit in to a category, our presentation would naturally widen out).

This still didn't feel like an exchange, or an equal encounter - i felt it was too specific, gender is only the lense through which i've been looking at self-love. Actually the work is more about queerness than gender identity.

The idea of the images being projected in arch 6 felt like that was a long way from the dressing room, where the acts would take place. And how many people would really see it? Only a small number would get to do the one-on-one, which seems at odds with idea of visibility and being seen. When I read an interview with Oreet Ashery, and asked myself some of questions she asks of her own work, I quickly found that actually the questions broke down the work until i wasn't sure what i'd started with. Why did I want a one-on-one interaction with the audience anyway? Why did this feel so hard to justify/explain?

 

 

So that weekend, I took some time off. It's my belief that the ideas often arrive and come to me, rather than me trying to go in search of them. I was doing too much searching. Having questioned myself to the point of crisis, i almost felt like i was starting again on Monday. It was time to switch of the logical brain.

I read these words by Taylor Mac - 'i'm not a teacher, i'm a reminder'.

And these in the choreographer's handbook -

you can't do everything

there is no exploration, only work

trust your boredom

form is something against which to push your imagination free

experiencing regcognition (of what you want)

accept what comes easily

hopefully your piece will be about something, the trick is to notice what that thing is

 

After a micro lab with steven and laura - I wanted to find the joy, the energy. I wanted to make a performance for two girls who were attacked outside the st enoch centre in july. i wanted to tell my story.

And i realised the link between the history of erasure and oppression, between my story and the stories of others. I am privileged. I haven't experienced the extreme violence in the way those i've researched have. I have a choice, because of the way i look, my race and physicality, to wear my otherness on the outside. Making that choice, choosing to be visible, is empowering. Why wouldn't I choose to be more myself when i can afford to? Why would i not choose to fight that battle, when so many others have without the safety of acceptance from others.

I like playing around with my gender presentation not only because it represents how i feel, but because it reveals the construct/fiction of gender. The more secure i am in my own identity, the more free i feel to play - because i am not struggling to hold to anything.

So I went out in to the street. As Jak. As me. In drag.

I walked all the way from RCS to the st enoch centre. and I wrote 'I remember you' in the spot where the two girls were attacked. And I read a story about my queer becoming.

And it threw up lots about who polices and who protects

about being "unpassable" - and all these thoughts i had from ages ago at Arika came back

about deciding to look like, and be something of my own creation - being as androgynous as possible (for me, for me to feel good)

about deciding to be nothing like the real thing

a nobody against the state, nothing against the state

about looking artistically at revealing the fiction of marginalised identities

and how that reveals the fiction of heterosexuality and white identity

about the rehearsal/performance space as preparation

as defence for the outside world

 

and now i want to take my audience outside, break down the illusion of safety

and then perhaps bring them back to interact with me - but this time in front of other witnesses, in arch 6, on the table

so that our collective presence may be an assualt

and they must engage with the other - to realise both its construction and its realness

so that we may exist and live

accept and know, one another

defy inauthentic representation

make a private act public, and a public act private

which is why for the next sharing this is my loose frame:

- live feed, audience see me getting ready in dressing room

- action in arch 6 (probably mainly material form first sharing) to contextualise

- bringing outside, writing in chalk and text

- back in, interaction on table on at a time, invited to write thoughts on wall in chalk - to claim arch 6 as our space. making a space.

 

Jak started as a stage name, but actually its me choosing to be visibly queer.

 

mmm much questioning, such live art

It's hard to criminalise/police what's under the skin, the antics/functions of a body, a breathing, living thing you can't classify blinking sweating vomiting feeling pulsing stretching bloating smelling tasting shaking touching

 

What history  do i need  to remember? Why is it important?

What's the history of my body?

How can I allow audience members to bring their own individual histories?

How can i meet people as individuals?

How can I get to know myself, in relation to others, through the live moment?

How do I let go of internalised shame?

