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Features Performance Published 7 January 2016

SPILL Writing

Reflections on performance, writing and form from participants in this year's SPILL WRITING 2015.
Diana Damian Martin
Public screening of Cassils' Inextinguishable Fire at Southbank Centre.

Public screening of Cassils’ Inextinguishable Fire at Southbank Centre. SPILL Festival of Performance 2015. Photo credit: Hanneke Wetzer

Guarded by the passage from autumn to winter, from Hallows’ Eve into the Day of the Dead, the London iteration of SPILL Festival saw a wide range of performance work that concentrated around the theme of On Spirit, from rituals to conversations, one to one encounters and durational works: Cassils’ burning body on the stage of the National Theatre for Inextinguishable Fire, Kris Canavan’s Dredge, tracing history and the power spread of Whitehall, Dead Rat Orchestra’s incredible Tyburnia or Ria Hartley’s gentle confrontation with memory in Recall.

SPILL Festival also saw the return of SPILL Writing, a series of online critical responses to the work within the frameworks proposed by the festival, for which I had the pleasure to work with Anna Mortimer, Natalie Raven, Jonathan Boddam-Whetham and Carolyn Roy. Throughout this period, the writers were not only reflecting on the different relationships that writing has to performance, discussion, representation and action, but also playing with different strategies and approaches to making work visible, drawing links across performances and reflecting on the different meaning-making processes contained within the festival. Such forms of embedded writing do not aim to provide forms of cultural valuation, but to offer perspectives from within; to consider what ties to and differentiates artistic practice from its contexts and the ways in which works unfold in a cultural, geographic and social landscape.  What emerges, I think, is a collection of writing that is self-reflective but not inward looking, and a process of confronting subjectivity that proposes different ways of thinking about the politics of criticism, what it holds dear, and what it can let go of.

Below we present a series of specially-written reflections for Exeunt, post-SPILL Festival, drawing on both the works presented, as well as considering performance and writing formally and thematically.

Jamal Harewood. The Privileged. Photo: Guido Mencari. SPILL Festival of Performance 2015.

Jamal Harewood. The Privileged. Photo: Guido Mencari. SPILL Festival of Performance 2015. Produced by Pacitti Company

PART ONE: POETICS (Anna Mortimer)

Appreciating Privilege

Jamal plays with us as we play with him but the mood grows dark. Someone strips off their outer clothes, a way of shaping up for the task ahead.

Others leave.

I heard someone say, ‘I don’t want to spend the rest of the evening with my clothes covered in slobber and dirt form touching him!’

We come away in tears.

Is this what it is to be privileged?

*

Snail Portrait

A little world set apart from the world, the snail with its home upon its back. The metaphor is strong and the work sets up a deep sense of nostalgia and longing. There is a mesmeric gentleness to the visuals of this piece. A slow meditative quality pervades the perfumed room with its slumbering princess in her glass box, the soft enquiries of the slow moving snails and the ministrations of the attendant. Each snail is an offering handled with the reverence of a holy relic or a precious jewel. As the snails caress, slide, fall, explore, their snail slime as rejuvenating serum, the princess shifts,

just slightly.

Container (coffin, crib)

Container (body, skin, shell)

Container (language, speech, camera screen)

Container (child, youth, middle aged, old)

Container (past, present, future)

Container (memory)

Spill

*

The intangible

Performance art seems to offer a place of fluidity. This fluidity of interpretation lies beyond the intention of the artist/ maker /curator. It is a place of slipperiness that carries with it a frisson of excitement and wildness. The works at SPILL sit in this space. They are uncontained, pushing at boundaries that constrain and stifle, offering a more open debate and the possibility of creative symbiosis between artist and audience.

I watched C’s hands as she tried to verbalise the slippage between what she had been seeing, what she thought about it and how to express those thoughts. Her fingers and thumb of both hands rubbed wildly together, her hands held at eye level, her voice slightly shrill.

I could see that she was grasping for language to touch the intangible but it just

slid and

slithered

away.

