Dramaturgical Analysis, Fragmentary Response, history, personal, Politics

nic green’s trilogy, naked bodies, badass babes and a feminist heritage

trilogy crowd

Trilogy

A before thought:

I’d been told Trilogy was like a festival; a joyous, celebratory riot of female flesh.

I needed that. I bought a ticket instantly.

The last few weeks have been awash with general-purpose sorrow. Perhaps it is just the cold sinking in through my always-too-thin clothes (I never learnt to layer) or perhaps the constant grey above me just seeped in.

But there was something else: I’ve been grieving my body.

I used to berate my body constantly. I was young then and just learning to live out of home, just working out how to feed myself and who I was without a school uniform.

I remember being pretty confident in my body for a while there. Not ‘confident’ so much as ‘unthinking’. Then I emerged from teenage-hood and took off my clothes for cameras and things change. My body changed – I got thin and sleek and hairless – but I also became much more aware of it. I saw myself from every angle. And it was mostly a good sight although I still apologised to photographers every time I took off my clothes:

“Sorry, I just ate lunch.”

“That’s okay.”

“Thank you. Sorry, again.”

But I’m learning something about aging and bodies: accepting your body isn’t a one-time thing. You don’t make peace with it once at twenty-two, tick that off your list and get on with your life. For some of us – perhaps all of us, I don’t know – as your body changes you need to accept it again and again.

And again.

Hello, Body

This is who you are right now, hey?

Yeah

This is who I am right now

You good with that?

Working on it

Same

 

My colleague told me the work filled her up. Re-plenished her. I wanted that.

I want a lot of re- words in my life right now:

Restore, renew, recharge, reward, replenish, reinvigorate, requestion, re-forgive, re-embrace.

Those are some big ‘re’s to ask of a piece of theatre.

trilogy five

Trilogy

A during thought:

Watch me swing from emotion to emotion

Beaming

Crying

Beaming again

I oscillate wildly

Eyes and mouth wide

 

The sight of those bodies

Dozens and dozens of them

A mass of joy and fearless flesh

Filled me up

 

The total miracle that a woman’s body is

Not just because it can ‘be life’

(Although, what a privilege it was to see one of the makers perform pregnant)

But because it bares her

Bodies that carry women through this world

Holy shit

trilogy kicks

Trilogy

The first act culminates in an incredible dance party. At interval we wondered at the positioning of this moment so early in the piece: you couldn’t top that. We had simply never seen anything like it. How could any sight or words match it as a final image?

By the end of the work I knew why we started with this dance of pure delight.

As a feminist and female artist, I often ask myself how do I tell stories of female victimisation without making females the victims. Over the course of the next two acts we saw incredible footage of Norman Mailer attempting repeatedly to silence and shame Jill Johnston (“Come on, Jill. Be a lady.”), we heard grief, rage and truly terrible statistics on sexual violence. I cried when the performers intoned ‘2016’ again and again. The number seemed suddenly so very big, the years so innumerable and yet here we are, still hurting. Still being hurt.

But the overall feeling that one takes from this work is joy, strength and power. The performer never appear disempowered. They are whole-heartedly empowered, their bodies strong, their voices loud, their vision clear, their heritage known.

Women are gutsy motherfuckers. So why did they start with the biggest single image in the show? We needed to set a tone of love, courage, joy and strength. They started by stating a fact: women and their bodies are badass. Got it? Good. Okay. Lets go.

 

An afterthought:

I left the theatre with the desperate urge to call my mother. The feminist who raised me, whose strong body and bore three feminist daughters, whose mind is fierce and whose heart is massive. I spoke to her at the bus stop. “I wish you had been there. I would have loved to see that with you.” Beside me, another woman was on the phone. “There was – like – fifty naked women! Dancing! And the singing! I wish you had seen it!” And I just knew she was talking to her mother too. This was a show that made you want to call your mum, share this with her and thank.

It made me want to thank a lot of women. And myself. And my body. It carries me through this world. What a miracle that is.

 

Feminism: demonstration for women's voting rights in London: Suffragette discharged by the police. - Published by 'Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung' 12/1906- 04.1906

London, 1906, Published by ‘Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung’

I saw Nic Green’s Trilogy at Artshouse in Melbourne. I thank them for programming this incredible and important work.

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audiences, conversation

in conversation: cupcakes, motor bikes, knitting nanas and reclaiming the streets

Part 2 of my conversation with Sayraphim Lothian and Robert Reid of Pop Up Playground (and many other things). This one is all Sayraphim and all about craftivism. What is craftivism? Short answer? Awesome. Long answer:  

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Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang

SFB: Last week someone asked me what a craftivist was and I tried to explain. I said ‘it is Sayraphim!’

Sayra: Well, nice and succinct, craftivism is using craft for activist purposes. That is the short and non-fluffy answer. It is about using craft to change the world, either change people’s perceptions of an issue or change someone’s world on a personal level; making someone’s day with a piece of craft or beautifying the world around you; reclaiming public space for the actual public rather than corporations or the government.

SFB: What is it about craft?

