Lunchtime Talk at Kaleider

Monday 7th October.

Edited for a Lunch Time Talk at Kaleider on 11 October.

I wrote something to steer a pathway for myself. The idea of ‘doubt’ was the trigger for the writing and for the talk. I could deviate and lift my focus to the room but the writing was there to follow, to see me through. 

After a general introduction I began to read to the people around the table with my props for Life Forces laid out in front of me.

I said I would reflect on doubt.

After the Kaleider commission interview, I wrote to Nicki Tomlinson post the interview to say thank you for her generosity and support in the room. Part of her response:

‘I found your honesty and openness refreshing and to be honest am more drawn to that kind of approach than to being steam-rollered by swish marketing or a very sharp presentation. And all the good artists I know have doubt right at the centre of their practice. ‘

So I started to think about doubt and how doubt might be okay.

I’ve written 5 or six applications in the last 6 months that haven’t materialized into a structured opportunity.

‘I am so sorry to have to inform you that you have not been successful this year. My colleagues on the interview panel wanted to let you know, however that they appreciated the honesty in your approach and particularly the way in which your research is so embedded in your practice.’ Bonnie Bird Choreographic Research Fund.

‘Unfortunately we are unable to offer you a place on the Dancers’ Mentoring Programme this year. The panel needed to see more concrete examples of how you have assumed a leadership role in your dance career so far. Your application showed that you are a very experienced artist but we would suggest that you clarify clear objectives for what you would want to gain from having a mentor. The panel also wanted to encourage you to have more confidence in your writing and to avoid sentences such as; “I do not immediately think of myself as a leader”. Dance UK

‘I know this will be disappointing news but wanted you to know your application was considered to be amongst the stronger applications in such a competitive field. Unfortunately, we are not able to give feedback on individual applications.’          Jerwood Choreographic Research Fund

This isn’t unusual or even bad. It’s part of my job; to conceive ideas, to practice articulating them and to, in the process of dreaming them up, begin to care and to want to realize the thing one writes about. For me the work I make, that interests me, has movement at the centre of it but it’s not really about dancing. I’m interested in atmospheres and charged spaces, narrative threads that weave but that are not dominant. Interested in the detail in the movement of the body.

There is always an element of unknown, in the process, in my planning, in the work and in my being surrounding it.

The unknown is there in the work because there’s no script to follow.  It’s about the people in the room, the process, about excercising my intuitions and about the responsive and organic building and trusting that even when it’s very hard and I’m lost it is still deliberate.

The truth is that the work I make starts with me. I am at the core of it, there is a personal thrust, an urge as Melanie Wilson said several times on Tuesday night at her performance o Landscape II, for me I’m not sure it’s an urge, more of an unrest. Something grows in my mind, usually images, and I begin to think it, to become restless, write thoughts that don’t hang together, but the important thing is the whirring, if it starts then it grows. What is important is that it grows not with the centre being about ‘me’, it’s about something becoming wider, broader, more universal, not political even, but about trying to carve out a vision that is clear, economical, ultimately poetic and that is available for others to grasp somehow and to reach.

And as the Images grow my feelings come closer to the surface.

For the last few months I’ve been working on a new piece Life Forces in various residencies around the SW and SE.  Lastly in London in July through a research process called Choreodrome. I’m part way through a process, have a territory and a conviction but the work still needs development. ‘It’s a duet, with a man, an older man I hope, using still images from my father’s archive of slides, his camera, and digital projections and eventually scattered utterances spoken.  I work collaboratively, my collaborators are: (talk about my collaborators).

I haven’t seen these pictures since July. They’re part of my current research. I’m interested in photographs captured in time in relation to projections, animations not rooted in time in the same way.

I’m interested in light. In Ways of seeing.

The bulb

This is the bulb from the 60s. It worked when I first took the machine from the attic and then it blew. The new ones are hard to find and not as beautiful.

