I’ve published the paragraphs below in my November newsletter, thinking of Witnessed in Translation*—a performative experiment I’ve been conducting this fall with Mary Pearson and Team. (see here for detail) As paragraphs come, the ones below are quite raw. I decided to share them in order to see if their sharing inspires (affords) continued exploration on my part into the particular kind of reflective, reflexive writing. All of this, in other words, is an exercise. An experiment, if you will.
disclaimer: I write the following, I think the following, I am interested in the following because I work with a non-verbal medium (dancing) in the professional context of art-making that tends to concern itself with experiment-conducting and knowledge-creation. (dancing)—it being a live arts medium—operates within the paradigm that instrumentalises duration as one of its key restrictions. Put simply, my study emerges from the awareness that in my professional capacity I continually challenge private individuals not only by exposing them to abstraction, but by remaining in control of the relative length of exposure to said abstraction. That I remain in control of the relative length of exposure to said abstraction makes something between me, the artist, and one, the member of the public, complicated. What follows is a short examination of one approach to the question, What complicates this relationship?
In part, the making of this project* is driven by the question, How much of what makes my identity is (actually) under my control? I frequently find myself dreaming about the role, influence risk and hope play in performance, in performing, in making meaning, in communication.
I speak, think, draw, dance because I care. In showing that I care—by featuring care in public—I am taking the risk of exposing in public (!) both myself and whatever it is that I care for at that moment. The risk is in the fact that I am engaging in the activity willingly, knowing that I am in no control of the way in which any of the witnesses present—remember, we are in a public forum—will choose to approach me and my engaging in this activity (assuming that they can, indeed, make a choice). Will they find a reason to care? Will the activity spark their curiosity? What if they refuse the activity? What if they refuse their curiosity? Because they find it uncomfortable? What if, in their discomfort, they get triggered? What if… they simply cannot muster the motivation to attend to care with care, with a willingness or readiness to witness, whether or not they can relate… to any of it? In real time.
The work that I’m engaging in requires that all the questions written here be asked but left unanswered; especially those questions that concern the real-time-response to the activity I, the artist, am engaging in in public. That they be left unanswered does not mean that no answers to the questions are to be provided. On the contrary, more than a single answer is needed for any of these questions to become meaningful, knowledge-formulating questions.
Another stream of possibly interesting questions follows:
How is this reaction to the work I’ve engaged in informative of our shared capacity to attend to each other’s interests? Each other’s capacities? If the work I’ve engaged in is accepted, what does that acceptance enable, what does it afford? What kind of a conversation, for example, will I be able to have with the person who responded to the risk I took positively? If, on the other hand, the work I’ve engaged in is refused, what does that refusal enable, what does it afford? What kind of a conversation, for example, will I be able to have with the person who responded to the risk I took negatively?
I single caring out, I am interested in care or caring because caring is technical, it requires skill. Identity, in comparison, is content. Neurodiversity, content. Queerness, content. All other content, content. Content requires consideration, content requires contemplation, content requires conversation, content necessitates relationship. That content is a thing of relationship means that in considering content, we share responsibility. That caring is a thing of skill means that in the way of caring, the responsibility is my own.
Simultaneously: whilst I am engaging in the activity of caring in public, I am aware of the fact that exposure in itself is stressful, it occupies my attention; that caring itself is tender, it occupies my attention; that whatever it is that I care for is my focal point, it motivates me, it moves me; it occupies my attention.
Even when my caring in public is my experienced caring in public, I can never guarantee that—however experienced—my caring will be recognised (evaluated) as such… in real time. I write this not only as an experienced artist who continues to have the experience of my experience being mistaken for my naïveté, but as a neurodiverse person who continues to have the experience of having my medical diagnosis undermined; as a queer person who continues to have the experience of having my queerness unacknowledged, undervalued, or disregarded; as a child of war who continues to have the experience of having my experience of being born in a country that doesn’t exist rendered meaning-less, i.e. void of complexity and worth.
Taking all the experience into account, I am convinced that I should continue to be impossible for me—the professional artist—to guarantee that my caring will be recognised (evaluated) in any one way at any one time. The moment I become able to guarantee an outcome in the context of live arts is the moment all possibility of a functional (critical) relationship between individuals is rendered unthinkable.
I am encouraged by the fact I keep recognising instances in the paragraphs above, or evidence of assumption. I assume some of the words or concepts I introduce in my writing to mean very specific things. In recognising that I am making assumptions, I am recognising the reason to continue writing, to expand and extrapolate, and make language to hold the space of experience whilst explaining my motivation.
Somewhere in there, I think, exists a hypothesis that concerns performativity and power in performance, a critical reflection perhaps on the meaning, the value of embodiment. Somewhere in there, I think, there is detail that speaks about ethics in performance making, a critical reflection on the way Cartesian, colonial values continue to condition the field of possibilities in “the creative West” today.
written by pavleheidler
in Stockholm, 2022-12-10