When do I feel comfortable to be myself?

When do i not feel comfortable to be myself?

When do other people?

How can touch transcend binaries? (gender, sex, sexuality, stigma)

What is an act of self-love to me?

What is an act of violence to me?

How closely linked are they?

How do other people define these things?

How does framing effect how an act is read?

What am i hiding?

What am i revealing?

What is it to be visible in this work?

What does it mean to take my clothes off?

 

Thoughts from Exposures:

(helena goldwater) How do you transcend language to say what you really mean?

How do you talk about spirituality, sexuality and identity without categorising yourself? without resorting to cliche?

Traces on the surface of the body as the body's history

 

(Giovanna Maria Cosetta) 'What is under the skin cannot be altered'

 

'Live art operates in the cracks of our culture'

'the real over the respresentational'

"those who have once been disembodied voices become visible and claimed a space on the public stage" - Karen Finley on live art movement

 

'revealing the body not as it is not necessarily how it is imagined'

'live art resists commodification and defies a market'

 

 

 

Statement of Process (14th-24th nov)

Reading/research - Exposure by Ron Athey/Lois Keidan, Threshold by Nathan Coley Overview of trans* activism, cross-dressing laws UK, famous trials, cross-dressing in the encyclopaedia of GLBT, current hate crime statistics in the UK

Blog post on the theory behind the way stigma  is created

The choreographers handbook

Performances - Fatherland, Messianic Remains

Contact Jam, visit to the Huntarian, Q&A with Nadine George, Voice tutorial, meeting Rosana

Actions: Collating the buzzwords/similar language from research, Writing texts from this, exploring undressing in different ways, experiments in re-framing audience role, fetishising text, improvising around ECT Blues song,

 

During Independent learning week I went to a contact jam with my mum - it was amazing. I haven't been to a jam for ages, and with the world of work and this process in my head/body/soul it really re-framed what the jams can be for me. To see bodies moving, to feel myself in motion with others, ready to meet and explore but prepared to move on when the time felt right. A jam is the embodiment of my politics on play, listening, consent, autonomy, self-love and communal-care. Some people I knew, others I didn't. To those whom I have never said i word to, I felt like I met them, and felt their acceptance without verbally communicating. This was such a contrast to the Trans* conference i attended, where all we did was speak, where everyone supposedly wore their identities on their sleeves and all I felt was isolation. At this jam, 3 hours moving in a room told me more about the individuals than any conference I've been to. We fostered a community, albeit an ephemeral one, far deeper than the connections at the conference.

After that experience, I could feel something had landed, but I think I've spent the last week or so unravelling what exactly that something was.

So, I continued making for the sharing with the medical language and aesthetic, but wanted to go in to the perception of the queer body as fetish and 'sexual deviancy'. This was probably due to my further reading (see Transgender law/encyclopaedia links above) on why cross-dressing became (and still is) "the visible face of sodomy" (from timeout article), i.e so heavily linked to homosexuality/deviant behaviour. Understanding (or trying to) how gender and sexuality have come to be convoluted/misunderstood seems important to my process. If gender is defined by someone's actions, then whom one has relations with is deemed an action - to be man = to like woman, and to be woman = to like man. Man and woman become linked with particular ways of dressing, and to deviate from these must mean one also deviates from how a "normal" man acts in other ways (the medical model seems to focus heavily on just men). Hence, cross-dressing, or transvestic fetishism to use medical terminology, becomes a sign of homosexuality. Cross-dressing becomes to be understood either as a man trying to "escape homosexuality" (becoming a woman, then it is "normal" for him to like men), or as a sexual fetish whereby someone gets sexual satisfaction/arousal from dressing "as the other sex".

I'd been thinking about my own body, and how dressing is just one way I express and play with gender. All clothes feel like drag as for me, my body is non-binary and it is clothes and other modifications that may gender it.

