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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Some late words from The Point in April

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At Swindon Dance

DSC_0080DSC_0123Swindon with David.  4th March 2013

Returning to a theatre and to the work of research for Life Forces.

My head’s a muddle. Some useful things. The process of Jonathan and Mateo, make one thing and make something else that continues from it, make another thing. It made sense to me, a continuity, forms of continuity. Taking the time to talk and not force moving into action. David’s memory of my thoughts around movement scores, working with another body, holding hands, walking, sitting, looking. We did some. We moved in relationship to eachother other, slowly, carefully noticing what came up. We talked about the recurrance of familiar patterns in the moving from up to down. We moved just doing going to the floor and back up again together, then observing eachother individually. I noticed when he was in the attempt it was interesting, the bit of a struggle, legs in the air, the continuation of a collapse. He talked of me drawing out the collapse to the floor, the stages. How different it is to move alone and with another person even if the task is a solitary one.

We talked that David could be the other person. The trying to visualize me in the space in relationship to these materials alone, and the possible logistical difficulties of doing everything. He said he would be open for being on the inside, whatever served the work the best whatever was most helpful for me. I was very excited. I am very excited. This feels fruitful and going in an interesting direction. It could take a year, that’s fine. I’m ok with that. We looked at slides, I moved in the slide of the tree and we stayed with it for sometime, me falling out of it, like waking, but maybe not.

I’d wanted to do something with an older man, this feels right, wherever it leads.

5th March 2013

Looking at the partner metal slider, something about the human eye can see a naked flame 14 miles away David said.

The projector case on my head. Melancholic image.

Walking into the light shape, dancing in light, taking information from pictures of slides in my head and moving through them.

Falling down and back up.

Sitting at the bottom of the steps slide, I’m in it.

Moving with David in relation to each other and to slides projected by Sophia. A new collaborator joined us, Sophia Clist.

Jumping over the channel of light.

6th March with Sophia.

Looking at slides again. Erosion, Smooth wood on beach with sand. Harsh rock against the sky. Made structures letting through light, from straws, with shadows, the angle, the particularity of the view, my dad’s view, the frame, what his eye has chosen to see. Sea and sand and sky and land and perspective, direction, scale. Monochrome, silhouette, light, reflection, mirror, camera in its leather case, the slider, the mechanical simplicity making a shape to see through, to reveal something, The frame of light is best white, the thought of a colour filter interested me too, the white frame striking Sophia said.

I don’t manage to write in the blog much.

Here are some traces.

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The Point









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Slide Projector

ImageYesterday I was in the theatre next door. I’m in Bournemouth at Pavilion Dance for a week.  Today I’m in the studio.

It takes a little time to make a personal connection with a space even if it’s a familiar one.

So, yesterday I went back to the hotel up the road and got the projector from the car and the big plastic lidl shopping bag of slide boxes. Opening the box It took me a while to figure out how to place the sliding slide viewer piece, eventually I managed. I turn it on with a lovely old light switch that’s pleasurable to use. The bulb is bright, the beam lighting a clear square on the back white wall of the theatre, bordered by the blacks that I’d pulled in to make a frame. I spent several hours looking at old black and white slides. Many of Exeter, of Topsham, of buildings, trees and skies, some of our family. It became a charged quiet space of concentration. Looking at still pictures, imagining them moving, thinking how to animate them potentially, how to work from the still pictures as a solid root. Repositioning myself occasionally to sit in the audience seats to see how visual it might be objectively.

The practical process of sliding one in then the other. It takes two at a time. The white aperture a sort of wipe clean after the image. As an artefact it’s an object that evokes past time, the 60’s, in the dark and lit it’s something else, it comes alive and is a warm presence, it’s steely metal frame and shape softened by the glow and the directness of it’s nose beam feels purposeful. I felt an atmosphere. The tree spread comforting, the quality of the black and white skies, the reflection of water, both past and present.

The memory of old cameras in their leather cases I’d found in the attic when I went looking for the projector. A camera amongst them that would have been the one taking the images. Attics. The dust, dirt, decay, the wonder, the holding of so much that’s stored in the memory that comes rushing back. I recognise that book, a torn cover, from my childhood, I recognise it instantly. instantly, whereas I did not recognise the same one looked at only very recently on amazon for my son. Why is this?