Sayra:  I can do it. One of my super powers is that I can make anything out of anything else. Craft is a way that I can create in the world. I’ve never been any good at drawing or painting but I’m awesome at knitting and sewing and crocheting and I drift towards the things that I’m good at, which sort of makes it sound like ‘well if I can’t paint then at least I can knit’ but it’s not really about that. It is more interesting and it’s more tactile and it’s 3D. I’m more interested in 3D than 2D stuff.

Sarah Corbett, who runs the Craftivist Collective in the UK, talks about just sitting in a public space and sewing. People come up and ask ‘oh what are you sewing?’ and then you can gently introduce them to the idea rather than standing there and shouting about things. It is a very domestic, approachable, gentle form of protest.

There is also a group called The Knitting Nanas Against Gas. They are a legion of older and younger women in New South Wales near Grafton who are protesting against the coal/gas seam and they go and knit, which completely disarms police and other protestors. They don’t really know what to do with these gentle old ladies who are sharing cake and knitting.

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Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang

And there’s an awesome one called The Knit Your Revolt Tricycle Gang. They are in Queensland where there are these incredible draconian laws that are referred to as ‘the Bikie Laws’. The government are trying to stamp down on motorcycle gangs so anyone who rides a motorcycle can be stopped. Anyone who has tattoos can be stopped. Anyone who associates with these people can also be stopped. So by you sitting here talking to me, you could be stopped by the cops because I have tattoos. So there are a couple of women who have decided that they are going to protest. They get tricycles and they yarn bomb them – cover them in crochet and stuff – and they have banners that say ‘I associate’ and they go and tricycle along next to these bikie gangs which I think is awesome and they’ve gotten a lot of press recently. They are bringing attention to these ridiculous bikie laws in a really fun, tongue-in-cheek way. These grown women riding around on children’s tricycles with all these bikies! I love it! I’m a proud member too. I got my Knit Your Revolt gang patch and I’m just deciding what to sew it to.

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For You Strange, Sayraphim Lothian

I do craftivism on a much more personal level. When I leave stuff out on the street, like the For You Stranger cupcakes, it changes the day of the person. The niceness behind it ripples out through the photos. People see it online and they get heart warmed and the photos get shared. I’m making the world a nicer place one hand-crafted item at a time.

I didn’t actually think it was craftivism at first because it is such a new thing. It is still evolving and still trying to understand what it is. Betsy Greer coined the term in 2003. I was a big fan of her work but I’d never really thought of my work as craftivism until she contacted me September, 2012. I was walking down a London street and an email came in from Betsy Greer – and you’re like ‘Fuck! Betsy Greer!’ – saying that she’s putting together the first book on Craftivism and she wants me to write a chapter for it and I went ‘I will do that!’ And since then there’s been a lot of talk about what craftivism means and the ideas have expanded out.

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Yarn Bombing as anti-war protest. The squares are contributed by crafters in Denmark, the US and England as a protest about their countries involvement in the Iraqi war. It’s called M.24 Chaffee by Danish artist Marianna Jorgenson.

The other one is beautifying public space. Reclaiming it. Mainly yarn bombing. Yarn bombing is knitting thing and crocheting around trees and stuff and a lot of people don’t like it because they see it as street art for chicks. Although I’m a bit bored of it because it has been around for a while and it is a very safe form of street art (and councils are using it, which pretty much mainstreams it right there), I think it is a really low barrier for entry for street art; for changing your environment and re-claiming public space as your own space. So I think it is great. It is such an easy way for people to go out and add something to their environment so I’m all for it.

Thanks once again to Sayraphim, Rob and Sarah for her proof reading. Also a look at this gorgeous video of Sayra talking about her art:

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Yarn Bombing, uncredited

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audiences, conversation, Theatre

in conversation: on joy, magic, accessibility and dropping your thing

Programming note: I love interviewing couples. I barely have to speak and they riff off each other, enthuse together and are just generally cute (in a frighteningly intellectual way, of course). One of the first things that I recorded for this conversation was Sayraphim saying to Rob “when I first met you years ago, you said people just got dragged along in your wake and you turned to me and you grinned manically and you said ‘so keep up’.” Rob counters that “for more than a decade, she has. The only person in the world who has managed to. Hence, getting married. And now I’m slowing down and you’re only getting faster, which is good.” Don’t you just want to force a meditation retreat on them and watch them explode?

So this is part one of my conversation with Robert Reid and Sayraphim Lothian. It is broken into three parts. So keep up. 

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‘This is a door’, 2012 at Theatre Works. Photography by Sarah Walker.

SFB: Both of you have a really strong focus on joy and making work that is accessible; that will improve peoples’ days, engage them or get them really excited. Can you talk a bit about that? Why joy?

Sayra: Why should artists share joy?

Rob: Well Sayra can talk more to the joy aspect of it. My focus is the immediate experience. Experiencing the moment in the now!

