I wrote this in December and it’s been in my drafts since then. I’ve just been procrastinating dissertation research and found it. So anything in bold is me now, in March, and the other stuff is the original – if that makes sense?
Bit of a clickbait title, I guess?
So, this past semester I did a module at uni called ‘Performance Composition’ which is a module created by Lois Weaver (of Split Britches) which has been running at Queen Mary for around 15 years. It’s a module which basically throws a load of third years in and says “perform a new solo piece every single week for a semester and find out who you are as an artist”. It’s a module which is seeped in history, Rebecca and Louise of Sh!t Theatre did the module when they were here and lots of current practising artists like Edythe Woolley and MegNAlex also did the module. It’s a course known for being weird and messy with a lot of nakedness and things being shoved up and pulled out of every orifice possible. Of course, it doesn’t ask you to do that – there aren’t really any rules about what you can and can’t do – but there’s this big expectation around what has gone before you and that you’re adding to this big, brewing, steaming cauldron of ‘performance artists who began at Queen Mary’.
Well, that was an introduction and a half.
Anyway, I did this module, and if you can’t tell from my tweets I’m fucking proud that I did it. I never really saw myself as a performer or creator past reading someone else’s words off of a script, let along someone who had the confidence to make a new thing (which sometimes revealed a lot about myself) all by myself and perform it afresh for twelve weeks (we did 6 performances overall). Big whoop to me.
The final performance that I created was a really self-obsessed performance about my obsession with social media; but it was actually about how I’m scared of people not liking/loving me. Here’s the video:
It’s such a first-world problem to be creating something about. I mention it during it, I know what I’m talking about is really first-world and selfish and gross. But I wasn’t trying to be an activist. I just wanted to make something I’d enjoy watching, make fun of myself and make other people laugh too, hopefully. (I also wanted to buy a ball pit a la Teh Internet is Serious Business)
I was really excited by the response and buzz I got. I want(ed) to apply to put it on somewhere like the Yard or CPT or anywhere that accepts scratch performances really. I want(ed) to develop it and keep going with it because I loved how I felt on stage and people said I was good and that’s what matters, right?
But I’m also a bit worried. Most of the people that come and watch the performances at QM are our friends, classmates, and people in the other years who also do drama (or an equivalent artsy degree like English or History). There are a fair amount of in-jokes and there’s the comfort of performing in front of people you know – am I actually funny or am I funny because people know me and seeing me do those things is funny? It’s also something to note that the majority of my course’s year is white and female. Just a thought. I was actually part-inspired to write this by Ava’s blog post about a performance night she attended at QM (I wasn’t there that night but I know a lot of the people involved and I know the sorts of work she’s referring to) and it made me think about the work I was/am creating and whether it should be put on, and how I need to rethink my stuff.
I’m a bit scared to take my ‘work’ (can I call it that?) out of a university context. I’m nervous for the obvious reasons (omg will people like it/me?!?!) but also because I feel like my work doesn’t DO anything. I have this notion that performance art stuff is supposed to mean something and be groundbreaking and activist. The thing I’ve made is not like that. Is that okay? It doesn’t challenge views. It’s pure entertainment and silliness.
And I don’t think I want to be a performance activist- not right now, anyway. Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean my work is ‘feminist’ (or by putting my body on stage does that make it inherently so??). In a discussion with the people I’m doing a double-bill with, they suggested we call it a “feminist performance night” and I was like nope no pls don’t because I know my work isn’t that. It doesn’t address any equality issues at all. I’m actually a bit scared to use that F word sometimes, tbh.
I’m also white and cis and able-bodied – I’m not the correct person to be talking about a lot of subjects. I’m just finding my feet. Maybe in time I’ll find a way to use performance to confront subjects, but right now I don’t want to do it wrong.
But also, it’s totally okay for me to use performance to have fun and mess around and explore myself, right? It’s okay to be selfish in performances yeah? But also, I’m scared that if I do get the space to put the work on that it could have been given to much more deserving people.
Oh yeah, so. I have the space to perform this work in a double-bill with two pals from uni who are doing a piece called #AttentionSeekers which is about shame/female body/sexual assault. I’m scared. It’s at the Barons Court in Kensington (lol) in a new week-long festival of different performers each night. I have no idea who else is programmed which’ll be inTERESTING to see. Yeah, so that’s a thing I need to get around to preparing for. And reading this back has reminded me of all my fears.
I’ve just reread that paragraph and it sounds so whine-y. I know this post is arrogant and selfish and these worries are stupid. ‘Just go out and make’ they say, or ‘if you know the issues with it, why are you bothering with it?’.
I don’t know. I guess what you could take from this is ‘I don’t want to get told off by people for stuff I make so I’m going to whine about it in a blog post’.
I’m not sure how I want to conclude with this. I’ve written 1000 words of absolute drivel. I really don’t want it to sound like I am whining. Not at all!! I’m just getting my head around the idea of being considered a ‘performer’ as I graduate and really thinking about what my work (aka that one sole piece) is and if it’s really doing anything or worthy of people’s time. I’m not necessarily looking for answers or responses or criticisms (“then why is it on your public blog??”), just using this as a space to think, I guess.