Attics. Full of what was. In the second attic, dropping an old plastic bad with blouses to retry. From when I was 12. I do try them on. In the bathroom. A strange reflection of someone who fits into the clothes, they fit but don’t fit at the same time. In a way it’s obvious but the process is still interesting. It’s indescribable.

On my mind. Pink Floyd. Dissolving the tree with the paper. Blurring the edges. A soft golden glow. I haven’t got the stick for my ribbons. I bought gold, pink and turquoise. A circle. Homage to a life. The male and the female. The sewing machine was my mother’s, the projector my father’s,  both in cases that lift over the head.

Time to make a dance before David comes tomorrow and I spill out to him while he sits and attends to the focus in a room, while I fumble and make efforts not to waste his time, where I search to find temporary methods to collect and organise thought and action in space to see how the impulses behave with each other.


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The Stones

Recently I had an email from a dear friend.

good morning special one

i’m eight hours ahead of you – so you’ll get this when you wake (or check your e mails)

been reading your very wonderful writings on your blog

do more

at least every two days

it could be a very important document of struggle and the solitary nature of process for lots of artists

I was grateful for the words. I don’t ever imagine a reader really. I just think about the commitment of doing.  Sitting up in my chair, giving attention, pressing ‘Publish Post’. It’s not the same as adding to the long document Life Forces, the un-edited part diary/testimony, kind of proof that there are questions and attempts at getting organised.

Photo on 2013-01-29 at 22.21 #2

I write mini stories sometimes. On purpose. Dive in and see what happens.

There’s a story about a man who goes for a walk. He never comes back. He keeps on walking. A pilgramidge of sorts except he’s not following any known path, it’s unknown and neverending and he’s thinner and thinner as he walks and lighter and lighter and one day his feet are no longer touching the ground and his strides have given way to freeflowing atoms and molecules and probably dust although you can’t see it and he’s not thinking anymore, or maybe he is and then and then I don’t know what happens…

It’s about the process of trying to find something unexpectedly. I can’t just walk towards it. Well maybe I could but I feel like I can’t.

The stirring for Life Forces started in France last summer because of the garden wall.

In the garden, by the what used to be the shaded part, which is now from trees cut and gone, no longer so. There is a stone wall. Part of an old old dwelling that’s slowly falling down..

One by one I balance the stones, the rocks, finding smaller ones for the grooves.

I want things to stay just as they are.

Because people are getting old and I can’t stop it from happening. Things are changing and I can’t slow it down.  I know change is inevitable, it’s not a surprise to me only I’m troubled by it. I’m thinking about will, about purpose, about identity, about love, about connecting and being connected, about impermanence and not being able to embrace all the positives of change right now because it frightens me to really think about it.  Maybe it’s heightened because I need to live long enough to raise my son. I’m thinking about stopping and thinking about doing. I’ve had some life, I’ve had a lot of life. Can I find a way to distill something? just for a moment, something about ‘how to be alright’.

Because everything seems to be ever so slowly disappearing.

Practically I’ve four residencies this Spring to start the foundations for a new piece. A performance. Maybe with talking, dancing, slides, projections, animation, smoke, music, water. I’m comforted by the image of a little water feature just bubbling gurgling away.

I plan who will be with me in the studio, I book hotels, train tickets, let people know I have residencies in the partner venues; Swindon Dance, Pavilion Dance Bournemouth, The Point Eastleigh. I formalise the shape of the process in my mind as ‘leading somewhere’ because I know that it has to. I have to reach mid March having found something I can fight for. If I can’t fight for it I know it won’t grow into anything.

One by one I balance the stones, the rocks, finding smaller ones for the grooves.

I want things to stay just as they are.

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Sketches at Bath ICIA

_DSC9444lo_DSC9432lo_DSC9453lo_DSC9482lo_DSC9483lo_DSC9467lo_DSC9430lo_DSC9479lo_DSC9462loworking with Brian's shape

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