*

Moving Mountains: Moving Stories

Three screens, one person in each grey space. Each performer connected by the language of sign, sound and movement that take time to slowly register, time to decipher, time to pick up resonant threads. These are Robert’s subtle ‘depth charges’. There is intensity and concentration in the watching, a reaching out for openness and a desire to understand.

A pile of earth trodden, sifted, graded, controlled. Chairs upside down, an image reversed. Arms that hug, fingers that point. A body fluid in dance. Voices that sing. A mouth that stuffs, gags and spits. Hands as spikes that crawl like the legs of a crab. Hands that feel and rip and drop. Hands that sign.

Sign.

What! Is that a scream, a howl, a stifled accusation? Is that a face masked but burning with muted protestation? Is that a body draped, hiding dis/figuration? What from me?

Here I am the outsider

Uncomfortable

Uncertain

Ignorant

Afraid

I

the

privileged?

came

and

went

away

to

think.

Poppy Jackson. Site. Photo: Guido Mencari.

Poppy Jackson. Site. Photo: Guido Mencari. SPILL Festival of Performance 2015. Produced by Pacitti Company.

PART TWO: STREAMS OF THOUGHT (Natalie Raven)

The Palimpsest of Poppy Jackson and Heather Cassils.

The following is a stream-of-consciousness, typed out on Wednesday 11th November 2015 at 15.53pm

There has been so much written and discussed about Poppy Jackson and Heather Cassils work over the past couple of weeks that I am really unsure of where to begin. I think I’ll start by saying that both artists performed separately at SPILL; what I see written has been in response to their works individually, but I think what I really want to try to do is bring things together. I want to talk about how their works relate to each other aesthetically. I want to think about how they relate metaphorically, conceptually, about what they are ‘saying’ in their works, and I want to make links here, and build some connections.

But, I think I realise that I am probably most interested in perhaps picking apart (I think this is maybe the wrong turn of phrase)…I think what I want to do with this piece of writing is ask myself and ask you as my reader, to consider what its like to be mentored. What is that process like? Is it easy? Hard? Difficult? Do you have to compromise? Are their issues of ownership? What is that process of ‘learning from your superiors’ like? Is there some sort of hierarchy bound up in the teacher/pupil dynamic? This is probably going to be a bit of a difficult topic to navigate, but hey, I reckon I’m here to be asking these questions (and after seeing Jamal Harwood’s ‘The Privileged’, I’ve had this realisation that yes, fuck it, lets ask these hard questions of ourselves as artists and humans, or else, what’s the point?)

On the point of asking hard questions, (and yes, my brain has wandered off topic already, but I’m going with it) what is my function as a SPILL Writer? Am I here to write glittering reviews about works I like for the purpose of artists having a quotable sound bite for a website? Do I ignore any negative responses I have, to save face? Am I subject? Am I supposed to take a step back and talk about things critically and objectively? Nicely?

Can anyone honestly ever be objective?

I like some works more than others. Why? Because I have lived my own life, had my own experiences, and have been subject to the ideologies that have shaped how I act and respond to things, such as artworks. I remember talking to Anna (SPILL Writer) about what works I liked. They were all the works that Anna hated! Funny isn’t it.

I think…I’m not quite sure what to think. My thoughts are not my own.

(sigh)

In private, I can speak about something and say whether I like it or not. But, when it comes to writing on people’s art works (which I think in Live or Performance Art is usually an expression of self), it really is a difficult thing to navigate. I mean, unless you are a total hard faced cunt, no one actually wants to write about someone’s work in a negative way. This is especially true if they are your friends and/or maybe they might be influential in the field. So then you worry that writing something negative might fuck up future prospects!

But, hey. Live with integrity. Say what you think. Life is too short.

All the damn clichés.

Well anyway, that was a long lament on writing, and I’m here to talk about Jackson and Cassils (incidentally, I enjoyed both their works in different ways – maybe there is something to discuss here about different types of engagement with artworks, different forms of pleasure when witnessing, but, I think if I digress anymore you’ll leave me here, speaking to myself “like a crazy person” – god I hate that expression – and yes, I was about to launch into a tirade about negative stereotypes and mental health…

Right – LET’S START

What links Jackson and Cassils?

