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:
empowered by choice to be more masculine
the opposite of aversion therapy
more options the better
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
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.