As an audience member, I find that I’m very aware of the exclusion that happens. It is two thousand years old… well actually you could argue that it is only in the last two hundred years that the audience has been pretending that they don’t exist. I find that an odd thing and a misrepresentation of what I think performance is for, which is a ritualised social event: we all come together to support this story, to tell this story, to listen to this story. When you are shut out of that process you lose a lot of the benefits. Theatre comes with a set of rules that say ‘you sit there and do this’. Recently we have been working on trying to turn theatre into more of a game –

Sayra: Since we met. Awww.

Rob: Yes, since we met! ‘Games’ and ‘play’ imply a lack of complexity. In particular the rules of games reduce abstract experiences down to very structured ways of experiencing a moment, which tend to reduce or at least trap complexity in one particular form whereas improvisation or ‘play’ onstage create a space for emergent complexity without having to formalise it.

What I don’t like about things like the live art experience is that the live art experience promises you agency and doesn’t deliver it.  It says ‘you will have this immersive experience exactly the way that I (the artist) say you must have it.’ Bollocks to that! If you’re going to put me through a thing that is immersive and give me that experience, I want to be a part of that experience, rather than a subject of it.

Sayra: It’s important that your participation matters. In live art, you have the same experience as I will have, as everybody else will have. In games, whatever you decide is important because it changes the game. Nobody else has your experience.

Rob: And I suppose the thing about the live moment, as opposed to the repeated moment or the rehearsed moment, (Sayra chimes in: Nice!) is that in the rehearsed or repeated moment you are trying to re-vivify or give life to something that the life has already fled from. That notion of ‘for the next two hours we are going to craft and sculpt exactly how these hundred and twenty minutes occur’. It is an interesting notion of sculpturing time and reality. With the games what you do is facilitate people to sculpt the Now, which is not the same as sculpting reality. Theatre re-creates. I think it was Meredith Rogers who used to say ‘it ain’t art until you can repeat it’ and I don’t know about that! It ain’t a product until you can repeat it.

The people who come to your event should be involved in your event, not excluded from your event. It is not enough for me anymore and frankly was never enough, to simply be a witness to the process of making art. I want to be a part of the process of making art, even if it is only in a minimal way.

To Sayra: Talk about joy!

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‘This is a door’, 2012. Theatre Works. Photography by Sarah Walker

Sayra: When you were younger, the whole world was populated by magic and creatures and fairies and trees had personality and when you grow up you sort of lose that and you think about bills and you do your 9-5 job and there’s not really enough space for all that imagination in the same way anymore. So that’s what I’m interested in bringing back.

One of the things that I’m interested in is allowing people to run around in their imagination. That’s why in the games we have shitty cardboard props as opposed to mocking up perfect swords or whatever. Cardboard props invite you to participate.

Rob: It provides a blank enough space for you to fill in the actual details, which makes your brain actively part of the process. You’re engaging a very different part of your brain when you sit down and watch something. It is cooler and more critical, closer to Brecht’s smoking theatre, which is all well and good and very useful and very interesting and is very, very, very well served by the theatre in Australia at the moment. What we do doesn’t engage that part of your brain. It engages the part of your brain that’s going ‘what’s that going on over there? Who’s that guy over there? Oo, I’ve dropped my thing!’ Sayraphim laughs. What? Did I – Oh, it was cute.

Sayra: Very cute.

SFB: Yeah, it was cute, sorry. That part of your brain. The ‘I’ve dropped my thing’ part of your brain.

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‘2.8 Hours Later’, Leeds.

Rob: Well it is true! I’ve told the story of 2.8 Hours Later, haven’t I? There are zombies – actors who I know are actors – but I feel actual fear and elation like I am running from actual zombies.  Adrenaline doesn’t know the difference.

Sayra: Rob had twisted his ankle really badly a couple of days before and he’d been limping around on it. So we’re sort of limping through Bristol. We come around the corner and there’s an actor dragging himself up, all covered in blood and stuff and – okay, I scream, I don’t know about you – and we run. Rob leaps down five stairs, lands on the ankle and keeps running and doesn’t feel it for three hours as we run through Bristol. Felt it the next day!

Rob: Yes. And this is after running for three hours, dancing like a teenager for all of a song and a half before remembering ‘actually I’m thirty-five’. Adrenaline takes over in those situations.

The way people remember playing these games or having these experiences – it is interesting when you listen to them relate those experiences – it’s not ‘today I played this and then we did that’ it is ‘tonight I was a Valkyrie. Tonight I dodged lasers. I was a jewel thief.’ It’s never ‘I pretended to do this’. You lose yourself in the experience. You’re completely absorbed in the task at hand. Whether that’s trying to trick other people into revealing their secrets to you or running from zombies, one way or the other it’s about achieving optimal experience. For most people that isn’t achieved by sitting and watching silently.

Sayra: And your butt gets sore and the guy next to you has nicked your armrest –

Rob: And what did that guy say while I was complaining about my armrest? To enjoy and experience traditional theatre properly, you have to be trained. Eighty percent of the population are not trained to experience – or to achieve optimal experience by going to the kind of professional theatre that happens in this country.

Thank you to Rob and Sayraphim for their beautiful words and minds. Thank you also to Sarah Walker for her proof reading and gorgeous photography. 

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‘This is a door’, 2012. Theatre Works. Photography by Sarah Walker

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