The body. The body working against social regulation. The body as a site for resistance. The enduring body, the durational body, the mortal body.

Now I’m thinking about the ephemeral mortality of their works, and the immortality of the documentation that lives on in virtual worlds. The ability of an artist to take control of the dialogues surrounding their body in performance, and the inability to control these dialogues once their body has been documented and shared online.

I realise tat I have a big problem I have with the commodification of live works. The acquisition of them via mediated images, videos. Maybe it comes down to the purpose of the art work. Art for social change, not for capitalist consumerism. Art as artistic expression, not subject to, market forces.

Robert Hardaker, Chant (Cleanse). Photo: Guido Mencari.

Robert Hardaker, Chant (Cleanse). Photo: Guido Mencari. SPILL Festival of Performance 2015. Produced by Pacitti Company.

PART THREE: DISSECTIONS (Carolyn Roy)

Robert Hardaker

ClaySkinWoolWaterWaterClay
ClaySkinWoolClayWaterSkin
WoolSkinWoolHairWaterClay
ClaySkinWoolSkinWaterClay
EarthSkinWoolClaySkinSkin
ClayClayWoolWaterJute
WoolSkinWoolHairWaterClay
ClaySkinWoolHairWaterJute
WoolSkinWoolClayWaterSkin

Chant

Cleanse.

In SPILL 2014 I watched ‘Plough Your Own Furrow’, a paradoxically uplifting performance of perseverance and continual, inevitable failure. The title evokes halcyon images of sowing and reaping, a timeless cycle of agrarian life, but it’s meaning is rather that of choosing and, against all odds, sticking to a solitary path. It is the outsider’s way, the lonely road. So Robert Hardaker’s was an alternative cycle, one of futile investment and inevitable waste as he laboured painstakingly in a Sisyphean task, gathering up armfuls of sweet scented hay, filling huge cloth sacks, which would expand to the point of engulfing his body, then overspill. Stray stalks stuck to his naked body, through time building an overlay or second skin. But synchronous with these repetitive and fruitless actions another performance was unfolding. I watched an enduring process of transformation. I witnessed a living body configuring and reconfiguring endlessly. I saw it transmute from hero to child, from animal to god, from human to mere matter, emerging from each metamorphosis to enter then next. Not so much a cycle as an open-ended process of mutation.

agent -       artist, performer, workman,
craftsperson,
                                                                      (alchemist) who acts upon
site -          landscape, theatre, workshop,
factory, environment and
material -   animate or inanimate,
organic or inorganic matter
and through
time -        produces
change.
(or product /object.)
agent -       landscape, theatre, workshop,
factory, environment and
                                    (alchemist) who acts upon
site -          artist, performer, workman,
craftsperson, and
material -   animate or inanimate,
organic or inorganic matter
and through
time -        produces
change.
(or product /object.)
agent -       animate or inanimate,
organic or inorganic matter
                                    (alchemist) who acts upon
site -          artist, performer, workman,
craftsperson,
material -   landscape, theatre, workshop,
factory, environment
and through
time -        produces
change.
(or product /object.)

And so on.

I’m recalling this work one year later, probing my memory for strands that could resurface in ‘Chant’. I do notice similarities. There is the same attention and dedication to futile acts of transformation. The basic ingredients are of the same order – a naked man, a limited palette of organic materials in bulk, a semi-industrial space, a duration through which something will unfold. ‘Human beings do not exist on the ‘other side’ of materiality, but swim in an ocean of materials.’ p24 This space is composed of materials.

material – “mater” – mother

material – “mater” – mother

There is something fabulous, heroic even, about a man emerging from clay. ‘If I and my body are one and the same, and if my body indeed partakes of the material world, then how can the body-that-I-am engage with that world?’ p.22. Was not Adam shaped from clay, dust kneaded into form then given life through some divine intervention? This primordial landscape of wool, water and clay, molded and inhabited by a lone man, invites us to recollect stories and create our own legends. This might be the world’s beginning, our chance to begin again, a metaphoric genesis, a cosmogonic narrative. As the work plays out across the span of time I sense a different kind of evolution, not a creation myth, universal ritual or even a narrative but another kind of event entirely. An unfolding enfolding practice, attentive, responsive, more personal, more intimate, uncertain, sincere, unpolished, improvised. And it is cyclical, or at least it returns, or repeats, though forever not quite the same, ‘each cycle set not within fixed parameters but within a framework that is itself suspended in movement, in an environment where nothing is quite the same from moment to moment.’ P60 A coming of age. Passage of time. Dusk. Composing and recomposing with the world. Becoming. Through the night.

