Below is an edit of a recent (unsuccessful) application that I found whilst clearing space on my computer to make space for cat photos. I thought it might be useful to share as I remember it was quite a good one to write, a kind of- Fuck it-I’m going to be myself in this one kind of one. I find myself at a point where I can’t face writing another (unsuccessful) application and decided a while ago to quietly take myself outside of the game for a little bit, have a little breather. It’s nice over here by the way, come and say hi sometime! It’s not just the (unsuccessful) applications, its all the rest of it, you know; the low status of the artist, the pay, the structure of touring work, dealing with venues, the discrimination, the systemic undervaluing of the arts, the low status of the artist, the pay….
This post isn’t a conclusion on anything (soz), isn’t a moany goodbye or a call to arms (I’m a bit too knackered for either tbh) but I thought it might be good to put into words what I see some of my peers and I wading through quite a bit at the moment. It’s quite refreshing for me to read the application at the moment, because I think it does actually capture something of the spark of that elusive WHY? Why we make, why we feel that need and drive to create, the force or the itch that just won’t quit, often beyond our better judgement. Also, it reminds me about carving out your own path, that there is no rule book, that if the application is (unsuccessful) and you need to make the work, then you probably will.
I am reminded of a conversation recently with the interstellar Jo Bannon. (Go see her show. It’s called We Are Fucked https://weareunlimited.org.uk/commission/jo-bannon-we-are-fcked/)We met for lunch a while ago. We hadn’t seen eachother in ages. We dispensed with the platitudes and got stuck in. We were both having a bit of a shit time. Life stuff. Important stuff. The art stuff, well, it didn’t get a capital. We mused on the scarcity of women live artists over 40, especially those with kids. We talked about how we used to wonder Why did they jump ship? How could the industry retain them? Should we launch a crusade? We discussed our friends who’d left the arts to have fulfilling careers in gardening, business, OTHER THINGS. They seem to be happy, earning money! Imagine that. Maybe they didn’t need retaining. Maybe they’re the sensible ones.
That hour and a half with my dear friend refreshed me so much; amazing what a coffee and a cackle can achieve in tricky times. So, here’s a bit of that application, hope you like it. I doubt it’ll be the last, but it was the last before I discovered I quite liked sitting in the garden doing very little for a while.
My heart sinks as I scrabble round the mac for the latest, most dynamic, spot on bio that really nails what I do. You know, the one that’s pithy, personable but professional. Third or first person, which do you prefer? The thing is, I have piles of these statements but for me, they just don’t cut it anymore. I’m changing, I’m aging, I’m growing. I am growing away from trying to fit boxes that just aren't fit for purpose; whether these be Performance Artist or the Patriarchy (hey, no bigee). I’m growing into trying on others for size:
I make performance. Historically this has incorporated facilitating work based around my practice so that other people can access their own creativity; providing safe space for exploration, risk taking and expression for people (especially women) who are socially isolated. I have directed this creativity in the form of performance, cabaret, creation of a graphic novel, performance to camera work and many other forms. I have done this alongside my own performance practice. This work is important to me. It has enriched and changed the lives of many. I am fierce for this work. However, this year, through working on my show Cannonballista it became obvious that my inner Artist was yelling for some space of her own and she just wouldn’t shut up. I kept making plans that somehow gave her very sensible parameters. She somehow kept tearing them down.
So, after some embarrassing showdowns, I listened; and I made some radical changes. I separated my socially engaged practice from my performance making, realising I could give the two very separate, very different energies to both. I said ‘No’ to gigs and projects that didn’t enrich me (Can I get a badge for that?)
I got some support in. I now have a company manager (the staggeringly capable SK) and carved out more hours for my producer. I make use of regular professional development supervision and have a participant liaison person who manages the socially engaged aspect of my work, so I can begin to focus on making my own work. All of these people are passionate women juggling motherhood and career.
I would use this time as ……………….. to nurture, enrich and hone my practice; sniffing around boundaries, nudging at them, pushing them down, rebuilding them at different angles, angles that are fit for purpose for this new world that seems achingly close. Asking big questions and spending time thinking what My answers are. My work has incorporated more critical thinking and response in recent years. My current project I’m Bitter About Glitter is a work around gender, identity and the all-encompassing experience of artist parenting. I am devising a queer cabaret piece for Beacons Icons & Dykons with my 9 year old son. The work explores our relationship within the context of wider social issues, especially the politics of the personal. My research around these and other themes has appeared in LADA study guides and Performance Research Journal. This linking in performance and critical thinking is key for me at the moment and I would like to explore this much further.
In ……………….. I would like shed the fear that says that “You can’t do that” I want to twiddle knobs and make noises that make buildings shake. In October 2017 I happened to see John Bence support Tim Hekker at the Firestation, Bristol. I was entranced, horrified, scared and enthralled by the theatricality and pure performance of this man’s output. He was a relative unknown, he took the stage unassumingly, most of us thought he was the technician… and proceeded to scramble my mind as to the potential of sound in performance. Since then the possibilities of sound design/ installation and the possibilities for my work have tantalised me.
Above all though, I want to write. I want to write and write and write. I am a writer. I fear that if I start writing I may never stop, and end upburnt to a crisp somewhere as a cautionary tale in the style of Angela Carter, or the Baba Yaga. I want to step into those big writer shoes and claim them. I want to take them on long hikes through varying and tricky terrain. I want to learn more structure, more discipline, more tricks. I want to write for myself, for other people and for reflection during …………. I have approached PH to offer occasional contact throughout ……………. PH’s work is dark and surprising, his fiction makes me gasp, recoil, but always turn the page. We have collaborated in the past on performance writing projects. We have a shared love of abandoned spaces and the hidden underbellies of society………..
I see …………… not about output, but as time to step back, recalibrate and strengthen my practice. I have resisted the urge therefore to add in performances; focussing instead on experimentation time, space to reflect and nurture. Expect quiet writing. Expect massive noise.
Hardly surprising that it was an (unsuccessful) application but I enjoyed re-reading it. Hope you did too.