I began to piece together some material for the 2nd sharing that twisted the medical/clinical aesthetic in to a fetishised one. I wanted to experiment with myself being both the doctor, more a doctor of doctor & nurses role-play than an actual doctor, and being the patient. I wanted to explore changing what role the audience was in - this time we would start as equals and perhaps shift from there to them being voyeurs. I interspliced language to change the medical into the playful. This would contrast with the later text I had written about my body, and the assumptions people often make. It would hopefully be a step towards being read in the way I want to.

- Welcome text

- ECT blues

- No more

- This is... text

 

How ever, I think the several different "personas" or roles actually lacked clarity individually. This was probably as I had not worked on each part long enough separately. The feedback seemed to suggest that although I had thought there was a journey in the work, and in my and the audience's role, actually the audience had remained. They were just an audience. A mass, rather than individuals. They had been welcomed in by me, so felt more held by me, but more distant from me. The theatrical style of the welcome and the song had given it a less vulnerable feel i think, for me and the audience. I came away from the sharing feeling quite confused about where to go next, and felt quite off balance about what the work now look and felt like. What the language of it was.

As we were scheduled on Thursday, and i didn't have a room on Wednesday, it gave time for earlier ponderings to land properly. The rest of the week felt filled with experiences and talks with people, rather than me working on things in a room. And although that felt scary and like i'd lost touch with the work a bit - in hindsight that was useful for me.

I had a a tutorial with Hilary - and read her some texts I had written. It felt good to talk to a person with a fresh perspective. She mentioned the Sentics Cycle, used to help people with MS express themselves, which maps the cycle of the 7 basic emotions:

  1. No emotion/neutral
  2. Anger
  3. Hate
  4. Grief
  5. Love
  6. Sexual Desire
  7. Joy
  8. Reverence

I talked with Hilary about centred/neutral being the acceptance of all these emotions - rather than feeling them all. We spoke about the NGT technique, the unlocking of different energies and the way it can teach us about ourselves/identities. She reflected back that it felt like i was examining myself, as well examining the systems of sex and gender. We spoke about how hate came from fear and not knowing. How "i hate these people" might be code for "i don't know these people". It felt good to articulate the different areas of interest that I saw in the work:

witness, mourning, thresh hold, violence, medicalisation

everyday transitions, gender performances, self-acceptance 

cabaret, drag, gender performance for the stage/entertainment, the heightened self

I then met up and had a talk with Rosana, which was really really helpful. She asked me some great questions, but also reminded me that the core/impulse of my enquiry was still it's driving force and the most interesting part for me. We talked about what language to bring in to a piece, how terminology can alienate some people instantly, how to make something accessible without compromising yourself.

The fact still remained, loving my hidden parts, parts I am ashamed of, and inviting others to do so - is the radical act.

And then I went to see the Nadine George talk, and that point was reiterated further. Nadine talked about needing to explore all four qualities, to really put your whole self in one of those energies. She spoke on standing in who we are, confrontation with the self, staying with what you're doing, staying open. The way she spoke was so re-affirming and moving. It hit home. It allowed things to land.

 

So on friday, i wrote down all that had landed. I let myself focus in on what was alive in the work, in the questions. It feels its time to move away from embodying historical research (the thing i don't want to be seen as) and embodying my politics (what i do want to be seen as).

It was in the dressing and undressing

Hiding and revealing

Existence and presence

Showing my humanity

Sharing the everyday transitions and gender acts

Examining identity through playing with costume

Appearances as the flimsiness of identity

Letting myself be known, met and accepted

Meeting, knowing, accepting individuals

An exchange - an offering - for us both to be vulnerable (so there is a balance of power)

Making private acts public

Threshold - the creation of a performance space as escape from the outside world and rules

once the audience cross this, the old ways do not apply, we can imagine new ways

 

In this, a new way for the work presented itself. From the feedback, my holistic, spiritual and embodied experiences in the past week, I want to try an exchange. I want to act out an idea, not just its concept. I want to explore questions in dialogue with audience members, for now, one at a time. To get out of my logistical brain, the worries of risk assessment and PRS, of technicalities and set-up ideas - I want to try and be in the live moment. I want to zoom in, to ask the urgent questions and maybe I'll realise I need to pan out - or perhaps the work will stay in this space. As Tom Pritchard once said, when you start getting overwhelmed by idea or possibilities, it's time to hit the idiot button (boil the work down to its essence).