Carolyn1a

Carolyn1b

Chant

Cleanse.

Nocturne.

In ‘Being Alive’, collected studies of living in our continually moving and changing world, Tim Ingold1 makes a distinction between building (or making), and ‘dwelling’ that ‘situates the weaver in amongst a world of materials, which he literally draws out in bringing forth the work.’p10 I am observing Robert Hardaker as he is dwelling here, not acting upon but profoundly sensitive to, engaging with, not transforming or being transformed, his body changing with this world of materials even as it too is changing: clay bind wool stuffing unspun cloud cover matter material unruly tuft entwine enknot. Ritualistic attention to each moment: consider rinse consider environment again knead smear toss strain pause rebind wring remove replace clay wool skin. Intention, not aim in action: slide in, gather in, wrestle matter, clay slab enfolding wool, withhold, merge. Be here: water cutting rivers through clay. Sloughing skin. Shedding new skin. New skins, new strategies. They will fail. This is not a search for transcendence or perfection. Listen. Squeeze, drip, stain. Clay drenched water cannot cleanse. Clay sodden wool cannot comfort. Materials resist, tear, stick. Careless slap of wet clay. Muffled slap of wet wool. Those knots will not bind clay and wool. Molecules are moving. Action: Silence.

Intercession. An interlude of purging, the pouring of water. Each configuration of man and material cleansed, not erased, by water. The stain of each endeavour resides on the body as a patina. With each return the patina accrues. New skins. Molecules are merging. As wool becomes clay becomes skin becomes earth becomes water becomes skin becomes human.

Pause

Between the act
Undone
Cleanse
A marking
Incomplete
A ritual
Washed away

Chant.

Carolyn2

Page references: Ingold, T. (2013), MAKING. Anthropology, archaeology, art and

Architecture. Oxon UK, Routledge.

*

Recalling SPILL 2015

I was musing over how in effect we curate our own festival. Or rather we re-curate. How traces of one event appear in another and resonate in a third. How trajectories of our own thinking provide the filter through which we receive or perceive each new work. Each new encounter excavates new memories.

The micro-movements rippling through Poppy Jackson’s naked still body as she presented herself astride the roof of Toynbee Hall reflected in the traces of pleasure fluttering across Quentin Crisp’s face as he regarded George Stamos, presenting himself naked on a golden chaise. Traces evoked again by snails gently cruising Shabnam Shabazi’s body, trails of homelessness and nomadic memory.

Recall. Surfacing. Memories traversing time and context. Dress your Rage with the glory and confusion of my younger life scrutinized and theorised through the lens of a generation gap. I had not really forgot dressing up, making a look to last a few hours or days. But I wasn’t making an identity, more taking a stand – enough of dictators and determinations and the law that dress is code for gender, tribe, background, morals, sexual preference. Shapeshifting defied prescription. Anything was possible in youth and in splendour. Dark times brought back by Karen Finley’s songs of lost friends. Those of us who died resurfacing in songs too painful to bear. Not forgotten. Not obsolete like the lost ones drowned in Sarah Jane Norman’s Lethe. Voices calling to be heard even as they were relentlessly obliterated by the technology that captured them in the past.

Recall. In conversation with a projected face, complete with out of sync lips. I listened to the cogni-scientific neuro-babble, dutifully answering question in honesty and with brevity. My memory is sketchy when unprovoked. My mother said I suffered from false memory syndrome. Fleshing out one backward glance at my family’s collective dysfunction, through CBT reviewing, reframing and re-engineering a brief moment in my past. I was surprised to feel myself uplifted, at peace and cared for as I left the space.

