If you want to create something, having the right tools, the rights skills and the right space to do it in are all helpful things to have. Some would argue these are essential. A gardener growing vegetables should have a fresh plot of dirt and maybe a shovel. A cook should have a bench and a knife and some knowledge of how different foods work together. A painter should have a blank surface and – you get the picture.
Having an empty space which we can borrow, to do this project in has definitely helped our creative process. And being able to do classes in a state-of-the-art circus school has definitely been inspiring for generating ideas about what could possibly be done given the right conditions. It’s fun to imagine what crazy projects could be done with an infinite budget, infinite resources, an infinitely high ceiling and infinite amounts of energy. (I’d personally arrange to have gravity removed and shoulders which I could rotate through 360 degrees.)
But budgets are inevitably tight, Australia doesn’t have a competitive market for geodesic domes apparently, the ceiling at studio 246 is about 5m high and I can’t do more than one pull up at a time…The dome might have to be less geodesic, and more triangular. Instead of an impressively high aerial rig, we will have to make do with being low to the ground. Instead of infinite hours in an empty studio, we train/rehearse/experiment wherever we can. In my case, that’s been in the park or my bedroom doorway:
Disaster? Hardly. The constraints push and pull out new ideas just as much (I think) as having infinite supplies of everything. Guerrilla garden boxes would not exist if every household had access to big vegie patches in the inner-city. I’d never have discovered that you can make chocolate mousse out of tofu if I hadn’t had to make a vegan desert.
Given the constraints we’re working with, Ether won’t be what we imagined it would be, but the new ideas which rush in to surprise us are what makes it exciting.
Last week brought a heady winter cold into my body, demanding me to stop, slow down and recuperate. That is difficult to negotiate when your brain is still racing with ideas and somehow your body can’t keep up. I tried all the home remedies, tea concoctions of ginger, honey, lemon and turmeric or shots of olive leaf extract or high doses of vitamin c. But it lingered for days none the less. I was determined to kick the phlegm monster in the ass my the end of the weekend and when I received the offer to participate in a sweat lodge by a dear friend I knew I had to follow the outstretched hand.
I hadn’t done a lodge in over ten years and the last time was with a crew of women back in Canada. It seemed like a distant memory and so my expectations were limited to these hazy images and long-lived sensations.
I arrived at the 40 acres out of Daylesford and to the dark fireside at sunset to discover that I was the only female participating in the ritual. Me and 8 men. Ok. Right. Embrace this moment Devon. This is trying to tell you something. The fire took ages to fully become alive, I’m talking 3 hours, so in that time the crew of men and I got to know each other, swapping stories of children, travels and food. And by the time we were able to enter the lodge I had relaxed into a state of feminine sanctuary driven mostly by the respect the men were offering me.
The heat and stink and intensity of the next few hours defies words. My heart was elevated to the point where it felt like my neck was going to burst open and spray my life blood on the cold earth. My fingers tingled and with every touch to my leg or the earth or my neighbours hand i saw sparkles of energy dance before my eyes. The sound of the powerful owls that were perched in the nearby gums softened my anxiety and kept me rooted in the moment. I kept having to fight off the urge to escape, to ease the uncomfortable tightness in my chest with a gulp of fresh winter air…. and finally near the end of the ceremony i snuck out to the fireside for a moment, leaving the men inside for a time and there i sat in solitary mediation…the stars and the milky way spinning in their glory above me. i felt my soft female thighs against the earth and looked down at my breasts and smiled….i felt the divine female flowing through me and quietly thanked her.
How does this all relate to Ether? there’s no denying that to create means to draw on all aspects of your life; real, imagined or manifested. Since this experience on the weekend I have spent time looking for the link the spark for the development of our show.
I struggled and endured mad physical and emotional intensity and survived the tale.
And i was smacked in the face with the necessity to embrace my feminine and exalt in my goddess. I mean… 8 to 1… and i was ok.
Now to harness these lessons and apply in our development. yee ha…
It’s hard to sit down with yourself, and make something, even when the ideas are there.
If I don’t have real things to distract me, like dishes or tightening my brake cables, and I sit down, then my thoughts zoom from one corner of my mind to the other, solving maths problems or practising a difficult conversation I need to have or imagining elaborate daydreams about friends. When those distractions finally peter out, my ideas back themselves up around the edges of my mind, like teenagers on the sides of an empty dance-floor, avoiding the smooth floorboards and shitting themselves.
It’s even harder to do that with someone else.
When Devon told me the story of her twin pregnancy, in a bar, shouting over the beats of a 2am DJ set, I was astonished and despite the hours of drinking, somewhat sobered. When we agreed later that summer to make something together, inspired by her experience, I was enthusiastic.