Statement of Process (1st-11th nov)

  Reading/research: Details of aversion therapy, application process for gender recognition and the Gender Recognition Act

On Gentification, Dark Matter (queer poetry blog), LGBT homeless youth in America, The Trans* Mental Health Study 2012, great article on transitioning when non-binary

 

Video: Mandela – Long Walk To Freedom

 

Actions: attended Trans and Intersex conference of the Isles, put material in a space for sharing, first sharing, create a cabaret song, micro lab with Laura, Micro lab with Rachel, small sharing with Maria and Jack.

 

The weekend of 1st November, I’d signed myself up for the Trans and Intersex Conference of the Isles in Edinburgh. It promised to be a day of workshops and talks for trans* activists, to share best practice and gain more awareness on trans* rights. It would be the largest number of non-binary people I’d ever been around. It would be the largest group of people I’d met who have "the same" gender identity as me. I thought it would be a safe haven. I was wrong. It was both underwhelming and overwhelming for several reasons:

 

  • It was a conference set up, professional, scheduled, academic.
  • It was run by a charity (The Equality Network/Transgender Alliance) who act as a mediator between the LGBT community and the government. The same people that ran the Equal Marriage campaign.
  • People who identified as non-binary/genderqueer did not run the workshops I attended.

 

This led to several realisations, that on reflection, although they are not the kind I wanted/expected to have, were great to have had.

 

  • Conferences are not the way I meet people. They’re corporate and stifling. Like, to really MEET people. I meet people, most authentically and holistically, through art.
  • Having a ‘category of identity’ in common with someone does not make you automatically connected. So everyone was there because they vary from the “norm” (in the eyes of those who are “normal” – problem 1), that does not mean their way of thinking does. Being LGBT does not mean you necessarily have an active interest in change, radicalism or creativity. I remember realising this during my dissertation. I actually experienced this for real at the conference. AKA not everyone is queer. (don't i know it!)
  • Putting in “safe spaces” rules does not make it a “Safe space”. Conference structures do not inherently make for inclusive spaces.
  • Hence, even though the whole event was based on a charity who are working towards legal recognition for Non-Binary folk (you can currently only transition to either male or female on legal documents), I faced stigma from within my “own” community for identifying as Non-Binary.
  • My identity was called “unstable”, I felt both too radical/political (the conversations seemed to centre on what laws would help reduce stigma, rather than activism) and not trans* enough (I am not undergoing surgery or hormonal treatment).

 

BUT the event did get me thinking LOTS about current treatment of trans people by medical professionals, the idea of normal in relation to trans, and I did gain lots of knowledge on that thanks to the copy of their (STA's) 2012 study. I also gained knowledge about the treatment of Intersex babies (babies born with male and female parts/chromosones/hormones), and surgery to make them “one or the other”. Internalised shame realised – the idea that my gender identity is made-up, pretend or delusional.

 

So, having had a horrendous experience, I decided not to go back for day two. I stayed at home, pondering on the scrutiny of trans people in the name of medicine, everyone’s right to bodily autonomy and self-determination and the true meaning of “safe spaces”. Ideas of reclaiming the cis-gaze, that had started to surface last week, entered my mind. The time to reflect allowed images of how I might make myself a specimen, embody the medical and historical research and bring in a clear frame for some of my material came to mind. Perhaps, in becoming the very thing I am constantly represented as/told I am by society could help me deeper explore the themes of stigmatisation, and othering, in relation to identity. This could also potentially tie in the thoughts on audience as witness and the live moment I had been thinking about last week.