My world was more mortuary flowers and paper furniture than the one replicated by Max. Less coherently eclectic. Though I too had a mattress on the floor, sat de Beauvoir alongside Chandler, heavy dub alongside punk and lover’s rock and rarely changed the sheets. As I watched Robert Pacitti leaning, listening in to Quentin Crisp as they roamed endlessly gently through the New York streets, I fell into the expanse of that time. The luxury of that time when there was time to amble and talk when there was time to listen and wait for thoughts to spill that time when being in companionship was understood. I fell into nostalgia. Truth and lies. I wasn’t there. And does it matter? Robin Deacon, another talking head questioning its validity yet given authority by true fabricated photo-evidence, real fake academic citations, expert, neutral proof of time passing and the passing of time acted out for camera, forgetting, evoking, remembering, exposing, fixing in space and time. Documentation? Memory? Fabrication? Recreation? Recuration?

Shabnam Shabazi. Snail Portrait. Photo: Guido Mencari. SPILL Festival of Performance 2015.

Shabnam Shabazi. Snail Portrait. Photo: Guido Mencari. SPILL Festival of Performance 2015. Produced by Pacitti Company.

PART FOUR: MEDITATIONS (Jonathan Boddam-Whetham)

Journey of the Fool

On Spirit – the theme of the recent SPILL Festival that took place in spaces around London. The festival had a dynamism that opened up the City, that spectrally haunted the spaces, leaving traces of ectoplastic resonances behind. Ectoplasm – a materiality of the spirit world – oozing and shaping itself alongside the contours of the everyday ‘normality’ of London. Perhaps the work (corpus) opened London up – a surgical incision in its body (corpse) – searching for its spirit? If there were a spirit of London, would it be anything particular – a spirit of capitalism or a spirit of resistance. Both seem to pervade her highways – her arteries – flowing. But perhaps one is a contamination – like a virus in the blood – slowly transforming the body cell by cell. Does not capital replicate itself, creating an unending simulation of the real, where it slowly kills the body by making itself over and over again, until it leaves the host exhausted and destroyed. Then spreading itself on again creating a territory of sameness; like the plague that spread itself along those same streets.

In the end the fire that burned the infection away was that flame of resistance – London’s Spirit – fighting like a body with a fever. A fight for its Self – its identity – whatever it might be. But that is perhaps London, shifting potentiality and possibility, where there is always the drawing in of breath; before something transforms. A dynamic inter-play of past, present, and future, moments inter-woven together on the way to becoming; that is if a City can be said to have a Self, a Spirit of a place. Or it might just be the transient flow of others travelling along her arteries adding to her flesh.

It is said that gold paves the streets of London, and it was this that drew Dick Whittington and his cat to try to find their fortune. Not so far from this picture of a boy with a bag on his back and cat at his heels is the image of ‘The Fool’ in the Tarot. Venturing onwards, carefree, with sometimes a dog or a cat nipping at his heels. It is perhaps indicative of a search for something lost. The bag, it is suggested, represents the past – the baggage that we all have. The animal though, does it call to the fool like a voice of conscience, to become who you are, to find what Heidegger calls one’s ‘I-ness’ (Jemeinigkeit)? Is this a commonality with the spirit of London, the Self as a space of resistance?

The Fool

The Fool. SPILL Performance Tarot exhibition. Various artists and Manuel Vason. Conceived and produced by Pacitti Company. Documentation photographs by Christa Holka

The Fool. SPILL Performance Tarot exhibition.
Various artists and Manuel Vason. Conceived and produced by Pacitti Company.
Documentation photographs by Christa Holka

The idea of Self is what Sarah-Jane Norman addressed in her ‘Stone Tape Theory’ working, but perhaps more as the haunting of the Self. If, as Existentialists will have it, being is becoming, then we are never finished or completed. Becoming is not static, it is dynamic and fluidic, but it is still something defined by its potentiality, if definition is even possible as such. The Fool carries the past on her back, but how she becomes something is contingent upon how far she is haunted by that past. Stone Tape Theory was a haunting of a space that was also an extension of the artist, haunted by voices from her past.

