*******This is quite a navel gazy post, bae. You don’t have to read it. I’m just letting you know.*********
I’m not sure what this blog is for, maybe to assuage guilt?
I am at home (home is Birmingham) and I am procrastinating. I’ve had two weeks off of work, and next week I go back to a technicolour calendar – blue for the community project, pink for fat work (spread across three projects), mint green for prep for next years monster project –
I like looking at next years project like that. You’re not allowed to know what it is yet. Come back in October.)
– Yellow for Unemployment work, and orange for time off.
I’m not very good at taking time off. In every sense. I don’t use it very well when I have it, I don’t take it off regularly, or at all and I don’t especially like it. I don’t use it well because I don’t take enough off – if you take time off little and often, you can divide it into recovery time (sleeping, watching parks and rec, calling your mum), life admin time (cleaning, spending time with pets and calling your mum) and time to smell the roses/enjoy your life (seeing friends, travelling, art that costs money, missing calls from your mum). Cus I don’t take much time off, I only really ever do the first one, so my life is messy from lack of admin time, and sort of gently miserable due to lack of rose smelling. I don’t take it off regularly cus I’m paranoid about work – a gentle control freak, lots of ambition, obsessive qualities etc. Doesn’t make for a good first year of self employment. When I left Lush last year, my greatest stab of fear was not having Sophie (brilliant boss) in my life in an authoritative way anymore. She always knew how much time I needed, better than I did. Now I had to take that responsibility. I’ve not done well, but I will. And finally, I don’t like it… maybe because it leaves a void of unhappiness that I’ve wanted to avoid filling… a certain level of loneliness in Leeds, and in life, missing my parents and wider family, being unhappy in the house where I live, and the sort of issues that swirl around in Chewing the Fat –
(sidebar: people ask me quite a lot, how I feel about the issues in Chewing the Fat, if I’ve gotten anywhere since last February when I showed it as a work in progress. And it’s a question that always throws me… because Chewing the Fat wasn’t something that solved those issues, or gave me closure on them. It doesn’t really even pretend to, I think it ends on a big fat question mark. Which I’m kind of relieved about, artistically, cus I hope that means it isn’t therapy on stage… it doesn’t feel that way, it doesn’t end on catharsis, and I don’t get catharsis from doing it. I hate it as much as I love it. But hearing those questions made me realise I would like to work on them actually. Chewing the Fat is me moving away from caring what other people think about my body, moving away from my priority being the fitting of my body into someone else’s mould… but the food issues… they linger. I’d like to fix them. Doing Chewing the Fat doesn’t make me feel like I can do that. I’d like to finish touring the show, and then work though those issues, separately, in private. Chewing the Fat was consciously a solo show – but accidentally autobiographical. I only made it about me because I didn’t know how else to tell the truth as I saw it. But I don’t think I’d ever make a show of pure autobiography again. Even in the space of two years, I know I want more of a guard, more of a protection around myself than that.)
– and also because my self esteem is so married to my work. I love working! All of it. I’m living my dream, and very aware of being a couple of steps along on a thousand mile journey. I love making work and thinking about it, I want to be better and better at it and know all about what other people are doing and how. So putting the breaks on that is painful. Even when I was little, I always wanted a job I was consumed by… also, I like being on my own a lot. It’s complicated. If you’re on your own working, you’re not alone, or lonely. You’re working. There is no discomfort in that. Being alone without discomfort for large amounts of time takes work.
SO yeh, I got quite ill a little while ago, sort of like the plagues of Egypt attacking my body until I stopped. One friend, who’s an academic was in a sort of similar situation, and her analogy was that her brain was draining all her bodies resources, that she’d wake up one day, and just be ‘a really hench brain’ and nothing else. The perfect analogy for her! It made me giggle. But mine was plagues, just rolling illness after rolling illness, my body sort of screeching discontent at me, and the leaden, leaden weight of depression, mixed with the fizz of anxiety. If they were images, depression for me would be weights those big cartoonish ones, on each of my limbs, and head and heart so I’m sort of pinned to the bed, with my eyes popping out of the top. And the anxiety would be… little bugs all over and under my skin, and in my brain and throat. A bit like the ants in old boy I guess. So I stopped – more accurately my GP (a very stern man, he’s top ten) stopped me, and I came home.
What do I do with time off?
