For three days in August I got up close and personal with a group of fellow artists in a DIY workshop organised by performance artist Kira O’Reilly . Part of the Live Art Development Agency’s DIY 10:2013 initiative to enable ‘unusual professional development projects conceived and run BY artists FOR artists’, Kira’s particular workshop was titled ‘Thinking Through the Body. Combative Manifestos’. This appealed to my continuing investigation in to what the body is capable of and specifically I was drawn to the idea of working with my own body. The workshop proved to be physically and mentally challenging. For the duration of the workshop we wrestled, grappled and circuit trained with the idea of manifestos and words of intention in mind whilst exhausted. The parallel between the urgency of a manifesto and the urgency of trying to think and formulate words whilst exhausted was interesting, in both cases you are left with the pure and necessary. What needed to be said at that moment.
Me getting my arse kicked by fellow artist Tom.
Towards the end of the workshop we began to think about how the skills we had learnt could be used in a performance. These ideas recently spawned in to an exhibition organised and curated by Anais Lalange at the Resistance Gallery in London. This chance to develop ideas and present them to an audience enabled me to hone in on my feelings around the workshop, namely my attitude towards sweat and not constantly upholding a perfected visage. Traveling from the workshops each day on the tube whilst still sweaty and with no make up on was, at first, an uncomfortable experience for me. It quickly became liberating and highlighted just how ingrained and ridiculous societal pressures for the way we look are, these ideas are reflected in the film, Wordout below.
The exhibition included performances by:
Joseph Mercier and Jordan Lennie – How I remember it, a recounting of their recent performance piece Rite of Spring, a fight lasting the duration of the 100 year old, controversial piece of music by Stravinsky. They spoke of the oddness of how quickly the audience became accustomed to the violence and took sides, cheering for the men to tear each other a part. They also explained that due to the intensity of the fight they would not be repeating the performance.
Hellen Burrough and Philip Bedwell – Hellen reads The futurist manifesto of lust by Valentine De Saint-Point whilst Philip increases the intensity of a choke hold on her until she can longer breath or speak. The piece is very moving as the words are reflected in the tenderness of the embrace, which although violent is akin to lust in it’s intensity and intimacy. The fulfilment of lust is in itself a violent act ‘We must stop despising Desire, this attraction at once delicate and brutal between two bodies, of whatever sex, two bodies that want each other, striving for unity.’
A group performance combining a minute of repeated excercise with a minute of manifesto creating (completing sentences from a given few words) dictated by MMA coach James Duncalf (who was our teacher of all things fight-y during the workshop) and carried out by the following artist – Hamish MacPherson, Laura Burns, Anais Lalange, Hellen Burrough, Philip Bedwell and Jungmin Son.
MMA coach James Duncalf giving an example of one of the exercises, Photo courtesy of Alistair Veryard
Anais and Laura – Anais reads as Laura restrains her. The exertion of constantly trying to battle and resist is heard in her voice and a further urgency is given to the words.
Finally Hamish and Laura fought out their thoughts around the idea of a manifesto.
The film that I created for the event was a reflection on the words that had gone through my head during the workshop, my attitude to sweat and the idea of words as motivator and catalyst. I used a mixture of words I had written during the workshop and those which had stood out to me since. I particularly liked the idea of words associated with battle, and was drawn to quotes from films such as Conan the Barbarian and 300. These films depicting hyper-masculinty and violent strength bring to mind the feeling of working out, and reflected the feelings conjured up in myself when I was wrestling with the other artists. The film also dealt with my feelings around body image and I feel the quest to achieve ‘the perfect body’ is really an inner voice calling out for warrior days, when humans could hunt and bodily contact was a way to communicate the entire spectrum emotions.