The trouble with the past is that it relies on the memory of the person who experienced it. How often have voices from the past become one’s own demons, stilting one’s becoming? In the space, voices degenerate until we have to approximate what they say, until they no longer haunt us, but we end up haunting ourselves, our own memories, adding our own colouration and mis-taking images from the past.

The Fool is an outsider – an other – with the power to be different from the everyday; the Fool sees things differently from everyone else. But difference is more often than not subsumed by a surrendering to the past, as if it has its own kind of gravity, enacting an inertia on becoming something different. One’s own past is never one’s own, it is always a past that was/is with others, a shared history. This shared commonality that is characterised by a gravitational pull, is the weight of existence that is with others who also enact their own relative pull on one’s sense of Self into a conformism. Our mis-takes, are always in relation to others, always their voices all too readily become our own.

The Hanged Man

Hanged man, SPILL Performance Tarot exhibition Various artists and Manuel Vason Conceived and produced by Pacitti Company Documentation photographs by Christa Holka

Hanged man, SPILL Performance Tarot exhibition
Various artists and Manuel Vason
Conceived and produced by Pacitti Company
Documentation photographs by Christa Holka

Like the Fool, the Hanged Man is meant to be about seeing things differently than others around you; quite literally turning things on their head. Moving from one transitory point to another in a transformation or becoming. One might think that such an image represents a punishment for a crime – some kind of torture. Whilst it certainly represents a surrender, but not to another as such, rather it is a sloughing off of others’ ideas that we often clothe ourselves in. The ‘I’ thought of in the third person, what Heidegger calls the dominance of the They (das Man), the average way of being like everyone else. In an everyday sense it’s a social compass – one does it this way or that way – but in a pejorative sense it cover’s over any sense of true difference, perhaps reminiscent of a scene from the Life of Brian where we’re all ‘individuals’.

Robert Hardaker’s working ‘Chant (Cleanse)’ is arguably indicative of this in an almost Biblical form, literally so. He continuously makes and remakes himself, not in God’s image but in Man’s. He keeps pressing clay and wool onto his flesh, clothing his body in a simulacrum of himself, or at least an image of who he thinks he is, as though there is no original. Each time he then washes away the clay and wool from his body, it is almost as if with each new audience member entering the space he must re-make himself and wash it away when they leave. The Hanged Man is the opposite of this, the sense of Self through the other’s gaze in sacrificed and turned on its head. Before this the Self is fractured, not a being as becoming, but something surrendered, and like Sisyphus, doomed to continuously try to complete a task for eternity. The Hanged Man though is beyond this, self-creating, in the world, but different to it.

Justice

Justice. SPILL Performance Tarot exhibition Various artists and Manuel Vason Conceived and produced by Pacitti Company Documentation photographs by Christa Holka

Justice. SPILL Performance Tarot exhibition
Various artists and Manuel Vason
Conceived and produced by Pacitti Company
Documentation photographs by Christa Holka

Unlike the statue of Lady Justice on the dome of the Old Bailey, Justice here is not blindfolded. Justice is not blind when it comes to the call of Guilt of the Self (Schuld). Like in Heidegger’s Being and Time this is not an accusing call of ‘guilty’ to a criminal in a court of law. Rather, this is the call to the Self to face existence as it is. We are thrown into a world of meaning without origin, one that we did not create and yet we have to be able to make our way within it in the face of its absurdity. Making meaning out of seeming meaninglessness in the everyday world that we subsist in as anyone else, a mass of undifferentiated sameness. Where identity is characterised by keeping up with the Jones’, the next novelty, the newest fad.

What makes meaning for us however is ultimately something that is senseless, namely death. Whilst at risk of sounding morbid, death is something that is my own and cannot be anyone else’s, another cannot substitute themselves for me and vice versa. But, arguably it is through the fact that another can also die, that they also have death as a co-possibility, which opens me up to existence and the truth of others in the world, that we die, but it is always my death.