1) I sleep a lot. Even when I’m consistently getting 8 hours sleep a night, I still look forward to sleeping every night.
2) I cook a lot. Cooking for a family is more fun. Cooking with a full spice cupboard is HELLA fun.
3) Lots of music, and lots of music journalism. I like learning about how musicians work, especially rappers – which is odd, because I’m not even sure how much I like rap – I’m interested in where Kendrick Lamar chooses to work (small, dark, enclosed spaces), how Andre 3000 felt the first time he started recording in his home (“it didn’t start in the studio because if you have a bunch of people around, they’re coming from the party and I’m in there singing falsetto … those vibes didn’t match”), what was going on in Kanye’s head when he made Yeezus (he doesn’t really know, if he’s honest). I don’t have the money or desire to steal ideas from them… but I’m very interested.
4) I think a lot. Proper staring into space thinking, talking to myself. It’s nice to do that, and to remember that there’s a quiet core in here somewhere, to get back in tune with that…
(a friend told me recently that what was really interesting about being a solo artist was the fact that your practice was tied to your life – I can’t remember exactly how he worded it, eloquently because that’s how he rolls – but something along the lines of it starting and stopping with you. It can be easy to lose sight of that… because you’re balancing that quite beautiful artistic instinct with a much uglier, capitalist instinct… being a brand, selling things, building a rep and a profile so that work keeps going… but then I read this…
V.-THE CULT OF INNOVATION
The performance art field is obsessed with innovation and age, especially in the so-called “West,” where innovation is often perceived as synonymous with transgression, and as the antithesis of history. Performance defines itself against the immediate past and always in dialogue with the immediate future—a speculative future, that is. The dominant mythology says that we are a unique tribe of pioneers, innovators, and visionaries. This poses a tremendous challenge to us performance locos and locas. If we lose touch with the rapidly changing issues and trends in “the field,” we can easily become “dated” overnight. If we don’t produce fresh and innovative proposals, constantly reframe our imagery and theories, and rewrite our photo captions, so to speak, we will be deported into oblivion, while thirty others, much younger and wilder, will be waiting in line to replace us.
The pressure to engage in this ongoing process of reinvention (and in the U.S. of “repackaging”) forces some exhausted performance artists out of the rat race and others into a rock-and-roll type lifestyle—without the goodies and exaggerated fame, that is. Those who survive may very well feel like frustrated rockers. There’s absolutely nothing romantic about it. Only a handful are granted the privilege, like Bowie or Madonna in the equally merciless world of pop, of having several reincarnations.
*Brazilian performance artist Nara Heeman responds: “I see the need of being ‘connected’ to the field. But I feel quite sad with the perspective of being caught inside the cage of having to produce levitra in order not to be forgotten. I believe that if we define ourselves as performance artists within the highest cathegory we can reach, we might get stressed with the demands of the market. But if we define ourselves just as living beings this concern could become secondary.”
It’s from in defence of Performance Art by Guillermo Gómez-Peña. I don’t know if it applies to me – I’m definitely not saying it does actually! But it was an interesting thing to have bouncing around in my head, and interesting thing to look at in relation to my career and to the careers of others. And interesting that his comparison was to musicians. Hmm. Anyway.)
5) I watch loads of trash TV – don’t hate. Kevin Spacey says we’re in a golden age, you philistine.
6) Reading. I remember watching Stephen Fry being wanky about eating chocolate (I’m not sure if I like Stephen Fry, sue me) and saying that you should put a tiny square on your mouth, and let it all spread, give it time. I think that’s how I read. I can’t really read large amounts fast, but I can read small bits and think about them forever…I’m going to try and fit my reading habits to get more out of this, rather than continuing to force myself to read in that shitty uni way, where you absorb as much as you can as quickly as you can.
7) Planning. There’s a fuck ton of work to be done when I get back. It needs to be done purposefully, efficiently, etc.
8) Getting an allotment and planning that allotment. Berries and Kale and Peonies and Cider.
My loves, I am bored of myself now. I’m listening to Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, and Andre 3000 man. He’s not a man I can have on in the background and give less than 67% of my attention to.
Big Love to you.
I’m going to write two blogs soon (if I’m good) – Edinburgh, and what I’m doing in Autumn. This blog was for me, organising my thoughts, but those blogs will be for Emma, so she can market stuff.
Lots of people got in touch following the show to request a reading list of the various…