Enthusiasm’s good for getting a job done, or getting other people interested in what you’re doing. But enthusiasm alone isn’t what drives the need to express something – the drive is a spiky mixture of all sorts of ingredients (which can be discussed around a dinner table, or dare I suggest it…another blog), one of which is being able to relate to what you’re expressing. I’m not a twin, and have never been pregnant with (or without) twins, so whilst I empathise with Devon about her story, I can’t really relate to it. Obvious, but I didn’t really think it would be an issue. And maybe a small part of me thought that telling someone else’s story would be easier and less scary than telling my own.
But the dance-floor turned into a battleground (in my head) and then it just disappeared altogether. No dancers, not even scared ones and worst of all, no floor: a creative nightmare.
Luckily, what we’re making has turned into something about more than twin pregnancies alone. The more we interview twins, or read their stories, the more I’m finding things I can relate to: the idea of duality and how attractive but restrictive it is, working out who we are in relation to other people and most importantly, how we connect to others, the desire for the connection and how we sometimes loath the connection, and more will come I’m sure.
Phew, the dancers are back.
I am learning to push my body and am now reminding myself daily that you are often only limited by what your mind believes. I am discovering that I am a body, whole and sound, capable of eliciting emotion and conveying purpose though my kinetic expression.
I am a mother of a very active three-year old. I spend a lot of time being buried under pillows or roaring like a dragon or collecting sticks in the bush. I also run a restaurant and am constantly needing to nurture my staff and the space as it grows and feeds the masses. This is part of my wonderfully full life but it also means i am limited in my time of creative meditation. So I have learned the art of micro creation….in the shower, those ten minutes( i know i said ten…we’re not in a drought anymore…and i love my showers) I fall into a meditative state and discover a spark of inspiration. With my drives to Melbourne for rehearsal i have an hour and twenty minutes to try to tame that spark into a concrete premises to present at the Studio and Naomi. And as much I know I would love the luxury of hours daily to work on my craft, I am also finding the act of focussed creation….allowing the muse to flow in heartbeat moments…a strangely active and instinctual way of developing work.
But then how do you take these snapshots of ideas and turn them into a whole experience? The sound of a heartbeat, the image of an extended shadow, a slow-moving dance….Where is the thread that stitches these concepts together? Research and exposure to new work is integral. It allows you to develop a critical eye and a vocabulary for your own work.
I trawl the internet and read books voraciously. And i sometimes stumble upon an idea that acts as a needle, sewing my burbling thoughts into a neat line. Last week, I found one of those in video artist Candice Breitz’ work called Factum; a video installation of interviews with 10 sets of identical twins. Each video lasts for at least an hour and is a wonderful pastiche of honesty and candour on the part of the interviewees. It was fascinating to watch.
It was also like I was viewing one of my ideas coming to life on the screen. I had been toying with this concept of interwoven monologues for weeks and with Miss Breitz’ work was able to see how it might play out. And it was like the hazy film surrounding this concept was lifted. I am looking forward to playing with my interwoven monologues this week at rehearsal. Thank you Candice Breitz. I was humbly inspired.
Slowly we are identifying it. And i am discovering you must trust in the process.
I went to buy cloth this week, to make a mock-up of our costumes and my thoughts darted around the shop, coming to rest on different bolts of cloth:
I’d been looking for calico. It’s plain and simple material – upon which anything could be projected, out of which anything could be created and represented…that’s what cloth does, doesn’t it? It broadcasts our differences, our similarities, our tastes, our insecurities, our roles, our battles, our status…to varying degrees of accuracy – focus.
Calico. How much did I need again? –is calico really that simple? I went to a naked tour of an exhibition at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art a few months ago, led by Stuart Ringholt. Naked in the sense that he had no clothes on and neither did we. His point in setting these conditions was to remove all material barriers between the audience and the artwork. He argued that all material, including clothing, is a culmination of complex processes of creation and to have this present in a gallery detracts from the creative complexity that has gone into the artwork. Given that I spent more time looking at the interesting bodies in the room than the artwork, I don’t know if his conditions had the desired effect (or maybe I’m just a pervert). He did make an interesting point though, about the complexity of cloth itself, which seems to get overlooked…
… in particular by those who ruminate excessively over what cloth represents. Five metres of not-so-simple calico went into my bag and home to the sewing machine…
We have begun.
Naomi and I have started rehearsing in a studio weekly and taking the leap of faith needed into this journey is proving to be equally frightening and invigorating.
Over the last few weeks, we have been interviewing twins, both identical and fraternal, child and adult, and the parents of twins. Their candour and enthusiasm has been nourishing and their reflections have proved a hearty meal for our rehearsals and imaginations. We have discovered that the search for identity within the constructs of the twin blood tie seems to be an overwhelmingly recurring theme in our interviews. We had already begun developing Ether around this premises however to have it reaffirmed is quite exciting.
Generally this week…Playing with fabric, trying to find a dome, dropboxing from country to city, finding a lighting designer www.juliaknibbs.com and attempting to compartmentalise my life effectively….
It has only just begun.
let the good times roll…..