Show slides. X 6 on the projector, talk about them and let myself be guided by the revisiting.

Reading again.

The being in the moment, in the room, it’s the seeing, listening, responding, being alive to the process that matters. How to make a good piece of work is another thing.

Pausing because it doesn’t quite flow here, I’m repeating myself and from the reading aloud I know I am. 

Now I’m practicing relying on my liveness of attention, I’m also cheating because I’m reading.

It’s the process of looking of seeing, of perceiving, it’s how I work out how to make choices. I have to keep opening, keep opening myself up to the noticing even if it’s uncomfortable.

So why is doubt so present. because I’m nearly always scared. The fluctuating of trusting my instincts, knowledge of certain routes traced, knowledges aquired, what I do and do not know, tastes I’ve developed, there is some ground here but still… it’s the process of ‘doing’ that reveals the questions, reveals the points of tension, it has to be ‘in the doing’.

The doing reveals what is not known, reveals the questions, how to do something I don’t know how to do. It isn’t the same process as writing a pitch, learning the words, being certain when mostly I am not certain. And as artists we have to convince people. To learn how to convince them.

Ideas for the future. Because they asked me to consider this

I don’t have lots of ideas. I grow little things sometimes slowly sometimes not. I get excited about trying this with this, that with this. What things ‘do’ when coming together. The unexpected connections. Taking the time to see what things do. Not rushing. The simple act of attention is what I value.

I don’t have a long list of projects I want to make in 30 years time. When I’ve seen Life Forces through, made a piece of work I can look someone in the eye and say ‘I’ve explored this, I’ve done the work’ ‘it’s the best I can do right now’ then I want to make a film again. The last film I made was in 2010.

The work, when it’s made can then go and meet people traveling in an envelope and not need to be taken on a trolley or carried hurting my back which happened recently meaning I lost the first two days rehearsing from wrestling with a precarious travel on the train.

In the future… If I am to be truthful, I don’t think I will live until I’m old, this is what I sense.

But if there is a 30 years time I hope I will still feel the unrest, the intensity of concentration and powerful immersion I feel when I place my body directly in question with my moving, It is the most I can wish for that I will still want to try to do it, here, with people. Maybe my work will get smaller and smaller, this is an instinct, I am drawn to small things, yet it’s as much about the organic journey, one piece of work being re-explored in different ways for a few years, then a new obsession.  I am glad I cannot predict the obsession.

Show music box. Talk about this is a present from my dear friend Jules Maxwell. How I’ve never used it. We pass the paper around, punch holes and make a piece of music. I read the below passage during this because I realize it takes time to punch the holes.

On dancing.

It’s the liveness of moving, of being sensitisesd to my surroundings, my body in relation to space and surface, my emotions softly rising under my skin, my skin aware of touch, the awareness of acheing, stiffer limbs, ageing, of the task to interrupt the patterns, to disarm myself, to test myself, to tease my preferences somewhere new, how lazy am I in this physical searching, or not.

When I move, I am no longer me, at the same time I am more of me. I do not care about the whys I follow many different tuggings of provocation. I do not doubt myself here. I understand that it is all alright.

To lift it into the permanent, translate it into something, or talk about the state of this immersion this is once again difficult for me.

I lost my confidence here.. things started to fall away, I don’t think I spoke it. I chose not to.

The depth is hard to translate, and I am apologetic once more, unsure how to turn these mutterings of my instincts into passages to organise in space and time and what about the desire to speak about the fleetingness, I always want to talk about the fleetingness? that’s hard too, but it’s really what underpins everything. Somehow it seems maybe it’s all that there is.

For Life forces it started with the garden wall.

Slowly falling down.  And there’s nothing I can do about it.

The photos captured in time. The light. Ways of seeing. Juxtapositions that open up a new imaginative space.  I want to finish this piece, perform it, grow from it and then move onto the next thing.

Doubt is always there.

Because what is good? What does matter?

And anyway, the whys don’t go away.


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