 

I began with more detailed research on Aversion Therapies, that I had read started in the 1930s from this trans* rights timeline I have, to make sure my material would be informed by research. That afternoon, I used the frame of me as a “patient” on a table, with a box round me, to explore existing material. I think I could literally feel myself being fuelled by anger to make that day, I was listening to it and letting it lead.

 

Sharing numberone:

 

Instructions for audience – placing them in role of physicians/doctors

“Have you ever…?” Text

Sylvia Rivera Speech – matched with my “authentic movement”

Address to Pollok Park Text

Audience leave to “My Existence will not be stamped out”

 

I showed my material to Bel on Monday evening, and she pointed out I was covering - Audience stance, historical stance, my stance. This felt like I’d naturally started to hit the points I aimed to.

 

After the sharing, lots of questions came up. I still want the work to be dialogical, not just an onslaught on information or anger. I’m thinking about the power of framing, of set-up, of simple actions.

Although I do want to follow the anger, sparked by Gabe’s sharing, I remembered how the cabaret form had initially inspired me. My interest in everyday acts of gender and gender for performance, in cabaret and live art/moments. Can I explore anger/passion through this form too?

 

I went and retrieved a song I had written two summers ago, called ECT Blues (Electro Convulsion Therapy). It seemed scarily relevant now, given my research on aversion therapy (where ECT was one of the methods used to treat homosexuality and transvestism). I brought it in to my existing performance aesthetic. I showed it to Laura, and later to Jack and Maria.

 

It felt good to get some of the questions that have been arising out in the open during my lab, and realise that I’m not moving away from my initial questions as I had been fearing this week. I am keen to not continue the categorisation, I am not trying to make this appeal to everyone, but I want to break down the idea that difference of grouping is what separates us. I don't want my audience to feel I am putting them in a non-queer category, I want them to question what one they place themselves in. Categories of sex and gender are constructs I don’t wish to further. I want the audience to access their own queerness. I want this trans* and queer history to matter to everyone, however they identify.

Questions floating around:

-What’s my history? What do I need to grieve/remember/mourn?

-How can mourning our past help our future?

-How can I see the audience as individuals with individual histories?

- How has medicine been used to infiltrate and categorise the human body?

- How can witnessing be transformative? How can mourning be transformative?

- How can mourning/grieving be an act of self-love?

- How do I let go of stigma/internalised shame?

-How can there be a space for them to explore their otherness, and space for me to be visible/allow my voice to be heard?

-How automatically will people consider their own queerness and what needs to be explicit to not create an “us and them” dynamic?

 

Laura also got me thinking about how I look in the space:

  • what's the transformation? (of me)
  • Am I wearing the same thing the whole way through or do I transform slowly throughout?

 

Having a microlab with Rachel then helped me unpick the aesthetic I had used in the sharing. The more we experimented and talked, the more I began to see how much there was in what I’d chosen.

-What am I on, a table, plinth, trolley, stand, stage?

-Are the audience standing?

-What is the box around the table, a threshold? What's it made of?

-How to get an audience to respond to a space without instruction?

-Bring the bureaucracy in to the space.. surveys?

-Accumulative durational? (audience build up throughout performance time, start to actually create a physical space longer than the performance time - repeated actions?)

-An invited action? (asking the audience to cross the threshold in some way, inspiration from Trilogy)

 

Before next sharing:

thinking about      the live(d)

if we only see from where we're at (Bruger)

then i must work on my self-view

and ask others to do so in order to change

how they view me

(because respecting how I view myself aids my/our self-love)

 

Got Gomez-Pena books and Exposure by Ron Athey out of the library, as well as the Choreographer’s handbook - to help with actions. Continuing bringing research in to the room, allowing a visceral response to research, listening to the anger, and making in exploration of the different questions arising. Outdoor sharing. Using the form on space to think about my aesthetic. As well as taking time for things to sink in!