They say that death gives one perspective, and it is this realisation of our own mortality through others that cuts through and ruptures everyday existence. So if there is a call of justice to face existence then it is also a call for the truth of others and our shared mortality. Justice then becomes something more than law or moral code – it becomes an ethical demand. And this showed itself in Karen Finley’s working ‘Written in the Sand’ where the voices of those who died without a voice were given a throat, tongue, and mouth to resonate through. A eulogy for the past with a demand for the future. And perhaps this is what the scales held by Justice represent, the balance of the past and the future but with the power to discern this through facing death. One might say a kind of existential critical distance, where death really does put things in perspective.

Like The Fool or The Hanged Man or Justice, SPILL Festival is about opening a space(s) that facilitates a change in perspective, a change in our minds, or changes in our selves. Resistance is adaptability, creativity, and transformation. Not solidity, like a rock face weathering against the storm.   Spirit is resistance, whether voices from the past, or spaces of the City. It is an invocation, not a eulogy that inscribes itself upon a tomb, but rupturing between things, perhaps leaving an ectoplasticity that follows the contours and territory of London. And perhaps fittingly this festival ended with the flame of resistance manifest in Heather Cassils’ working ‘Inextinguishable Fire’.

Whilst being a working on violence and voyeurism, it is also an act of resistance, a challenge to our perceptions, of our gaze upon the other and the true violence that can enact. Is this The Tower, or Judgement though? For whilst The Tower could be said to represent the destruction of current – outmoded – perceptions, but Judgement also seems apt in that it is a rising from our own tombs, wiping away the eulogies inscribed by others upon the rock. If it is Judgment Day, a wake-up call, with trumpets resounding, then perhaps this is as Robert Pacitti hoped the festival would accomplish, opening up a space for thinking of new ways of being.

*

Man-Bear/Bare-Man

I am an apex predator,

So they tell the schoolchildren,

Read by teachers with knowing nods,

I have transparent fur and black skin,

So they tell the pensioners,

Read by tour guides with authoritative tones,

I can smell a seal from more than a mile away,

So they tell their colleagues,

Whilst I chew on congealed chicken – covered in a secret recipe,

I am not really a Polar Bear,

So the zookeeper says,

Through another’s lips,

I do not need white feet,

Or Costume, or head,

So the quietly assured voice says,

I am not really in agony,

So the other voices say,

Visitors tearing at my skin,

Peeling it away,

I am not really anything,

So more voices say,

I am only what you decide,

What you think instead,

I am stripped of everything,

No longer do I hunt,

No longer do I have transparent fur,

No longer do I smell a seal from over a mile away,

No longer am I, I…

As it is ripped away from me,

Myself torn and strewn,

Amongst the rotting chicken on the floor.

*

The Zookeeper

Rotting Flesh and gristle,

With a trace of secret recipe,

Strewn pieces on the floor,

Watch where you tread,

We come to the circumference of spectacle,

Like senators come to view the gladiators,

Bread and circuses,

A lottery of numbers where we each sit,

Is complicity a draw of straws,

Just a game, a script,

To be actors for a time,

Carnivorous teeth of make believe,

Enjoined by nuzzles and growls,

That makes you, in part, feel something other,

A number read precedes humour,

Writ through us by an absent voice,

The expert, the one who knows,

A game, perhaps,

Where lines are transgressed, because it’s just that,

A game, not real,

A sibilant fantasy,

We watch the man-bear,

As another peels away the flesh of him,

Not undressing, more skinning,

We console ourselves,

Stepping between torn flesh,

Gladiators wrestling with a man laid bare,

Empty, left without,

Just a game…

All so white and black.

To read more from the SPILL 2015 writers, or to find out more about SPILL Festival 2015, you can visit the SPILL Festival website

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Diana Damian Martin

Diana Damian Martin is a London-based performance critic, curator and theorist. She writes about theatre and performance for a range of publications including Divadlo CZ, Scenes and Teatro e Critica. She was Managing Editor of Royal Holloway's first practice based research publication and Guest Editor for postgraduate journal Platform between 2012-2015. She is co-founder of Writingshop, a long term collaborative project with three European critics examining the processes and politics of contemporary critical practice, and a member of practice-based research collective Generative Constraints. She is completing her doctoral study 'Criticism as a Political Event: theorising a practice of contemporary performance criticism' at Royal Holloway, University of London and is a Lecturer in Performance Arts at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

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